Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Heather Kaczynski here to share about her YA science fiction DARE MIGHTY THINGS. Cassandra sounds like a fantastic character—vulnerable but determined. And the plot has been described as twisty.

Before I get to Heather's interview, I just want to share a link to a blog article on how to write a query letter in 7 steps on Reedsy's site in case you find it helpful.

Here’s a blurb for DARK MIGHTY THINGS from Goodreads:

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.

Hi Heather! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve been writing since second grade, but I never finished a story until after I’d graduated college.

2. Cassandra sounds like a smart, determined, and diverse character, being both Indian-American and genetically engineered. Share a bit about her character development and any challenges writing about a diverse character.

The biggest challenge in writing a diverse character is, of course, writing outside your experience and doing the character justice. No matter how much research you do, you won’t have the same lived-in experience as someone who has grown up inside the culture you’re writing. You won’t know the small, daily details of that person’s life. So, up front, you need to realize that you are not the expert here, and you need to examine the motives you have for writing the character that you are. Try to determine if you are writing the story of a culture that could be better told by someone from that culture.

For me, I wanted to write a near future that was realistic and diverse – NASA has recruited brilliant, talented contestants from all around the world, and I felt it would be disingenuous if the majority of those chosen were white. The book takes places mostly in an isolated environment outside of the character’s daily lives and families, so there isn’t much focus on their different cultures, but I did try to pay respect to Cassie’s background with help from Indian friends and sensitivity readers.

Aside from her cultural background, Cassie is a version of myself from my childhood – a little more arrogant, and a lot more brave. Having been an intensely shy, anxious child, it was a cathartic experience to write a character who wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted without reservation.

3. Sounds like you had good reasons for making Cassie a diverse character.Your story also seems really plot driven with twists and tension that makes readers want to turn the page. What was your plot development process like? Do you have any tips on how to create a page turner?

My plot development process mostly revolved around actual astronaut training scenarios. I knew I
wanted that to be as realistic as possible within the framework of the story, so I researched what skills actual astronauts have to refine and put my characters through similar ordeals.

I think the key in creating a page turner is always holding something back and giving out little clues and reveals as the characters earn them. There’s a lot of big questions when Cassie begins her training: What is the goal of this mission? Where is this mission headed? Why are the competitors all under the age of 25? How did NASA get the funding for such a massive venture when they haven’t sent humans to space in years?

Those are the big questions that power Cassie’s – and hopefully the reader’s – curiosity. Have something your character is searching for and drop clues for readers to try to piece together the puzzle themselves. I think that’s the major reason we can’t stop turning pages, right? We think the answer might be just around the corner, if only we can find that next piece of the puzzle.

4. Those are great tips. What was the science fiction world building like for you? I read on your website that you work near NASA. Did you connect with anyone there as part of your research?

I do work near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and it was the focus of my research. I applied for a #NASASocial event while I was in the early stages of writing and editing DMT – it’s an awesome event where NASA chooses regular people with active social media accounts to come and see what they’re doing, and tell the world about it. I got to go on some awesome behind-the-scenes tours to different buildings at NASA and it really inspired me.

I was also able to interview astronaut Randy Bresnik, who is currently in orbit as commander of the International Space Station, about what it’s like to go into space.

5. Your agent is Kristin Nelson, one many of us who love to have represent us. Share about how she became your agent and your road to publication.

I love Kristin! She’s definitely worthy of being called a dream agent. She was so high up on my list, I actually almost never queried her at all. I was too intimidated, and thought I had zero shot.

So I spent a couple years querying off and on, taking breaks to revise, and then taking a major break to have my daughter. I didn’t touch a computer for the first few months after having a baby – it really rocked my world. I thought I would never get back into writing.

But one of the agents who had a full ms of mine before I’d had my baby actually got back with me after I’d nearly given up. That motivated me to send out one last query, what I thought was my long shot query, to Kristin.

The first agent later offered rep, so I nudged Kristin, who already had requested my partial. She asked for the full manuscript and actually read the whole thing in a week while traveling abroad. She emailed me that she had finished it on the plane and had to wait six hours to get back with me about how much she loved it, and wanted to speak on the phone as soon as possible. She said such amazing things in that email – I thought I was hallucinating!
I ended up accepting her offer of rep while sitting in my car, in my driveway, which was the only place I could guarantee we wouldn’t be interrupted by my crying 3-month-old.

She said she’d been waiting her whole life to rep a book like mine. And I’d been too afraid to query her. I’m glad of the years of edits I put into my book before Kristin saw it, but learn from me, friends – don’t let fear stop you from trying.

6. What an amazing story of getting your agent! What was a challenge or surprise you experienced in working with Kristin? What did you learn from the experience?

Kristin is an amazing editor, and really brought to light a lot of my writing crutches that I hadn’t been aware of before! She set the bar high, which was an awesome challenge to meet. I learned a lot about how to write better, faster, and edit myself. I’m really glad for it. She absolutely knows her stuff and I’m glad she’s in my corner!

I’d say a surprise I encountered in the publishing world is how slow everything can be for months – and then suddenly everything happens all at once. Be prepared to be patient! Don’t bother your agent every week asking for updates. Trust that they’ll let you know as soon as they do! I had to wait five months to sign my publishing contract and announce my book deal. It was kind of torture.

7. I saw that you’ve scheduled a few appearances in October and November to celebrate the release of your book. What else are you doing to market your book? Any advice for an author who will become a debut author after you on marketing a book?

Right now marketing is actually taking a bit of a back seat for me as I’m focused on finishing edits for book 2 – that has to be my priority. However, as soon as that’s turned in, I’m going to focus on scheduling more signing events and interviews, as well as looking into possible conventions and festivals for 2018.

My advice is start making local connections – schools, library, and media – early. A lot of places, especially busy libraries, are always looking for programs, but they also have a packed schedule and can plan months in advance. You don’t want to pin your hopes on having your launch party at your local library and then find out they’ve got their yearly fundraiser already scheduled for your date.

Making personal connections is the best! Reach out to librarians, get in touch with local booksellers, and let them know you exist and are willing to do events! Go out and find local cons and festivals that you can apply to; your publicist might do some of this, but also might not, so be a go-getter!

Also, don’t sweat the small stuff. Book launches are fun, but don’t stress too much about them. They won’t make or break you. Pre-order giveaways, swag mailers, street teams – they’re optional. If you have the time, the funds, and the willingness to go the extra mile, go for it. But don’t worry if you don’t. Focus on finding your readers online and in the real world. Booksellers and librarians are going to be your allies on the frontline.

8. That's great advice to personally connection with librarians and book sellers.You work at a library. How awesome! Has this helped you to connect with other librarians and share about your book? Do you have any tips for how authors should reach out to librarians and how to get their book on library shelves?

I definitely think it has helped. My library is a bit of an odd duck in that we’re a military library on an Army post with a limited patron base, and we’re not part of the public library system outside the gates. But it has helped that I’ve been there long enough to have connections and friends-of-friends within the library system, and that I have an understanding of how libraries function and what they’re looking for.

Please go to your nearest library and introduce yourself as a local author! The library might not have immediate resources to buy your book or promote you, but at least they know you’re there and putting a face to a name and a cover is always good. (I’m a bit of a hypocrite as I haven’t done this yet, but I tend to work the same hours as the local libraries so I have limited windows to get there before they close.) Also email or call other libraries in your state to see about lining up events after your book comes out. If nothing else, you’re making a connection. Libraries really like having authors nearby; it’s built-in local interest.

9. What are you working on now?

Well, I just moved into a new house, so I’m currently working on unpacking, lol. But writing-wise, my focus is on finishing up line edits for the sequel to DARE MIGHTY THINGS, which is called ONE GIANT LEAP and is coming out next fall!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Heather. You can find Heather at:


Heather has generously offered a hardback of DARK MIGHTY THINGS 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 November 25th. 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. This giveaway is International.

Here's what's coming up:

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

I'm off on Monday, November 20th for the holidays

Monday, November 27th I have an interview with author and follower Stephanie Faris and a giveaway of her MG chapter book PIPER MORGAN PLANS A PARTY

Wednesday, December 7th I have a guest post with debut author Amanda Searcy and a giveaway of her YA psychological thriller THE TRUTH BENEATH THE LIES and my IWSG post

Hope to see you tomorrow!


Karen Lange said...

It's great to meet you, Heather. Love the story about your agent! Wishing you all the best.

Appreciate the interview, Natalie. I'll pass on the giveaway this time. Have a great week!

S.P. Bowers said...

Wow, what a great agents story! Good luck with the book!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

All the best Heather! I'll enter the giveaway and excited for November 27th. Faris!

Pat Hatt said...

That is awesome that you pushed fear aside and sent it away, goes to show what can happen. Even if you have to sit in a car in the driveway to avoid the screams of a 3 month old haha

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That must've been cool getting to go on a special behind the scenes tour of NASA! Congratulations, Heather.

Jay Noel said...

I wish we lived near NASA. We love the Johnson Space Center. It was so amazing.

Congrats Heather!

cleemckenzie said...

What In interesting ethnic mix. Cassandra, Greek and Gupta, East Indian That should make for quite a diverse character.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I'm swooning for you!!! How awesome is it to have your dream agent gush? Must be one special book. Congrats!!!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That last query you sent was the magic on. Congrats!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Congratulations, Heather. Your book sounds fascinating. I'm adding to to my list to read. Love the idea of the story. Have a great week.

DMS said...

I would love a behind the scenes tour of NASA. Wow! Heather's book sounds interesting and the cover is definitely one to catch the reader's eye! Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed the interview. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Love the title!! Cassandra sounds like a fabulous character and the premise is exciting. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Yes, a girl getting into the sciences and space travel. We need more female protagonists like Cassandra.

Caitlin said...

I love Heather's advice about doing Cassandra justice.

Rosi said...

Imagine doing research at NASA! Wowser! Love the agent story. It gives us hope. I will pass on the giveaway. Thanks for the post.

Mary Preston said...

A great post and thank you for the highlight.


Unknown said...

Love to hear about the efforts Heather made in creating her protagonist, both in terms of ethnic and scientific cultures. Looking forward to reading this one.

Greg Pattridge said...

What a great plot for this story. Heather has a great agent and one who took the time to make sure this book came out right. Congratulations.

Kristin Lenz said...

Thanks for sharing your journey, Heather. Congrats, and good luck with book #2!

Tamara Narayan said...

Sounds like a great read and what an amazing story about getting your agent. I have to warn you though. My kids are 11 and 13 and I still would have to hide in my car to have an uninterrupted phone conversation.

I’d love to win a copy of your book:

tamara (dot) Narayan (at) gmail (dot) com

Cynthia K said...

Natalie, thanks for another great interview! Heather, your story is exciting and inspiring, so thanks for sharing and congrats on your novel - I can't wait to read it!

Carl Scott said...

This sounds like a fascinating MC and a great story. I'd love to win a copy, thanks for the chance.
I follow your blog by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
I also tweeted a link: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/930530308591456256, shared on Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/110534035050076883640, and pinned an image with a link on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com.mx/pin/336573772143599561/. Thanks again, have a great week everyone!

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the interview! This book is my most anticipated read and I can't wait! I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/167495221522/heather-kaczynski-interview-and-dark-mighty-things

Julie Abe said...

Thanks for sharing the advice on writing a page turner!

Valerie Bodden said...

Thanks for the interview! Sounds like a great book! valbodden(at)gmail(dot)com

Michelle Mason said...

This book sounds fantastic! And what a great story of not being afraid to reach for the dream agent. Always a good reminder :).

_Sandra_ said...

Such a great interview, excited to get my hands on this book, sounds amazing. Thank you for a generous giveaway!! :)

Shared: https://twitter.com/_Sandra_R_/status/931608942442098688