Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
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  • 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 Melanie Crowder back on the blog to share about the release of her new MG fantasy THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS. It's being released on November 13th! I interviewed her in 2013 when her debut MG PARCHED was published and have been excited to see how many books she’s published since then. I want to read her new book just from reading the blurb.

First I want to share about the play that I am the producer, assistant director, and front of house manager for.  I want to invite everyone who lives near Ypsilanti Michigan to come see Shakespeare in Love. I'm doing it for my boyfriend, and it's going to be fantastic. This is the first year that community theater groups were give the rights to produce it, and our group is one of three in Michigan given initial rights to do this. The play runs November 8th-November 17th. You can find more info on PTD Productions' website. Please stop by the box office or concessions to say hi if you come. And spread the word if you live nearby. Thanks so much!

And sorry if it takes me several days to get to everyone's blog. Dress rehearsals are going to 11:00 pm or later. It's a really busy week.

Before I get to my interview with Melanie, I want to post this month’s 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 is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are: Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman!

Optional Question: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

Well, for years and years I have had little time to devote to my creative writing. I've written about that extensively so won't repeat it here. But surprisingly, since I started writing again last year after about four years of not writing, I have to say my creativity and ability to tell a story has improved dramatically. I can tell from my critique partners comments and just how I think about pacing, character development, and plot when working on my current manuscript. Reading of course helps. But I think my contract writing, which are articles on areas of law for attorney websites, has really helped me. It's taught me to see clearer, write more concisely, and see the big picture of what I'm writing more easily. We'll see if the self-discipline I've learned rubs off when I start writing more regularly soon. Just 11 more days until this wonderful play I'm working on is done, and I am going to have a lot more time to myself. Freedom! I can't wait! I'll keep you posted.

Now onto my interview with Melanie!

Here’s the blurb for her book that's got me excited to read it from Goodreads

Griffin and his father tend to their lighthouse on the craggy coast of Oregon with the same careful routine each day. There are hardly ever any visitors, but they like it that way. Which is why, when a group of oddly dressed strangers suddenly appears, Griffin begins to see just how many secrets his father has been keeping. He never imagined that his lighthouse contains a portal to strange and dangerous worlds, or that a Society of Lighthouse Keepers exists to protect the Earth from a fearsome enemy invasion.

But then Griffin’s dad is pulled through the lens of the lighthouse into one of those other worlds. With his father gone, nobody from the Society is giving Griffin any answers, so he’s on his own. Armed only with a book of mysterious notes from his parents, Griffin is determined to find his dad, no matter what dangers lurk on the other side of the portal. 

Hi Melanie. Thanks so much for joining us!

Thank you! I’m thrilled to be here.

1. For those who don’t know how your writing career began, tell us about it.

I was nearly 30 and in a job where I felt like a cog in a machine—and I was losing faith in the direction that machine was headed. I knew I was capable of more, and I dreamed of working toward something I really believed in. I asked myself: Where do you find joy and purpose? and How can you do that for a living?

The answer for me was a) books, and b) I have no idea.

Fast forward 8 years, several “learning” manuscripts, and an MFA in Writing and my career as an author began. PARCHED was published in 2011; I was then and am to this day immensely proud of that book.

2. Glad you figured out those questions. I'm still working on them. Where did you get the idea for THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS?

When you go hiking in Colorado, if you know where to look, you’ll come across relics of the state’s
mining history—hundred year old rusted cans of beans, telegraph insulators, and even tiny leather shoes that could only have belonged to an infant. It’s impossible for me to walk among the ghosts of that era and not imagine what it was like to live that cold, hard life.

On one particular hike, I was in a region of the state where Nikola Tesla was active, and I got to thinking that technology must have seemed like magic when it first appeared in remote areas of the country. I thought to myself, what it if actually was? What if Fresnel lenses in lighthouses and AC currents powering mines and looking glasses on fire watchtowers really were magic?

The idea wouldn’t let me go, and this story is the result!

3. When you wrote your debut, an upper MG story, it was only 144 pages. You’re continuing your tradition by making this book only 192 pages. Share how you plotted out this story to make it so concise. And why do you love shorter novels so much?

I do love shorter novels—you’re absolutely right!

Part of the answer is that it’s simply my nature. I write thin. My drafts are always short and the fattening comes in revisions. 
But the other part of the answer is that I really do believe that the simplest way to say something is usually best; that the tighter the prose and the plot, the stronger the story will be overall.

I plotted THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS by acts, using sticky notes on a wall in my basement and physically shifting scenes around until things seemed to align. Plotting and structure only gets me so far, though, before I let my intuition take over.

4. I really like to write shorter books too but I've not tried to write one as short as yours. I love portal stories. What was your world building process like?

Me too! The possibilities are endless.

The first thing I needed to do was decide how and when the eight linked worlds were formed. That set the first tier of parameters around what was possible. Next, each world had a different magic source, and there was the second tier. You need limitations on a magic system, otherwise you sap the strength out of your conflict.

Once I had set those parameters, I got to play, inventing worlds from scratch. It was so much fun!

5. Griffin sounds like a compelling character. Did his character come to you already formed or did he grow into a fuller character over time?

I’m glad to hear it! Griffin definitely grew into being, and I have my editor to thank for this—she challenged me throughout the revision process to continually dig deeper. Those endless possibilities I mentioned above?—it made characterization a particular challenge this time around. But once my world(s) were set, Griffin found his place in them.

6. Your agent is Ammi-Joan Paquette. What has it been like working with her in the years since your first book released? Has it changed at all over time?

Yes! We’ve been together for 7 years now. Joan is fantastic. She’s both an author and agent, so not only does she have an agent’s perspective on the industry, but she also really understands what it’s like on this side of the table.

We’re not constantly in communication—we only really email when there is business to be done, and we chat on the phone when there are contracts to discuss. I know some authors lean heavily on their agents for editorial feedback and moral support, and when I need those things, Joan is absolutely available to me. But my deadlines come in such quick succession, I often don’t have time to ask her to give a story a read before my editor needs it on her desk.

She’s come to Colorado for conferences several times this year, so we’ve gotten to hang out a little, which is a really nice bonus!  

7. You’ve published a number of books since you were a debut author. THREE PENNIES, A NEARER MOON, and AUDACITY are some of them. How have you grown your career and what do you recommend for other new authors wanting to do the same.

There are so many different paths to publishing, and the same is true once you arrive. From the beginning I wanted to write across age groups and genres. And I have! I’ve written middle grade and YA, hard-hitting historical fiction and otherworldly fantasy, quirky contemporary and futuristic climate fiction. It’s been immensely fulfilling.

If you want a “brand” as an author, don’t follow my path! I’ll be perfectly honest—it’s easier to find and keep a consistent readership if you give them the same kinds of books over and over again. But if what motivates you is a career where you decide what’s possible and where you get to constantly explore new territory, I say go for it!

8. What are you finding to be effective ways of building your social platform and marketing your books? Why?

The best way I’ve found to build a platform is to write books that resonate with people. And the best way to market those books is to form meaningful connections with colleagues, booksellers, and readers.

I also travel to conferences to speak to teachers, librarians, and writers. I really do love that work—and again, it creates the authentic person-to-person connections that I value.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m currently revising the LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS’ sequel. It’s more world-hopping middle grade portal fantasy—this one is called A WAY BETWEEN WORLDS and should release in Fall 2019. I can’t wait to share it with you all!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Melanie. You can find Melanie at www.melaniecrowder.com

Melanie has generously offered a hardback of THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS 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:

Monday, November 12th I have an interview with debut author Melanie Sumrow and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE PROPHET CALLS

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

Hope to see you on Monday!


nashvillecats2 said...

A great post to read and absorb Natalie. Have a great month.


Jennifer Hawes said...

It's amazing how we grow as writers espcailly after taking time off! I hope you have an amazing month. I also am a "thin" writer. I start out with not much of a word count and add as I revise.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I'm glad that your creativity has grown even while you were taking a break. I wonder if you free something during your time away.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like where her story idea came from.
The play begins tomorrow! Hope it's a smashing success.

Cathrina Constantine said...

I wish I lived closer to you. I love going to the theater. Shakespeare in Love sounds exciting. I hope all goes well. And, it's good to hear you're back to writing, keep it up.

David Powers King said...

Oooooh! That's a fantastic title, and sounds even cooler. Good job, Melanie!

Good luck on your production! Wish I could be there. :)

Juneta key said...

Great interview. The cover of the book is excellent. Break a leg with the play. You go! Juneta

Jennifer Lane said...

Congratulations to Melanie!

I loved the movie, Shakespeare in Love, and I wish you the best on opening night and beyond! Do they tell producers (in addition to actors) to break a leg?

emaginette said...

I always thought that somewhere in the back of my mind, it was always working on or processing something. It could be a storyline, or my next scene, or anything at all.

What I'm saying is you've got four years stored up, and are probably bursting with great skills and story ideas. Enjoy.

Anna from elements of emaginette

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I hope the play is everything you'd hoped for. I have family in Michigan - I'll see if the theater is near them.

cleemckenzie said...

Thanks for introducing us to Melanie! And so glad to hear that while you were paying attention to some of life's demands, your creative side was growing. Here's to a wonderful opening night, Natalie. Break a leg!

Diane Burton said...

I didn't know you're a Michigan writer, too. Good luck with your play. It's a bit of a hike across the state for me. I'm fascinated by how everyone's creativity has changed/improved the more they write. Good luck to you!

Raimey Gallant said...

Melanie's book sounds fantastic! I really need to start reading MG. I wish I lived in Michigan, Natalie! I wish you such a great run!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Wish I could be there for your play, Natalie. Have a great time. To me, I think you're very creative.

Thanks for a great interview, Melanie. Your latest book sounds fascinating. Best of luck to you.

Jemi Fraser said...

Melanie's title is great - and the book sounds terrific!
You're putting in so much love and time on the play - but I bet you'll sleep for days when it's done! Hope it's wonderful!!!
Contract writing has given you lots of skills - love it!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Congrats and best wishes on your play. I would be there if I didn't live hundreds of miles away. Like your answer how your nonfiction writing has helped your fiction writing. Melanie sounds like a tight writer too. Where were all these great books when my boys were middle grade readers?

Olga Godim said...

Good luck with your play.
I also found that my non-fiction helped with my fiction. Non-fiction teaches brevity, clarity, and focus - all very useful skills for any work of fiction as well.

Michael Di Gesu said...

The play sounds like so much fun! Hope it is AMAZING!

All the best with your new novel, Melanie!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Reading helps a HUGE amount when it comes to writing.
Wish I lived near Ypsilanti Michigan, but Australia might be a little far.

Congrats to Melanie!

J.L. Campbell said...

Having the time to write, plus the dedication, helps us along. Love the cover of The Lighthouse Between The Worlds.

Tonja Drecker said...

Natalie-The show sounds so exciting. Enjoy!
Melanie's book sounds intriguing, and I love how the idea came from the mines in Colorado. Her words reminded me of the odd feelings I always had when we went hiking in the area as a kid. Congrats!

Brenda said...

Fun interview Natalie and break a leg on the play! Love to hear updates on how it went when you're all done. Congratulations to Melanie on her newest book.

Loni Townsend said...

It's great to hear your work is improving! And woot for the upcoming freedom! That'll be great for you.

Grats to Melanie. :)

Victoria Marie Lees said...

I love community theatre, Natalie. I performed in local theatre myself. Break a leg, my dear.

I love the interview. So neat to see how authors come up with a story. All the luck with your new release, Melanie.

Breathe, Natalie. You're in the homestretch. Now it's only ten days, right?

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Natalie, this is a test to see if I can comment on your blog. Apparently I can, so I will continue. This was a great post. Good interview. Good books. (I'm especially intrigued by the lighthouse between worlds idea.

jean602 said...

Great interview. The book sounds great can't wait to read it

jean602 said...

Following jean60212atgmail.com

Danielle H. said...

I love lighthouses and did lots of research on Fresnel lenses. This book is one of my most anticipated books as I love the premise. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/179905240912/melanie-crowder-interview-and-the-lighthouse

Pat Hatt said...

Improving sure is a win any day.

Saying what needs to be said without the fluff is a grand way to be too.

Chrys Fey said...

I live in Florida, so I'm too far away, but I wish I could come to your play. Enjoy it!

Denise Covey said...

I love lighthouse stories. The recent Light Between Oceans was awesome. Melanie's book sounds great. I tend to like longer books myself, but there is a place for short.

Suzanne Warr said...

Oh my Heavens, lighthouses as portals is so very brilliant and cool! I love it! Here is hoping it leads the way in making portal books the hot new thing, because my agent is currently reading my portal magic middle grade! Fingers crossed!

Natalie I love that you are helping with this community theater project, and wish you so much luck! Or rather, as a former thezpian, I hope you break a leg. ;)

I am feeling book-greedy of late but if the odds want to make me a winner, my email is spartan (_) writer (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Angie Quantrell said...

I love the idea of a lighthouse portal! Congratulations! Angelecolline at yahoo dot com

Greg Pattridge said...

Hurray for shorter MG novels. Page counts have increased dramatically and I'm all for a return to the standard 150-200 rather than the 300+ we're seeing now. Anyway, this new book is high on my list to read. So many enticing plot points. And... best of luck on your play Natalie!

Rosi said...

Interesting interview as usual. Thanks for that. I wish I could write shorter books! Good for you, Melanie!

Debra Branigan said...

Interesting premise for a novel. I look forward to reading. Thank your for hosting and good luck to author with her novel.

Anonymous said...

This sounds fun! Thanks for the giveaway!

DMS said...

This sounds like a fascinating book. I love the idea of portals and I am curious about what will happen. I would love to win a copy. Will share on Twitter! Thanks for the giveaway. Wishing Melanie all the best.

Nick Wilford said...

Great interview! I love portals between worlds too. I like that Melanie has published such diverse work. Glad you're getting back to your writing, Natalie. Hope it (and the play) goes well!

Michelle Wallace said...

I hope that the play is a rip-roaring success!
I would LOVE to win some books in the giveaway... I'll try my luck and enter.
Happy Writing, Natalie!

D Q said...

Love the title and the cover. The story sounds great.

Angela Saver said...

I follow via email. This sounds great!


Antoinette M said...

I enjoyed the interview. Sounds like a book that I will enjoy! (email subscriber)

Leela said...

Currently following by email and GFC.