Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Devin Ross here. She is a literary agent at New Leaf Literary & Media

Submission Status 5/25/2020: Ms. Ross is no longer listed as an agent at New Leaf Literary, and I can find no other information abut her.

Hi­ Devin! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Devin:

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

I’ve been agenting for just under a year now. It was a natural progression for me. I had been working with Joanna Volpe at New Leaf for several years. My responsibilities grew with the job and then it was time for me to start growing my own list. As an agent, I represent both children’s and adult projects. Right now, my priority is growing my client list, and finding exciting new projects to work on!

About the Agency:

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

New Leaf Literary is a full service agency. We have the infrastructure in-house to support our clients in all of their creative endeavors. New Leaf clients work with our film, foreign rights, and marketing teams directly. However, I think one of the best parts of working with New Leaf, is being a part of the New Leaf family. Our authors are SO supportive of each other, no matter what point in their career they are.

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?

As of right now, I mostly represent YA, with a few MG projects as well. In YA, I love contemporary stories that speak to what it means to be a teen. Whether the story is happy, sad, inspirational, doesn’t matter as long as it tells a truth. I love magical realism. Stories that change the world just slightly but make me believe it could be possible are my absolute favorite. I also love when magical realism is used to investigate emotions.

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

A recent wish list item of mine: I’d love to see a great holiday season story in my queries (in MG or YA!). It can be Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, any holiday! But I’d love to see a holiday story with family, traditions, love, and food! 

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

Currently, I’m not looking for science fiction. Although I love sci-fi stories, I am not requesting much now that have several projects on my list.

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?

My philosophy is always to always work in the best interests of an author’s long-term career. Working with authors that have lots of ideas and long-term ambitions is a priority of mine. In terms of the books to represent, I want my list to reflect the world we live in. I hope that, as my list grows, I’ll be working with more and more diverse authors, telling stories of their own in any genre.

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?

I work editorially on every project that I sign. What that means for each author, and each project, is different. But I am there every step of the way, from brainstorming pitches, helping to plot or fill in a synopsis, to larger developmental edits and line edits. Some authors prefer feedback at the earliest stage, and some work with their critique partners and I only see the project once it’s fully developed.

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?

The things I look for in a good query letter are good comp titles, a good one line pitch, and why an author thinks their project is a good fit for me and my list. If you decide to query me after reading this interview, mention it! Tell me why! Adding that personal touch gives me the sense that you know what I am doing, what I am looking for, and that you think your project falls within those lines. Good comp titles are crucial to showing your projects marketability. Finally, a snappy one line pitch shows your books has a nook and is easily pitched to editors. If an agent signs your book, they’ll be pitching it all over the place, so this is always one of the first things I look for.

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

I don’t like generic queries that aren’t personalized and don’t speak to how a project fits with my list or with New Leaf. I know writing query letters can be exhausting. But this is your first interaction with your potential agent. Putting your best foot forward, and taking the time to do your research is always going to be in your best interest. Not to mention, it will definitely draw my attention and will result in my spending more time with your pages.

Response Time:

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

I respond to queries within a month of receipt. I always try to aim for this with requested material as well. However, client projects always take precedent on my reading list so sometimes it does take me a touch long to respond to requested 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?

I do currently represent a self-published author, as well as several authors who have plans to self publish! My advice would be to be honest about what you have published already, and if you have substantial numbers from self-publishing, share them! I would also suggest querying with a project you have not yet self-published. Many publishers want projects that have not already been made available online, so querying with a fresh project will draw more interest from agents than a project that’s up online.

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?

There’s space for everyone in this industry! Currently agents work with all different types of authors, and different publishers. Authors’ goals are different. It doesn’t always make sense to send their projects to only big publishers; sometimes independent publishers are the better fit. Similarly, many authors choose to self-publish works that don’t sell traditionally. Many agents are already working in many spaces, and I’m sure that will continue to be true.


13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I work with an amazing group of authors! You can see my full client list on the New Leaf website.

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.

Links and Contact Info:

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

Authors should query me through the New Leaf Querying channels. They can send their queries to query@newleafliterary.com. They need to include Query, Devin Ross in the subject line, as well as the category (ie, YA Contemporary) in order for it to get to me. Authors can find the detailed query guidelines at http://www.newleafliterary.com/submissions/

Additional Advice:

16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

My best advice is to just keep going! Querying is hard. You get a lot of rejections, or even just non-responses. My best advice is just to keep writing. One project does not define you, and it is not the end all be all. Write another book, query again. Your craft will get better with every page you write, and you work will find it’s place in the world.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Devin.

Profile Details:
Last Updated: 5/25/2020.
Agent Contacted for Review? No
Last Reviewed By Agent? N/A.

­Devin 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 May 11th.  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.


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Tonja Drecker here to share about her MG magical realism MUSIC BOXES. It sounds like a book that deals with family issues that middle graders can relate to and also has creepy magical realism. I’m looking forward to reading this one.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

“I only desire your talent...”

Twelve-year-old Lindsey McKay's biggest dream is to be a famous ballerina. But after moving to New York, she ends up at the Community Center with a teacher who’s a burly bear in tights.
When she meets Madame Destinée, the teacher of a top dance school who offers her classes for free, Lindsey can't believe her luck. In exchange, she must perform in the school’s exclusive midnight shows, ones sure to make her a star. But something’s not right...
One by one, the other dancers disappear. Each time they do, a music box with a figurine just like the missing ballerina joins Madame Destinée’s growing collection. If Lindsey doesn’t discover the truth about the dance school, she might end up a tiny figurine herself.

Hi Tonja! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

The idea of becoming a writer didn’t occur to me until years after I graduated from college. I accompanied my husband to Dublin for a several month project he was heading. Since my first two children were young and still took naps, I had extra time on my hands and flipped through the shelves of romance novels found in our rental house. I had an epiphany—authors are people, and writing is a job. (Amazing, I know!) I picked up my pen and started to write something not only intended to collect eternal dust in my drawer.

2. Fun way to get into writing.Where did you get the idea for MUSIC BOXES?

I have no clue. That’s a horrible answer, isn’t it? I was out weeding my garden—blackberries with nasty thorns—and the image of a ballet teacher staring at rows of music boxes on her office shelves settled into my mind. Since I drove my four kids back and forth from three different schools at the time, I used the image to build a story for our daily ‘car story time’. And that’s how Music Boxes was born.

3. Fun how random ideas turn into stories. I read in another interview that you wrote the first of this in about 30 days. I’m jealous. Is that normal for you? And what was your revision process like?

I wish it was normal! I’m a turtle-writer. While Music Boxes was typed in 30 days, I’d been telling the story for months beforehand.
Revisions are where the magic happens. After finishing the first draft, I put the story down for several weeks (I’d like to say a month, but I get impatient). I edit it several more times, send it off to my critique partners, edit it a few more times, and then send it to the beta readers. One round of edits is done on a completely printed out manuscript. For another, I read it out loud to my dog—he doesn’t whine and loves the attention.

4. I wish I could write as fast as you. Your book sounds like a real page turner. How did you plant the mysteries about Madame Destinée’s ballet school and keep the suspense high so that readers wanted to turn the page?

The story was simply fun to write. Adding a dibble here and a dabble there was like tapping into my secret dark side. I loved diving into Madame Destinée’s magical dance school and peeking around every sinister corner, wondering what I’d find next.

5. Share a challenge that you had in writing MUSIC BOXES either before you signed your publishing contract or when working with your editor. What did you learn from it?

Music Boxes flipped back and forth between first person and third person several times. It took a bit
of stepping back and shutting out other opinions to rediscover what my characters wanted—always listen to the characters. But I did learn that sometimes the switch from third person (my preferred voice) to first person and back again allows the characters to express their feelings more clearly and can help me gain a better understanding of their thoughts.

6. That's great that you were able to make such a major revision. What was your road to publication like and what has it been like to work with a small press?

It was a rough road. I landed my first agent quickly. We revised, but before hitting submissions, she moved into the marketing department, and the agent who took her place preferred other genres. Music Boxes was dropped.

My next agent came through a Twitter #MSWL shout-out. The first round of submissions held some extremely near, big misses (my chocolate consumption soared!) But then, as the round came to an end and we started to discuss smaller revisions before hitting round two, she changed her life’s direction. Again, the other agents weren’t a good fit, and Music Boxes was left on the curb. I queried a little but wasn’t excited about going the agent route anymore (nor did the ones I queried want a manuscript which had already been out on submission). I took a break, published some short stories, and then decided to try it on my own. It didn’t take long. Although they were seeking historical MG fiction, I gave Dancing Lemur Press a go because they had published spooky fiction in the past—I was aware I was walking a very fine line and committing a submission ‘no-no’.

Although small, Dancing Lemur Press has been the most energetic, amazing champions Music Boxes could ever have.  I can’t imagine a better publishing experience. While I’ve heard from other authors that their small publishers aren’t as active on the marketing end, mine is a gem. I can’t speak highly enough of them and wouldn’t change a thing.

7. How are you planning to market MUSIC BOXES? Why did you decide on your marketing plan?

Oh, the dreaded marketing! The early reviews started up months before release. I still try to contact 2-3 bloggers/reviewers each week, but the focus has now shifted to schools, libraries, bookstores and such. While my publisher does contact hundreds of them, it’s the personal phone call which counts. I need to work up my courage before each one. The publisher and I are constantly seeking and researching new ways to spread the world about Music Boxes.

8. This is not the first book that you published. Share a little bit about your career and what you’ve learned along the way about continuing to get your books published and marketing them.

Actually…Music Boxes is my first book in the traditional sense. I’ve published several short stories and love to use anthologies to stretch into new directions. It’s a great way to learn. With the various agents and revisions, Music Boxes ate up much of my writing time during the last years.  A Glowworm— a YA historical story about a lesser known event in Germany after World War II— was published as an audio/Ubook.
I’ve learned that patience and perseverance are key. Publishing isn’t fast paced, and long-term goals are as valuable as short ones. Plus, you need to push yourself. No one will come to your door, wave a wand and make things happen. On the same hand, people are willing to help if you ask them. The writing community is amazing.

9. That's great advice. What are you working on now?

I’ve got a couple of things I’m currently working on. The first is a joint project with another author, a young adult fantasy with darker tones. Many of the characters border on crazy, which makes it a joy to write! The second project heads in the middle grade mystery direction again, but instead of dark, it steers towards humor and concentrates on STEM.
We’ll see where these two stories go in the end.

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

Buy links :
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41452109

Tonja has generously offered MUSIC BOXES 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 April 27th. 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. The book 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, April 22nd I'm off

Monday, April 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Devin Ross and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, May 1st I have a guest post with debut author Joan He and her agent John Cusik with a query critique and DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE giveaway and my IWSG post

Monday, May 6th I have a guest post with debut author Beth Anderson and her agent Stephanie Fretwell-Hill with a query critique and AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET giveaway

Hope to see you on Friday!


Happy Sunday Everyone! Today I'm excited to participate in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop hosted by by BookHounds. I am so grateful to Mary at BookHounds for continuing to host these giveaways.

I'm also celebrating today. Literary Rambles reached a milestone about two weeks ago of 6,000,000 page views. I want to thank all of you for your support of my blog and for being such great followers. This blog gives me purpose and is way to help other aspiring writers and share my love of books. Thank you all so much.

I've got a lot of new releases to share with you this month. 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 telling me what book you want or that you want the gift card through April 30th. 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. I will also give you an extra entry if you follow me on Twitter and let me know this. You can get two extra entries by commenting on one of my debut author interviews or guest posts listed at the top of my blog and mentioning it in your comment. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is International.

Here's what's coming up:

Tomorrow, Monday, April 15th I have an interview with author Tanya Drecker and a giveaway of her MG fantasy MUSIC BOXES

Monday, April 22nd I'm off

Monday, April 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Devin Ross and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, May 1st I have a guest post with debut author Joan He and her agent John Cusick with a giveaway of her YA fantasy DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE and a query critique by John and my IWSG post

Monday, May 6th I have a guest post by debut author Beth Anderson and her agent Stephanie Fretwell-Hill and a giveaway of her picture book AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET by Beth and a query critique by Stephanie

Monday, May 13th I have a guest post by debut author Remy Lai and her agent Jim McCarthy and a giveaway of her MG contemporary PIE IN THE SKY by Remy and a query critique by Jim

Monday, May 20th I have a guest post by debut author Rajani LaRocca and her agent Brent Taylor and a giveaway of her MG contemporary MIDSUMMER'S MAYHEM by Rajani and a query critique by Brent

Hope to see you tomorrow!

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


 Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Swati Teerdhala here to share about her YA fantasy THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT. It sounds like a real page turner with characters you’ll grow to love. It will be released April 23rd and I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. She’s devoted her life to avenging what she lost in the royal coup, and now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has been growing only more volatile.

Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces. As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both rebel and soldier must make unforgivable choices.

Drawing inspiration from ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology, the first book in Swati Teerdhala’s debut fantasy trilogy captivates with electric romance, stunning action, and the fierce bonds that hold people together—and that drive them apart.

Hi Swati! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve always been an avid reader since I was very young. In fact, if I misbehaved, one of the most

effective punishments was to say I wouldn’t be able to go to the library that week! Seriously, it would kill me. I wrote here and there since I was a kid, dabbling in darkly comedic plays in middle school and poetry in high school but it wasn’t until I joined the workforce after college that I started to write novels. I had worked for so hard toward a ‘good’ career and while I enjoyed it, I really missed being creative. I’ve always danced or sang or created art since I was a kid and for the first time, I didn’t have any outlet. I’d always wanted to write a book so I just started and then I couldn’t stop!

2. That would be a harsh punishment for me too. Where did you get the idea for THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT?

I first got the idea for The Tiger at Midnight when I was traveling and visiting an old Fort. It was the first spark of an idea of what would become The Tiger at Midnight and the first time I heard the voice of Kunal, one of the two main characters. I looked out from one of the old window openings and wondered what would be the most odd or startling thing a soldier of old might have seen. A girl. And that’s the opening page of THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT.

3. Your story is based on Indian history and Hindu mythology. I met my husband in India, so I think I’m going to love your story. How much research did you do for it, and what advice do you have on research for a fantasy?

A lot of the worldbuilding was pulled from my own direct experience and knowledge of India and Indian culture, being Indian-American. However, there was TONS of research required. While I grew up steeped in the culture and Hindu mythology, there was a lot I didn’t know or knew only one side of. I researched everything from the ecological topography of India to historically accurate clothing (the world is set in a fantastical ancient India).

I’d advise anyone starting research to look for primary sources when combing through history and to always get multiple viewpoints. As for other research, make sure to look beyond Wikipedia. Get books from the library or scour old texts on Google Books. That was invaluable to me, as was asking my family in India to send me Indian texts as well.

4. That's great advice about using the library or Google books. It sounds like from the description of your book that the story is fast-paced and very plot driven. How did you plot it out, especially with Esha’a and Kunal’s misperceptions on their control of their situations?

I’m a plotter by nature so I started out with a pretty clear outline before my first draft, one that focused on emotional beats and the budding relationship between the two of them. It wasn’t until the second, third, and fourth drafts that I added more intrigue and focused on pacing. I found the best way to do that was to think of my ending and find the most surprising way to get there (but also having plot beats that readers could anticipate!).

5. I love the advice to make getting to the end of a story as surprising as possible. Was it challenging to make Esha a sympathetic character with her role as an assassin? Why?

In addition to being a spy and assassin, Esha is also a girl, which definitely made it more challenging to make her sympathetic. Esha is focused and ruthless, while also being loyal and kind. She was a complex character and the hardest part was making sure that complexity was apparent. Girls in YA are often labeled “unlikeable” if they’re not soft and retiring or more traditionally masculine. So balancing that line was important.

6. Your agent is Kristin Nelson. She’s always sounded like a fantastic agent. How did she become an agent and what was your road to publication like?

Kristin is fantastic! I participated in #DVPit in April 2017 and Kristin liked my pitch. I queried her after that and from there, it was a pretty traditional process. I signed with her a few weeks later and then in the fall of 2017 we went on submission and sold! The whole process was a whirlwind of and I was so lucky to have an expert like Kristin by my side.

7. How are you marketing your book? Has your experience in marketing helped you at all with this?
Working in marketing for my day job has definitely helped me understand how important and unimportant marketing is in the book world. I’ve mainly tried to focus on creating relationships with my readers, bloggers, and fellow writers through social media and events. While I did put together a preorder campaign, I did it more as a token of appreciation for all the people who are taking the time to support my book. My experience in marketing has helped me kind of keep things in perspective–but also to know where to put my time and effort in.

8. I saw on your website that you were a pitch war mentor in 2018. How did that come about? Share a bit how it can be helpful to have a mentor or be one.

I love mentoring! My first experience being a mentor was for Author Mentor Match, which I absolutely loved, so it was natural for me to choose to be a Pitch Wars co-mentor with my friend, Roseanne Brown. Before being a mentor for Author Mentor Match, I was part of the program and was mentored by Axie Oh, author of REBEL SEOUL. She was such a vital part of helping me find the core of my story for THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT and she was there through all the milestones of my publishing journey. While I don’t think it’s necessary to have a mentor, it’s wonderful to have someone who can guide you on your initial path to publication.

9. Now that your book is about to be released, is there anything that you wish you had known earlier or done differently once you knew that you would be published? Why?

Not much, actually! Everything that’s happened has been a valuable lesson along the road. I would say I wish I had known how subjective publishing can be and how it rarely has anything to do with you personally. That was a lesson that took me awhile but is so important to know, especially as our novels are so personal to us. At the end of the day, publishing is a business!

10. Yes, it's very subjective. What are you working on now?

Well, I’m currently wrapping up edits on Book 2 and drafting Book 3 of THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT trilogy, which is so exciting–and terrifying. I’m also dabbling in something else fun, but that’s going to have to remain a secret for now… :)

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

Swati generously offered an ARC of THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT 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 April 20th. 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. The ARC giveaway is U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, April 8th I have an interview with debut author Swati Teerhadla and a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT

Wednesday, April 10th I have an agent spotlight interview with Mary Cummings and a query critique giveaway

Sunday, April 14th I am participating in the Happy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

Monday, April 15th I have an interview with author Tanya Drecker and a giveaway of her MG fantasy MUSIC BOXES

Monday, April 22nd I'm off

Monday, April 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Devin Ross and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Gillian McDunn here to share about her MG contemporary CATERPILLAR SUMMER. It sounds like a story with memorable characters that will really pull at your heart. And it has a cool setting—an island in North Carolina. 

Before I get to Gillian's interview, I have news and my IWSG post.


Right now, there is no monthly book giveaway hop scheduled in April. If there isn't one, I'm planning to start a newly released MG and YA giveaway the third Friday of the month starting in April. I will also offer books I've recently spotlighted. So my first post will be on April 19th. It's a way for me to feature new books, and hopefully you all will want to stop by and enter the contest. I'll continue them if I feel there is enough of an interest.

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are:  J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, Patsy Collins, and Chemist Ken!

Optional Question: If you could use a wish to help you write just ONE scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be? (examples: fight scene / first kiss scene / death scene / chase scene / first chapter / middle chapter / end chapter, etc.)

First of all, I'm really happy to be a co-host again this month. I'm glad to Alex and the rest of the IWSG team and get to meet more members of this group.

I'd use my wish for help with my first chapter. It's such an important chapter in terms of grabbing a reader's, agent's, and editor's attention and pulling them into a story. I struggle with my chapter and often rewrite it. In fact, I'm wondering about that now for my current manuscript.

What about you? Where do you need the most help in your writing?

Now onto Gillian's interview. Here’s a blurb of CATERPILLAR SUMMER from Goodreads

Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond--Cat is one of the few people who
can keep Chicken happy. When he has a "meltdown" she's the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She's the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.
But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn't go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another's shoes. 

Hi Gillian! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve loved books ever since I can remember, and have always dreamed of being a writer. I wrote professionally for a number of years--technical writing (software), training materials, grant writing, public relations writing--but inside I felt like something was missing. One day I decided it was time to try the thing I’d always wanted to do. 

2. I'm a contract writer now and as much as I enjoy it, wish I had more time to write for myself too. Where did you get your idea for your story?

When I write, I start with relationships. I had the idea for a protective older sister who would keep her little brother safe, no matter what. After that, I started asking “what if” type questions until the story began to come together. I wanted to explore all kinds of family dynamics: siblings, mom-daughter, grandparent/grandchild. I was also inspired by my love for the North Carolina coast, which is where the book takes place.

3. Like your main character, Cat, you were a big sister to a brother with special needs. How much of this experience did you rely on in creating Cat’s relationship with Chicken? And how did you pick their names?

For CATERPILLAR SUMMER, I borrowed aspects of my relationship with Andy. He had multiple disabilities and the two of us were very close--I was his sister, his helper, and his protector. I wanted to capture a multifaceted sibling relationship--where responsibility and love and joy all mix together. Chicken’s needs are very different from Andy’s, but I hope I captured some of the feel of my relationship with my brother.

As for their names, Cat’s name is short for for Catherine and Chicken’s is a nickname for Henry. Their mom is a picture book author/illustrator of a series called Caterpillar & Chicken and she bases these characters on her children and their relationship.

Mom’s work (and the way she sees her children) is a big theme in the book, and several of “her” illustrated picture book manuscripts appear as books-within-the-book, beautifully illustrated by Alisa Coburn, who also did the cover. Cat begins to feel a bit pigeonholed when she reads Mom’s books. In the stories, Caterpillar is patient, wise, and a bit self-sacrificing--always for Chicken’s sake. Cat loves her brother deeply, and she also wonders if she’s more than those qualities. I hope it will be fun for readers to analyze Caterpillar’s actions and what that means for Cat.

4. That's great how you drew from your own experiences but also made your story different. From reading reviews, it sounds like your characters—not just Cat and Chicken—are really memorable and pull at readers’ hearts. Creating vivid characters that readers are invested in is hard. What’s your advice on doing this?

I do a lot of noodling before I begin drafting. My characters all get their own backstories and
likes/dislikes. I look for their significant moments and also spending time thinking about their favorite breakfast cereal. Even if most of this information doesn’t make its way directly to the written page, it helps me make sense of the characters as real people. After that writing is done, I interview them. This is my favorite way to feel everyone’s voice. Once those parts are down, I usually feel ready to start drafting.

5. What was a challenge you faced in writing CATERPILLAR SUMMER either before submission or when working with your editor or agent? How did you overcome it?

One of my biggest challenges is learning to be more patient with myself. I need a lot of time to noodle around with ideas before I start writing. If I have enough thinking time, the writing part tends to flow quickly. Yet sometimes I’m hard on myself on those days I’m not racking up an amazing word count.

It’s not something I would say I’ve overcome, but I’m definitely improving. Some things that help: talking with my husband (a extremely process-oriented person), walking my dog, cutting back on screen time, reading, spending time outside. Each day I’m learning to trust the process (and myself!) more and more.

6. I have to be patient myself too. Thanks for the great advice. Your agent is Marietta Zacker. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I queried Marietta in early December and she requested the following week. In January, she sent me one of the most special letters I’ve ever received. She was offering a revise and resubmit, which was exciting in itself. But it was her brilliant insight in her letter that blew me away. I read the whole letter thinking “yes, yes yes!” That same week, I was lucky enough to have a call with Marietta and Erin Casey, a junior agent at Gallt & Zacker, and they impressed me even further with their comment and thoughts. I was so excited that I was shaking--my teeth were chattering at one point!

I revised and sent to her in early March, and Marietta told me she’d get back to me within two weeks. I remember telling myself that I couldn’t handle being on edge for an entire two weeks. I told myself that I would have to wait a solid seven days before I could start checking my email every few minutes. But the next day, my phone rang and it was Marietta offering representation! It was a thrilling moment, and one I will always remember.

Marietta found the perfect editor--Mary Kate Castellani at Bloomsbury. After I talked with Mary Kate on the phone I was pretty much sold. She is a GENIUS and also incredibly sweet and kind. It’s really lovely working with her, and everyone at Bloomsbury has been fantastic in general. I’m very lucky.
7. I saw on your website that you are attending a number of book festivals and the Texas Library Association as well as having a release party. How did you decide to participate in these and get invited?

See above for how wonderful Bloomsbury is! They suggested the events and did all the pitching and planning. I am absolutely thrilled to participate. I love books and book people!
8. That's awesome how your publisher helped you with this. How else are you marketing your book?

Release week, I will be on tour with stops in St. Louis, Wichita, and Houston. Locally, I have several school visits planned for release month. I love talking to kids! I’ve been an active member of the Novel 19 debut group and participate in their monthly Twitter chats (on the 19th of the month at 9pm).

9. Your book is just releasing. What’s something that you wish you would have done or known earlier that might have helped you with the release of your book?

When I began writing, I never anticipated how special my friendships with other writers would be.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on revisions for my second book, which explores girl friendships and social aggression. It will be out in 2020.

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


Gillian and her publisher are generously offering a hardback of CATERPILLAR SUMMER 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 April 20th. 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. The book giveaway is U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, April 8th I have an interview with debut author Swati Teerhadla and a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT

Wednesday, April 10th I have an agent spotlight interview with Mary Cummings and a query critique giveaway

Monday, April 15th I have an interview with author Tanya Drecker and a giveaway of her MG fantasy MUSIC BOXES

Friday, April 19th I have a YA and MG newly released book giveaway

Monday, April 22nd I'm off

Monday, April 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Devin Ross and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!