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! 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!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That was a challenging choice to have her stop with that second manuscript. But your instinct was right.

Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for an interesting interview!

Greg Pattridge said...

Great interview. I loved the discussion on how she writes. The book sounds fantastic, but I'll back away from the giveaway as my stack of MG books to read has reached epic proportions.

TL said...

The story sounds awesome. Best of luck!

Brenda said...

Wonderful interview, tough choice to make but it sounds like it was the right one for you. Have a lovely week Natalie.

cleemckenzie said...

I really like the sound of this story and the title and cover are great. Good luck!

Karen Lange said...

Gray Wolf Island sounds like it'll keep you on the edge of your seat! It's nice to meet you, Tracey. Appreciate you sharing your experience and insight. Wishing you well.

Natalie, great interview! Thanks for hosting today. I'll pass on the giveaway this time around. Enjoy the week!

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like a fascinating story with memorable characters! :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

There's a lot going on in that novel. Best wish to Tracey.

Nick Wilford said...

Great interview, the book sounds enchanting. Very impressed by the level of planning that Tracey goes to!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

What a fascinating idea for a story. Congratulations, Tracey. Great interview, ladies. Enjoyed it.

Unknown said...

Wow! What a great interview. I've mentioned the giveaway on Twitter. monicachess26(@)gmail(.)com

Pat Hatt said...

That is very true indeed. A unwritten book shall never sell, so have to plug away day by day.

T.W. Kirchner said...

Gray Wolf Island sounds interesting. I like a good treasure hunt.

Rosi said...

Great interview and the book sounds terrific. I love the Oak Island story, so I think I will love this book. Thanks for the post.

Leslie S. Rose said...

Congrats, Tracey. It's so cool that your association with this site went from "querying girl" to "published author with a book that sounds amazing."

Donna K. Weaver said...

Nice interview. Congratulations to Tracey.

That whole plotting vs pantsing thing is a tough one when the story doesn't want to plot until it's being written.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Best of luck to Tracey! That's great advice on the marketing. I end up trying to do too much and burn out.

Michelle Mason said...

Great interview, plus the book sounds fantastic. Thanks for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the giveaway!

AM Bostwick said...

I can't wait to read this book!

Sherry Ellis said...

Great interview! Love the cover of the book.

Michelle@Book Briefs said...

Thank you so much! Gray wolf island is one of my most anticipated reads of the year! I follow you via twitter, email.

Michelle.Bookbriefs AT gmail DOT com

Michelle @ Book Briefs

Jessica Lawson said...

Tracey's book sounds great (as does the one she's working on now)! Excellent questions & answers as usual~ thanks ladies!

Chrys Fey said...

A mystery and a treasure. Sounds like a good story. :)

DMS said...

This sounds like a fun and exciting story. I love that Stand By Me and the friendship in the movie helped inspire the friendship in this book. Best of luck to Tracey! :)

Mixxerly said...

Wow! that was an amazing story. I loved that!

Megan said...

This one sounds amazing!

Suzi Guina said...

Great interview! Thanks for sharing your outlining process and your submission journey. Love hearing about other writers' experiences! I'd love to be considered for the book: bonecabela(@)yahoo(.)com

Unknown said...

I just read the sample of Gray Wolf Island available on Amazon, and, Wow! It just grabs you from page one!
No punches are pulled, and it went straight on my Must-Buy and 'who will I give this to for the holidays?' lists.

Danielle H. said...

I enjoyed this interview and found her honesty inspirational. I think starting a new project is always the hardest part for similar reasons. Can't wait to read this debut. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/166465150532/tracey-neithercott-interview-and-gray-wolf-island

Patricia T. said...

I really want to read Gray Wolf Island. It sounds like a book you can really get lost in and a really exciting read! What a great interview -- now I know why I don't write complex novels. Her research is incredible.

Also noticed you reviewed The Sandcastle Empire -- I read it and reviewed it on GoodReads. Loved it. There are some books I read for my own pleasure.

Carina Olsen said...

I hadn't heard about this book until recently, and I am SO curious about it :D It sounds so good. Lovely interview post sweetie :) (Not entering the giveaway, sadly, as I'm in Norway ;)) But hoping to get this book one day :D