Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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  • 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’m excited to have debut author Kim Smejkal here to share about her YA fantasy INK IN THE BLOOD. It explores ink and tattoo magic, which sounds fascinating.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.

Hi Kim! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

I’ve been a writer since I was a kid! That’s a dull answer, but it’s true. I’ve always been a reader, a writer, a poet. I stepped away for a while in my twenties to focus on my education and my kids, but I inevitably came back to it. Being a book nerd is just part of who I am.

2. Where did you get the idea for INK IN THE BLOOD?

The initial seed of inspiration came from a conversation I had with my father. He left Czechoslovakia in 1968, and told me that the worst part of living under a communist regime wasn't the lack of freedom, but the constant flow of lies from those in charge. I wondered, how big could one lie get? What would happen if people wanted to believe that lie over the truth? If one lie could become so powerful, what would it take to expose it? As I played around with those ideas, the antagonist in Ink in the Blood was born. Then from there, I added everything I loved: theater, masks, tattoos, a fierce friendship, and of course, MAGIC.

3. What a great way to get a story idea. I love your magical system, which is based in part on ink and tattoo magic. What was your world building process like?

My world-building process included a lot of experimentation! It always made sense in my head, but I had a lot of back-and-forth conversations with critique partners, my agent, and my editor to make sure what was in my head translated to the page. I have a huge document with rules, examples, and information that I updated constantly, and now it serves as an INK encyclopedia. Much of my revision process was answering questions like Why? and How? and even though it was a process, I think it worked out really well in the end!

4. That sounds like a good way to tackle world building. You have a content warning on your website where you warn that your story contains violence, torture, blood, violence against children, and other difficult issues. How did you balance the need to tell a story that is violent and addresses other hard issues with the fact that you are writing in part to a young adult audience?

I’m always cognizant of my audience, and I make sure that I stay far away any gratuitous violence.
Every difficult scene serves a thematic purpose. That said, I don’t believe in censoring tough topics from children and young adults. I think young people are good about censoring themselves, and generally only read what they’re comfortable with. With Ink in the Blood, I made sure to introduce the world authentically right from the beginning. The fact that it's a dark book is obvious from chapter one, and this gives readers the opportunity to close it and put it aside if they feel it might be too much for them.

5. Celia, Anya, and the other characters have been described as complex, well-developed characters. Character development is difficult for many writers. What are your secrets for creating memorable ones in your story?

I’m thrilled people are reacting so strongly and warmly to Celia, Anya, the plague doctor, and the other characters. For me, every story begins with the characters. I imagine fully realized people and—very importantly—how they relate to one another. I was a social worker for many years and empathy might be my superpower? I think that in order to create complex characters, a writer needs to be able to put themselves in their characters shoes and show authentic needs, wants, and behaviors. That’s really my only secret!

6. It's a great secret. Thanks for sharing it. Dan Lazar is your agent. How did he become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

My road to publication is a long story, involving many manuscripts, many queries (and so many rejections!), many contests I didn't get anywhere in, an agent I parted ways with, and a two-year sanity hiatus where I stepped away from trying to be traditionally published altogether. It was rough. With INK though, I knew I had something special. When I began querying Ink, I submitted to Dan because I’d always submitted to Dan in the past. It had become a bit of a joke between my writer friends and I that I wasn’t truly querying until I got my lightning-fast rejection from Daniel Lazar. :D But then he took my by surprise and requested the full, loved it, and after his offer of representation came other offers. After about 8 years of writing/querying/repeat, no one was more surprised that I was about how quickly things came together in the end! He was able to sell INK super quick and I’m so grateful he’s by my side on this journey.

7. I love your road to publication story. How are you planning to promote your book? Are your plans different because you live in Canada and your book is being published in the United States?

It is really difficult to be in another country, and on an island at that! The expenses of travel means options for conferences, conventions, and signings are limited. Sending swag and arcs through the mail is that much more expensive, and that’s the main reason I didn't do a preorder campaign. I do have a wonderful Canadian distributor, Raincoast Books, and they've been great at finding me opportunities for promotion in Canada though, so that's a win!

8. How have you been building your social network platforms and connecting to other writers, authors, and readers? What advice do you have for those who don’t have a publishing contract yet?

Well, like I said above, I was deep in the querying trenches with other projects for years, and I was lucky enough to meet some brilliant writers, cheerleaders, and critique partners along the way. Many of the same people I connected with years ago are still some of my best friends. Twitter, Instagram, and mentoring opportunities like Author Mentor Match and Pitch Wars are excellent ways to find people at the same stage as you. My own experience taught me that the biggest key to any kind of success is perseverance, and it helps to have people cheering for you and supporting you on what can often be a long road.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the sequel to Ink in the Blood! CURSE OF THE DIVINE is set to release in early 2021, and I’m excited for people to read the continuation of the inklings’ story. After that, I have an older fantasy project I’m excited to revisit, as well as a new story idea I can't wait to draft. Too many projects, not enough time, which is relatable for many writers, I’m sure!
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kim. You can find Kim at

 Kim has generously offered an ARC of INK IN THE BLOOD 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 February 8th. 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. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

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 Wednesday, February 5th!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you got the agent you always wanted.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This sounds like a fun, cool book with the inclusion of tattoos and theater!

Jacqui said...

Really interesting interview. I especially like "the worst part of living under a communist regime wasn't the lack of freedom, but the constant flow of lies from those in charge." Oh my that rings true.

Megan said...

This is so awesome :) (I am not entering the giveaway as I am not in the US :) )

Pat Hatt said...

That is true indeed, being able to put yourself in your character's shoes sure can make them more authentic.

ken ohl said...

this looks intriguing and think I would enjoy it

Debra Branigan said...

This sounds intriguing and I see it being a big hit was YA readers of this genre. Thanks for sharing. I also sent a tweet (https://twitter.com/BraniganDebra/status/1222190904779341826?s=20).
dbranigan27 (at) gmail (.) com

tetewa said...

Enjoyed the post today! New author for me and my favorite genre to read, sounds good! tWarner419@aol.com

Rosi said...

Wow. That is some road to publication story! Thanks for another terrific post. I will step aside for the giveaway.

Danielle H. said...

I love the seed idea for this book. I can't wait to read your book! I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/190519519087/kim-smejkal-interview-and-ink-in-the-blood

Joanne R. Fritz said...

I hadn't heard of this author or this book, but I love Leigh Bardugo's novels! Wow! "Lies are currency and ink is a weapon." Fascinating! Love her attitude here: "My own experience taught me that the biggest key to any kind of success is perseverance." So true!

Please don't include me in the giveaway, though. I'm still desperately trying to catch up from my illness more than a year ago.

Loni Townsend said...

Great interview. I love the idea behind the a tattoo-based magic system!

nashvillecats2 said...

Sounds great Natalie and a wonderful interview.


Elizabeth Seckman said...

I'm intrigued, especially with your dad's wisdom as the inspiration. I love stories infused with wisdom.

Angie Quantrell said...

Ooohhh, sounds very interesting! Congratulations! Will share on Twitter.

Natasha said...

Great interview!
Sounds like a great read!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

DMS said...

Loved this interview. I think it is awesome that the idea came from a conversation with her dad. The story sounds unique and interesting. Thanks for sharing. Best of luck to Kim! :)

Anonymous said...

This one sounds so interesting! Thanks for the giveaway.

Nick Wilford said...

Congrats to Kim. Love the idea of tattoo magic.

Carol Kilgore said...

I love how a conversation with your father inspired you to create this story. That makes it personal. Hi, Natalie :)

Crystal @ Lost in Storyland said...

I enjoyed reading this interview. I love the thought that went into the worldbuilding and character development process.

I follow you on Twitter, Natalie.

Suzanne Warr said...

I love this message of perseverance, since I think that's something most of us can sink our teeth into! Certainly I can. Thank you so much for the wonderful interview Kim and Natalie!
I will step aside on the ARC, as I find I have to be careful with darker books, but wish Kim every success with her publishing journey!

Juneta key said...

A tattoo bases magic system sound so awesome. Happy IWSG!