Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
  • Jenna Satterthwaite Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/10/2024
  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024

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 Monday Everyone! Hope you are having a fantastic summer. FYI if I do not get to your visit your blog today, I apologize. I'm leaving to visit my mom this morning in Florida because she needs some help. She doesn't have Internet so I am reading as many blogs as I can before I leave this morning and that will be it. Before I get to my interview today, I have 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: Christine Rains, Dolarah @ Book Lover, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Yvonne Ventresca, and LG Keltner!

Today's Question: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

As a writer, a pet peeve is how established writers can sometimes freely break the rules that those of us who have not been published cannot break. For example, they can tell instead of show or use way more adverbs than are technically allowed. Yet, we have to be obsessed with not doing this.

As a reader, I really dislike when the pacing is too slow. If a book drags too much, I really lose interest. I used to be able to slog through to the good parts. But these last few years since my husband died and I've had a harder time getting into reading, I have to put down too slow books and move on.

What about you? What are your pet peeves?

Today I’m super excited to have debut author Katie Slivensky here to share about her MG THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY about a girl selected to train for a mission to Mars. It’s gotten rave reviews for being action-packed and also weaving in tons of cool science.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Ambassador, you are go for launch in T- minus 5…4…3…2…. Get ready to blast off with this high-action, high-stakes middle grade adventure that’s perfect for fans of Chris Grabenstein and Peter Lerangis!

Miranda Regent can’t believe she was just chosen as one of six kids from around the world to train for the first ever mission to Mars. But as soon as the official announcement is made, she begins receiving anonymous threatening messages…and when the training base is attacked, it looks like Miranda is the intended target. Now the entire mission—and everyone’s lives—are at risk. And Miranda may be the only one who can save them.

The Martian meets The Goonies in this out-of-this-world middle grade debut where the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Hi Katie! Thanks so much for joining us!

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I’ve been imagining adventures since I was a kid, and was determined to make my life as interesting as I could. I worked at a zoo growing up, went to school to become a paleontologist, and ultimately ended up drawn to informal museum education and now work at the Museum of Science in Boston (where I get to do cool stuff like make lightning and play with liquid nitrogen). In 2009, I decided to officially pursue becoming a published author as another avenue for getting kids excited about science and the natural world. I’ve always been a writer ever since I was really young, but it wasn’t until I was out of grad school that I had the time to focus on becoming published. From 2009-2015, I wrote nine different manuscripts. The one that finally landed me the book deal was my space adventure—THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY.

2. Awesome how your job inspired your writing. Where did you get the idea for THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY?

The first program I learned for the Museum of Science was their traveling, inflatable planetarium program (Starlab). Whenever I’d do a Starlab program, kids would always get particularly excited when I’d explain that it’d be their generation that goes to Mars. That got me wondering if I could write a story where kids didn’t have to wait until adulthood to train to be astronauts, which raised a pretty big question right off the bat—WHY would kids be training to be astronauts? Answering that became the crux of the entire novel!

3. That's cool that the idea for your story came from your interactions with kids at the Museum of Science. You have an amazing background in science, and it sounds like you have a lot of contact with kids through your presentations. How did you draw on what you’ve learned in creating your story?

My background in science gave me the research skills to tackle this book. Academically speaking, I’m a paleontologist. Even though I teach planetarium shows, I still had a great deal to learn about space before this novel could feel at all real! Understanding how science works, some of the basic language used in the fields, etc, helped me to pick through the mountains of information out there about space travel and find the nuggets I needed to make my story possible. And as far as the kids go—I knew right away I wanted this to be for middle-graders. That’s my favorite age group to teach. Since I’m around their voices a lot, that helped feed into my characters.

4. Your book has been described as an action-packed adventure that is a real page turner. What was your plotting process like? How did you keep the pace so fast with increasing stakes?

I love extensive plotting. My critique partners can attest to the fact that I create piles of outlines,
diagrams, and character arc sheets before I complete any novel. I don’t always stick to what’s on those outlines, but they do provide a great road map. I write with the idea in mind that things will get worse before they get worse. Then, they’ll get even worse. My goal is to make the reader wonder how my characters are going to get out of the mess long before the mess has even reached its full potential. My advice for creating fast-paced plots is to make sure your characters get to the end of the story not just against the odds, but against all odds.

5. That's great advice to make things worse and then even more challenging. I'll have to remember that tip. What was something—either a class, book, or something else—that helped you learn about the craft of writing and that you found useful in writing this story?

I think the best thing that helped me learn craft was (and is) being part of a critique group. Being forced to closely examine other people’s writing to discover what could be changed, what is missing, and what is working helped me to understand how a story works. My critique partners constantly inspire me and teach me how to take my writing to the next level.

6. Yes. I love being in a critique group too. How do you juggle your writing with the demands of your job?

To be honest, not well! Hah. I am perpetually exhausted, and live off of coffee. But I care so much about both careers that I am willing to push myself to manage the two as best as I can. I often get up before 5am to spend time working on writing before going to work, and I typically spend most of the hours of my weekend writing. My day-job is extremely energetically demanding, so I can’t usually muster up additional energy to write in the evenings. There’s been a lot of trial and error in discovering just how far I can push myself—I THINK my friends are finally starting to trust me when I say I know where my limits are. (We won’t talk about the Pneumonia Debacle of 2015, other than to say…listen to your body, people. Please.)

7. I can relate to living on coffee and when I was an attorney, I used to get up early in the morning to write too. Your agent is Ammi-Joan Paquette. She seems like such a fantastic agent. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

In 2013, I was connected to Joan through a critique partner, who knew another author Joan worked with. The author said my space adventure sounded like something her agent would like. I’d been querying novels for a couple years at that point, and was less than optimistic about my odds, to say the least, but I went ahead and queried Joan. Around the same time, I got my first ever offer of representation from a different agent, so I quickly let Joan (and all agents I’d queried) know. Joan immediately responded and wasted no time in reading through my manuscript and making an offer of her own. I actually ended up with three agent offers at once, which was a serious shock to my system after two years of rejection! Every agent has different talents to bring to the table, but I am completely and utterly grateful that I landed with Joan. She’s been the perfect match for my writing and working style, and has been such a tremendous champion of my manuscripts.

After that, it took over a year and a half and a few revisions/rounds of submissions before I got my offer from HarperCollins Children’s. This industry does not move quickly for most of us! But I think that’s often a good thing, because I’ve had time to adjust to each stage as I’ve gone through them. And it made it that much sweeter when I finally did get my chance at a book deal. I can’t begin to describe the feeling when Joan called to tell me that Harper wanted to sign me. I know I’m supposed to be an author, but there really are no words for that moment.

8. Your publication story shows the importance of persistence and patience in both getting an agent and book deal.I know that you are a member of The Swanky Seventeens, a debut MG and YA author group. How has this helped you navigate the marketing and other challenges of your book being released?

It’s been super helpful to have others to turn to with questions during this rollercoaster of a time. I highly recommend syncing up with some kind of debut group when you are a new author, because the support of others going through what you’re going through is invaluable. I don’t think there’s been any one big thing I could name that my debut group has helped me with, but I know there’s been countless small things. And those add up! Trust me, do they ever add up. I’m so grateful I’ve had other authors around to share in this part of the journey.

9. Yes, I'd want to join a debut group for sure too. What is a piece of advice that you have for aspiring writers?

Connect with other writers. Get yourself a critique group. It’ll help you improve as an author, and will be essential for your mental health and you go through the many ups and downs that this career track presents.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m in copyedits with my next middle grade novel, THE SEISMIC SEVEN (2018, HarperCollins Children’s). The tagline is: Seven kids. Ones supervolcano. One chance to save the world.

So be on the lookout for that one next year. ;) And thanks for having me at Literary Rambles!

Thanks for all your advice, Katie. You can find Katie at:
Twitter: @paleopaws 

Katie has generously offered an ARC of THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY for a giveaway. 
To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through August 19th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the 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 August 14th I have a guest post by debut author Lana Popovich and giveaway of her YA contemporary fantasy WICKED LIKE WILDFIRE

Monday August 21st I have an interview with debut author Melissa Roske and a giveaway of her MG contemporary KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN

Wednesday September 6th I have a guest post by author Jessica Lawson and her agent Tina Wexler with a query critique giveaway by Tina and giveaway of UNDER THE BOTTLE BRIDGE, a MG contemporary by Jessica

Monday September 11th I have an interview with debut author Katherine Locke and a giveaway of her historical YA THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON

Hope to see you on Monday, August 14th!


The Cynical Sailor said...

I also find that if a book doesn't grab me right away, I put it down. I used to have more patience when I was younger, but now I just move onto the next one. Maybe because I realize how much there is to read out there and I'm not getting any younger. :-) Katie's books sounds great. I like the idea of weaving science into a middle grade book. Cheers - Ellen

lostinimaginaryworlds.blogspot.com said...

Fantastic post, always marvel at the energy. Yes, good idea, science into middle grade book. I do the same with mine, but it is history into fiction for 9 to 11's. Thanks for the ideas.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

An inflatable planetarium? Wow.
Take care of your mother, Natalie. That's more important than blogging.

Jemi Fraser said...

Countdown Conspiracy sounds like great fun!

Take care yourself and your Mom Natalie. I have difficulty with pacing when I'm writing - like you I don't want those draggy bits! :)

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

A great interview. Congratulations, Katie. Middle grade kids should love your story.
When the book moves along too slowly, it's hard to keep reading. Get to the point.
Hope all goes well with you and your mom.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Natalie,

I have to agree, slow pacing is a pet peeve of mine, too. Yes, the publisher author can do whatever they please. But I still write with bending rules. Because if it makes for a better story, why not? I don't think unpublished writers have to be so critical. If you look what's being published, even by newbies, there are many acceptable styles the bend the rules...

Kristin Lenz said...

Same here, Natalie - I used to have more tolerance for slower reads, and for certain authors I still do - I know they'll eventually deliver - but I find myself setting aside more books than ever these days.

Congrats to Katie, and how wonderful that book #2 is already in copy edits!

Pat Hatt said...

Great interview indeed. Sometimes managing both can be a pain, but doing the best you can is the way to be. Connecting is a great way to be too.

Yeah, slow burns can annoy, but sometimes some have to be tailored that way. Pfft to such rules, if they can break them, then if it fits, I'll do it too.

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the excellent interview. this book sounds amazing, especially now that I know a scientist wrote it. This book does sound exciting and will be fun to read. I shared this interview and the amazing book cover on my tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/163715514487/katie-slivensky-interview-and-the-countdown

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, like you I too hate slow pacing and when a writer just keeps telling without showing I want to slam the book shut.

Katie's book The Countdown Conspiracy sounds cool. Wishing her loads of luck.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

My pet peeve was the same as yours. Katie's book sound interesting. Now that I have a granddaughter I'm going to have to pay more attention to children's books.

Jennifer Hawes said...

When a book is too slow, boring, nothing is happening, the plot is dragging, YES, this is my pet peeve too. This is actually how I edit my books. Will the reader fall asleep just now, like I did? THEN I FIX THE PACING. Things move quickly for our kids today.

Chrys Fey said...

YES! For as long as I can remember I've seen established writers break the rules. Then when we try, it's a big no-no. That's hard when you learn to write by reading those authors, as I did.

Crystal Collier said...

I'm with you on slow books. And I didn't know your mom was in Florida. Now I'm wondering which part. Wave to me as you peruse the state, eh?

Nice to meet Katie. I'll have to float this one by my 10 yr old and see what he thinks.

cleemckenzie said...

Great to meet Katie and find out how her book began. That's always interesting to me.

I just read The Goldfinch, and there were pages of rehashing and digging into one idea until I was ready to scream. However, while the pacing often dragged. . .and dragged. . .and. . . It had some of the best characterization I've ever read. I had to finish it.

Gwen Gardner said...

Hi Natalie! I know what you mean about having less patience in reading, I'm the same way. I'm currently reading a book with too much description and keep skimming to find the plot.

Hi Katie! I loved learning about you. Your book (and career) sounds awesome. Good luck!

Suzanne Furness said...

Slow pacing and over description are things that peeve me now! I never used to not finish a book but must confess I have occasionally abandoned a book if I really can't get into it . . . so many books to read after all.
I hope your mum is alright, Natalie.

Brenda said...

The Countdown Conspiracy sounds super fun, love to see more books that are blending in science. Hope your mother is feeling better soon Natalie!

Tamara Narayan said...

This sounds like an exciting read. Please enter me in the contest:

tamara (dot) narayan (at) gmail (dot) com

mshatch said...

Ooh, this sounds like a really fun book. I loved the goonies :) Congrats to Katie :)

Jenni said...

I love the sound of this book. Something my boys, who love science, would like too. I really liked Katie's advice about putting your characters in the worst situation possible. And I'm with you, Natalie, on seeing more established authors break the "rules." It's maddening at times!

Cherie Reich said...

I feel you on slow-paced books. Life's too short to read something that isn't capturing your interest.

Congrats to Katie! Love that cover for The Countdown Conspiracy!

S.P. Bowers said...

Natalie, hope your mom is okay and your trip a good one.

Katie, this book sounds amazing. I can't wait to read it with my son.

Olga Godim said...

Breaking the rules... you're not the first writer to contemplate that. I guess, some rules are made to be broken. :)
Fantastic interview, Natalie, Katie. That book sounds exciting, and I just love its cover!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I also can't finish a book if it starts to drag too much. There are too many good books out there waiting to be read.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Hey Katie, congrats on your book and creative journey. There needs to be more international giveaways. Missing out on some cool books. Thanks for hanging with us Natalie and sending prayers for your mom.

Jessica Lawson said...

Great interview! This books sounds like it has everything MG readers will love~ I bet it would make a great read-aloud too! And I love the title/tagline of THE SEISMIC SEVEN as well :)

Rosi said...

Wonderful post, as always. Love the interview. My pet peeve? Stupid grammatical errors. Yes, I see them in famous writer's books. Why aren't they caught by a copy editor either? Drives me crazy. For heaven's sake -- you can't HONE in on something! Augh! I pass on the giveaway. Too many books, too little time.

Christine Rains said...

Hope your mom is doing okay, Natalie. Have a safe trip!

Congrats to Katie! Love that cover and the blurb. It sounds like so much fun.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Reading submissions has trained me to put down a slow read right away. And I sent an email earlier this week - hope you received it.

Tyrean Martinson said...

You had me at The Martian meets the Goonies! Great introduction for your novel. It sounds fantastic!
Congrats, Katie.

Unknown said...

Would love to win this book. It sounds fabulous! I've mentioned it on Twitter. monicachess26(@)gmail(.)com

dolorah said...

Someday we will all get to break the rules, lol.

Nice to meet you Katie.

Stephanie Faris said...

Slow pacing definitely sucks!!! I find myself skimming what I'm reading or speeding up things if I'm listening on Audible. I listen to a lot of books at 1.25x normal speed now because they just speak too slowly for me. Hope all went well with your mom.

Angie Quantrell said...

Congratulations! How exciting to see your book become, well, a book! Looking forward to reading it and seeing it in book stores. :)

Empty Nest Insider said...

I also don't like books that endlessly drag on. There just aren't enough hours in the day. I enjoyed hearing Katie's advice. I'd like to join a critique group one day, though I'm not sure that I'm brave enough. I hope that your mom is doing well. I know that she's in good hands thanks to you!


Nick Wilford said...

Loved the inspiration behind Katie's book, and it sounds like great fun. Working in a science museum would be amazing. I don't mind a slightly slower pace at the beginning of a book sometimes, if I'm drawn in by the atmosphere, but it's got to pick up at some point!

DMS said...

I feel the same way about established writers getting to break rules that everyone else has to worry about. I think it is confusing!

I would love to win a copy of this book. I have been seeing it around and it looks really entertaining. Best of luck to Katie!

Hope all goes well in Florida!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

You probably won't have a chance to read this until you return. But I'm sorry to hear that your mom is having difficulties and needs help. I hope everything turns out well.

Angie Quantrell said...

Yay! Can't wait to read THE COUNTDOWN CONSIPIRACY! Thank you, thank you, thank you!