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 Wednesday Everyone! 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: Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

Optional Question: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

That's an easy one for me. I write fantasy, and I love the magic and different worlds with fairies, elves, magical creatures, etc.. If I could go into a world like Harry Potter and live, I'd love it! So at least by writing about it, I can pretend that all this magic exists. And fantasy stories tend to be plot-based, which is something I like to focus on in my writing too.

What about you? What do you love about the genre that you write in?`

Now onto my debut author interview. Today I’m excited to have debut author Brenda Rufener here to share about her YA contemporary WHERE I LIVE. I’m excited to read it because it deals with homelessness, something I feel passionate about like. This sounds like a strong story told in a realistic and sensitive manner that’s gotten good reviews.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

From debut author Brenda Rufener comes a heart-wrenching and evocative story perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why, Girl in Pieces, and All the Bright Places.

Linden Rose has a big secret--she is homeless and living in the halls of her small-town high school. Her position as school blog editor, her best friends, Ham and Seung, and the promise of a future far away are what keep Linden under the radar and moving forward.

But when cool-girl Bea comes to school with a bloody lip, the damage hits too close to home. Linden begins looking at Bea's life, and soon her investigation prompts people to pay more attention. And attention is the last thing she needs.

Linden knows the only way to put a stop to the violence is to tell Bea's story and come to terms with her own painful past. Even if that means breaking her rules for survival and jeopardizing the secrets she's worked so hard to keep.

Hi Brenda! Thanks for joining us.

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

So great to be here, and thank you for having me. I am a technical writer turned novelist, mother of two, and an advocate and volunteer for homeless youth. I’d been writing stories since I can remember, won a few creative writing awards as a teen, and majored in English in college. I attribute my publication journey to the experience I gained as a tech writer. It’s where I learned to manage tight deadlines, meet daily or weekly word count goals, and view writing as a career instead of a hobby.

2. I love that you started as a technical writer because I'm a contract writer. It gives me hope that I can make the leap. Where did you get the idea for WHERE I LIVE?

Linden’s character lived with me (in my mind) for a while. My family went through a stage of
housing insecurity during my early teen years and for a short time, we were essentially homeless–waiting for a rental to come up that we could afford. Money was tight and we stayed with relatives and slept on couches. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months. I remember friends wanting to come over and hang out, but I was always saying no, embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t have my own room, or home for that matter. In fact, I was sleeping on a relative’s couch, sharing the living room with the rest of my family. I didn’t have it as tough as some homeless teens, but in writing this book I was able to draw on personal experiences, pull from emotions and insecurities that I had as a teen living on the brink of homelessness.

3. Those must have been hard experiences to draw on. I know that you are a passionate advocate of homeless youth from your bio. Share a bit about this and how you drew on this when writing WHERE I LIVE.

The main character, Linden Rose, is partly inspired by a group of incredible women I spent time with in college as a volunteer for a literacy program. I worked with young women facing adverse circumstances, many of them homeless. These women were tenacious, unwilling to give up, even in the face of incredible adversity. Drawn to their persistence and positivity, I wished teen-me had known these women when I faced a similar situation. I may not have felt so alone in my experience. Where I Live is a tribute to those strong and resilient women.

4. Your book has been getting great reviews as a sensitive and realistic portrayal of Linden Rose, your main character. Share how she developed as a character. What advice do you have for others trying to write about a character that may be going through some sensitive problems, like homelessness, abuse, etc.

Much of my research on homelessness came from working with homeless teens. The personal experience I had with homelessness allowed me to draw on my own struggles and insecurities, but having worked with homeless young adults gave me a different perspective.

If you don’t have firsthand experience with a sensitive topic you are writing on, research is critical. Read nonfiction and fiction portrayals, volunteer, meet people who can help shape you as a writer by showing you their situations. Then seek readers who will help you avoid stereotypes, tired tropes, etc., and always offer to pay your sensitivity readers.

5. That sounds like such a fantastic experience to work with these teens. I don’t feature that many contemporary authors. What are keys to a good, riveting contemporary plot like yours?

For years I thought world building only applied to fantasy, but it’s just as important when writing contemporary. To me, the best novels draw the reader into the setting. Whether that’s building a fictional town and giving voice to the people who live there or creating an atmosphere that the reader gets lost in, world building is essential.

My books tend to be character-driven. I find knowing my characters, their motivations and desires, are critical to plot. Building a riveting, contemporary plot requires the writer to sit back at the scene level and ask if that character would really say or do what you’ve added to the page.

6. What was something that surprised you about working with your publisher? Why?

How it takes a village to publish a book. From your editorial team to sales and marketing, the number of hands involved in bringing a book to the shelf astounds me. When I was a kid, I thought books magically appeared on the shelves. Not exactly. I’m also amazed at the work that goes into creating the cover. The jacket changed a few times for Where I Live. We had remarkable graphic designers and amazing artists help create the perfect cover.

7. Looking back on the time from signing with your agent and your book release, what are essential marketing and building your social platform steps you did or wish you did during this time period?

Valuable advice I received early on in the publishing process was to find a social platform you enjoy. Some authors are amazing at Twitter while others share the most beautiful Instagram photos. Finding a place that feels good to you matters. Currently, I am bouncing back and forth between Twitter and Instagram and spending a bit more time on Instagram. It’s a happy place.

8. I've heard that advice too that you should focus on what you enjoy. What are you working on now?

I’m excited to share my next book, coming in 2019, Since We Last Spoke. You’ll meet Aggi and Max, two teens torn apart by unimaginable pain and guilt over the loss of their siblings. This is another book close to my heart that focuses on a love that’s desperately trying to survive, in spite of everything coming against it. I’ll be sharing more about this book in upcoming months.

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

Twitter:  @BrendaKRufener or https://twitter.com/BrendaKRufener
Intstagram: @BrendaRufener or https://www.instagram.com/brendarufener/
Facebook: @BrendaRufenerAuthor or https://www.facebook.com/BrendaRufenerAuthor/

Brenda has generously offered an ARC of WHERE I LIVE 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 February 24th. 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. This giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, February 12th I have a guest post by debut author Linda Williams Jackson and her agent Elizabeth Bewley and a giveaway of her MG contemporary MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

Monday, February 19th I will be off for President's Day and the whole week. The play that I am producing and running Front of House for my boyfriend has it's first show on Thursday that week.

Monday, February 26th I have a guest post by debut author Kaitlin Sage Patterson and her agent Brent Taylor with a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE DIMINISHED and a query critique giveaway by Brent.

Wednesday, February 28th I have an agent spotlight interview with Carrie Pestritto and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!


Suzanne Furness said...

Totally with you on the writing fantasy genre. Love all those magical creatures.

Cathrina Constantine said...

I'll be moving in next store in Harry Potter's World... Good interview and wishing Ms. Rufener much success.

Jennifer Hawes said...

I agree with you about writing fantasy. What's not to love? Great interview. Rufener's book sounds fantastic!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Yeah, I agree with you about fantasy. Originally, I was just a SciFi girl, but Harry helped me get over that. lol

Bish Denham said...

I'd like to live in Middle Earth, particularly Rivendell among the elves.

I can't imagine what it would be like to be homeless as a teen, or any age. An important story to tell, Brenda. Congratulations.

Jennifer Lane said...

Brenda's debut is inspiring. I briefly worked as a counselor at a homeless shelter and met some incredible people.

Creating new fantastical worlds sounds fun!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, I too love the fantastical world of fantasy with its magic and strange creatures.

Good luck to Brenda, will add her book to my TBR list.

Angela Wooldridge said...

Totally with you on writing fantasy - so much scope for fun :)
Brenda's novel sounds awesome, so I just had to follow, both for a chance at the ARC and to read more of your blog :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I bet working with homeless teens is a real eye-opener. It probably destroys a lot of misconceptions.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Congratulations to Brenda. The story sounds so true to what many young people are going through in their lives.
Wish I could write fantasy. Love to read it, but my imagination just doesn't create new worlds like that.
Great interview.

Crystal Collier said...

Yay for Brenda! I have a hard time with stories that deal with real world problems. Maybe that's sad, but I read to escape. The world is too rough a place as is. Still, I appreciate when issues society faces are brought to the open and am glad books that highlight them are able to help others.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Fantasy is a fun genre.
Brenda, finding a platform you enjoy is key. Blogging became mine and I've never regretted it.

Michelle Gregory said...

(when i write) i write fantasy. i love making up my facts.

Loni Townsend said...

Getting lost in a fantasy world is by far the best part!

Grats, Brenda!

Cherie Reich said...

Fantasy does have some of the coolest worlds.

Congrats to Brenda!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Brenda's book sounds really good. As a former high school teacher, I know there are more kids living in cars or worse than we know. And so many of them soldier on, coming to school every day and taking care of younger siblings. It's heartbreaking, yet some of those kids are so strong. Best of luck to Brenda.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Sounds like a great book, Brenda! I know from my work on the school board that homelessness tends to fly under the radar. Who wants to advertise that they've lose their housing? (Let alone the extra issues for a teen who's living solo). I don't read a lot of YA, but this one sounds well worth it.

Natalie, I have to agree about fantasy! Living in another world with some different rules and cool powers is one of the benefits of writing it!

DMS said...

I love the endless possibilities in fantasy!

Brenda's book sounds very powerful. What an important book and I really enjoyed the interview too.

Christine Rains said...

Congratulations to Brenda!

I do love all the wonders of fantasy. And if I could, I would totally live in the Harry Potter world. But as a witch, not a muggle!

Gwen Gardner said...

Natalie: The only fantasy I read is Harry Potter, but I'm a total Potterhead. Still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts. I'd go through school again just for that ;)

Brenda: I would imagine being homeless as a teen is extra hard. Well done for paying it back and congrats on your new release!

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Now you see, Natalie, I'm a Potterhead, too. But I'm learning so much about the many faces of fantasy today at IWSG. Thanks for sharing this interview with your followers. All best to you!

Juneta key said...

I love Harry Potter too. Great interview.

Diane Burton said...

Natalie, your feelings about fantasy are the same as mine about sci-fi. I'd love to live in that world. Brenda, what a difficult story to write. Congrats on sharing your story.

Unknown said...

Great thoughts on why the fantasy genre is a wonderful world to write in! Here are my thoughts on my genre per the iwsg question of the day: http://genedesrochers.com/blog/

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

While I also write scifi, I think my all time favourite is Fantasy.

Congrats to Brenda.

Nas said...

Congratulations to Brenda!

If the world building is good in Fantasy or Paranormal or in fact any genre, I love to read.

Pat Hatt said...

Making them seem possible in the worlds we write is a win indeed.

Working with homeless teens must really open one's eyes for sure. World building is important all the way around indeed.

Brenda said...

Congratulations Brenda on your upcoming book, it sounds like it will bring a much needed better understanding to the issue of homelessness.
Natalie, I hear you're supposed to say break a leg in theatere so congrats and have a blast at the play! I also love Harry Potter and fantasy in general.

Denise Covey said...

Hi Natalie. Hi Brenda. Great interview. Also great that you're writing fantasy. Can't wait to see you published. And I'm looking forward to appearing here one day...:-)

dolorah said...

Creating worlds is the best and hardest part of writing. Good luck in your adventures.

Congrats on the book release Brenda. Sounds like an intriguing story with many contemporary issues. Well done.

Heather Villa said...

I can't wait to read Brenda's debut! Thanks for another fabulous interview.

Megan said...

This sounds so wonderful - Thank you for the giveaway!
I tweeted Here: https://twitter.com/WordsThatStay1/status/961658833356623873
I follow as Megan S. on GFC

Rosi said...

I write historical fiction and love that genre. I love the research and making it come alive for kids. I have been hearing about this book and really want to read it. Thanks for an interesting interview.

Danielle H. said...

I have this book and now this author's next book on my TBR. Thanks for the interview and insights. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/170656197802/brenda-rufener-interview-and-where-i-live-giveaway

MorganeG. said...

Thanks for the giveaway! I follow with gilson(dot)morgane(at)outlook(dot)com

nikkirae said...

The book sounds interesting. Thanks for the chance!

Greg Pattridge said...

Such an important topic for a story. I share Brenda's enthusiasm for realistic contemporary stories. Close runner's up are historical fiction and fantasy. Thanks for the enjoyable interview.

Olga Godim said...

I love fantasy for the same reasons you do, Natalie. I want magic to be real so much I have to invent the worlds where it is real.
Fascinating interview, Brenda. Your book sounds promising.

The Cynical Sailor said...

I love fantasy / sci-fi as well - in many ways because things exist that don't exist in the real world. Or do they? :-)

Nice to learn about Brenda. All the best to her with her new release.

Cheers - Ellen

Unknown said...

Thanks for another great interview. I mentioned the contest on Twitter. monicachess26(@)gmail(.)com

Karen Lange said...

It's nice to meet Brenda. Interesting about her tech writing background. You never know where our experience will take us, right? Thanks, Natalie, for sharing the interview. I'll pass on the giveaway. Happy weekend!

Stephen Tremp said...

It's great to meet Brenda Rufener and wow she has a heart for the homeless youth. This is something all of us want to help and do something to make a difference. Our family plays a supportive role in a group that does just this and it is so rewarding.

S.P. Bowers said...

Congrats Brenda, I think your book has the potential to help people in that situation.

Cynthia said...

Congratulations to Brenda on her new book! And congratulations to you, Natalie, on seeing the fruits of your play production!

Angie Quantrell said...

First, the question. I write for children and I love how good picture books go deep or lead me to laugh with humor or even poignant tales. I love it when asides are included for adult readers (since we spend so much time reading to younglings. Second, Congratulations, Brenda! Your book sounds fascinating and I can't wait to read it. :)

Anonymous said...

This is one of my top to-reads this year. I'm so excited to read it!

Jennifer T said...

This book is about a so serious and too much ignored matter, it would give us a learning experience.

Suzanne Warr said...

The sounds like a lovely one, but I will pass on the arc since I struggle to read YA books as much as I like.

I enjoyed your insecure writer post snippet! I also would love to live in Harry Potter World. :D