Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • 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

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.


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Quressa Robinson here. She is a literary agent at Nelson Literary Agency.

FYI, I’m taking over the agent spotlights from Casey. I will be providing all the same information we’ve shared in the past in an interview format. In addition, one lucky commenter will win a query critique from the agent being interviewed.

Status: Open to submissions.

Update on 1/14/2022: Quressa is now at Folio Literary Management. Check their website for her submisson guidelines.

Hi­ Quressa! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Quressa:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.

I became an agent in 2017. I started off on the editing side of publishing where I spent my first five years in the industry. I made several acquisitions and honed my editorial skills, but the agent bug came a’calling. Since the switch I’ve been building my list, working with my clients on their manuscripts to prepare them for submission, and getting out to several conferences.

About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

Nelson Literary Agency was founded in 2002 and is based in the chic/hip urban setting of lower Downtown Denver—otherwise known as Lodo. Embodying a modern philosophy that technology is meant to be used, the Nelson Agency is a living example that a powerhouse agency does not have to be located in New York. But two of our agents--one of which is myself--are based in New York City. We also have and agent based in Chicago.

We are a hands-on agency that strongly believes in taking on clients for their whole career. We provide editorial and marketing guidance as well as aggressive expertise in contract negotiation.

What She’s Looking For:

3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

I represent YA and MG only on the children’s side of things. I also represent adult books. In YA and MG I cover SFF, Contemporary, and Historical. I tend to lean toward character-driven stories with a strong voice. I love WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI, MERCIFUL CROW, HER ROYAL HIGHNESS,
THE GRACE YEAR, HOUSE OF SALT AND SORROW, THE CRUEL PRINCE series, and TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE. I really am most interested in stories that play with tropes and unique, interesting perspectives that aren’t often seen. I’m particularly interested in #OwnVoices and marginalized authors.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

People can check out my #MSWL. But I loooooove witches. Someone give me a witch book a la The Craft/Charmed/Practical Magic. Huge plus if you through in voodoo or other non-western cultural touch points. I want to see more ladies in space and more morally ambiguous female protagonists. I love revenge and murder and fantasy that plays with tropes. You can send a retelling my way, but I’ll want to see it lean dark. Reimaging of folk stories from non-western cultures would be especially amazing.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

This can be a tough one. I don’t want books about US slavery or the Civil Rights Movement. I’m just ready to see books about the black experience that goes beyond those well-known and well-written about historical moments.

I’m not looking for mysteries/suspense/thrillers. Just not my jam. I’m looking for select non-fiction, but only if you have a robust platform. If you don’t know what platform is, then you aren’t ready to query me. And, to be honest, I tend to seek out the non-fiction projects I’m interested in pursuing.

Agent Philosophy:

6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

I am super ambitious and very, very persistent. I look for those same qualities in my clients. You don’t have to be as ambitious as I am, but I definitely want to work with authors who are in it for the long hall. I also think it’s important to believe in each other. It’s a partnership. I’m putting my faith in them and their putting their faith in me. I’m also a hard worker and am looking for clients who aren’t afraid to push up their sleeves and dig deep to get their work to the next level.

Publishing is also an industry that can be full of rejection. Despite being told “no” over and over again I keep at it. So I’m really looking for clients who don’t know how to give up and have a strong work ethic.

I’m also deeply passionate so that is what I look for in a MS—a book that makes me feel something strongly and deeply. If you get me invested then I am that much more motivated to invest in your work.

I also look for authors who are prolific. Having a well of ideas is essential to have a long career in publishing. When I am considering rep I always ask about projects the author has in the back burner. It’s very common that the book you query to get your agent is typically not the book your agent sells to a publisher. Being prepared to roll with the punches and move onto the next idea is essential.

Editorial Agent:

7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

I am absolutely an editorial agent. In the truest sense of the word. This is, afterall, where I started my career in publishing. I love to take a hands on approach with a client’s MS. I tend to do a very thorough first pass developmental edit. This means comments in the margin to address macro and micro issues. I always include a more detailed editorial letter and the option to chat more about next steps via the phone or video chat. If there needs to be another pass we’ll do it.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)

8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?

What I’m looking for and submission guidelines are thoroughly spelled out on the NLA website so I’d suggest authors check that out. In terms of query letter, I love brief and to the point. Get some good comps in there—comps don’t need to be literal. I just need to know who think you’re book will appeal to. Great for fans of X and Y. Or who you think your author peers are—my story is similar to the dark characters in X and the political intrigue of Y.

9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

Spelling my name wrong. Not including comparable titles. I know it’s hard, but this helps so much, and you definitely should be reading in your genre, so while it might feel like a chore it shouldn’t be impossible. I think many authors think too literally about comps.

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

NLA’s policy is to get through queries in three weeks and full manuscripts within two months. Obviously, turnaround can be a smidge longer depending on what might be on our individual plates, but we try to be timely.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:

11.  Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?

Yes, but with caveats for both. Definitely only query with new material. I can’t consider something that has already been published. For authors who have published with a smaller press things can be a bit trickier. Because I have worked for a publisher I know the Big Five pay attention to an author’s track record on Book Scan, so that’s something I have to take into consideration.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

Anybody who works in publishing should be adaptable. We shouldn’t be afraid of innovation, but in the grant scheme of things agents will always be an author’s best advocate and will have the ability to advise them on long term career goals and expectations.


13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I represent YA, MG in multiple genres and adult SFF authors. My best known projects are Instant New York Times Bestseller A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown, the critically acclaimed SLAY by Brittney Morris, and Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes. (Book two in the series, Prime Deceptions, is out this fall.) I have many other clients with projects in the pipeline that I can't announce yet and others working on revisions for projects that will go out on submission soon. You can follow them all on Twitter.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

14. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.

Links and Contact Info:

15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

Here is our submission guidelines page: http://nelsonagency.com/submission-guidelines/
Make sure to read the guidelines before you query. You can query me at queryquressa@nelsonagency.com.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Quressa.

­Quressa is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through November 11th.  If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Profile Details:
Last updated: 5/25/2020.
Agent Contacted for Review? Yes
Last Reviewed By Agent? 6/11/2020.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change. 


Happy Monday Everyone! I'm sorry not to have an agent spotlight interview with Molly O'Neill today. But I do have an update on her status. She recently left Waxman Literary as of October 1, 2017 and is now at Root Literary. She is not open to submissions for a bit while she gets her clients settled into her new agency. We have reset her interview for January 22, 2018 when she should be open to submissions again.

I am also working hard to update the agent spotlights and have updated them through Laura Bradford. Many of the agents have reviewed and made corrections to their spotlights. I know that I have a lot more to update, and I am trying to make more of an effort to get to them.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, October 30th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with agent Quressa Robinson

Wednesday, November 1st I have a guest post by author Dusti Bowling and a giveaway of her MG contemporary INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS, and my IWSG post

Monday, November 6th I have an interview with debut author Jodi Kendall and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY

Monday, November 13th I have an interview with debut author Heather Kaczynski and a giveaway of her YA science fiction DARE MIGHTY THINGS

Tuesday, November 14th I am participating in the Gratitude Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on Monday!


Happy Monday Everyone! I am excited to have debut author Karina Yan Glaser here with her agent Ginger Clark to share about Karina's MG contemporary THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141st STREET. It sounds like a great story with five memorable siblings trying to save their home. Before I get to their guest post, I have Follower News to share.

Follower News

I have two followers to shout out about today. Yay!

Stephanie Haight and Stephanie Robinson's new MG FAIRDAY MORROW AND THE TALKING LIBRARY is being released. Here's a blurb: The next case in the DMS files opens on October 23rd! Follow along with Fairday and friends as the mystery unwinds in the Talking Library. Anything's possible! 
A quote from the book: "Truth lies betwixt the lines."
Here are the book links:

And Donna Weaver just released her new adult book SWING VOTE. Here's a blurb: Marc survived
an IED, but will his heart survive McKenzie?
And here's some links:

Do you have good news to share? It can be a book for any age or genre except erotica, and I'll be glad to shout out for you. Just send me an email at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com with a two-sentence blurb, your cover, and a few links. Please note this is for followers who visit on a regular basis and comment, so that I know that you have been here. No requirement that you stop by all the time, but you do need to be a regular follower. 

Now onto my guest post today!

Here's a blurb of THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141st STREET from Goodreads:

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It's practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.

Now here's Karina and Ginger!

Karina: Natalie, thank you so much for having us on your blog! I love Literary Rambles; what a great resource for writers!

Today we’d like to talk to you about the submission process: when an agent sends out a manuscript to editors. When Ginger took me on as her client a little over two years ago, I went through one round of revisions with her before we were ready to go on submission. Ginger put together a list of editors she wanted to submit to, and she sent me the list asking for my thoughts and asked whether anyone on the list was my sworn enemy. I have no enemies (that I know of!), so I gave her the green light. She replied saying that she would send The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street out to them, then added this note at the end:

So now it's time to find a hobby that takes you away from the computer! May I suggest:
Rabbit grooming.
Learning a musical instrument.

ANYTHING that takes you away from the computer.

Do you remember that, Ginger?

Ginger: Yes, I do. I usually tell all my clients when their book goes out on submission to take up some kind of interest or hobby that vacates them from the computer. Archery is often a suggestion! I know an archer and she is driven and organized, and I attribute that partially to the archery. Rabbit grooming was a specialized suggestion for you, because of Izzy (Karina’s rabbit, who I have met several times and adore.)

Karina: I didn’t take up archery or rabbit grooming, but I did do a lot of baking and knitting immediately after Ginger submitted the manuscript. I also did some more writing, and I twiddled my thumbs and only checked my email every two minutes.

Three weeks later, we got one response: a new editor who had just started acquiring had liked it, but

her boss was not one-hundred percent sold. The new editor offered to provide some comments for a “revise and resubmit”. While Ginger and I sat on that for a few days, we got another response. A “no” from another editor.

I remember sitting in the basement of a coffee shop when I got that email. That coffee shop was actually one of the main places where I wrote The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, while my kids were in preschool. I felt pretty terrible about myself—it’s never fun to get a rejection—but I think it was an hour later when we received a pre-empt offer from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers (HMH). I’ll let Ginger tell you what a pre-empt means.

Ginger: Before I do, it was a real whiplash moment to receive a rejection on VANDERBEEKERS and then 60 minutes later get an email from Ann Rider, an editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, saying “I really like this book” and not have the email continue “but I can’t offer on it.” I was thinking as I read the email “Oh great another rejection on this book I love, this day is going WELL.” No, instead she laid out her offer, and included a second, higher offer that was a pre-emptive offer. A pre-emptive offer is what an editor makes when she doesn’t want the agent to take the book to auction. The offer has to be high enough for the agent and author to decide they want to take it, rather than risking going to auction (and not getting an offer as high as that pre-empt). There’s the “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” argument behind it. You can potentially be leaving behind a lot more money from the open bidding situation that develops in an auction. But, maybe you don’t want that risk.

Figuring out what the best decision here is why an author needs an agent. I can usually figure out if going to auction is going to lead to more money than an attempted pre-empt. I can also use the threat of an impending auction to raise the pre-emptive offer a bit.

Karina: See why I’m so glad to have Ginger as my agent? While her brain immediately went into business and strategy overdrive, my brain was going haywire after finding out that someone actually wanted to buy my story! My hands were shaking and my heart was pounding so hard. I don’t remember feeling that excited/nervous/scared ever. But Ginger knew just what to do. She contacted the other editors who hadn’t responded and many of them agreed to read the manuscript overnight to see if they were interested. By the next day, another publishing house wanted a chance at The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. I had a chance to talk to Ann Rider from HMH on the phone, and once I spoke to her I knew she was the editor for me. Ginger did some more negotiation, and we ended up taking the pre-empt offer.

Ginger: Interestingly, that second editor who wanted the book has now left the business. That happens a lot at a certain level of publishing. But I’m very glad we wound up with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. They have treated Karina very well and the book is clearly beloved by the whole staff there.

Karina: It’s been nearly two years since the submission process, and I couldn’t be more happy to be with HMH. The whole team there is amazing and super smart and kind, and Ann is the perfect editor for me and this book. The author-editor-agent relationship is so unique, and I feel so lucky to be working with two of the best people in the industry.

Ginger: I am so honored to have worked on this book. It’s the kind of book that 8 to 12 year old Ginger would have devoured in one sitting. I grew up an only child in the suburbs, and I dreamed of having a lot of siblings AND living in the city. The Vanderbeekers are the kind of warm, loud family that readers will love. Also, there’s a rabbit who is clearly a genius and a cat who is a real jerk. The pet characters have just as vivid personalities as the kids and their parents and their neighbors do.

Karina: Aw, thank you Ginger! And thank you for having us on your blog, Natalie. This was so much fun! 

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Karina and Ginger.

You can find Karina at:
Twitter: @KarinaYanGlaser

And you can find Ginger Clark at:
Twitter: @Ginger_Clark

Karina is generously offering a copy of THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141st STREET for a giveaway and Ginger is offering a query critique for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through October 28th. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. 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 the critique giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, October 23rd I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with agent Molly O'Neill

Monday, October 30th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with agent Quressa Robinson

Wednesday, November 1st I have a guest post by author Dusti Bowling and a giveaway of her MG contemporary INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS, and my IWSG post

Monday, November 6th I have an interview with debut author Jodi Kendall and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY

Hope to see you on Monday!


Happy Saturday Everyone! Today I'm excited to participate in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop hosted by BookHounds. I've missed these blog hops this year because there are less of them. Miss seeing those of you who primarily visit for these giveaway hops. What about you? Do you miss them too?

I hope you find a book you like for yourself, a family member, or a friend in the choices offered. Don’t see a book you like? You can win a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card instead. I hope you'll all enter to win a book or gift card for yourself or as a gift for someone.

So here are your choices. I've got a combination of MG and YA. If you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead as long as it doesn't cost more than the book here. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads.







If you haven't found a book you want, you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through October 31st telling me the book you want to win or if you want to win the Gift Card instead. 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 or older to enter. International entries are welcome as long as The Book Depository ships to you for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, October 16th I have a guest post with debut author Karina Van Glaser and her agent Ginger Clark with a giveaway of Karina's MG contemporary THE VANDERBEKERS and a query critique giveaway by agent Ginger Clark

Monday, October 23rd I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with agent Molly O'Neill

Monday, October 30th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with agent Quressa Robinson

Wednesday, November 1st I have a guest post by author Dusti Bowling and a giveaway of her MG contemporary INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS, and my IWSG post

Monday, November 6th I have an interview with debut author Jodi Kendall and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY

Hope to see you on Monday!

Here are all the other blogs participating in this Blog Hop:


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Tracey Neithercott here to share about her YA mystery/magical realism GRAY WOLF ISLAND. The combination of a mystery and the magical realism really appeals to me, and it’s gotten rave reviews.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.

With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends to join her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can foresee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret—something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.

As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure—or merely with their lives.

From debut author Tracey Neithercott comes a darkly compelling tale of profound friendship, adventure, and finding the strength to tell the truth.

Hi Tracey! Thanks so much for joining us!

Thank you so much for having me! It’s like coming full circle—I relied so heavily on this site when querying agents.

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

I think I’ve always been a writer, in one way or another. Even as a kid—when I had it in my head I’d be a famous a movie star because I was, like, ten and obsessed with movies—I was writing stories. In high school, I attempted a couple novels, both of which were more like novel openings than anything even remoted novel-like.

But in college, I started to think about Serious Writing, which in my mind was both deserving of capital letters and a viable career option. I could be a magazine editor, I decided, but not an author. Authors were magical people who could write books with beginnings and middles and ends. Dreaming of publishing a book felt a bit like dreaming of being a unicorn tamer.

It wasn’t until a few years after college that I started seriously thinking about writing. I’d had book ideas for as long as I could remember, but this time they wouldn’t go away. I was born in the Olden Days, so while my only source of publishing information as a teen was the library, now I had blogs and a vibrant writer community. Following writer blogs, watching unpublished writers get agents and then publishing deals—it all gave me courage to try.

2. Awesome that you finally gave into your ideas. Where did you get the idea for GRAY WOLF ISLAND?

The idea for GRAY WOLF ISLAND came to me in pieces, as items I loved that I decided to throw together.

First, came the friendship. I’ve always wanted to write a book about friendship but hadn’t found the
right story. One night, I was watching Stand by Me and decided that was the sort of friendship I wanted to write about: intense and life-changing. (If we’re pretending the voiceover ending didn’t happen and the boys stayed best friends for a long time.) But I wanted to write this for teens.

Second, came the treasure hunt. I’d kept those friends in the back of my head as I worked on a different book. I had a hard time letting go, though, and soon I knew I wanted to send them on some sort of quest. About that time, my husband began watching The Curse of Oak Island on the History Channel. It’s about real-life Oak Island, which sits off the coast of Nova Scotia and supposedly hides a treasure in its giant pit. It immediately clicked: friendship + treasure hunt.

Everything else sort of fell into place from there.

3. Your story is filled with mysteries. A mysterious map and mysterious pasts of friends are some. How did you decide on the mysteries you wanted to include and how did you weave them in?

I seem to have a hard time writing a story without some kind of mystery, but for this one I knew from the start there would be several that readers would unravel throughout the course of the book. Obviously a treasure hunt lends itself well to a mystery—the location (and existence) of the treasure is a mystery itself. But because the story focuses so heavily on secrets and the truth, I thought it’d be fun to surround the characters with mystery, too.

At first I picked secrets that tied to the characters’ backstories, but what I realized is that they became more powerful when they connected to the plot or other characters in some way. I decided to pick secrets that would affect each character, the others, and maybe even the events of the story. Some secrets are bigger than others, but for each I added hints throughout so that when they’re finally revealed readers (hopefully!) say, “How did I not see that coming?”

I also made use of two POVs. My second POV character is a mystery himself, but within his chapters are clues and hints about the characters in the main POV.

I built some of the mysteries in the first draft, but most of the work happened during revision, when I knew the story and could best tweak the mysteries and red herrings.

4. That's a cool idea to connect the character's mysteries to other characters and the plot.What type of plotter were you when writing GRAY WOLF ISLAND? How did that process work for you?

I’m a huge plotter. I pantsed my first novel and spent ages revising it. For GRAY WOLF ISLAND, I created a pretty detailed outline before I wrote the first word. I work in Scrivener, so I start by creating folders for ideas, research, character information, setting details, photos, and so on.

When I begin plotting, I use the cork board function to set up note cards. I like to structure my story in a modified three-act structure. I keep Act 1 and Act 3 the same, but I split Act 2 into two at the midpoint. I then outline the major points: inciting incident, plot point 1, the decision, midpoint, bad guys closing in, black moment, plot point 2, climax, and resolution. I build from there, filling in scenes and shaping the character arc.

Knowing all of this—including (especially) the ending—really helps me focus while writing. In the end, I still spent an extraordinarily long time writing this book. The words came slowly. I couldn’t turn off my inner editor. It was a long, long process.

But it worked out just fine because revision was a breeze.

5. I'm trying to plot more like you because my first manuscript took so much editing. I'll be curious to see if I call revising a breeze. I love the magic that you picked for your story, such as a girl who never sleeps and a boy who predicts his own death. Where did you come up for the ideas for your magical system?

I’m not sure when I decided this world would have magic, but at some point I just knew there was magic in the world. I also knew it was part of the world in the way sunsets and rainbows are part of ours. As far as most of the magic is concerned, I wanted readers to wonder whether it was really magic. Does the narrator, Ruby, really go invisible? Was Gabe’s mother truly a virgin when she gave birth?

For the five main treasure-hunters, I considered magic in two ways: either as an extension of who they are at their core or as something that affects the plot (or both). In the end, it turned out that the magic sort of emphasizes some of the important themes of the book. But probably nobody will notice that but me!

6. Shows how in depth your thought process was. Your agent is Sarah LaPolla. Share how she became your agent and what your road to publication was like.

I met Sarah when I was querying my very first novel, ALIVE. I’d entered it into a contest, and Sarah had asked for pages. She ultimately passed but said she liked my writing and would like to see whatever I wrote next.

At the time, I had my novel out with about ten or so agents. I was a giant ball of stress (if you’re currently querying, I’m sure you can relate), and to get my mind off my inbox, I decided to write something new.

[Side note: The best advice I ever read was to write something new while querying. I’m not sure how I would have gotten through the wait without focusing on my next project.]

About a chapter in to this new project, THE MURDER MYTH, I knew it was so much better than the one I was querying. I’d been getting a lot of requests for fulls on ALIVE, but none led to an offer. I had a choice: Send out a second round of queries, or focus on THE MURDER MYTH. I decided to focus on the new book, revising it and then sending it out to agents.

I’d wisened up by then, and the minute I sent my first query, I started writing something new. That turned out to be GRAY WOLF ISLAND.

Sarah ended up offering on THE MURDER MYTH, and at the time I simply mentioned GRAY WOLF ISLAND as my next project. She liked the idea, but first we focused efforts on getting THE MURDER MYTH ready for submission to editors.

Stop me if this sounds familiar: About five chapters in to GRAY WOLF ISLAND, I knew it was so much better than the one on submission. By the time Sarah was ready to submit THE MURDER MYTH to more editors, I had a finished first draft of GRAY WOLF ISLAND. I had a choice: Submit to a second round of editors, or focus on GRAY WOLF ISLAND.

I asked Sarah to stop submitting to editors.

At the time, I couldn’t tell whether I was a quitter or just going with my gut. Looking back, I’m glad I trusted my instincts. GRAY WOLF ISLAND sold pretty soon after it went on submission, and I’m so thankful this is my debut novel instead of the others.

7. What a story of only wanting to submit the best you could write. What was something that surprised you about working with Sarah or your editor? Why?

I did a ton of research on publishing, agents, and editors before I ever began querying, so there weren’t too many surprises, thankfully. I’ve been thinking about this question a bit, and I suppose one aspect that surprised me a bit was how a simple phone conversation with my agent or editor can clear up any confusion on their manuscript notes. When Sarah first read GRAY WOLF ISLAND, she made a suggestion I wasn’t fully on board with. But once we got on the phone and she explained her reasoning, I totally got what she was saying. The simple rewording of her concern helped me see my story in a new light.

8. That's great that you could get clarification. I'd need that too. What was a challenge you faced in some part of your journey so far? How did you overcome it?

I think my greatest challenge has been self-made—and I’m not sure I’ve fully overcome it yet. The hardest part of being a writer, for me, is believing in myself. I did overcome my doubts to an extent—enough to get me to write that first novel, to send out that first query, to go on submission.

But with each book, I face doubt and uncertainty all over again. With my current WIP, I’m right back there, wondering how I ever wrote a novel and whether I can do it again. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly overcome those doubts, but I’ve been teaching myself to bypass them by reminding myself that I did do it before. And that an unwritten book never sells.

9. I totally have that doubt. It scares me enough to be afraid to try to query. How are you marketing your book? Why have you chosen these avenues vs. other ways you could be promoting your book?

Book marketing is still something of a mystery to me, so there’s a 90 percent chance I’m doing it all wrong. Okay, a 98 percent chance.

I’ve decided to primarily focus the majority of my efforts in a few spots: Twitter, Instagram, and my newsletter. I have a Facebook page, but I basically despise Facebook so I really only do the bare minimum there. Fact is, marketing is a lot of work (talk about debut year surprises), and I didn’t want to waste my time on a form of social media I really don’t enjoy.

In the end, I’m sure I’ll end up thinking I did both too little and too much. Because there’s really no good way to determine whether your efforts have led to sales. Which is why all the smart people say the same thing: Do what you need to in order to feel like you’re making a difference, but focus on your next book. I try to remind myself of this daily.

10. Good advice. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a YA book I’m calling a contemporary fantasy. (Is that a genre? Can I pretend it is?) It’s a bit like the movie Big Fish in that.

I’ve been describing the book as Rumpelstiltskin, if Maleficent were the miller’s daughter. It has a really fun setting, an antihero, riddles, and characters I already love. It also has a long, long way to go before it’s done.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Tracey. You can find Tracey at INSERT YOUR LINKS

Website: http://traceyneithercott.com/
Newsletter: http://bit.ly/traceynewsletter
Twitter: https://twitter.com/T_Neithercott
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/traceyneithercott/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15179421.Tracey_Neithercott
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gray-Wolf-Island-Tracey-Neithercott-ebook/dp/B01MR8VTFI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504573607&sr=8-1&keywords=gray+wolf+island
Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781524715304

Tracey has generously offered a book giveaway of GRAY WOLF ISLAND for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through October 21. 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 for U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

Saturday, October 14th I'm participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Monday, October 16th I have a guest post with debut author Karina Van Glaser and with a giveaway of Karina's MG contemporary THE VANDERBEKERS and a query critique giveaway by agent Ginger Clark

Monday, October 23rd I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with agent Molly O'Neill

Monday, October 30th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with agent Quressa Robinson

Wednesday, November 1st I have a guest post by author Dusti Bowling and a giveaway of her MG contemporary INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS, and my IWSG post

Monday, November 6th I have an interview with debut author Jodi Kendall and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY

Hope to see you on Friday!


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have long-time follower and debut YA author Sheri Larsen here to share about her new YA contemporary fantasy MARKED BEAUTY. This sounds fantastic with Anastasia’s unusual magical ability and a romance that develops over time. Before I get to Sheri’s interview, I have my October 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: Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan!

I'm going to skip the optional question and share a big insecurity for me. I am a very slow writer and already have 60-80 articles that I write on deadline for my writing job each month. Even assuming that I was lucky enough to write a manuscript good enough to get an agent and a publishing contract (which I don't assume is possible), could I write a book on contract? Would I want the stress of doing this?

I don't know the answers to these questions, which leaves me wondering why I write sometimes and results in me not having such a burning desire to write like I once did. I know that I do not want the stressful life I once had. To avoid the stress of trying to write a book in a year while having a job, I might have to write the second book in my new YA series before I feel comfortable querying, if I ever get that far. I know it could be a huge waste of time but can't see a way to not be too afraid of the stress of writing on contract unless I do this. Then let's not get into my big fears about trying to market a book too. Any of the rest of you have the fear that you can't produce a book on time if you could get a contract? How have you handled your fear?

Now onto my interview with Shari!

Here's a blurb of MARKED BEAUTY from Goodreads:

Uncovering hidden secrets can sometimes kill you . . . or worse, steal your soul.

Anastasia Tate has a secret. She can feel the emotions of others through their life energy auras. Not a welcome gift for a teenager. Especially when a sinister presence begins stalking her.

Viktor Castle also has a secret. He’s tasked with protecting humanity yet cursed by an ancient evil to destroy it.

After Viktor saves Ana’s life, her abilities grow stronger. Drawn together, she senses Viktor has answers to lifelong questions. Only he shuns her at every turn, knowing he has saved her only to put her in more danger. As Ana struggles with her attraction to Viktor, he tries everything to bury his unexpected feelings for her. But they must find a middle ground. For only together can they combat the dark forces threatening both their lives . . . and their souls.

Hi Sheri! Thanks so much for joining us!

Always love visiting here! Thank you for having me.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became an author.

I’m mom to four, wife to one, and pet goddess to one dog and three kitties. My twisted road to publication has consisted of newspaper articles, community interest pieces, youth sports athlete magazines, and YA anthologies to my most recent release Motley Education – an international award-winning fantasy-adventure for middle grade readers.

2. Where did you get the idea for MARKED BEAUTY?

Strange as it sounds, my male and female leads are transplants. #thehorror Yes, I kidnapped Ana and Viktor from my first dreadfully written manuscript and built a new world around them. They had gripped me heart and soul, insisting their story be told. Other than knowing them, one important requirement I had to meet was to make their story world unique. Being quite fond of the creepy side of life, it was inevitable that otherworldly elements were needed. So I began researching all sorts of strange folklores, fairytales, and mythologies. Using those influences, I pieced together my world building, secondary character traits, and story problems.

3. Awesome how you were able to find a new way to share about Ana and Viktor. I’ve read that this is a real page-turner. Share how you plotted your story and tips for making a reader want to turn the page.

For me, plotting is all about cause and effect. What can I do to a character or storyline that will cause a deep reaction to engage the reader? This could be external or internal - a problem, fear, hesitation, or confusion that prompts both audience and character to lean in closer to the words on the page. And this should happen – to some degree – on every single page. Sometimes I use a minute trigger like a snarky line; other times the element is more dramatic. In either, my delivery must flow and feel natural to the reader. As the story progresses, I increase tension, conflict, and pace building upon what I’ve already established. Some of that will hinge on what I’m going for in a particular chapter or scene – reader empathy, action, inspiration, or even self-reflection. Ultimately, I want readers to identify with a personal aspect of my characters and the world they live in.

4. I love how you try to increase the tension and drama on each page. Anastasia has an unusual magical power: the ability to feel others’ emotions through their life energy auras. How did you come up with this power and develop into a credible one with limitations as well as powers?

I wanted Ana’s external gift to be an outward extension of who she is inside. That’s how the original
idea of her damaged emotions being able to affect/control this ability came about. It plays a duel role, making for conflicts within herself and within her world at the same time. To give her skills plausibility, I inserted myself into her shoes, the world, and other observing characters to play with possible reactions and effects. I weeded out the less believable ones, tweaked a few others (I’m a sucker for a problem within a solution within a problem), and came up with abilities that felt natural and had the aptitude to continue growing as she moves into the next book. *Yup, I’ve been asked to write a sequel. Eek!*

5. Congrats on the sequel! I love that the romance between Anastasia and Viktor is not immediate. Share a bit about the growth in their relationship. What tips do you have for other YA writers about writing romance?

When Ana and Viktor first meet, both are plagued by personal pains, misgivings, and fears, yet show no outward effect – Viktor is mysterious and aloof (the strange guy), while Ana is downhome and comfortable (the nice girl). But their close proximity affects Ana’s gifts. And the more she searches for a reason why, the deeper entwined their lives become. This slowly erodes their protective inner walls until what’s happening between them and their worlds collide. Their relationship literally grows from their insides-out.

For writing YA romance, I’ll offer two tips: First, play with the romance by teasing the characters, which in turn ignites a yearning in the reader to want more. And secondly, find an element or flaw within each character of the couple that complicates their attraction. This is where backstory is vital and can really juice up a romance.

6. I'm trying to write my first YA romance so I'll try to follow your tips. What was a challenge you had in writing this book and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge by far was persistent belief in the story. The setting and hidden world within the tale had been changed so many times I almost lost myself to the doubt that I’d never get it right. But I had a few amazing CPs that had fallen in love with Ana and Viktor, and insisted I figure out a way to tell their tale.

7. Well, I admire your persistence in getting your story writee. Your first published book is MOTLEY EDUCATION, a middle grade book released October 2016. I know your road to publication had some bumps, but then BAM, you quickly had two books under contract. Share about your road to publication and how you’ve dealt with the challenges of having two very different books be released by different publishers about a year apart.

A few years back, after many near-missed signings with agents, I decided to submit to publishers on my own. I received multiple offers from smaller, independent presses. Instead of accepting an offer, I signed with an interested agent. Things were good for a while, but eventually fizzled out, and I went on my own again. I decided to finally listen to my gut and do a complete rewrite of Marked Beauty. This was it. Either it sold or I was shelving it. I was blessed to receive multiple offers again. I chose my YA publisher, and a short two months later I received an offer for MOTLEY. You described it perfectly. It felt like BAM!

In dealing with the challenges of two uniquely different books releasing from different publishers, I’ve learned a host of things.

1. Pay attention to everything, but don’t expect to utilize it all. You’ll go crazy.
2. Celebrate the small accomplishments – Ex: passing in 1st round of edits, knowing three more rounds aren’t far behind.
3. Ask advice from those in the writing community. They RAWK!
4. Create a pre-release and post-release check list for each book and for each publisher. (The check lists I’ve created are available on my website.) They will be different, depending on genre and age range of the book. There are multiple ways to edit, market, and sell a book. Discern what is important to the promotion and sale of one book at a time.
5. Breathe and know you’re going to make some mistakes. That’s okay.

8. I'll have to check out your checklist if I ever get to that point in my writing. You’ve said that marketing a YA book is very different than marketing a middle grade book. Talk about these differences and how your marketing plan now is different than the one you used for MOTLEY EDUCATION.

The biggest difference between marketing for middle grade and young adult is social media. Most middle graders aren’t online a lot, whereas the opposite is true for YAers. They utilize social media in many different areas. That opens up a ton of possibilities for YA book teasers, giveaways, announcements, specials, and book sales. I can connect with them on a more direct and personal level. Although librarians and teachers are invaluable in every aspect of literature, I’ve found they are the most successful avenue to connecting with MG readers. They are the ones to introduce books to younger kids and their parents.

9. What are you working on now?

I’ve just completed book II in the Motley Education series, and I’m currently plotting out the sequel to Marked Beauty, tentatively titled Sinful Beauty.

Thanks for all your advice, Sheri. You can find Sheri at Facebook | Twitter | Website | Instagram | Goodreads

Sheri has generously offered MARKED BEAUTY for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through October 21. 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 for U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, October 9th I have an interview with debut author Tracey Neithercott and a giveaway of her YA magical realism GRAY WOLF ISLAND

Saturday, October 14th I'm participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Monday, October 16th I have a guest post with debut author Karina Van Glaser and with a giveaway of Karina's MG contemporary THE VANDERBEKERS and a query critique giveaway by agent Ginger Clark

Monday, October 23rd I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with agent Molly O'Neill

Monday,  October 30th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with agent Quressa Robinson 

Hope to see you on Monday!