Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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Happy Wednesday Everyone! I hope you had a happy holiday season and are looking forward to a great year. I am! Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Isabel Ibañez here to share about her YA fantasy WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT. It draws on Bolivia’s history and politics and sounds like it has strong characters and great world building. I can’t wait to read it. 

WriteOnCon Is Back in February

First, I want to let you know about WriteOnCon, a wonderful online conference for writers of picture books through YA, that will be happening Friday, February 21 through Sunday, February 23. There are 122 events and 41 of them are live. Registration costs $10-$25 depending on the level of admission you want. Even if you write for adults, I recommend checking out the schedule because there may be something there for you too. I've been going since it started up again and found many helpful presentations by authors, editors, and agents.

Before I get to my 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 T. Powell Coltrin, Victoria Marie Lees, Stephen Tremp, Renee Scattergood, and J.H. Moncrieff! First, here is some awesome IWSG news:

The next #IWSGPit  will be in January 15, 2020
8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On January 15, Tweet your pitch. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query.

Optional Question: What started you on your writing journey?

I started writing two easy readers when my daughter was three years old with her as the star so I could use pictures to illustrate them. That was about 20 years ago. But then I put it all aside and didn't really consider writing until I read the first Harry Potter book about four years later. I had an idea for a middle grade fantasy and just decided to start it. 

Back then, I was really inspired and wrote my first draft quickly. I probably made every mistake there was. I have been writing since on and off. My day job as an attorney, care giving for my late husband, and being a mom made it hard to write. Then this blog took a lot of my writing time. I stopped writing for about five years after my husband died and had no interest in. I'm just starting to get back into it again.

What about you? What started you on your journey?

Now, here's my interview with Isabel. Here’s a blurb about WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT from Goodreads

A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.

Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

Hi Isabel! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve always loved writing and when I went to college, I majored in Creative Writing! I took a detour in graphic design and illustration, but found my way back when a Latina pirate story wouldn’t leave my mind! I participated in Pitch Wars and my mentor helped sharpen my writing skills. Afterward, I landed an agent through #DVPIT (on Twitter) and then sat down to write my next book: Woven in Moonlight.

2. That's great you majored in creative writing. I wish I had taken some courses in this in college. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I had the idea to write a revolution story because of what was going on in the political stage in Bolivia. The present government was causing a lot of fear for my family there (my brother and I were the only ones born in the USA, everyone else is in Bolivia) and so the story began with wanting to write an alternative story involving Bolivian politics.

3. It sounds like you have great world building and food in your story. Yum! What was your world building process like? How did you balance creating a new world with the Bolivian influences you used?

Great question! Writing a Bolivian fantasy actually took very little research—because I know the country, it’s culture and traditions, the food and atmosphere. We have a house there and growing up, I spent three months out of the year living there during the summer, up until I was 18. So writing about Bolivia felt like I was writing about home, a place as familiar to me as my own face. When building a world, my general rule is to always be specific. Don’t say pepper when I can say locoto (a kind of pepper in Bolivia). As much as possible, I included the dishes I grew up eating, described the clothing used by Bolivians around Cochabamba.

4. That's a great tip to be as specific as you can in your world building. Xiemena and your other female characters have been described as strong characters. Xiemena starts out having the motive of revenge, which could make her unsympathetic but didn’t here. What was your character-building process like and how did you balance Xiemena’s motives with making her sympathetic?

More than anything, Ximena is driven by the keen sense of loss. She’s lost her family, her home, and
her identity. In her inner core, I believe she yearns to experience emotions and experiences that aren’t ruled by the scorching anger she feels. I worked hard for the real Ximena to shine through—her artistic ambition, her love of food, her desire to be outdoors. Ximena is more than her desire for revenge—even though it’s taken up more space in her life than anything else. For the first time in years, she leaves the Illustrian keep and gets to spend time with herself in a way that she never did before. It’s hard to learn who you are when you’re constantly being told what you believe, what you’re fighting for, and who you are. When Ximena is in the Castillo, I really was able to slowly peel back her layers to show her sympathy and compassion, and the ability to think for herself without hearing another loud voice telling her what to do.

5. What was a challenge you had in writing WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT? How did you overcome it?

By far the biggest challenge I faced while writing WIM was the beginning. It nearly did me in. For the life of me, I could not figure out the best way into the story. I wrote several false starts, and none of them rang true. There’s so much pressure with getting the beginning of a story exactly right. The early chapters have to pull so much weight: introduce the characters, explain the world without info-dumping, establish the status quo, etc. There’s so much you have to do exactly right, and that pressure really got to me. I finally had amazing feedback and that outside perspective worked wonders. I was able to edit the beginning and it read one hundred times stronger.

6. Beginnings are hard. I always work on them more too. Your agent is Sarah Landis. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Sarah Landis is my current agent, but it was actually my previous agent who sold WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT. She submitted the manuscript in waves and while we had some initial interest and an R+R, it didn’t sell. Months later, we got one more R+R—from Page Street—and they offered publication afterward!

7. What have you been doing to build your social media presence and contacts since you signed your publishing contract? What advice do you have for debut authors on doing this?

Pick one platform and stick with it. You don’t have to do all the things, but you might consider doing one medium consistently. Initially, I spent a lot of time on Twitter but I am SUPER visual and so I transferred my energy and time to Instagram. This is a much better fit for me. I have certain rules that I follow and it seems to be working, but I’m no means an expert.

Rule One: Post one photo a day.
Rule Two: Keep in brand (color scheme, topics, composition and content)
Rule Three: As much as possible, be responsive. This isn’t always possible but at minimum I will try to like every comment I get.
Rule Four: Support others.

8. Great advice to pick one social media platform you like. How are you planning to promote your book when it releases? How did you celebrate your cover release?

I’ve been on Instagram mostly! This is a great platform to share news and updates, all things WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT, and to talk about the preorder campaign. All my celebrations involve the dinner table. ;)

9. What are you working on now?

I’m hard at work revising WRITTEN IN STARLIGHT, the companion to WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT with my editor! I can’t wait for everyone to read this story. It takes place a week after the events of WIM.

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

Isabel has generously offered a hardback of WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT 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 January 25th. 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 or follow me on Twitter, 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, January 13th I have an interview with debut author Janae Marks and a giveaway of her MG contemporary FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON

Tuesday, January 14th I'm participating in the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop. I'll have some great 2019 and January 2020 new release MG and YA choices

Monday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Detweiler and a query critique giveaway

Monday, January 27th I have an interview with debut author Kim Smejkal and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Ink in the Blood

Wednesday, February 5th I have an interview with debut author Adalyn Grace with a giveaway of her YA fantasy All the Stars and Teeth and a query critique by her agent Hillary Jacobson and my IWSG Post

Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis

Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you on Monday!


Donna K. Weaver said...

Whatever happened to the picture book you wrote starring your daughter?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you're back into the writing.
And thanks for mentioning our Twitter pitch!

Cathrina Constantine said...

I guess when writing and storytelling is in the blood, we keep returning to it....Happy New Year!

Jemi Fraser said...

Woven in Moonlight sounds great - and I love the cover!

I love that you wrote those first books! Finding time is always the trick, isn't it. Writing needs serious time and it's not always easy to find. Hoping 2020 brings you lots of time and joy!

Nancy Gideon said...

I can so feel your frustrating history with getting back to the writing. Glad you've jumped back in because inspiration is really hard to ignore. Nice interview-sounds like a great read. Sounds like I'm One Click away . . . Happy Writing!!

David Powers King said...

Congratulations on your book, Isabel! Sounds fascinating! :)

emaginette said...

The writer's path seems to be a bumpy one. I'm glad you're still posting. I know I'd miss you.

Anna from elements of emaginette

Ellen Jacobson said...

Isabel's book sounds wonderful and I love the cover.

How cool that you wrote books starring your daughter!

Pat Garcia said...

Happy New Year!
I am glad that you got back on your writing path. I understand also the reasons why you put it aside for a while. Although I didn't put my writing aside for five years, my husband died last year. Writing was the tool that helped me get through the tremendous lost.
Wishing you all the best this year in your writing career.
Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

Carol Kilgore said...

Great to meet you, Isabel. Your book sounds really interesting.

I didn't write much last year - too much else was happening in my real life. Here's to both of us having a good writing year, Natalie :)

Bish Denham said...

Wow. Just from the cover alone I'd like this book!

Jacqui said...

Nice interview. I was intrigued that she likes Instagram so much. I am probably doing something wrong!

C. D. Gallant-King said...

I also wrote books for my kids when they were little, and illustrated them. The illustrations are always a pain for me though. I can draw reasonably well, but I'm not practised at it so it takes a long time. Time I would rather just be writing.

That's a great looking cover and premise on Isabel's book! Congrats!

Fundy Blue said...

You amaze me with your energy and enthusiasm, Natalie! Another great interview. Isabel's book sounds intriguing. I enjoy books set in other places and cultures. Wishing you all the best as you begin writing again. Loved the story of your easy readers for your daughter. I hope that you still have them!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Yeh for the Harry Potter books and all the stories and writers he/they have inspired! Keep on going, Natalie - hang in there.....

Nicki Elson said...

Your interviews give such great practical insight for writers through other writers. Thank you.

Good old Harry Potter giving that inspiration! His magic extends reaches all the way outside the books, doesn't it?

Suzanne Furness said...

Cool that writing for your daughter started you on your journey. Best wishes for 2020.

Chrys Fey said...

I actually saw something about Woven in Moonlight yesterday. I think it was in BookPage. :)

Pat Hatt said...

That is great that you got back into it.

Sometimes the beginning can be tough to nail down indeed.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You needed time to find your inspiration again.

It's good to see WriteOnCon is back.

Tonja Drecker said...

Woven in Moonlight sounds interesting. Congrats to Isabel!
I'm in on WriteOnCon. I've done it a couple of times and really enjoy meeting the other writers and grabbing a few tidbits. And I understand about the break. It's nothing that can be forced.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Your post is not the first one I've read that mentioned Harry Potter as an inspiration. Glad you found your way back to writing despite all the challenges in your life. Woven looks very interesting.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I'm glad to hear you are getting back into writing again.

Woven in Moonlight sounds great!

Erika Beebe said...

I love your inspiration. It’s hard getting back into writing, especially with kids but it’s worth it. I wish you much luck :)

Brenda said...

Natalie, glad you're getting back into your writing. So adorable that you wrote stories for your daughter as the star! Woven in Moonlight sounds wonderful, congratulations to Isabel on its release.

J.H. Moncrieff said...

Sorry about your loss, Natalie. I think losing the people we love would derail any writer. I'm glad you're making your way back to the page.

What a wonderful thing you did for your daughter when she was little. I'm sure she loved your stories.

mshatch said...

Congrats to Isabel! What a beautiful cover!

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

I'm glad to hear you are getting back into writing! The blog eating too much time is a problem--you do a wonderful service here for readers and writers, but there are only 25 hours in the day.

Isabel's book sounds great, and I really like the advice about world-building. That rings right for any kind of world you are building (even real-world fiction settings require careful construction). I'll be looking at my next book to see if I could be more specific about anything.

Denise Covey said...

Natalie, a fabulous blog post as always. No wonder it takes so much of your time. Your dedication to authors and agents will not go unnoticed. I hope now that you're writing for yourself again, you'll continue to be inspired as you inspire us!

Happy New Year!

cleemckenzie said...

How sweet that you wrote stories for your daughter! What a great writing start. And I understand derailment when you lose someone you love, but you've managed and are doing so beautifully.

I'm fascinated by a Bolivian fantasy! It sounds exciting. Thanks for telling us about this book.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, its really so cute that you started writing for your three-year-old daughter. I'm sure you would have written wonderful stories for her.

Woven in Moonlight sounds interesting.

Megan said...

This sounds like such a wonderful book! (Not entering since I'm not in the US) :)

nashvillecats2 said...

Great post and interview Natalie. Hope you are well.


Christine Rains said...

Wonderful you started writing for your daughter, Natalie. I bet she was thrilled! :) Congrats to Isabel. I always work on the beginning the most too.

Danielle H. said...

This book is one of my highest anticipated novels with its unique premise. I read a sneak peek and the writing is so rich and I can tell the author uses specific details to create this world. I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/190160175557/isabel-iba%C3%B1ez-interview-and-woven-in-moonlight

Jennifer Lane said...

That's such a sweet start to writing, Natalie. It makes sense that you would take a break from writing fiction with all that you have going on. And, your blog writing is excellent!

Carl Scott said...

The book sounds brilliant and that cover art is just outstanding! I'd love to win a copy!
I've tweeted a link to this post: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/1215326756841766912, and pinned an image on Pinterest with a link as well: https://www.pinterest.com.mx/pin/336573772153470238/.
I follow your blog daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com, and follow on Twitter too: @carlrscott.
Thanks again for the chance to win, all best wishes to everyone for a great 2020!!

Yvette Carol said...

There are many writers who say, the best work is never rushed. In fact, these days a lot of work is put out before its ready. Your journey is just on a slightly different track of time and there's nothing wrong with that, Natalie. I'm sorry to hear of your husband's death. What a journey you have been on.

tetewa said...

Enjoyed the interview, thanks for being here! tWarner419@aol.com

Jennifer Hawes said...

I've seen this book making its way on Instagram and Twitter! Looks fascinating. I love that Harry Potter inspired you to write!

Samantha Bryant said...

Children can be such an inspiration :-) @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Gwen Gardner said...

So glad you’re back to writing, Natalie!

Isabel, congratulations on your new book, it sounds sooo !

Juneta key said...

Great post. I'm a little late making the rounds. Happy IWSG!

Lynn La Vita said...

Like Juneta, I'm a little late making the rounds. I identified with your life being divided with personal commitments. I'm grateful you are healing and writing.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

You are an amazing woman, Natalie! And my prayers are always with you. Bravo to you for coming back to your writing. It can provide solace. Nice interview. Thanks for sharing it with your followers. All best to you in 2020!

Patchi said...

Happy New year, Natalie! Hope all is well with you. I'm still trying to get my bearings in the new year.

This story sounds fantastic. I've added it to my TBR.

Olga Godim said...

It is wonderful that you came back to writing after a tragedy, Natalie.
Great interview with Isabel!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Congratulations to Isabel on her new book. And I'm so happy that your kept writing, Natalie. It isn't easy, I know. Looking forward to seeing your stories. Love that you wrote for your little daughter. What an inspiration.

Angie Quantrell said...

This looks like a lovely book! Congratulations, Isabel! Loved reading your interview, Natalie. :) Will post on Twitter. angelecolline at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

As a chronically ill writer, I LOVE WriteOnCon.

WOVEN IN MIDNIGHT is one of the books I'm most excited for this year! Thanks for the giveaway.

tetewa said...

Thanks for being here, sounds good! tWarner419@aol.com

Jessica Peeling said...

I love how creative this book sounds! Thanks for the chance. jessicapeeling@yahoo.com

Jessica Peeling said...

Tweeted the giveaway: https://twitter.com/the2ndthought/status/1217671649081860096 (jessicapeeling@yahoo.com)

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi Natalie, Happy New Year!

Funny, HP inspired me to write my first MG book as well. Happy to hear you are back into writing again!

Nancy P said...

Sounds great. Thanks for the chance.

positive DOT ideas DOT 4you AT gmail DOT com

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Woven in Moonlight sounds awesome! Added it to my TBR :-)

Anonymous said...

Awesome that you're back! Hope your New Year got off to a good start. Finding time to follow our passions is always difficult

Candie L said...

I am following on GFC. Thank you!!!!!!!!

yellowlabs said...

I follow via GFC. This book sounds so good and I would love to read it!

Christina Gould said...

There's a lot going on on the cover. I like it. Thanks for the giveaway!

Christina Gould said...

I shared on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christina.gould.7146/posts/233754400958727