Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • 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.


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I have a guest post by Martin Cavannaugh at Reedsy on why you need unlikeable characters in your story. Reedsy a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. Reedsy also provides tools to help authors write and format their books, as well as free courses and webinars on publishing


Before I get to Martin's guest post, I have Follower News to share! Jacqua Murray recently released THE QUEST FOR HOME, the second book in the Crossroads prehistoric fiction series. Here's a blurb: Driven from her home. Stalked by enemies. Now her closest ally may be a traitor.
And here's a few links: Available at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU
Author website: https://jacquimurray.net

Now here's Martin's guest post!

Why You Need Unlikable Characters in Your Story
A common piece of advice writers receive is to make their characters likable and relatable. The
logic behind this is sound: readers have to spend however-many-pages with these characters, so you don’t want to turn them off by making your protagonist repugnant. However, new writers often take this too literally and craft a story where everyone is squeaky-clean, morally upright, and — dare we say it? — dull.

If you’re not convinced by that, here are some more reasons for including unlikable characters in your story.

Every story needs conflict

Without conflict, a plot is just a series of events with little consequence. To have an actual story, you need conflict based on the want or need of a main character. Maybe your protagonist comes across something that prevents them from getting what they want — and the story will be about how they tackle that obstacle. In most cases, this obstacle will take the form of an antagonist. The Voldemort to your Harry Potter; the Khan to your Kirk.

The antagonist could be sympathetic. If they’re well written, the baddie in your story should be relatable to some degree — but if they’re entirely likable, then why are they in conflict with your hero? Gollum from The Lord of the Rings is, unquestionably, a sympathetic character. However, he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to recover his Precious, which includes doing some seriously unlikable things.

Perhaps the protagonist is in conflict against a system. In dystopian fiction, for example, our hero might find themselves up against an oppressive system of government. But even in those cases, it’s often more satisfying if that system is represented by an unlikable character, like a smug bureaucrat.

Even a likable protagonist must have flaws

There’s a trope made popular by the internet called the “Mary Sue.” This is a character who’s perfect in every way, completely capable and universally loved and respected. The “Mary Sue” (or “Marty Stu,” as the male variant has been dubbed) is not only unbelievable, but completely uninteresting. As this trope demonstrates, without flaws, a character has nothing to learn from their journey and no scope for change.

Flaws will make a character more relatable, but they can make them somewhat unlikable as well — which is not necessarily a bad thing. Harry Potter becomes something of a petulant teenager in the later books. While many readers didn’t enjoy this development, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t a necessary part of this character development.

If you are a student of the hero’s journey, you’ll be aware of the “dark night of the soul,” the point in the second act where it seems that all is lost for the protagonist. And only by overcoming their own shortcomings are they able to win the day.

Then there are anti-heroes: protagonists who occupy a moral gray area. Modern readers are increasingly keen to spend time with shady main characters — ones who might be working towards redemption. Examples might include Bukowski’s Henry Chinaski, Rabbit Angstrom (from Rabbit, Run), The Grinch, Captain Ahab (Moby-Dick), and Humbert Humbert (Lolita).

When it comes to protagonists: flawed is ideal, and perfect is not best. Ironic, yes, but true.

Unlikable characters are a LOT of fun to write

And finally, perhaps the best reason for an author to inject their story with unlikable characters: it’s fun! Writing fiction gives you a chance to look at the world from someone else’s perspective. When that perspective is so far from your own worldview, it forces you to dig beneath the surface of a character to figure out why and how they behave the way they do.

Everybody is the hero in their own story — and that extends to villains as well. To create a functioning unlikable character, you need to figure out how they justify their behavior to themselves. If your villain is a criminal who holds up banks, how do they frame it in their own minds? If the big bad in your book is a spice baron who wants to defeat a rival family, what is his reason? Is it ideological? Economic? Is he out for revenge?

“Bad” characters tend not to be constrained by social norms and can act more outlandishly than someone who’s by-the-book. This gives you a chance to write someone larger than life — which in itself can be a lot of fun as that character can react to situations in unexpected ways. Try it for yourself: come up with a villain and put them in a “normal” scene — buying (or perhaps stealing?) bread, say. Then see how they behave.

Bringing these sorts of people to life can be some of the most satisfying writing that you do — so don’t cheat yourself by skimping on the unlikable characters!

4. https://blog.reedsy.com/guide/point-of-view/
5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEaAXca89vQ

Thanks for all your advice, Martin!

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, October 2nd I have a guest post by debut author Rosaria Munda and her agent Danielle Burby with an ARC giveaway of  Rosaria's YA fantasy FIREBORNE and a query critique by Danielle and my IWSG post

Monday, October 7th I have an interview with debut author Sharon Mayhew and a giveaway of her MG historical KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

Monday, October 14th I have a guest post debut author Jennifer Camiccia and her agent Stacey Glick and giveaway of Jennifer's MG THE MEMORY KEEPER and a query critique by Stacey

Monday, October 21st I have an interview with debut author Katie Zhou and a giveaway of her MG fantasy THE DRAGON WARRIOR

Monday, October 28th, I've got an agent spotlight interview with Jessica Reino and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday, October 2nd!


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Sara Faring here to share about her YA psychological thriller THE TENTH GIRL. It sounds like a page-turner that is also creepy. That’s my kind of book!

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi's existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.

Hi Sara! Thanks so much for joining us!

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
It all started for me when I was in my single-digits: after devouring my dozenth mystery book, I sat down to write my own. Sadly, it was plotless (and essentially a list of inventions). I abandoned the manuscript after “inventing” a 3D printer that could print out pizza and feeling too hungry to continue.

2. Where did you get the idea for THE TENTH GIRL?
Growing up, my grandmother told me the most magical (and, frankly, ghastliest) stories from her home country of Argentina. I knew I wanted to weave them into my own spooky tales one day. I only wish I could have fit in the story about the poisoned tomatoes, but that one will have to wait for my next book.*

*(Haunted pizza?)

3. That's awesome that you got the idea from your grandmother's stories to you. Your story is a psychological thriller and sounds like a page-turner. How did you plot it out? What advice do you have to other writers who want to write a psychological thriller?

Experimentation and rumination! Let your mind run wild with the terrifying scenarios that exist for your protagonist and capture the MOST (insert adjective—I pick “heinous”) of them on the page.

4. Share a challenge you had in writing THE TENTH GIRL. How did you overcome it?

On various occasions, I woke up in the middle of the night and decided I had no option but to completely rewrite THE TENTH GIRL in order to shift the tone (be it because I am a perfectionist or because I was trying to torture myself). I read the writing book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and that helped me through it. To quote the brilliant Anne: "Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'" [SF exhales serenely]
5. Your agent is Sarah Bedingfield. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

While researching agents, I came upon my agent’s list of favorite books and thought I must be dreaming: the gloomy, the moody, the atmospheric, the sublime! I loved her list of favorite books immediately, and I am so fortunate her list loved THE TENTH GIRL back. My advice: don’t throw queries out like spaghetti at a wall, even if you’re awfully tired and canned spaghetti sounds just fine.
With google’s help, find the agents whose taste aligns with yours, and carefully craft your queries accordingly. Don’t give up—please don’t—and know that eventually you will find an ally. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve almost given up on this journey (truly, I can’t, because I’m still a sensitive and soft baby author who believes it could all disappear if I turn around too fast).

6. That's great advice about querying. One of your former jobs was at Random House. Did that experience help you at all in writing or marketing your book? How?

I gained access to a wide range of manuscripts while working there, and at the urging of my very well-read colleagues, I began to read outside of my literary comfort zone. There is no better way to learn how to write well than to read widely. When I was a child, I would read everything and anything. As I got older, I became pickier because I “didn’t want to waste time” on a book that didn’t appear to be up my alley. I’m so glad I broke that bad habit, because I’ve gained so much from reading across genres and tastes. That’s partly why I adore genre-bending books that feel so surprising and fresh.

7. I saw that you have agents for film/TV rights? Are you actively pursuing this and at what stage are you at?

I’m afraid I’ll have to lean on an old Dad joke here: I’d love to tell you all about it, but I’d have to
kill you, etc. (did I bungle that?). I will say this: even though I grew up near Hollywood, it was a surprise to learn you can’t just lob your book into the backyard of Tilda Swinton’s holiday home, cross your fingers, and call it a day. Happily, my agents, Michelle Kroes and Michelle Weiner, are superb at what they do.

8. How are you planning to market your book? Why did you choose this marketing plan?
My team at Imprint (one of the wittiest imprints at Macmillan, but don’t tell anyone I said that) is full of marketing geniuses. It has been such a privilege to defer to them in every way. I will suggest, to debut authors looking for advice, that you take some time to seek out and get to know other debut authors (there are Facebook groups, Twitter groups, Instagram groups, in-person (!) groups), because it is a special pleasure to read and excitedly shout about each other’s debut work.

9. What are you working on now?

At the moment, I am polishing a secret project for my editor that we hope to announce very soon. It’s set on a mysterious volcanic island, and it follows two sisters who are drawn into an intricate web of the darkest lies. I’m practically levitating with excitement over it.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Sara. You can find Sara at www.sarafaring.com or www.instagram.com/sarafaring or www.twitter.com/sarafaring

Sara has generously offered an ARC of THE TENTH GIRL 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 September 21st. 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 international. 

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, September 16th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Marlo Berliner

Monday, September 23rd I have a guest post by Martin Cavannagh from Reedsy

Monday, October 2nd I have a guest post by debut author Rosaria Munda and her agent Danielle Burby with an ARC giveaway of  Rosaria's YA fantasy FIREBORNE and a query critique by Danielle and my IWSG post

Monday, October 7th I have an interview with debut author Sharon Mayhew and a giveaway of her MG historical KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

Monday, October 14th I have a guest post debut author Jennifer Camiccia and her agent Stacey Glick and giveaway of Jennifer's MG THE MEMORY KEEPER and a query critique by Stacey

Hope to see you on Monday, September 16th!


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Mara Rutherford here to share about her YA fantasy CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL. It sounds like a real page turner filled with mystery and high stakes. I’m really looking forward to reading it.

Before I get to Mara’s interview, I 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 Gwen Gardner,Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martinson, Chemist Ken, and Cathrina Constantiner!

Optional Question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would you write it and why?

That's an easy one for me. I'd write at home. I already write five days a week at home for my job. I love just wearing what I want, taking a walk when I want to, and being in a really comfortable space for me. That's where I write for myself too.

What about you? Where would you choose to write?

Now let's get to Mara's interview. Here’s a blurb of CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL from Goodreads

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.

Hi Mara! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thank you so much for having me! I’m originally from California, but I’ve spent the second half of my life living all over the world with my husband, who was in the military before joining the Foreign Service. We have two sons and a small red poodle and currently live in Belgrade, Serbia.

I studied cultural anthropology in school and started my career in journalism. I knew I wanted to move over to publishing, but we were living in San Diego at the time, so my options were limited. I worked for a book distributor while interning for a literary agency and started writing women’s fiction in my mid-twenties, then switched over to young adult a few years later. My fourth YA novel (set in Russia, where we were living) got into Pitch Wars, and that’s how I signed with my first agent.
2. I bet your travels gives you lots of story ideas. Where did you get the idea for your story?

This was a story that had been brewing in my head for a while – twin sisters whose lives are a competition, whether they like it or not. Other elements, like diving for pearls and a mountain castle, came to me in bits and pieces in the form of magazine articles, photographs, and music.

3. CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL has been described as a real page turner that readers couldn’t put down. How did you keep the plot moving and what are your tips for other writers?

That’s great to hear! I once did a writing exercise where I had to choose a word that I wanted to describe my writing, and mine was “compelling.” My favorite books are the ones that keep me up past my bedtime. I would say my biggest tip for writing a “page turner” is to always try to end each chapter on a cliff hanger. When the reader tells themselves they’ll just read until the end of the chapter, make it impossible for them to put the book down!

4. I love books I can't put down too. Good world building is so important when writing a fantasy. What was your world building process like?

Writing Varenia, the world in the ocean, was a lot of fun. It’s a limited environment in some ways, which made it easier, but it’s also completely different from anywhere I’ve ever lived. I didn’t want it to be too closely associated with any real place, so I made up my own sea creatures, like maiden’s hair jellyfish and windwhales. Ilara is a more typical fantasy kingdom, but the setting of New Castle, a mountain fortress, is also strange and otherworldly, with glowing fungus for lights and cave salamanders for fauna. I think it’s good to give yourself constraints to work within. Otherwise, it can feel overwhelming.

5. So funny that you picked somewhere so different from the many places you lived. Nor is a twin and chosen to marry the Crown Prince when her twin Zadie is seriously injured. You’re a triplet. Did this help you develop Nor’s character and her relationship with Zadie?

Twins are a popular trope in fiction, and I actually had an agent tell me I shouldn’t write them. But
not only is it completely vital to this story; it’s also probably the most intrinsic part of my identity. While I am a triplet, I have an identical sister and a brother – so I’m both an identical and a fraternal twin. My sister and I have never traded places (except for a brief desk swap in fifth grade that lasted about ten minutes), but we would do anything for each other. We talk every day and always have, even though we’ve both lived and traveled all over the world (Sarah is a producer at National Geographic). Essentially, I couldn’t have written this book if it weren’t for my relationship with my twin. I hope that comes across in the novel!

6. Your agent is Uwe Stender. Tell us about how you got your agent and your publishing contract.

Uwe and I actually met through Pitch Wars, when I signed with a different agent. When that book didn’t sell, I asked Uwe if he’d like to see CoCaP, and I ended up signing with him not long after. CoCaP sold to Inkyard about a year later. I’ve been with Uwe for almost three years now, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is the fastest responder in the business, always open to talk, and he has a great sense of humor (something you need to have in publishing!). It has been really fun to watch Team Triada grow over the years – I’m so proud to be a part of it.

7. What has been your favorite social media platform to develop after you signed your book contract and why?

Instagram is definitely my favorite social media platform, though I try to use Twitter. Bookstagrammers are so kind and positive, and I love looking at their gorgeous photos. I like taking photos too, so it’s a win-win for me.

8. How are you planning to market your book?

I’ve enjoyed marketing my book on IG, as I mentioned, and making my own swag. I just designed some bookplates that will go out with preorder gifts and I love them. Beyond that, I’ll be doing a lot of giveaways once my author copies come, and I’ll try to make it to as many conferences and events as I can, but it’s tough because I live overseas. Mostly, I know that authors can only do so much marketing on their own, and I’m okay with that. After fifteen years of writing, I’m trying to enjoy the debut experience without letting it stress me out too much.

9. That's true about only being able to do so much as an author. How have you connected with readers and librarians on your social media sites? What advice do you have for debut authors once they get a book deal? Should we start connecting even earlier than this?

I’m not sure if I’m doing the best job connecting with readers and librarians, though I certainly want to! When people post pictures of my book, I always make sure to compliment and thank them. I sincerely appreciate it! I have accepted every interview that has come my way, and I’ve been lucky that bloggers have approached me for tours. I don’t think you need to go out of your way on this stuff. Focus on your writing for now. The other things will come, and you can’t control it anyhow. What I think matters most is being a genuinely kind person. Publishing is a small world, and if you’re rude or a snob, word will get around. People remember the authors who were nice to them even when they weren’t published.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the sequel to CoCaP, KINGDOM OF SEA AND STONE! I’m so thrilled I get to finish telling Nor and Zadie’s story, and I hope readers are too!

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

Twitter: @mararaewrites

Mara has generously offered a hardback of CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL 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 September 21st. 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. 

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, September 9th I have an interview with debut author Sara Faring and a giveaway of her YA psychological thriller THE TENTH GIRL

Monday, September 16th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Marlo Berliner

Monday, September 23rd I have a guest post by Martin Cavannagh from Reedsy

Hope to see you on Monday, September 9th!