Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Hillary Fazzari Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 4/22/2024
  • Miriam Cortinovis Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/6/2024
  • Jenniea Carter Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/8/2024
  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
  • Jenna Satterthwaite Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/10/2024
  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/24/2024

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! Hope you're having a great summer. I just got back from a fun weekend with my mom visiting my aunt, uncle, and cousins. And I am going to Dallas later this month with my daughter to visit my late husband's family. It's been my best summer since my husband died.

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Gabrielle Byrne share about her debut MG fantasy RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON. Her book is a Junior Library Guild selection It sounds like it has beautiful world building and a main character with mysterious past, which is my kind of book. Can’t wait to read this.

Follower News

Angela Brown has a new adult book release, PEEL. Here's a blurb: 
Divinia “Divvy” Simone loves her daughter and making time for her passion for writing. Time for a love life? Not so much, especially not after being a divorced, single mother for several years.
That is, until Vance Mallard.
With Vance’s help, Divvy must put together her best friend’s wedding in under thirty days. The first week is the most crucial of all. Planning locations, music, and food are all par for the course. Peeling back the scarred layers protecting her heart? No way.
Vance has a plan of his own. And…
In one week, everything could change.
And a few links: 

Before I get to Gabrielle’s interview, I also have 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: The co-hosts this month are Renee Scattergood,Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner!

Optional Question: Has your writing ever taken you by surprise?

There's two ways that my writing has taken me by surprise since I restarted writing for myself again. First, I've gotten better in writing since I took a break and focused on my contract writing job.

Second, I'm surprised where my story goes sometimes. I have a general outline but some important plot points and other parts of the story have changed in dramatic ways as I listen to my critique partners' suggestions and I try to create characters and a story line that is a little different.

How has your writing surprised you?

Now onto Gabrielle's interview. Here’s a blurb of RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON from Goodreads

The ice never forgives.

The ice never forgets.

Princess Toli may be heir to the throne, but she longs to be a fierce hunter and warrior. Alone in a frozen world, her queendom is at the mercy of the dragons that killed her father, and Toli is certain it’s only a matter of time before they come back to destroy what’s left of her family.

When the dragons rise and seize her mother, Toli will do anything to save her— even trust a young dragon who may be the only key to the Queen's release.

With her sister and best friend at her side, Toli makes the treacherous journey across the vast ice barrens to Dragon Mountain, where long-held secrets await. Bear-cats are on their trail, and dragons stalk them, but the greatest danger might be a mystery buried in Toli’s past.

Hi Gabrielle! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi Everyone, and thanks so much for having me, Natalie! I’ve always loved to write--and in fact, wrote three books before I even decided to “be a writer”. It was really my first writing conference, and workshops on how to pitch to agents, that lit a fire under me to get published. My brain just hadn’t made the leap, from writing books to publishing them. Really, although of course they’re related, those are almost two separate journeys in my mind.

2. Where did you get the idea for RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON? 

It developed organically from two initial things. I knew I wanted Toli to be my main character. She started as a secondary character in a different book, and just took up residence in my brain. The other thing was the cold. I wanted to build Toli’s life around the idea of stories being told around a fire. I wanted to explore ideas about trust between siblings and between friends in the context of doubting those stories.

3. Awesome that Toli started as a secondary character in another story.The world you created is cold and icy but beautiful. What was your world building process like? What advice do you have on this for other fantasy writers?

For me, the story develops in tandem with the world building. I have a strong background in science, so I use that a lot too. I start with one or two things I want, and build around those things by asking questions about how needs are fulfilled. For example, in a cold world, how does each animal (or person) stay warm? What do they eat? What does their prey eat? What happens when they die? For the humans, what are their beliefs around each of those categories? Each question builds a richer place (and more questions). I never use all of it. I’d say only a third to half makes it into the book. I’m also a big believer in the setting being a character. Really, that’s about sharing emotional connections to the world, and making it feel real enough for the reader to expect things. For example, if your house smells like pancakes every Sunday morning, then one Sunday you wake up and it smells like burned rubber, you don’t need anyone to explain something’s wrong. The reader knows it, because they know the world. They have expectations that can be fulfilled, or countered.

4. I can see how science influences your world building. Toli, your main character, sounds like a strong leader, but also has her flaws. Share a bit about her and how her character developed as you told her story.

Toli was tough from the start--strong, but myopic. She can’t see that needing people doesn’t make her weak, and that making mistakes doesn’t make her a failure. What started as a kind-of social awkwardness and discomfort with feelings, evolved into the idea that her own flawed view of herself, and misunderstanding of her role in the world would impact all her decisions. Those decisions have consequences that move the story forward.

5. Share a challenge you had in revising your story with your agent or publisher. What did you learn from the process?

Tracking the days and the time were a big challenge. Instead of a sun, there are two moons that each rise and set differently on Ire. Over the course of a couple big edits, a lot of Toli’s journey shifted around, and the rising and setting of each moon, and the passage of time got all jumbled up. It took a while to untangle it. Now I keep notes that specifically track of the time of day, and passage of time in a story, at the start and end of each chapter. 

6. Your agent is Catherine Drayton. Tell us how she became your agent and what your road to publication was like.

I queried Catherine with a book I had worked on as a Pitch Wars mentee. She loved it, and offered rep! Rise of the Dragon Moon was our third book together. From the time I went to that first writing conference that got me amped to publish, to the time I sold my debut to Macmillan, was about seven years. Depending on how you count (which always seems to be a question with authors), I think ROTDM was about the seventh or eighth book that I’d written.

7. That's great how Catherine worked with you on more than one book. How have you been building your social media platform and planning for your release? What are your plans to promote your book?

I work full time and have kids, so my time is really limited. Everything I’ve heard is that it’s better to
be fully in one or two places that you enjoy, than to be in lots of places in a less engaged way. I really enjoy twitter - so it’s my platform of choice. Some people know me there because of Pitch Wars, which is lovely. I do have a facebook account for family and friends (including author friends), and I have an instagram account that I’m terrible at keeping up with, but really Twitter is my happy place. I’ve been able to do some great panel events, including at the Emerald City ComiCon and the SFWA annual conference. Those were a blast, and it’s always fun and enlightening to engage with other authors. I also hope to work with libraries and schools to the extent that I’m able, and I’m especially excited to maybe do some workshops around worldbuilding through a natural history lens, since that’s my background. I’ll be piloting that at the GeekGirl Con in Seattle in November.

8. You have also been a #PitchWars mentor. Tell us about PitchWars and how this can help an aspiring author get to the next step in terms of obtaining an agent and publishing contract.

PitchWars is amazing for a lot of reasons. Yes, it can help people reach agents, and eventually get published, and for some it’s done just that. But one this it can definitely do is improve craft. It’s a great place to me other serious aspiring writers, and exchange material and experiences. For me--and for lots of other people, the benefits of Pitch Wars are much more about building a community of committed writers that you can rely on to help develop your craft, and eventually, your career. While there have certainly been big successes through Pitch Wars, writers are more likely to find their agents through the query process (as I did), but participating does give authors the opportunity to improve, and build a network of writers at the same time--a priceless and ongoing resource.

9. What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on a new middle grade fantasy for Macmillan/Imprint--The Edge of Strange Hollow, about a girl named Poppy Sunshine who wants to hunt cursed objects in a fairy tale forest called the Grimwood.

Thanks so much for your advice, Gabrielle. You can find Gabrielle at:

Twitter: @gkbyrne 
Instagram: gkbyrnebooks

Gabrielle has generously offered an ARC of RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON 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 August 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. The ARC giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up next:

Monday, August 12th I'm doing a monthly newly released MG and YA giveaway if there is no giveaway hop in August

Monday, August 26th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Melissa Richeson

Hope to see you on Monday, August 12th!


lostinimaginaryworlds.blogspot.com said...

What a lovely name, Gabrielle - Poppy Sunshine - and your titles, too.
And thank you for all your help, Casey 🌹

nashvillecats2 said...

Pleased you've had a good summer Natalie, next month my husband passed away 21 yrs ago. much water have flowed under the bridge since then. Writing certainly came as a surprise for me many years ago. It's part of my life now.
Enjoy your day and also enjoy Dallas.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Gabrielle, that's what it's all about - finding your happy place in social media.

Natalie, that contract writing was good practice, wasn't it?

Jennifer Hawes said...

Gabrielle's book sounds awesome! The cover design is breathtaking.

Lynn La Vita said...

Interesting to learn contract writing improved your writing? I can't help but ask, "How come?"

Lynn La Vita @ Writers Supporting Writers

Cathrina Constantine said...

Gabrielle's book sounds amazing. Great Interview.

I've tried plotting, but like you said, my stories have a way of turning a down a different path. LOL.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Being a part of Pitch Wars really paid off for Gabrielle.
Glad you are writing, Natalie!

Juneta key said...

I the sound of Pitch Wars scares me, but I guess I really should check it out.

emaginette said...

I love it when my story side-tracks for a bit. It adds flavor and color I would have missed otherwise. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Sarah Foster said...

My stories are always surprising me, since the characters are really the ones in charge, not me :)

Anonymous said...

Great interview! I love the cover of Rise of the Dragon Moon.

My writing always surprises me. I've learned to let the story unfold, even if it deviates from my outline. My characters have taken some interesting side roads that lead to new discoveries. Some stay, some don't. But the journey is always fun.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Natalie, glad to hear this is a good summer and that you're writing! Enjoy your travels.

I got Angie's book. Gabrielle's sounds good too.

Jemi Fraser said...

Rise of the Dragon Moon and Peel both sound terrific!
I love the surprises I experience in my writing - keeps it fun for sure!

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats on your novel, Gabrielle, and thanks for sharing the perseverance of your publishing path. I had a long journey to publication too, and I was also a Pitch Wars mentor! Cheers!

Computer Tutor said...

Good post as usual. I like that you feel your writing improved after the break. That's good to hear.

Loni Townsend said...

Woot! It's nice when you can see improvements in your own work.

Grats to Gabrielle. :)

Gwen Gardner said...

Hey Natalie, critique partners are awesome and they often see things that you won't because you're too close to the story. So glad you're back at writing again.

Gabrielle, congrats on your new release. Twitter is my favorite platform too. I just never really "got" Instagram.

cleemckenzie said...

Writing talent and a background in science is a great combination. Huge congrats to Gabrielle on her debut success.

And huge congrats to you on your return to writing. I know how life can steer you away from what you love to do, so I doubly appreciate what you're doing.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Nice interview!

As for IWSG, writing can be such a fun surprise, can't it?

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Glad to hear you're having a good summer, Natalie. Hope you enjoy your upcoming trip!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

So happy to hear that you're writing, Natalie, and finding surprises too. That makes it lots of fun. An awesome interview too. The book sounds like a good one. Great cover. Have a super rest of the week.

Pat Hatt said...

Gotta love when a character sticks in the head and wants to get their own tale.

Always fun to meet writing goals too.

Denise Covey said...

Ha, Natalie. It's my critique partners who've helped me finally learn how to plot and offer great suggestions for making my stories more interesting. I'm learning to be less of a pantser and more of an outliner. Not that I still don't think outlining is generally a waste of time as the story surprises me. I like the idea of one writer who's selling gazillions of books - just write a sentence or two about each chapter.

kimlajevardi.com said...

Gabrielle's debut sounds fantastic! Happy writing!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Any story with a dragon in it is a win for me ;)

I love it when a story surprises me. Even when I outline.

Crystal @ Lost in Storyland said...

Rise of the Dragon Moon is a book on my TBR list. I love a good MG fantasy, and it's a plus that there are dragons! It was interesting to learn how science influences the world building and the author's road to publication!

Olga Godim said...

I found that writing in different genres or formats, like fiction and non-fiction, enhances both. I'm not surprised you've become better at your fiction after you wrote on spec for a while.
A new dragon story - how fascinating.

Rosi said...

This book is getting a lot of buzz. Thanks for the interesting interview. I will pass on the giveaway. I'm buried in books.

Angela Brown said...

Hi Natalie and Gabrielle!
As always, I pick up some wonderful nugget of knowledge that is helpful in my own writing journey when I read the interviews here.

Natalie, glad you're getting back into writing outside of your contract job.

Gabrielle, your novel sounds fantastic. I often find I can't help building my reading TBR list from some of the excellent authors who visit Literary Rambles. Time for me to look into yours.

Natalie, thank you so much for sharing about Peel in the Follower News. I'm truly humbled :-)

Doreen McGettigan said...

I enjoyed the interview and all of the wonderful information here!

Chrys Fey said...

I love the simplicity of Angela's cover. It's beautiful!

I've thought about participating in PitchWars but chickened out. Gabrielle has pushed me a little more into possibly trying it sometime.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've heard the advice that writing non-fiction helps your fiction writing. I write some articles for organizations I belong to but I should do more.

sherry fundin said...

glad to hear the summer has been good for you. :-)
sherry @ fundinmental

Danielle H. said...

This book's cover is gorgeous! I am putting this book on my TBR. I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/186868959917/gabrielle-byrne-interview-and-rise-of-the-dragon

Michael Di Gesu said...

Congrats Gabrielle! All the best. And I agree, the cover is beautiful!

Natalie... glad to hear you are writing for yourself again! I'm not sure if I was ever REALLY surprised by my writing, but it does allow me to vent out so many different emotions which can take the story in various directions.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Good to hear you are back to working on your own writing! Though I think a break might be helpful sometimes, it only helps if you go off break and start writing :)

Samantha Bryant said...

It's amazing what a break can do for your art sometimes! @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Powdered Toast Man said...

I find it tough to read books around a campfire. It's better in the tent with a flashlight.

Randomly found your blog through IWSG.

Natasha said...

Great interview!
Rise of the Dragon Moon sounds like a great read!!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Greg Pattridge said...

I can confirm Gabrielle is a great Pitch Wars mentor as she guided me though the process in 2017. I've been following the progress on her book and can't wait to give it a read. The MC and story line have me hooked. Thanks as always for the informative interview.

Angie Quantrell said...

I love stories with dragons! This sounds fascinating! Congratulations! Natalie, I LOVE it when my writing takes me surprising directions. I say, "Wow, where did that come from?" It makes writing so much fun. Sharing on Twitter.

Tamara Narayan said...

It is fun to see what our brains come up with in the midst of story writing--surprises are always welcome, well, as long as they don't make us write ourselves into a corner, I suppose.

Diane Burton said...

I love the diverse paths my writing takes me. Like you, Natalie, I start off knowing the ending and a few plot points. Then my characters take over and surprise me. Most of the time that's good. sometimes, I have to rewrite because I've gone off on a wild tangent. Best wishes.