CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

ENCHANTÉE through January 19th
DIVE SMACK through January 19th

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Guest Posts w/ Debut Authors & Query Critique Giveaways

Katelyn Detweiler/Addie Thorley Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 2/6/2019

Amy Stapp Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 2/13/2019

Holly Root & Taylor Haggerty/Victoria Lee Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 3/11/19

Katelyn Uplinger Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 3/25/2019

Mary Cummings Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 4/10/2019

Devin Ross Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 4/29/19

Jim McCarthy/Remi Lay Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 5/14/2019

Brent Taylor/Rajani LaRocca Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2019


AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH WERONIKA JANCZUK AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Weronika Janczuk here. She is a literary agent at D4EO Literary Agency.

Hi­ Weronika! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Weronika:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.

Oh, this is—in my case—a bit of an interesting answer!

I broke into publishing when I was in high school, as part of a work-study, and then went on to intern with a series of agents—Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency, Kathleen Anderson at Anderson Literary Management, and Mary Kole, formerly with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency—before connecting with Bob Diforio at D4EO Literary Agency.

I worked with him and one other agency from 2010-2012, while still an undergraduate at NYU, during which I represented a slew of talented and award-winning projects, including Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead (Tor/Macmillan) and Sekret by Lindsay Smith (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan). I then departed publishing to make space to cope with the passing of my mom, among other things—and, six years later, following work in the non-profit realm, am returning to build a comprehensive list of fiction and non-fiction writers along a wide spectrum.

In the past few months, I’ve signed two clients of YA—and am actively looking to build the entire list! We are working through editorial letters, as I prepare to begin the first set of my submissions as an agent returning. (My former clients almosst entirely went on to sign with other agents and have been publishing since.)

About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

Bob Diforio, the principal agent at D4EO, spent 17 years at New American Library [Dutton / Penguin USA] in positions ranging from VP Sales to President and Publisher, Chairman and CEO. There he helped launch the paperback careers of Erica Jong, Robin Cook, Stephen King, Ken Follett, and Robert K. Tanenbaum. With Odyssey Partners, he led the management team of NAL in a leveraged buyout of the company from Times Mirror in 1982, purchased E. P. Dutton a year later, and sold the combined company to Pearson PLC in 1986, which merged the company with Viking Penguin to create Penguin USA. 

Since the forming of the agency in 1989, Bob has built upon his extensive experience to build strong relationships, with rights contacts and agent partners, as well as contract boilerplates with imprints—among several other, important pieces. We build upon this experience as individual agents to offer our writers an immensely personalized experience, forming them as writers (at least I do, as one who is strongly editorial in her agenting); as well as business men and women, and partners, who are looking to build long-standing (sustainable) careers.

What She’s Looking For:

3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

I represent a whole gamut of genres:
·         young adult
·         fantasy & sci-fi
·         literary fiction
·         commercial fiction
·         women’s fiction
·         romance
·         crime, mystery & thrillers
·         memoir
·         non-fiction (innovative ideas & research; projects with a potential for social & cultural impact, etc.)

I am not actively open to queries, at least for the time being, for picture books or MG, but would certainly represent those for writers of YA or adult fiction.

In general, I look—across genres—for the strongest writers, with the greatest intuitive awareness of as well as practice in craft: their building of scenes, their world-building, their precision in vocabulary and syntax; a general intelligibility that is clever and fun, etc. I love writers who possess their own writing, and demonstrate great maturity and consideration. This means that I have a general preference for voice-driven fiction, and fiction with a more literary bent, as well as commercial fiction that rides the fine line.

For a more extended description of my wish list, you can see the submissions page on my blog.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

I’m—to be entirely honest—not an agent who is overly concerned with tropes or categories. The best stories transcend those categories, or break them apart, or bring something so captivating to them that you forget why you hated the trope in the first place.

I, simply, have a heart for remarkably told stories, and writing proportionate to those stories.

In my first round of agenting, certain writers that I signed did have a debut novel that editors found “too similar” to something on the market, or didn’t add anything to a niche “too flooded.” Fine! This is part of the risk, and the puzzle, and the hard work! It so happens that most went on to write novels that sold, and sold brilliantly, and (in one or two cases) debuted on the New York Times bestseller list. All those that sold have also built sustainable, ongoing careers, and this to me is the essential marker of any worthwhile success. To give a specific example: I never thought I’d love a novel about zombies…but signed a former client, now a USA Today bestseller, who wrote the most delicious literary zombie novel, which didn’t go on to publish but helped break her into serious publishing—and, boy, I still hope to this day she’ll have a chance to place it, when people don’t feel tired of zombies.

Novelists who know their craft I will sign and work with, over long periods of time, any day.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

As noted above, I’m not—for the moment—looking to start with picture books or middle grade for writers, nor am I in the market for graphic novels. I also stray away from overly-explicit romance (i.e., erotica), and—as alluded to—genre novels that don’t capture the need in me for a voice that sparks and captivates my mind and heart.

Agent Philosophy:
6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

Where I and my clients agree that it is necessary and good, I am a heavily editorial agent, with much experience and background in structural editorial work. My task is also to be a writer’s expert in contracts, with the support of the agency and its multi-decade experience in high-quality negotiations; the sale of translation rights, where applicable; and working on additional dimensions, rights- and platform-wise.

Beyond this, I agent very personally: in transparency, my task is to set a writer up for a writing career–ideally, one in which writing full-time or part-time becomes easy and reasonable, and earns back the necessary profit. This means close work on the manuscript, to prepare it, as well as marketing, teaching writers the nature of the field, and placing writers well for growth and success. I am also of the mind that, where there is something personally shared, we’ll love and do our mutual work with greater joy and freedom. It is not rare, and much preferred, for this work to become friendship.

Editorial Agent:
7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

As per above, yes! Very much so!

We work through editorial letters of different lengths—anything from 3-15 pages has been my average—as well as editorial feedback at the level of the manuscript itself. This will always include strengthening anything that is important, from the depth of characterization and the character development arcs, to the plot arc and the rise in/fall of tension, to the world-building, to the pacing, to the structure of scenes (how they begin, proceed, and end).

I, ultimately, see myself as a mentor for the writers with which I work—part of building careers is ever-improving craft, and receiving and internalizing editorial challenge.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)

8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?


  • If you prefer to query over email, paste your query letter and the first ten pages of your manuscript to me at weronika(at)d4eo(dot)com, and include the word QUERY in your subject line. I will respond personally only if I request your manuscript.

9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

There are millions of mistakes that can be made—my only recommendation, overall, as this is important for learning to grow in the craft long-term, is that writers find and work with critique partners in one dimension or another.

Don’t send your query or your pages out without vetting them deeply. Most importantly, don’t vet your first 250 words or your first ten pages without vetting the rest of the manuscript—so much work, to build long careers, requires intentional craft-learning and -practicing, over and over and over.

If you’ve not used QueryTracker before, check it out; it’s a great resource for writers. The online forums offer a safe, mature space to receive this kind of feedback.

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

I’m averaging 24-48 hours at this point on queries, and anywhere from 3-30 days or so for partial or full manuscripts.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:

11.  Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?

Yes, of course.

As above, however, I need writers to demonstrate a capacity for craft—so, ultimately, this is a sort of “neutral” point (to be honest), as is having a former agent, or having a writing degree, or having won awards. Great, fine—but show me that you can write very well, and that you can own your crafting. Just because you have any/all the above doesn’t mean that you can do the latter.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

On the most part, in the core way, no—agents serve as editorial guides, as guides in business, as gatekeepers, and as managers in a way that editors don’t and—considering the breadth of their own responsibility—never will. The challenge on the agents’ end is to allow their own business/agenting model to evolve with the industry—helping writers learn to support their traditional publishing with, for example, novellas or self-published smaller works; maximizing e-publishing platforms as well as seeking out innovative ways to market; and more.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

My publishing background is explained here, including the novelists with whom I have worked.

My two current, new clients include YA novelist Jill MacKenzie—author of Spin the Sky (2016) and the forthcoming Breathe the Dragon (2019), from Sky Pony Press/Skyhorse—as well as debut novelist Zoe Makuta.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

14. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.

This interview will be the most recent/updated one, but most of these older interviews apply entirely in terms of the bulk of content:
·         Hippocampus Magazine
·         Victoria Mixon
·         Pitch Wars
·         Winnie Griggs

Links and Contact Info:

15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.


Follow the link above for the remainder of my blog, and find me on Twitter @WeronikaJanczuk.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Weronika.

­Weronika is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner.

To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through December 8th.  If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.





M.K. ENGLAND INTERVIEW AND THE DISASTERS GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Megan England here to share about her YA space opera THE DISASTERS. It sounds like a fun, action-packed story.


Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours.

But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.

On the run and framed for atrocities they didn’t commit, Nax and his fellow failures execute a dangerous heist to spread the truth about what happened at the Academy.

They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, ut they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.
 


Hi Megan! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became an author.

I attempted writing for a long time, but severe anxiety and fear kept me from getting very far. I’m a person who has to be slammed busy at all times, though, so once I graduated library school and found myself with just a full time job as a YA librarian and nothing else, I finally had no choice but to figure out how to work with my anxiety. I mean, I guess I could have taken up recreational clock repair or something, but it was always going to be writing, eventually. I finished my first book in February 2014 and proved to myself that I COULD actually write a whole book that wasn’t completely terrible.

For me, it was one of those things where you have to hear the same piece of advice 999 times, and on the thousandth time, it finally sinks in. I was plowing through Maggie Stiefvater’s blog posts about writing and came across the following: “I wrote Lament on Wednesdays only, from 4-6 p.m. [...]. It took me four months. It can be done, I PROMISE.”

Oh. You mean… you just sit down and DO IT? Four months seems like… not that long. A finite amount of time. That’s a doable thing.

Huh.

That became my mantra, and it helped me finish despite my brain constantly berating me.

Other than that, I’m just your typical run-of-the-mill nerd. I play games of all kinds (video, tabletop, D&D, etc.), read and write fanfic, love sci-fi TV shows, all the usual. I also love to garden and hike!

2. Love what Maggie said. I had no idea she wrote that book by setting aside one day a week. Where did you get the idea for THE DISASTERS?

All my books start out as a vague little idea seed that appears out of nowhere and sits around in an
Idea Dump google doc for months or years until it meets a catalyst of some kind. In this case, the seed was “a hotshot pilot fails out of a space academy on his first day” and the catalyst was seeing Guardians of the Galaxy in the theater in summer 2014. It wasn’t a perfect movie by any means, but it was so much fun, and it solidified for me what I wanted THE DISASTERS to feel like. I wrote it during NaNoWriMo later that year!

3. Most YA stories have teen girls as the main character. Was it hard writing from Nax’s point of view? Do you have any tips for others wanting to write from a male POV?

I identify as non-binary and generally have a much more difficult time writing from a feminine point of view, so I’m probably not the best person to give advice on this topic! Nax’s voice came pretty naturally to me, and he’s very much part of a lineage of wise-cracking, trouble-magnet space pilots a la Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds, and Peter Quill, so there was a lot to channel from. For anyone trying to internalize a particular voice, I think the best thing is to immerse yourself in media that does it well. Watch TV shows and movies, read books, read articles and social media from authentic sources, all that.

4. Those are great tips. What was your world building like? What are some of the challenges of creating worlds in space?

It was a lot of asking “What If.” I started with the seed, a hotshot pilot failing out of an academy on his first day, then extrapolated. Okay, if space piloting is a thing, there has to be a place to fly to. He can’t just go back to Earth because that’s boring, so what kind of plot does that suggest? What set pieces do I need to make the plot happen? If Place A exists, what else would logically follow from there? If we’ve settled the planets, who settled them and when? And so on. Eventually, the whole thing came to hinge on one fictional historical moment: the discovery of A-drive technology, a sort of instantaneous interplanetary travel, around 2050. From there, settling the stars would happen as fast as governments and organizations could manage!

For challenges, I think it’s tough to create a world that feels like a whole world, the way Earth is, not just a single-characteristic planet like Tatooine (desert) or Dagobah (swamp) in Star Wars. I don’t know if I managed to capture it in THE DISASTERS because they’re on each planet for such a short time and only visit one city on each, but each one definitely has a whole history of how it was founded and what else is there in my head.

5. That would be challenging to create worlds when your character is on different worlds. Your story has been described as fun and filled with action. How did you weave these elements into your story?


They were a priority for me right from the start. I had a very clear goal going into this book: a fast, fun, funny romp in space, the kind of story I love. There are definitely serious elements and some intense character moments, but if the book ever stopped being fun and action-y at its heart, I knew it was time to pause and regroup. I also spent some time for each action scene with my eyes closed, trying to really put myself in the pilot’s seat and feel the adrenaline so I could convey it in a really visceral way. Fun!

6. Your agent is Barbara Poelle. Share how she became your agent and what your road to publication was like.

Even though I participated in Pitch Wars and had a wonderful experience, I ended up connecting with Barbara via a plain old cold query. It was a whirlwind November day where she emailed and requested the full, then wanted to set up a call a few hours later. We jumped on the phone right after I got home from work and she packed SO MUCH into that first call, everything she loved about the book and how she envisioned its future, but also everything that was majorly wrong with it. It ended up being an R&R, which I happily took on.

She hooked me up with two of her other clients, Sarah Nicole Lemon (Valley Girls) and Kerri Maniscalco (Stalking Jack the Ripper series), who gave the book a solid Poellean ass kicking. I turned in the revision after the holidays, we signed a few days later, and went on submission two days after that! I’m very fortunate that I didn’t have to float in submission limbo for too long. We ended up selling to HarperTeen in a pre-empt within maybe 4-6 weeks. That was in spring of 2016, and we signed for a Fall 2018 release. The final release date ended up being almost the last possible day of the Fall 2018 season, so it’s been a 2.5 year journey post-book deal!

7. Great to know querying works. You are also a YA librarian. How has that helped you reach other YA librarians about your book? How do you recommend other authors connect with librarians?


It’s been wonderful to have the support of both current and former colleagues throughout this (glacial, eternal) publishing process. Ultimately, though, I’m always reaaaaally reluctant to lean on any connections I have. I never want to make people feel awkward or obligated. What I have done is use what I’ve learned as a librarian to help time my marketing and outreach.

I don’t bother sending postcards to advertise the book more than about 8-10 weeks from pub, because many libraries can’t order things until 2 months out. For event scheduling, I know many libraries do programming by the season and book as much as six months in advance, so I know to provide as much notice as possible for potential events. I also try to stay as flexible as possible on pricing, because my own budget for teen programming at my library is about $90/month and I really have to shift things around and crunch numbers to hire out for programs or pay for author visits, and can only do a very few.

8. Thanks for the great tips on this. Share some of your plans for marketing your book and what you’ve already done to spread the word about it? Why did you choose what you’re doing?

Common wisdom is that there’s not a whole lot an author can do individually to move the needle on their book sales, so it’s best to stick with that you want to do, whatever you find fun. Whether true or not, sticking to fun is never bad advice in a business as stressful as this, so I decided to go with it.

I enjoy graphic design so I did lots of it for THE DISASTERS. I designed and sent handwritten postcards to indie bookstores and libraries I thought might be a good fit for THE DISASTERS, designed bookmarks and stickers (was able to barter for the sticker printing), put together a preorder campaign that’s going on right now, and best of all, designed some rocketship enamel pins to say thanks to folks who preorder! I adore them. I 99% had them made so I could have one, tbh. I’ll also be doing a short tour in NY, NJ, and PA immediately after the book release because it’s a great excuse to visit friends in other states!

9. What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up final revisions on my second book with HarperTeen, which will be out in January 2020. I can’t say much about it right now, but it’s a very genre-mashy futuristic world with magic and a cast of characters I adore. I’m also starting the first three chapters and synopsis of what I hope will be my third book, which I’ll be pitching soon! Fingers crossed.

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

Twitter  | Instagram  | Monthly Newsletter  | Website  |  Preorder campaign

Megan has generously offered an ARC of THE DISASTERS and two swag packages 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 December 1st. 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 U.S for the ARC and international for the swag packages.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, November 26th I have an agent spotlight interview with Weronika Janczuk and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, December 5th I have an interview with debut author Elizabeth Tammi and a giveaway of her YA fantasy OUTRUN THE WIND and my IWSG Post

Monday, December 10th I have an interview with debut author Rebecca Caprara and a giveaway of THE MAGIC OF MELWICK ORCHARD

Friday, December 14th I'm participating in the Midwinter Eve Giveaway Hop--my last post of the year

Hope to see you on Monday!


GRATITUDE GIVEAWAY HOP



Happy Wednesday Everyone! I'm excited to participate in the Gratitude Giveaway Hop hosted by BookHounds. This is my opportunity to say thank you to all my followers. I really appreciate you all and all your comments.

I hope you find a book you like for yourself, a family member, or a friend in the choices offered. Don’t see a book you like? You can win a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card instead. I hope you'll all enter to win a book or gift card for yourself or as a gift for someone.

So here are your choices. I've got a combination of MG and YA books that I hope you're looking forward to reading. Remember, if you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead as long as it doesn't cost more than the book here. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads.

 


 


 


 


 


 



If you haven't found a book you want, you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.


To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through October 31st telling me the book you want to win or if you want to win the Gift Card instead. 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 international as long as Book Depository ships to you for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, November 19th I have an interview with debut author Megan England and a giveaway of her YA space opera THE DISASTERS

Monday, November 26th I have an agent spotlight interview with Weronika Janczuk and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, December 5th I have an interview with debut author Elizabeth Tammi and a giveaway of her YA fantasy OUTRUN THE WIND and my IWSG Post

Monday, December 10th I have an interview with debut author Rebecca Caprara and a giveaway of THE MAGIC OF MELWICK ORCHARD

Friday, December 14th I'm participating in the Midwinter Eve Giveaway Hop--my last post of the year

Hope to see you on Monday!

And here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop:








MELANIE SUMROW INTERVIEW AND THE PROPHET CALLS GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I have debut author Melanie Sumrow here to share about her MG contemporary THE PROPHET CALLS. It sounds like a gripping story that tackles issues we don’t usually see in a middle grade book.

WriteOnCon Is Back

Before I get to Melanie's interview, I want to share about an online conference you may be interesting in. WriteOnCon is back! It's a three-day online conference February 8-10th. For $10, you can get an extended admission to read and watch to all the content through March 10th. There's online presentations by authors and agents where you can submit questions and blog posts throughout the three days of the conference. You can also purchase critiques from authors and agents. You can find out more on WriteOnCon's website. I just registered and am excited to attend from the comfort of my home. 

Here’s a blurb of Melanie's book from Goodreads:

Born into a polygamous community in the foothills of New Mexico, Gentry Forrester feels lucky to live among God’s chosen. Here, she lives apart from the outside world and its “evils.”

On her thirteenth birthday, Gentry receives a new violin from her father and, more than anything, she wants to play at the Santa Fe Music Festival with her brother, Tanner. But then the Prophet calls from prison and announces he has outlawed music in their community and now forbids women to leave.

Determined to play, Gentry and Tanner sneak out. But once they return, the Prophet exercises control from prison, and it has devastating consequences for Gentry and her family. Soon, everything Gentry has known is turned upside down. She begins to question the Prophet’s teachings and his revelations, especially when his latest orders put Gentry’s family in danger. Can Gentry find a way to protect herself and her family from the Prophet and escape the only life she’s ever known?

This realistic, powerful story of family, bravery, and following your dreams is a can't-miss debut novel from Melanie Sumrow.

Hi Melanie! Thanks so much for joining us. 

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

I was working as a lawyer and really missed having a creative outlet when another lawyer had recommended a book to me: Twilight. I thought he (yes, a male colleague recommended it) was pulling my leg, but he kept going on and on about how awesome it was. Long story short, he lent it to me and I read it, and then I picked up the next one in the series and the next and impatiently waited for the last book. I thought they were so fun! And then I started to pick up more books written for teens and devoured them. When I heard Stephenie Meyer had written the first book while working outside the home and being a full-time mom like me, I thought why not? I had always loved to read and I’d always enjoyed writing, so the idea really energized me. As luck would have it, a flyer came through the mail advertising a series of creative writing classes that I could take at night through my local university, while still practicing law during the day. From my first class, I was hooked!

2. As a former lawyer, I can relate to not feeling being one was creative. And I know many attorneys who became writers. Where did you get the idea for THE PROPHET CALLS and the polygamous community that is at the center of the story?

I received my undergraduate degree in Religious Studies and have maintained a long-term interest in
studying world religions. A couple of years ago, I was guest teaching a class on religious radicalism. For that class, I had updated my research on various religious sects, including the polygamous community known as the FLDS. Within that same time period, my agent called me and indicated an editor had contacted him (sort of as a shot in the dark), saying she was interested in polygamous communities and wondered if he happened to know anyone who could write about that subject for a middle-grade audience. Of course, my agent was very excited because he knew I possessed the knowledge, even though I’d never written MG. I started from scratch on an entirely new story, and that same editor fell in love with The Prophet Calls.

3. That's such an interesting way to get a story idea. Your story is set in a polygamous community in New Mexico? Why New Mexico and what research did you have to do on your setting and life in a polygamous community?

New Mexico has always held a special place in my heart, especially the foothills north of Santa Fe. I have been going there almost annually since I was a teenager, and I needed a somewhat isolated setting for this book. It was really fun to place Gentry and her family somewhere that has been so dear to me.

As for researching the polygamous community, my Religious Studies major and continuous research really came in handy. When I started to write the book, I updated my research by reading or re-reading memoirs of those who had left the community, watched documentaries and read books by members of law enforcement who had interaction with the FLDS.

4. Gentry goes through some heavy experiences as a middle grader with The Prophet trying to exert influence from jail. How did you make this realistic while recognizing the age group you’re writing for?

I put myself in the shoes of this barely thirteen-year-old girl and viewed her community through that lens. If this way of life was all I had ever known, I wondered how I would react to what was happening around me. I wouldn’t have the benefit of taking a step back and examining things from an “outsider’s” perspective. Given that lens, it helped me to keep the story appropriate for the upper MG audience.

5. That's great advice on a good approach to take. Gentry sounds like a strong, sympathetic character. Tell us about her as a character and something that surprised you about her as you wrote her story.

Gentry is strong, smart and loves her family. But she’s beginning to question her faith and the inequitable treatment within her community. She is totally devoted to her younger sister, Amy, and loves to play her violin. When she plays, it is the only time she feels like she can truly be herself.

When I first started writing the book, I knew how much Gentry loved her family. But it surprised me how fiercely loyal she was to them, even to certain family members who wronged her.

6. Share what your road to publication was like.

Long and winding.

I shelved my first manuscript. I queried my second manuscript, and received many requests. I read every rejection and, if I saw a common thread, I would go back and revise. After over 100 cold queries and many revisions, I received three offers of representation. Although that book was well received by publishing houses, it ultimately did not sell. I was working on another YA book when the call came in from my agent to ask if I would consider writing for the upper MG audience. I did and got my first book deal with The Prophet Calls. We recently announced a second book deal for another upper MG book, The Inside Battle.

7. I saw on your website event page that you are part of a middle grade panel at Books of Wonder at New York City. How did you set that up? Would you recommend other debut authors try to do something similar?

I am part of a group of debut MG authors that are a subset of the Electric Eighteens (which consists of both MG and YA debuts). One of the MG authors put a call out to see if anyone would be interested in joining her on a panel that her publicist could pitch. I raised my hand and, with the help of our publicists, ultimately five of us participated in a Great MG Debuts panel at Books of Wonder.

If you are a debut author, I would highly recommend connecting with other debuts, especially since no one is yet familiar with your work. I think the chances of finalizing an event definitely goes up when you pool your resources. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!

8. Yes, I think it's really good to connect to a debut group like this. What else are you planning to do to promote your book? What have you already done to build a social platform and generate excitement for your book?

I have upcoming signings and events, plus a blog tour. Since The Prophet Calls has a strong girl at its center, I have had fun running giveaways with an ARC of my book, plus another MG book that features a strong heroine. That way, I get to talk about some of the other books I’ve read and loved. This past year, I have also really enjoyed connecting with teachers and librarians via social media and through the various ARC-sharing groups.

9. What advice do you have for someone who just signed a book contract for getting organized for his/her debut and book release?

I have been fortunate that my publisher has been very helpful in this regard. They know I’m a debut and have been so kind to answer my (many) questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your publisher. And, if you haven’t already, I would also recommend connecting with the authors in your community for advice about the industry as a whole. Finally, join your debut group, which will be comprised of people from all over the world. There is nothing quite like having a community of writers who are going through the exact same thing to help you with the ups and downs of your debut year.

10. Yes, getting advice and being a part of a supportive group sounds really helpful. What are you working on now?

I recently turned in my second upper middle-grade novel, The Inside Battle, which is set to release in the fall of 2019. It is the story of a boy struggling to win his father’s approval, but when the boy follows his dad inside a racist, anti-government militia group, he has to choose what’s more important: his father’s approval or speaking up for what is right.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Melanie. You can find Melanie at http://www.melaniesumrow.com or on Instagram & Twitter: @melaniesumrow.

Melanie's publisher has generously offered a hardback of THE PROPHET CALLS 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 24th. 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 U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, November 14th I'm participating in the Gratitude Giveaway Hop

Monday, November 19th I have an interview with debut author Megan England and a giveaway of her YA space opera THE DISASTERS


Monday, November 26th I have an agent spotlight interview with Weronika Janczuk and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, December 5th I have an interview with debut author Elizabeth Tammi and a giveaway of her YA fantasy OUTRUN THE WIND and my IWSG Post

Monday, December 10th I have an interview with debut author Rebecca Caprara and a giveaway of THE MAGIC OF MELWICK ORCHARD

Friday, December 14th I'm participating in the Midwinter Eve Giveaway Hop--my last post of the year

Hope to see you on Wednesday!