Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024
  • Alex Brown Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/9/2024
  • Leslie Zampetti Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/7/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Hope you had a fantastic holiday and are having a good start to the summer. Before I get to my interview today, I’ve got my IWSG post.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of the month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.
The co-hosts this month are Co-Hosts: Tamara Narayan, Pat Hatt, Patricia Lynne, Juneta Key, and Doreen McGettigan!

Today's Question: What is one valuable lesson that you have learned since you started writing?

I have two for you:
  1. Be brave in your revisions. Sometimes I've found myself tweaking instead of seriously devising after getting a critique. Sometimes you need to brave and really make a more major revision.
  2. Learn from your mistakes. One of mine is too many words for the genre and grade, like 30,000 too many that had to be cut. Secret: I just started writing for myself again. Not even sure why but I like it, the most important thing. This time I have a word count goal and a loose plot with where major plot points need to be to reign in my word count, keep a faster pace, and cut some of the revisions.
What's something that you've learned from your writing?

Today I am super excited to have Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski here to share about their new MG fantasy A DASH OF DRAGON. This sounds like a fantastic twist on dragons and fantasy filled with adventure and a courageous main character. And Heidi and Kati are not only co-authors of this book. They are also sisters.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

A thirteen-year-old master chef has a lot to prove as she tries to run a five-star restaurant, cook the perfect dragon cuisine, repay a greedy loan shark, and outsmart the Elven mafia in this entertaining novel that combines all of the best ingredients—fantasy, humor, adventure, action, cute boys, and a feisty heroine!

Lailu Loganberry is an expert at hunting dangerous beasts. And she’s even better at cooking them.

For years Lailu has trained to be the best chef in the city. Her specialty? Monster cuisine. When her mentor agrees to open a new restaurant with Lailu as the head chef, she’s never been more excited. But her celebration is cut short when she discovers that her mentor borrowed money from Mr. Boss, a vicious loan shark. If they can’t pay him back, Lailu will not only lose her restaurant—she’ll have to cook for Mr. Boss for the rest of her life.

As Lailu scrambles to raise the money in time, she becomes trapped in a deadly conflict between the king’s cold-blooded assassin, the terrifying elf mafia, and Mr. Boss’ ruthless crew. Worst of all, her only hope in outsmarting Mr. Boss lies with the one person she hates—Greg, the most obnoxious boy in school and her rival in the restaurant business.

But like Lailu always says, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. And she’s determined to succeed, no matter the cost!

Hi Heidi and Kati! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Can you each tell us about yourself and how you got into writing? Also, what made you start writing together?

KATI: I’m a stay-at-home mom with a love of art, and I actually got into writing as a way to entertain myself in high school - it was an easy way to pretend to be taking notes.

HEIDI: I’m a dog walker in northern CA. I started writing in elementary school because I just loved reading so much I wanted to make my own stories. Kati and I always used each other as sounding boards for story ideas, so I think it was just inevitable that we’d eventually write together.

2. Awesome that you've always shared about your writing. Where did you get the idea for A DASH OF DRAGON?

KATI: It was a combination of two ideas, actually. When I was drawing, I had the idea of writing a
story where mobster elves are feuding with a gang of steampunk scientists, and the second idea, about a girl who specializes in cooking mystical beasts, was inspired by a filler episode in my favorite anime. Heidi came up with the idea to combine them.

HEIDI: I thought the elves vs. scientists would be a fun backdrop for her other story. And then I was so excited about it that I kept coming up with other ideas to add until eventually I wore Kati down and she suggested I write it with her. ;)

3. I love the idea, Kati. And Heidi, that was brilliant to combine them! One thing that seems different about your story than other books that are co-authored is that it is only told from one point of view. How did you plot this out and what was your process of writing this as a team like?

KATI: Plotting this out was tricky, because I outline everything, and Heidi is a total pantser. We did a lot of talking and note taking before we started writing DASH, so even if Heidi liked to take us off my carefully plotted outline, we had a pretty good idea what type of story we were both trying to create.

HEIDI: For our first draft, we took turns writing sections. Kati would write a couple pages and send it to me, and then I had free reign to go in and change anything I wanted before writing my own section. Then Kati could change anything in mine before writing her next one. That way all of our writing mixed together so it felt more like one cohesive voice.

4. Your writing process together is so interesting and different from others who co-write with different POV. I love that Lailu is a master at killing and cooking monsters. It’s an unusual mix. And then you’ve got the evil Mr. Boss, who is a loan shark and the mafia. How did these ideas get developed into your story? And what advice do you have to other writers about adding a unique twist to their stories like you have here?

KATI: Some of the twists were from Heidi just deciding to throw new characters and surprises in to spice up my outline, and some of the other characters and twists were carefully plotted out by seeing something that made us ask: what if...?

HEIDI: Also I guess this is a good place to admit that sometimes I liked to randomly throw in an unplanned character or surprise scene just so I could sit back and see what Kati did with it.

KATI: You know, I always suspected you were just messing with me… ;D And my advice to other writers looking to add unique twists is to venture outside their comfort zones for reading (MG has some fantastic, quirky stories), and to daydream often. Some of my best ideas have come when I was just taking a long, quiet walk.

HEIDI: I second that advice. Also if you have an idea that you think could be a lot of fun but you’re not really sure how it would work, don’t be afraid to just try it out. You can always go back and delete, and even if that idea fails, it might lead to something else you can use that’s even better.

5. Great advice. In the Goodreads blurb, Lailu is described as a feisty character. She sounds like someone I want to get to know already. Tell us a bit about her.

KATI: Lailu works tirelessly for her dreams, and she will literally fight a dragon for her friends. But she’s also pretty grumpy. I think the term our editors used was “a charming curmudgeon.”

HEIDI: Yes, she’s definitely grumpy, and she does have a temper, but she’s also surprisingly optimistic, and she refuses to see anything bad in the people she cares about…until ultimately their problems come around to bite her in the butt.

6. What was a challenge you had in writing A DASH OF DRAGON and how did you overcome it?

KATI: When we first wrote A DASH OF DRAGON, it was YA, but when we started querying we were told a number of times that our voice was more MG. We were caught in this weird place in between for a while before we decided that MG was the better fit and revised.

HEIDI: Initially we didn’t revise it enough, so we started getting responses that our now-MG book was too YA…that was a frustrating time period. But eventually we managed to get the voice and story in line, thanks in large part to several fantastic critique partners. And now we can’t imagine our book being anywhere other than MG. We’re so glad we dug in and made that change.

7. So interesting how you decided to switch this from YA to MG. Not all writers would be brave enough to be so bold. Share a bit about how you got your agent and what was your road to publication like?

KATI: The road to publication was a long, and sometimes bumpy road, but never a lonely one. Heidi and I went to several conferences, entered two online contests, and worked our way through the querying trenches before signing with our wonderful agent, Jennifer Azantian, who found us in her slush pile.

HEIDI: It took us a long time (see above about that awkward in-between YA/MG phase), but we met a lot of amazing writers along the way, and I think we also learned how to work together better as a team. There’s nothing like revising a book seven hundred times with a person to really foster a sense of unity. ;)

8. Glad to know that the slush pile works. What was something that surprised you about the process of signing a publishing contract and getting to the point where you are now with a published book?

KATI: I was surprised by how many revisions we still had left after signing. I thought our manuscript was really polished by the time we went on submission, but our editors at Aladdin were able to help us bring it to a whole new level.

HEIDI: That surprised me, too. I used to think you signed a book deal, and that was that. Now I know better. I was also surprised by how long everything takes. I think a week in publishing is like a month outside of it, so I’ve had to learn to be much more patient.

9. How are you planning to promote your book? Do you have any advice for writers who will debut in the future about marketing?

KATI: We’ve done a Twitter contest, and we’re planning on doing another. Plus, we've been talking to all these wonderful blogs. ;) Beyond that, we’re trying to drum up word of mouth by sending our ARCs around to other authors and reviewers, and introducing ourselves to local booksellers.

HEIDI: Mostly, though, we’ve been concentrating on writing the next book. We’ve heard that the best way to market your current book is to write another one, and then another. So we spent the majority of our time after DASH was finished making sure the sequel would be as good as possible.

10. What are you working on now?

KATI: We just finished revisions on book two and are waiting on the next round of edits. In the meantime, I’ve started tinkering with a new YA steampunk novel.

HEIDI: I’m working on a YA sci fi, and then Kati and I have been brainstorming ideas for our next joint project as well. We still have more of Lailu’s story that we hope to write.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Heidi and Kati. You can find Heidi and Kati at:

Website: www.HeidiandKatiwrite.com
Twitter (Kati): @ktbartkowski
Twitter (Heidi): @HiDLang

Kati and Heidi have has generously offered an ARC of A DASH OF DRAGONS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through July 22nd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up. FYI I will be taking some weeks off in July and August since the summer tends to be slow and I use this time to start preparing my schedule for 2018.

Monday, July 17th I have a guest post by debut author Corabel Shofner and a giveaway of her contemporary ALMOST PARADISE

Wednesday August 2nd I have an interview with debut author Kate Slivensky and a giveaway of her MG science fiction THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY and my IWSG post.

Hope to see you on Monday!


Donna K. Weaver said...

Ouch. Having to cut so many words must be painful. It can be so hard to get words to begin with. lol

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've cut that many words from a novel before.

How fun they wrote the story together. I like how they did it, exchanging it back and forth.

Emma Charlotte said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jennifer Hawes said...

This book sounds fantastic! Right up my alley. I recently was brave in my revisions. It is paying off!!! Sometimes you must cut your darlings and don't hold back.

Jemi Fraser said...

A Dash of Dragon sounds fabulous!!!

I've learned similar lessons too Natalie. My first novel (written just for me) was about 170k :) Eventually cut it to less than half of that!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, I agree with you about both the valuable lessons. We need to be brave while revising as many of our favourite scenes may get chopped while revising. And we have to learn from our mistakes.

A Dash Of Dragon sounds fabulous.

Bish Denham said...

My novels, so far, haven't been wordy enough! I've had to add.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds like a cute story.
Glad you're writing again!

Juneta key said...

Great post. Love the cover of the book. Congrats.
' Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

louisianabook said...

This book sounds so interesting! Please enter me in the giveaway!

louisianabook said...

Oops! louisianabook@yahoo.com

cleemckenzie said...

I hear what you're saying about digging in and doing those deeper revisions. That can be so scary. But when I do, I'm rewarded. It's just taking that initial step. Thanks again for another great interview.

Pat Hatt said...

Doing the deeper revisions sure is the way.

Great interview, sounds like much on the go to, never a bad way to be.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

It makes that first draft easier to write if you trust that revisions will fix it. I don't think I could work with any of my sisters to write a book though I love them.

Christine Rains said...

That bit about revising was something I had to learn too. I've cut out whole chapters and it still makes me go OUCH! But the story is better for it.

Nice to meet Heidi and Kati. Wonderful interview. Daydreaming is very important! :)

Tyrean Martinson said...

Every time I see this book, I want to read it. It sounds absolutely wonderful. I love that MG can be quirky.

erica and christy said...

Being brave with revisions is so true! I think it's why I hate them so much. I'm a coward! I've been working toward being a brave plotter (used to be a pantser)to eliminate some of the revision pain. Also, the keeping a faster pace? Especially at the beginning? Yup, that's me too. I love co-authors! That was me and Erica once upon a time. (Sigh. I haven't given up that dream!) ~ Christy

Jenni said...

This book sounds amazing--I love the cooking twist! And it was so interesting to hear about Heidi and Kati's experiences co-authoring. I liked how they found a way to work with both their styles.

Natalie, I'm glad to hear you're writing again! I second what you said about being sure to really edit and not just tweak. I've done that myself.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi Natalie,

I am so there with you.... I had to cut my first mg novel in HALF... 62,500 words I cut. BOY did I learn a lot. ECONOMY of words, that's the ticket!

Cathy Keaton said...

Co-writing looks hard! I'm not sure I could handle it, but if these ladies can, then more power to them.

Angie Quantrell said...

I think there must be many benefits to team writing! Congratulations on the new book coming out. It looks so fun! Thanks for sharing your journey. :) angelecolline@yahoo.com

Danielle H. said...

I've always admired writers who could co-write books. Major revision is what I need to do on my manuscript and so far, i haven't been brave enough to tackle it, as I haven't decided which direction is best. It's so much work and I need to be confident. Thanks for sharing your book and writing process/journey with us. I shared this post on my tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/162674055442/heidi-lang-and-kati-bartkowski-interview-and-a

Stephanie Faris said...

That's one thing I struggle with--I can't bring myself to take out thousands of words, even when I know it will make the manuscript stronger. Often I end up taking them out and replacing them anyway by my editor's suggestion!

Gina Gao said...

This book sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing it with us.


M Pax said...

Congrats to Kati and Heidi! Cool sounding story.

What I've learned from writing: I can only be myself. If I'm not having fun, there's no point in continuing in this job. :)

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Good lessons to remember.
The story sounds like fun. Adorable cover. Congratulations, Kati and Heidi.

Cherie Reich said...

I like the idea of being brave for revisions. Some books need more than others. I tend to have to add words than cut them. I'm sure cutting them is more stressful, though.

Congrats to Kati and Heidi! A Dash of Dragon sounds awesome!

caroline yu said...

I would love to be entered in this giveaway and mentioned it on facebook. My email is c.roberts.yu@gmaildotcom. Thanks!

Angela Brown said...

Glad you're writing for the love of writing again, Natalie. That's the best kind of fun to have :-)

I love the story by Kati and Heidi. Sound like a very enjoyable read. Wishing you both the best with this story and any futures projects you produce together or as solo acts.

Crystal Collier said...

Yay! Nothing beats writing for love. Enjoy it, eh?

Loving the sound of the dragon book. My 10 yr old would probably eat it up. (And I might too.)

Danielle said...

GFC follower. Would love to check this one out! daniellecorrelle @ aol.com

Nick Wilford said...

Great interview! Interesting to hear about your co-writing process. I guess it's different for everyone but it sounds like you do a great job of keeping the story flowing with the back-and-forth approach.

mshatch said...

I've gone the other way now regarding word count: too few! So I have to flesh things out...*sigh*

Congrats to Katie and Heidi :)

Joanne Roberts said...

Looking forward to reading this and eagerly awaiting Kati,s steampunk novel. Thanks. Joanne Roberts BookishAmbition@gmail.com

Jen said...

This looks like so much fun.

Rosi said...

Digging through my email and found I missed this somehow. Great interview. No need to put me in the drawing. I am so buried in books. Thanks for the post.

DMS said...

Love the cover! Sounds like a unique story line for sure! I enjoyed the interview. It sounds like Heidi and Kati's process of writing together is a lot like my process with Stephanie. Wishing them all the best! :) Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

Mathilda said...

Yay for writers sharing a successful project--it must be an amazing experience to write with a sister as well. I've been wondering about team-writing, and it sounds like combining a pantser with an outliner is a perfect strategy. I'm really interested that you edit what's before before you continue (at least in the first draft). You both must be so patient with each other! (I have four sisters, so I can imagine some of the challenges and delights of working together). Your book sounds like so much fun, too!

Tamara Narayan said...

I'm an over writer as well, always spending forever whittling down my manuscripts.

A Dash of Dragons sounds like a fun and different read.