Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Agent/Author Jennifer Unter and Melissa Dassori Guest Post & Query Critique & JR Silver Writes Her World Giveaway on 7/11/2022
  • Jazmia Young Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/13/2022
  • Alex Slater Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/20/2022

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Bree Barton here to share about her YA fantasy HEART OF THORNS. It sounds like a real page turner with a strong female character. Can’t wait to read it. Before I get to my interview with Bree, I have follower news to share.


Carol Kilgore's new book BLUEBONNET BALLERNIA is just being released. Here's a blurb: Murder, mayhem, and ghosts. Follow Gracie Hofner’s adventures in Bluebonnet Ballerina, Book 2 of The Amazing Gracie Trilogy. And here's a few links:
Bluebonnet Ballerina at Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DYSHBNnks:

Now here’s a blurb of HEART OF THORNS from Goodreads

In the ancient river kingdom, touch is a battlefield, bodies the instruments of war. Seventeen-year-old Mia Rose has pledged her life to hunting Gwyrach: women who can manipulate flesh, bones, breath, and blood.

Not women. Demons. The same demons who killed her mother without a single scratch. 

But when Mia's father suddenly announces her marriage to the prince, she is forced to trade in her knives and trousers for a sumptuous silk gown. Only after the wedding goes disastrously wrong does she discover she has dark, forbidden magic—the very magic she has sworn to destroy.

Hi Bree! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thanks so much for having me, Natalie! I started writing in third grade. I’d always loved escaping into a story, and once I began arranging words on a page, I was hooked. In fifth grade I wrote my memoir—a very short memoir, since I was ten. The following year I penned a story about a group of enslaved girls who flee an evil kingdom and create their own magical coven in the woods. 

Considering the plot of HEART OF THORNS, I guess I’m still writing that story twenty years later!

2. Love the idea of that early story. Where did you get the idea for HEART OF THORNS?

The book I was working on before HoT—which never saw the light of day, thankfully—was a sci-fi/near future dystopian, so fantasy offered an appealing change of pace. I had this idea of a physical magic where you could subtly tweak a person’s body by proximity and touch. Then I met my editor, who’d been developing an idea about magicians who could manipulate a person’s blood. We just clicked.

3. Share a bit about the Gwyrach and the magical system in your story. What was your world building process like?

Like every published book, this story has been through so many stages. The first two drafts had no Gwyrach whatsoever. There were no gloves and no Hall of Hands; no half-god half-human mythology; and women and men could have magic. So basically everything that now forms the backbone of the novel didn’t exist at all for a solid year.

It wasn’t until the 2016 presidential election that the other elements snapped into focus: sealed borders, ruthless dictator, violence against women and other marginalized groups, etc. That was the true birth of the fierce feminist novel as it exists today. I also drew on my own travels through England, Iceland, and Peru, though sometimes I felt like my “world building” was a three-prong process: read the news, shudder in horror, then write it into fantasy.

4. So interesting to hear how your world really changed through the story's drafts.Mia has been described as a strong feminist character. Did she come to you that way when you started drafting your story or did her character develop her strength over time?

Mia Rose has always been smart and headstrong, but she definitely had some kinks that needed ironing. I feel like I finally unlocked her character when I realized she’s a know-it-all . . . who doesn’t actually know it all! So much of Mia’s arc is about recognizing the lies she’s been told, acknowledging she’s been a pretty bad feminist, and finding a better way.

5. What was a challenge you faced in writing or editing HEART OF THORNS and how did you overcome it?

To piggyback on the previous question: in early drafts, some of my readers found Mia obnoxious. That cut me to the core—if you aren’t with the main character from the get go, there’s no book. But
as is often the case with hard-to-hear notes, it ended up being so helpful, because what I think I hadn’t grappled with was Mia’s privilege. Even if she does live in a patriarchal, misogynist society, she’s the daughter of a powerful man and has had a relatively easy life, especially compared to other girls in Glas Ddir. One of my readers was like, “Um, she’s marrying a hot prince. Why is she complaining?”

The challenge was to keep Mia fiery and opinionated, but hopefully less obnoxious. That’s when I doubled down on how much she loves her sister. Instead of whining about her boo-hoo circumstances, Mia emerged from those revisions with one overarching goal: to protect Angelyne at all cost. Her devotion to her sister feels so crucial, I can hardly remember the story without it.

6. Yes, creating a strong character that remains sympathetic can be challenging. You also are a ghostwriter for other writers, and some of these books have gone on to be bestsellers. How did you get into this day job and how has it affected your own writing?

At twenty I had a “quarter-life crisis” about how I was going to pay the bills. I queried a handful of alumni from my college, asking if I could shadow them, and a man who ran a ghostwriting company offered me a job. I still freelance for that man today.

Ghosting has put so many tools in my writer’s toolbox: it taught me how to finish a manuscript, meet a deadline, etc. It also gave me a killer bio blurb when I was querying agents. Of course sometimes the last thing I want to do after spending three hours writing a book for someone else is spend three hours writing a book for myself. Learning how to strike the right balance has been an ever-evolving process. And I don’t always get it right!

7. That's so cool how you got into ghostwriting. Your agent is Brianne Johnson. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Brianne is a magical unicorn wrapped in shimmery butterfly wings baked into a cinnamon cupcake. Back when I was still on Twitter, I really loved her tweets. I mean, her handle is @SecretAgentBri. How could I not love her? After I parted ways with my first agent, Bri was the first and only agent I queried. I wrote her an (embarrassingly long) email structured like a multiple-choice quiz, and the rest is history.

8. I’ve noticed on your website that you are mostly connecting with readers and other authors through Instagram, YouTube, and your newsletter. Why did you decide to use those social media outlets? How are you increasing your readership of your newsletter?

I have a love-hate-love relationship with social media. It’s such a wonderful way to connect with other writers and readers . . . and such an intoxicating way to procrastinate when I should be writing . . . and such a fun way to engage with my stories in a different way. Instagram is great because I get to share lovely things: I’ve been showcasing character art that’s way more beautiful than anything I could create. YouTube is a blast because I get to be a goofball; I used to be an actor and an improv comedian, so the videos let me express that part of myself. My newsletter gives me a forum to speak honestly about all parts of this process—including my own ongoing journey with depression—and is some of the writing I’m proudest of.

I’ve been growing my mailing list by doing giveaways: every month I give away one of my ARCs, then buy three or four YA books I’ve been reading and loving and let the winner choose which one they want.

9. Great how you are growing your newsletter. How are you planning to market HEART OF THORNS? Have any of your decisions been influenced by watching other debut authors go through their own book release and marketing process?

I’m relying mostly on my newsletter and Instagram to get the word out, and I just launched a preorder campaign where you can win cool stuff (hint wink nudge). I also set up a book tour with fourteen stops across the country—you can find the complete schedule here. If you’re in the area, please stop by! And yes, I’ve learned a LOT from other debut authors. I’m one of the facilitators of the 2018 debut group, and talking to other debuts about their process has been invaluable.

10. Yes, I saw your tour. It sounds awesome. What are you working on now?

Thanks for asking! I’m hard at work on the sequel to HEART OF THORNS. Most of book two takes place in Luumia, the mysterious snow kingdom. Look out for ice leopards, silver sorcerers, and all sorts of frosty dark magic in 2019. J

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Bree. You can find Bree at www.instagram.com/speakbreely, www.youtube.com/breebarton, or www.breebarton.com.

Bree has generously offered an ARC of HEART OF THORNS 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 July 21st. 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 U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up (FYI I'm on my summer schedule.):

Saturday, July 14th I'm participating in the Christmas in July Giveaway Hop.

Monday, July 23rd I have an interview with debut author K.A. Reynolds and a giveaway of her MG fantasy THE LAND OF YESTERDAY

Wednesday, August 1st I have an interview with debut author Annie Sullivan and a giveaway of her YA fantasy/fairytale retelling A TOUCH OF GOLD and my IWSG Post

Tuesday, August 14th I'm participating in the Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop

Monday, August 20th, I have an interview with debut author Brigit Young and a giveaway of her MG contemporary mystery WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

Hope to see you on Saturday, July 14th!


  1. Sounds like a good tour.
    I can relate to making a main character just a bit too obnoxious and unlikable...

  2. Thanks for the Bluebonnet Ballerina shoutout. Much appreciated :)

  3. Carol's book showed up on my Kindle this morning! :)
    Love how the real world influenced the story - sounds great!!!

  4. Congrats to Carol and Bree. Bree's magic system seems very unique and well-thought.

  5. This is a great interview! It was great to see how the book has changed through writing, how the author has worked as a ghostwriter, and how the author utilizes social media. The book sounds great as well. Thanks so much for the review!

  6. My characters are all borderline obnoxious. :) Good to have a "Save the Cat" element to help mitigate the issues (like a sister to protect). Sounds as if you've done a great job!

  7. Heart of Thorns sounds like a great story!
    That's interesting that you use Instagram to market your books. I've wondered how effective it is for authors. It seems you've made it work.

  8. AAAAAH! I'm so ridiculously excited for this book, thank you for the giveaway! <3
    I tweeted here: https://twitter.com/WordsThatStay1/status/1016429178860834816
    I follow as Megan S. and my email is megan(dot)clarsach(at)gmail(dot)com

  9. What a fascinating interview. I enjoyed meeting you and learning about your forthcoming book.

  10. Thanks for sharing how much your world-building and character development changed while revising! I did some similar things with my first novel, especially with the main character.

  11. I enjoyed reading Natilie. sounds like a grand tour.


  12. For me I'd rather make the antagonist too obnoxious and unlikable as this makes a villain someone you love to hate.

  13. Ghostwriting sure can teach along the way indeed.

  14. I really enjoyed this interview, and hearing about Heart of Thorn's evolution and growth on the way to publication! I will pass on the giveaway, since I often struggle to get to YA books, but here's wishing Bree the very best in her launch!

  15. Congratulations, Bree! This book sounds fantastic! Can't wait to read it! Thanks, Natalie, for introducing us to great books and authors! Angelecolline at yahoo dot com

  16. Very true about the main character--if I find him or her obnoxious to even get to know, then I'm out. Thanks for the interview and chance to win a copy. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/175749630147/bree-barton-interview-and-heart-of-thorns-giveaway

  17. I loved the way she got into writing professionally through ghost writing. Super informative interview. I'll have to back away form the giveaway as the MG stack of books next to me has all my attention.

  18. Uh-oh. A main character people don't like is a real problem. Glad she got that fixed. Thanks for the interview. I will pass on the giveaway. Buried in books here.

  19. This sounds super interesting! Thanks for the giveaway!

  20. Great interview! I will admit that I often skim interviews, but this one, I read every word. You always ask such great questions, and I loved hearing about Bree' s writing process and road to publication. This is one of my most anticipated books of the entire year, if not THE most anticipated, and I absolutely cannot wait to read it! I mean, I love fantasy and magic and kingdoms, but for real, they had me at "fierce feminist"!!!

    As always, thanks so much for the chance!

    hmbryan at alumni.duke.edu

  21. It's interesting to know that the 2016 election impacted the author's crafting of this story! That tidbit makes me even more interested in reading this novel that was already high on my to-read list this season! Thanks for the chance to win -- if that should happen, try shamy at post dot Harvard dot edu. Thanks, Kara S

  22. PS I spread the word about this post/giveaway via Twitter. Please add another entry for me in the drawing. My username is @Shamstress, and here is the link to the Tweet: https://twitter.com/Shamstress/status/1018389051542523904
    Appreciatively, Kara S

  23. I once read a book where I (and my daughter) both wanted the main character to DIE ALREADY ...its a trilogy...I've re-read it a few times...I feel that if a book has you that pulled into it, its a keeper and if you feel that strongly about the characters, then the author is wonderful

  24. Great interview. It sounds like an interesting read. Thanks.

  25. I follow via GFC and am an email subscriber. Thanks!

  26. looks like a good read thanks for the chance to win