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.


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Adrienne Kisner here to share about her YA contemporary DEAR RACHEL MADDOW. Being a fan of Rachel Maddow myself, I am excited to read this from the title alone. And it sounds like a really gripping story about dealing with grief, diversity, sexual identity, and politics. Before I get to Adrienne’s interview, 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:  Beverly Stowe McClure, Tyrean Martinson, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

I'll skip the optional question today. I'm feeling pretty good. My mom is adjusting well to her move to independent living where I live. And I actually got a chapter revised and critiqued by my critique group. It was a hard chapter where I introduce the villain. My critique partners basically liked it with some suggestions so YAY!

What I really want to talk about this month is helping our friend C. Lee McKenzie who recently suffered a tragic loss. Many of you already know about this and are helping but in case you don't know about this, I am asking for your help. Lee's newest MG fantasy, SOME VERY MESSY MEDIEVAL MAGIC, released on May 15, 2018. Two days later, Lee suffered the tragic loss of her husband due to a sudden heart attack. I also suffered the sudden loss of my own husband a little over four years ago and know firsthand how heartbreaking this loss is. Many of you helped me through it with your kind support.

While we cannot take away Lee's grief, we could show her kindness and friendship by helping her promote her book. I know you all are book lovers and many have your own blogs. I'm hoping that you can do all or some of these easy things to help Lee:
  • Buy Lee's book. An e-book is only $3.99. I just did that.
  • Post about Lee's book on your blog and other social media sites. Ask your friends to help do by shouting out about her book and buying it

 Here's a blurb of her book:

Pete’s stuck in medieval England! Pete and his friend Weasel thought they’d closed the Timelock.
But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he’s found. There’s only one solution—fledgling wizard Pete must take the page’s place. He travels to 1173 England accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete’s alligator familiar. But what if the page remains lost? Will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the dukes’s curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones, and Pete quickly realizes he’s in over his young wizard head yet again. 
And some links:
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Some+Very+Messy+Medieval+Magic
I started posting this request for help promoting Lee's book in my Beach Reads Book Giveaway Hop last week because I have about 100 followers who read those posts that do not read many of my other posts. I'm planning to do that again with my next giveaway hop for the same reason. If you can think of a way to help Lee shout out about her book, I know that she would be grateful for the help.

Now onto my interview with Adrienne. 

Here’s a blurb of DEAR RACHEL MADDOW from Goodreads

In Adrienne Kisner's Dear Rachel Maddow, a high school girl deals with school politics and life after her brother’s death by drafting emails to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow in this funny and heartfelt YA debut.

Brynn Haper's life has one steadying force--Rachel Maddow.

She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project--and actually getting a response--Brynn starts drafting e-mails to Rachel but never sending them. Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with her first serious girlfriend, about her brother Nick's death, about her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she's stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out.

Then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. One student representative will be allowed to have a voice among the administration in the selection of a new school superintendent. Brynn's archnemesis, Adam, and ex-girlfriend, Sarah, believe only Honors students are worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position, the knives are out. So she begins to ask herself: What Would Rachel Maddow Do? 

Hi Adrienne! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hello!  Thank you so much for having me!  I feel I should tell the world I’m a Resident Director.  I live in a high rise with approximately 1800 undergrads. I’ve heard tell of people who did this until they sold books.  NOT ME.  I’m a lifer. 

In grade school, I remember telling the guidance counselor that I wanted to be a writer.  They asked me why and I said that I had to write.  I couldn’t not do it.  So I wrote.  I have stuff from second or third grade and it’s mostly about Jesus because that’s how I rolled.  (Oh.  I also have a Ph.D. in Theology.)  Ah, my youth.  And look at me now!  I think my book as over 90 instances of the “F” word alone, and that’s probably not even the most vulgar thing in there.  Do I contradict myself?  Very well.  I contradict myself.  (I am large.  I contain multitudes.)

2. I bet you really stay in touch with what teens and young adults think with your job. Where did you get the idea for DEAR RACHEL MADDOW?

By watching a lot of Chris Hayes.

Just kidding. 

I love DEAR MR. HENSHAW.  And I would scheme in my head for a way to rip off pay homage to my favorite book.  I started watching Rachel Maddow in the company of a very (re: VERY) colicky infant.  So I’d watch the show on repeat throughout the day and night since Gilmore Girls was not yet on Netflix and I liked Rachel’s cheerful company.  After a few years of that (I added a second journalism-loving infant) it just kind of became the only thing I could write.
3. That's a great way to deal with a colicky baby! You tell your story through a series of e-mails from Brynn to Rachel Maddow. Where did you get the idea for writing your story like this and what were some of the challenges you faced using this format.

Leigh writes to Mr. Henshaw, so too did Brynn write to Dr. Maddow.  I date stamped all of the letters, which helped with time flow but I also had to watch because they correspond with an actual calendar with holidays when the characters would be off of school.  I also had to make up subject lines.  That was fun, but man there were a lot of them.

4. You tackle a lot of issues in your book—grief over losing a sibling, abusive parents. Brynn’s breakup with her girlfriend, and more—in a gripping way that is weaved naturally into the story with a lot of twists. How did you plot all these storylines into your story?

I’m not a plotter.  I write and am always shocked by what the heck happens.  I try to keep in mind that people don’t always make the best decisions, and that these choices will have consequences that can lead to my darlings suffering.  This was also my fourth novel that I’d written.  My first three had great parents, everybody surviving.  This one I was like, “well let’s just bleed all over the page and wheeeeeee.”  I never thought anyone would read this one either, so I didn’t hold back.  But here we are.  When I revise I have to make a spreadsheet (taught to me by the great A.M. Jenkins) to trace the emotional through-lines of the characters to make sure they flow evenly throughout the book.

5. That's a great idea to use a spreadsheet for your revisions. Brynn sounds like a fantastic character that has a great voice that will tug at readers’ hearts. Voice can be one of the hardest aspects of a story to get right. How did you develop/find Brynn’s and what advice do you have for aspiring authors?

I admit that voice just kind of happens for me.  Brynn likes the sound of words, the shape of them.  I think that’s why she swears so much.  It communicates exactly the emotion she wants to convey in one word instead of seven.  Emotion and the truth in her head are always the first things out of her mouth.  She has nothing to hide.  So I’d say knowing your characters like this is essential to voice.  What is their relationship to words?  To communicating?  What would they say to themselves in their head versus what they say out loud?  Brynn is from western Pennsylvania and so am I, so that helped colloquially. 

6. Ooh, I know that more writers than me wish we could say voice happens for us. Your agent is Catherine Drayton. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Catherine Drayton is a goddess among women and I love her.  Is that over the top?  I don’t care.  She surfs, you know.  In Australia.  I feel that makes it more bad ass.  I basically queried her in the slush (okay, DEAR RACHEL MADDOW was the fourth book with which I queried her but who’s counting).  She requested the full and was the first agent to offer.  A few other amazing agents offered and I was so torn.  But Catherine represents some of my absolute favorite authors ever, and was the first one to take a chance on me, and that meant a lot.  I did one revision with her over the summer and went on submission in September.  I sold a few weeks later.  Did I have about 300 rejections for various books before that (AGAIN WHO’S COUNTING?) yes I did.  But.  Again.  Here we are now.

7. You also have been going to college and working there, including living in a dormitory setting. What is your writing workspace like and how have you balanced college, college work, and your writing schedule?

I think the key to my productivity thus far is an utter lack of balance.  I go hard from morning till night and then listen to a bedtime story on my Calm app to fall asleep so I can do it again the next day.  Unless an undergraduate decides to burn popcorn in the middle of the night or something and then I don’t get enough sleep.  It’s not a great system.  I don’t think I’d recommend it.  But I have a desk in my bedroom.  You aren’t supposed to write where you sleep, I’ve read.  But it’s where the desk fits.  My computer is often sticky because my son sneaks on to play Roblox after eating Nutella sandwiches.  I also do not recommend this.
8. I break the rule about not doing anything but sleeping in my bedroom too. Okay I have to ask this “dumb” question that I’m dying to know. Does Rachel Maddow know about your book and have you had any communication with her about it? I have these fantastic images of you being on her show talking about your book.

I try not to think about that, lest I dissolve into an unfortunate, awkward heap.  The short answer to that is, kind of, I think?  The longer answer is that DEAR RACHEL MADDOW won the 2016 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Award.  I think the college where I worked put out a press release or something, so she caught wind of that.  And she sent and Susan Mikula sent me very fancy flowers, which I carried around campus and made everyone look at.  I sent her a thank you card to Rockefeller Center.  And someone sent someone who knew someone an ARC, and people occasionally @ her on Twitter about it. So it’s out there.  Around 9pm every weekday I think, “Oh my God you wrote a book to Rachel Maddow and SHE IS A REAL PERSON WHAT WERE YOU EVEN THINKING?”  I can only hope that it at least doesn’t offend her.  I wrote it out of love.

9. How are you planning to market your book? What advice do you have for other writers who have signed a publishing contract and are preparing to debut as an author?

Welllll . . . I have like three to five day jobs at any given time, two young children all the time, and another book to write in between all that.  So I think my own marketing plan is kind of like how I write books:  put myself out there without a specific plan and hope for the best!  Advice—my writer people with day jobs, I feel you.  I say don’t fret.  Don’t kill yourself.  Do what brings you life and joy or in which you find fun (like blog interviews!)  Try to be brave and step outside your comfort zone if you can.  I try to do readings when someone asks, whereas I’m not big on public speaking.  But if you have to work or take a kid to pottery class, don’t beat yourself up.  You wrote a book.  You are freaking amazing.  Write another one as a reward.  Also never, ever look at your reviews on Goodreads. 

10. Thank you! I have a day job, and you're taking away some of my insecurities on how to handle it all. What are you working on now?

A book about queer girl birders/nature photographers who reluctantly become environmental activists.  Dare I say it’s a lot of fun and just little hawkward.  Hee. 

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Adrienne. You can find Adrienne at www.adriennekisner.com

Adrienne generously offered an ARC of DEAR RACHEL MADDOW 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 June 23rd. 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 U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, June 11th I have an interview with debut author Kit Frick and a giveaway of her YA thriller SEE ALL THE STARS

Wednesday, June 13th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Gabrielle Piraino

Thursday, June 14th I'm participating in the Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop

Monday, June 18th I have a guest post by author Chrys Frey to celebrate the release of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You From Idea to Publication

Monday, June 25th I have a guest post by MG author Diane Magras and her agent Adriann Ranta Zurhellen with a query critique giveaway by Adriann and a book giveaway of THE MAD WOLF'S DAUGHTER by Diane

Wednesday, June 27th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Colleen Oefelein

Hope to see you on Monday!


nashvillecats2 said...

A most interesting post. Good to know your mother is adjusting where she is living.
C Lee's sudden loss is a most terrible situation, like yourself I lost my husband twenty years ago but one never forgets. I do wish Lee every success with her book.

Thank you for a wonderful interview, very interesting to read.
Have a good month.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad your mother is settling in. I know that's a weight off your mind.
So tragic about Lee, but everyone has really stepped in and helped spread the word.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I love how you're encouraging others to help Lee. <3 I can't imagine what she's going through. It's wonderful to hear that your mom is adjusting well to her move. It can be stressful on them.

Chemist Ken said...

I'm happy to hear your mother is settling in. Situations like that can be so exhausting for the children. I'm especially glad to hear you made progress on your book.

Christine Rains said...

Great to hear your mother is settling in. :) Congrats to Adrienne. Her book sounds fantastic! My son always goes on my computer to play Roblox too.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thank you so much for featuring Lee's book. You know what she's dealing with.

Pleased to hear your mother is settling in nicely.

Crystal Collier said...

Way to support Lee! So glad your mom is settling. That must take a great deal of stress off, and a favorable response to a chapter is always a great thing.

Dear Rachel Maddow sounds like a lot of drama. LOL.

Donna K. Weaver said...

It was so sad about Lee's husband. I lost mine when I was 26. It's kind of you to feature her book.

Cherie Reich said...

Glad to hear your mother is settling in, Natalie!

Congrats to Adrienne! Your book sounds awesome!

emaginette said...

I'm stunned and had no idea of Lee's loss. Since you're in touch pass on my condolences. What a horrible shock.

Anna from elements of emaginette

Jennifer Hawes said...

This news still saddens me. I only heard about it last week. Sending prayers!!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, I'm very happy that you are making progress with your writing :)

Lee's book sounds super.

Loni Townsend said...

My heart is sad for Lee, but I'm uplifted by the fact that your life is doing well at the moment. I'm glad your mom is adjusting and that you've gotten some writing in.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I am so sad for Lee, but I'm glad to see the support for her! Thank you, Natalie!
And, way to go with your mom and your writing!!!
Rachel - I love that you can encompass both faith and writing about tough subjects!

Carol Kilgore said...

The support for Lee has been fantastic. Thank you for helping, too. Also happy your mom is adjusting. Makes life much easier for both of you.

Suzanne Furness said...

So sorry to hear of Lee's loss. I haven't been around my blog much recently and have only just learnt of this.
I'm glad to hear your mother is settling in well. And well done on the writing.

cleemckenzie said...

I can't tell you what all of this means to me, Natalie. I never expected our community to do what it has, and I'm still overwhelmed by all of the kindness and support. It has truly helped me through the worst weeks of my life. I know you understand.

I also know how much energy it takes to help out Mom while trying to carry on with your own life. We've both had a load, but we're managing it. It has helped me to watch you go through such similar situations. Here's to some beautiful days for each of us and you mom in her new place.

I read the interview with Adrienne. What a great sense of humor she has. I'll be her book is a great read. Glad to meet here here today. She made me laugh.

Jemi Fraser said...

You're so awesome for featuring Lee & her wonderful book. It's a 5 star read. Pete & Weasel messing things up in medieval times is so much fun!
I'm glad your mom is settling in well :)
Love the sound of Adrienne's book - so many great themes and topics - definitely a buy for my classroom!

Diane Burton said...

I'm so glad you got good feedback from your critique group. Thanks for helping Lee and for sharing her story, which was spotlighted on my blog last week. I was so intrigued by the title I had to buy it.

Adrienne, your book sounds great. Wishing you much success.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

many prayers going to Lee. It's wonderful to see all the support.

Congrats to Adrienne too. Your book sounds great!

Pat Hatt said...

That is a neat way to go about a book indeed. Congrats to Adrienne.

Great that your mom has settled in well and good feedback on a chapter is a win too.

Gwen Gardner said...

Very entertaining interview. Congratulations on your new release, Adrienne!

Glad you’re doing well, Natalie! I’ve been sharing Lee’s new book here and there, and of course I have my copy!

Patricia T. said...

What a great thing you are doing! I loved the interview with Adrienne. Am a big fan of Rachel Maddow. Retweeted this post and included @maddow.

Raimey Gallant said...

Dear Rachel Maddow sounds really great, but I'm too busy processing what happened to C. Lee. I had no idea.

dolorah said...

So good of you to help Lee out. And I'm glad things are going well in both your writing and personal life.

Angie Quantrell said...

Congratulations on your new book! Sounds fraught with emotion and turmoil! Just like real life!

nancywestbooks said...

As a HUGE Rachel Maddow fan, I am so excited to read this book! Your protagonist sounds like quite an interesting character! Looking forward to reading it. Congratulations!

Michelle Wallace said...

Congrats on getting a chapter revised and critiqued by your critique group, Natalie!
I'm so glad to read that your mom is settling in nicely. It takes some of the pressure off you.

I've read and reviewed the first two books in the Pete and Weasel trilogy, so I'll definitely be buying SVMMM. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Juneta key said...

Prayers & thoughts to Lee always. Her book is awesome isn't?

Great interview and congrats on the book.

Glad to hear you mom is settling in.

Rosi said...

I just got Lee's book and am looking forward to reading it. This was such a fun interview to read. I would really like to have coffee with Adrienne, but in lieu of that, I hope to read her book soon. It sounds like a great read. Thanks for this awesome interview.

Sabrina Mock-Rossi said...

Congratulation Adrienne! Great interview -- YOU are the badass! Can't wait to start your book which just arrived yesterday!

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the interview and chance to win a copy of this book. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/174669682257/adrienne-kisner-interview-and-dear-rachel-maddow

Kristin Lenz said...

What a great post, Natalie - so much here. Thank you for letting us know about Lee and this challenging time.
Good for you for finding time for your writing!
And what a fun interview with Adrienne - I love how her voice shines through.

Olga Godim said...

Adrienne's book sounds great. Thanks for posting this interview.

Stephen Tremp said...

Hi Natalie, best wishes to Adrienne Kisner Funny and heartfelt are essential in just about every genre. Maybe not slasher and horror. But pretty much everything else.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

You are truly amazing, Adrienne, 2 young kids, college, work outside the home. You put me to shame. All the luck with this new release. And thanks for the opportunity to win a copy. I'm so excited. Thanks, Natalie, for interviewing Adrienne. What an intriguing interview.

Nick Wilford said...

That was a fun interview and it shows Adrienne has a great voice. Congrats! Also great to see the support for Lee at a difficult time and glad things are going well for you, Natalie.

DMS said...

I love seeing your support for Lee. :)

What a wonderful interview with Adrienne. I imagine living in a building with so many undergrads helps keep her in touch with what younger generations are thinking and doing. Wishing her all the best!

Jeff Dodge said...

This sounds like a really cool book--would love to read it!

KAS said...

The title on its own is charming enough to hook me in to read this book, and now this interview has showcased the author's contagious energy and delightful humor. This is now a must-read situation! ;-)

I follow on GFC as well as bloglovin, and if you want to award me this gem of a new release, try shamy at post dot Harvard dot edu if no other method jumps out at you. Many thanks, Kara S

KaraDan said...

Looking forward to reading this one!