Here are my current Giveaway Contests

Sing Me Forgotten through April 10th

April Showers Giveaway Hop through April 20th

These Feathered Flames through April 24th

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

Agent Peter Knapp and Author Daniel Aleman Guest Post and Query Critique and Indivisible Giveaway on 5/5/2021

Tina Dubois Query Critique and How to Save a Queendom Giveaway on 5/10/2021

Joyce Sweeney Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/14/2021

Michelle Hauck Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/19/2021

Agent Maura Kye-Cassella and Author Sam Subity Guest Post and Query Critique and The Last Shadow Warrior Giveaway on 5/24/2021

Agent Janna Bonisowksi and Author Casie Bazey Guest Post and Query Critique and Not Our Summer Giveaway on 6/2/2021

Katherine Wessbecher Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/7/2021

Allison Hellegers Agent Spotlight Interview ad Query Critique Giveaway on 7/26/2021

Agent Spotlight Updates

All agent spotlights and interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated again in 2023.


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Gail Shepherd here to share about her MG historical THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS. It’s got a great setting—1985 Tennessee—and sounds like a story that will really pull at your heart. It releases on March 26

Before I get to today's interview, I've got 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 is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are:  Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

Optional Question: Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

I have never written from dual POVs and have always written from the hero's perspective. I think it's easier to get close to the protagonist, at least for me. But I do think about my villain and like to know about his life and not just make him the bad guy because I need a villain. I want that person to be a complex character too and have motivations for doing what he/she does.

What about you? Whose perspective do you write from?

Now let's to Gail's interview. Here’s a blurb of her book from Goodreads

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

A Southern MG debut about a history-loving girl, Lyndon Baines Hawkins, whose relentless, hilarious, and heartbreaking search for the truth puts her in direct opposition to her fusspot grandmother’s need to keep up appearances. Lyndie knows lots about history: she can tell you who President Lincoln’s best friend was, the gruesome diseases of Civil War soldiers, and where her Hawkins ancestors built log houses near her home town of Love’s Forge, Tennessee. But when it comes to her Ma and Daddy, her knowledge is full of holes. Nobody talks about what happened to her veteran Daddy during the Vietnam war and why he “came home different,” or why her Ma stays locked in her room for days, or how come they had to sell the house Lyndie grew up in and move in with her strict grandparents. And Lyndie’s grandma, Lady, is determined to mold Lyndie into a “nice” southern girl who knows how to keep quiet about family secrets.

Lyndie struggles with universal questions: How can you help your daddy fight a battle with himself? What’s the difference between charity and love? When can you tell your grandmother exactly where she can stick all her well-I-nevers and don’t-you-dares? For fans of THREE TIMES LUCKY, BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE, THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE and WISH, this is an affecting novel with an irresistible and irrepressible voice.

Hi Gail! Thanks so much for joining us.

Hi Natalie, I’m thrilled to be here!

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

My first literary effort was the school Thanksgiving play, Poor Mr. Turkey, presented to the whole school in 4th grade, to mixed reviews. I wrote a lot of pretty good poetry in elementary school, lots of bad poetry in high school, and finally ended up with a creative MA in poetry/creative writing. After that I wrote anything anybody would pay for: book reviews, articles about rebar, ads for ladies’ underwear, catalogue copy for skateboards. I did some real journalism as a stringer for People magazine and Agence France-Presse. I published an indie newspaper with my brother, and then I got hired at Village Voice Media. I wrote long form crime stories and investigated our local white supremacist group for them; my favorite job there was as a restaurant critic. But I gained 20 pounds and regularly got food poisoning, so that was not a great long-term career option. The whole time I was writing fiction. When I got laid off from the paper eight years ago, I turned to writing a middle grade novel.

2. Awesome that you've always written. Where did you get the idea for THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS?

I started this story about 30 years ago as an adult novel. I grew up in the shadow of the Vietnam
War, which profoundly influenced my view of American history. I wondered what it would be like to grow up as the child of a veteran who was still suffering in the aftermath of that war. My mom’s family is deep south, from Alabama and Florida, so I wanted to put Lyndie in a southern family grappling with notions of truth, loyalty, and secrets that can be dangerous to keep.

3. Your story is set in Love’s Forge, Tennessee in 1985. What made you decide on this setting and time period? How did it shape your story?

The fictional town of Love’s Forge in the Smoky Mountains sits right at the crossroads of some pretty contentious history—The Trail of Tears, the vast Cherokee lands, white settlement, the Civil War where families were often split and fighting on opposite sides. Lyndie is struggling to make sense of that history—she knows what she’s been reading in her school textbooks doesn’t tell the whole story of her town or her country. And similarly, she’s not getting the real story about what happened to her daddy in the war, either. She’s a kid beginning to make sense of the world, to figure out who her family is and how she fits into it, and to find her own truth. Love’s Forge is riddled with historical conflict, with pride of place, so it mirrors what Lyndie is feeling.

4. This story is definitely character-driven and about Lyndie’s struggles with her family situation and her relationships with friends. How did you plot out her character growth or did that come to you as you wrote her story?

I’m definitely a pantser (or a plodder, although I’d love to be what my friend Maika Moulite calls a “prancer”). In other words, I really never know where a book is going until I’ve written the first (or sometimes second or third) draft. Lyndie was composed over several years, and questions about what knowledge is true, and how we shape our telling of history, became more and more pressing over time. So I wanted to show how she grappled with those questions. I’m also interested in how we misjudge or misunderstand people, even people we are very close to. And what charity is required of us. And how our friends can help us find the best parts of ourselves. I kind of grew with Lyndie as I wrote and revised her story, so I was making emotional and personal discoveries right along with her.

5. I love your term "prancer." What was a challenge you faced when writing this? How did you overcome it?

Originally I conceived Lyndie as Vietnamese American; her mom was a Vietnamese woman evacuated at the end of the war. As time went on and the #ownvoices movement began to evolve, I realized that writing a story about a biracial child of war was not my story to tell. And in fact, I’d been using that filter as a way to distance myself from my own story. You have to dig deep to write middle grade fiction as much as adult fiction, and it requires you to revisit some sad and confusing childhood places you may prefer not to. So the challenge was to let go of my original conception and go to places in my own history that were less than comfortable. My editor, Kathy Dawson, encouraged me to take up that challenge, and I’m boundlessly grateful to her for it.

6. That's great that you could make such a drastic change. Share about your road to publication. Did you represent yourself or do you have a literary agent?

I queried my first book, a middle grade sci-fi, widely and was signed by a generous and intelligent young agent, Kristin Miller, at D4EO, when the agency had a satellite group of kidlit agents. Kristin got out of the business to focus on her own writing—she’s now a successful MG author herself, writing as K.D. Halbrook. The head of the agency Bob DiForio kindly agreed to take me on when she left.

7.What social media platforms have you decided are the right ones for you? Why? How are you connecting with authors, bloggers, and readers on them?

I’m still working out my relationship with social media. I decided to be active on Twitter just with author-related content—craft stuff, writing news, giveaways, boosting other authors. I’m mainly connecting with authors, teachers, and librarians on that platform. But social media can, at times, make me feel a kind of existential nausea—it’s a lot of information to process. It’s kind of the opposite of the deep work you have to do as a writer. So balance is important, and it can be tough to maintain. I have to be very strict with myself to keep from being sucked into the vortex. But I’ve made a ton of online friends who have opened up countless opportunities for me. I’m particularly grateful to the ARC tour groups of teachers, authors and librarians, groups like #bookexcursion, #bookvoyage, and many others, who pass advance copies from reader to reader and are a bedrock of support for middle grade authors.

8. I"ll have to check them out. How are you planning to market THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS? What advice do you have for other authors who are planning for the release of their debut book?

I think debut authors tend to swing wildly at first—trying to do it all, marketing-wise, until they find that’s completely untenable. But the number one thing debut authors MUST do is join a debut group. The Novel19s ( have been invaluable. I’ve learned so much about the publishing business from that group, I haven’t even been able to absorb all of it yet. The Novel19s have a subgroup for middle grade writers, and we are pretty much all madly in love with each other. I’m also a member of the Class of Y2K Books (, twenty YA and MG authors who have pooled financial resources to market our books—including placing ads, creating mailings, running social media contests and giveaways, and organizing events and conference proposals. They are an incredibly generous and talented group of people. And some Latinx debuts are also in yet another group, Las Musas ( I can’t recommend connecting with these groups highly enough. They will save your sanity in your debut year and give you all the tools you’ll need to market yourself and your books for years to come.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m drafting what I hope will be my next published middle grade novel, a historical story set in a Florida sawmill town in 1937. It’s about a trio of kids—a herbalist, a forensics nerd, and a young WPA photographer--who set off to rescue a mysterious creature and save the swampland they love. I’m also planning to write some short-ish middle grade stories to dramatize as podcasts with my sister, who is an amazingly talented screenwriter. And I have a couple of ideas for picture books I may fool around with. I was lucky to hear the novelist Sarah Aronson talking about the power of author “play” recently. I plan to do a lot of playing.

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

Twitter: @gailshepherd@gailshepherd

Gail has generously offered an ARC of THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS 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 March 23rd. 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. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, March 11th I have a  guest post by debut author Victoria Lee and her agents Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty with an ARC giveaway of Victoria's YA fantasy THE FEVER KING and a query critique giveaway by Holly and Taylor

Thursday, March 14th I'm participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Monday, March 18th I have an interview with debut author Sabina Khan and a giveaway of her YA contemporary/multicultural the love & lies of rukhsana ali 

Monday, March 25th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Uplinger and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Gillian McDunn and a giveaway of her MG contemporary CATEPILLAR SUMMER and my IWSG post

Hope to see you on Monday!


  1. Thanks Natalie for a most informative interview. So enjoyable to read.


  2. Poor Mr. Turkey! LOL. Quite the start to a literary career. Good luck to Gail with her new release. Hi, Natalie!

  3. I too think it's probably easier to get close to the protagonist.
    It's cool that Gail has always been able to write to make money. Thanks for sharing this cool interview. I liked learning about all the supportive writing groups.

  4. Natalie, delighted to see that you like your bad guys to have depth, complexity & motivation too - if either of us get round to writing one that is :)

  5. Great villains do have depth, agreed! The idea of pooling authors to enforce marketing sounds great. Thanks for the interview!

  6. Every character needs depth as Gail highlights in her interview.

  7. Sometimes, a writer can actually make the reader feel empathy for the villain, which is hard to pull off. Yes, every character needs depth which I have to work harder on.

  8. Wow - Gail's writing experience has run the full gamut. She's had an interesting journey. Thanks for sharing this interview.

    Complex villains are the best kind.

  9. Never written from the villain's perspective. Or written a true villain.
    Prancer - now that's funny!

  10. Sounds like a powerful read!! Good luck to Gail!

    I do like writing from a villain's pov - although I still don't want him to win!

  11. Hi Natalie, I hope my villains are complex characters who have a strong motivation for what they do.

  12. I usually write from the protag's pov but like you I create a villain somewhere on paper or character sheet. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  13. Complex villains are the best.

    *wince* Food poisoning for being a restaurant critic. Youch!

  14. I can't even think of any example of a children's book written form the antagonist's POV. You got my creative wheels spinning just thinking about it.

  15. I usually write from the hero's POV, but I do love getting into the villain's head! Congrats to Gail. The term "prancer" is fabulous!

  16. Bad guy, good guy - I dont have to like the characters but they need to be complex and compelling in order to keep me reading. :)

  17. I agree that making the antagonist a fully rounded character is really important. Not too cliche nasty if you know what I mean! Light and shade in all characters is important. Writing from the protagonist's view is natural for me too.

  18. I'll check out #bookexcursion and #bookvoyage - thank you.

  19. Lots of interesting tidbits on debut and social media. It is a vortex. Best of luck, Gail.

  20. I either write in one POV or two. From romance, it's always two. I started to do that when my publisher told me that readers usually want both perspectives for romance.

    I sure love a complex bad guy. Good buys, too!

  21. Children are always so deeply affected by what happens to their parents. This sounds like a great exploration of one girl's experience that might help others dealing with similar issues. Thanks for the interview and introducing Gail to us,Natalie.

    I agree that a villain has to be as complex as a hero. Maybe you'll write from the dark perspective one of these days. Let me know if you do.

  22. I love the sound of this book! Kids are emotional barometers to everything going on around them.

    Congrats to Gail.

  23. Great interview! I think stories work best with a complex villain. That way the reader is so intrigued he or she doesn’t want to put the book down. Happy IWSG Day :)

  24. I write romance, so it's hero vs heroine for me.

    The book sounds interesting. Every family has secrets.

  25. Wonderful interview! I really enjoyed the insights Gail had with the challenges in defining her characters.

    In my own writing, I write a lot of horror, and digging into both the protag and antag work for me. Sometimes, it's difficult to distinguish one from the other.

  26. I prefer the protag's POV but the villain/s need to be well fleshed out too.
    Lyndie's novel is a good example of writing what you know. Sounds awesome.

  27. Nice to meet your guest. Sounds like a good book! @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  28. Complex characters make them interesting and engaging! They just aren't always easy to write ;)

    THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS sounds like an awesome book!

  29. I love writing large sections of my books from the antagonists POV. I love a great bad gay(s)/girl(s).

  30. I usually stick to one POV, but am currently experimenting with two. I think it has the potential to work well – if I do it right!

  31. This sounds like a lovely, thoughtful book. Thank you for the interview.

  32. I love Gail's book! So deep and complex. Great interview ladies!

  33. Lyndie sounds like a great character. Interesting realities Gail faced in writing the story. Thanks for another intriguing interview.

  34. As much as I like to get into my protag's head, it is so very important to get into the villain's head too. What makes them act the way they do. What motivates them. It might be a scary ride, but worth it!

  35. Protagonist is easier to get close to.

    Yeah, social media sure can be an endless vortex to get sucked into.

  36. I write from my POV, so I guess I'm the protagonist. Life can be the antagonist (and teacher).

  37. Adding to my list, Gail! Thanks for this thoughtful and interesting interview, you two.

  38. Your book sounds fascinating, Gail. I write from the protagonists POV, because it's easier to empathize with, but the villain needs his/her persona fleshed out also.

  39. Thanks, Natalie, for introducing me to Gail. I love the sound of this book. Isn't it fascinating how a story will stay with you for years before you ever get to finish it? Best wishes.

    Re: perspective. I prefer the hero's. A well-done villain is too creepy for me.

  40. Enjoyed the interview. I want my characters to be complex too.

  41. I enjoyed the interview and can't wait to read this book. I shared on tumblr:

  42. I enjoyed reading the interview. The book sounds for interesting. Congratulations on its publication.

  43. It seems like every blog I've visited only concentrates on the protagonists. The poor antagonists don't stand a chance to get their story out there.

  44. I primarily write in the mindset of the Protagonist, too, Natalie. Thanks for a great interview with Gail. Her book sounds intriguing. I tried to connect with her on facebook. I couldn't get the twitter link to work. I'll try again later. All best to both of you!

  45. Good point about the protagonist/antagonist POC. Just because one doesn't 'lay out' all the things going on in the antagonist's head doesn't mean that they shouldn't be just as complex as the protagonist. Vincent Price said he played mainly 'bad guys' because 'all heroes are good in the same way, but the villains are evil in different ways.' Finding out why and how they are evil should be interesting.

  46. Another wonderful interview. Thanks for that. The book sounds terrific and right up my alley.

  47. I like the author's advice on joining a club of others who are all having debut novels at the same time. Smart!

    tamara (dot) narayan (at) gmail (dot) com

  48. Fantastic interview! Thanks so much for sharing with us. Can't wait to read this one! Congratulations! angelecolline at yahoo dot com

  49. I'm all for complex antagonists, Natalie. Thanks for posting Gail's interview. Her book sounds really interesting.

  50. I think a complex villain is every bit as important and a well rounded protagonist.

  51. Congrats to Gail! Sounds like this book is a real labour of love with all the work that's gone into it. Some interesting themes in there.

  52. I love the idea of your story. Congratulations. Great interview.

  53. It sounds like an interesting story.

  54. This sounds like an interesting story and I like that it is set in 1985 (I love the 80s). :) Such an interesting interview with Gail. Wishing her all the best. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. :)

  55. I cannot wait to read this. I love what Gail said about her old version not being her story to tell. So important. Thank you for the interview! And huge congrats to Gail.

  56. This interview really resonated with me--thank you Gail and Natalie! I especially appreciated Gail's insights into the marketing in the debut year and finding her balance with social media!