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 Wednesday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author E.M. Castellan here with her agent Carrie Pestrtto with a guest post to celebrate the release of E.M.'s YA historical fantasy IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN. I'm excited to read it because it's set in France and has hidden magic.

First, I have Follower News and my IWSG post to share.


Elizabeth Seckman has a new contemporary romance ABOUT US: A SECOND CHANCE that recently released. Here's a blurb and some links:

Hayden Matthews would rather be alone than be a couple in misery. She decides to leave, but leaving a husband who carries a badge and a gun could be dangerous. Especially once her heart is ready to move on.

Free downloads on Kobo and Smashwords. 99 cents on Amazon 
Kobo: (free)
Smashwords (free)
Amazon (99 cents)


Jemi Fraser has a new release, DANCING WITH DEMENTIA. Here's a blurb: Dementia slammed
into our family a few years ago. It took us by surprise and we missed a lot of clues. The book Dancing With Dementia is the story of our journey through the early stages of the disease.
Throughout the book, we share tips of what worked to help our Mom combat the disease. We share what didn’t work. What made us laugh and what made us cry. And here's a few links:
Amazon.com           Amazon.ca.          Apple Books.           Barnes & Noble          Kobo.     
Add it to your Goodreads shelf


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.

I'm excited to be a co-host this month. The co-hosts this month are Jacqui Murray, Lisa Buie-Collard, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, (me) and Shannon Lawrence! 

Optional QuestionOther than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

My latest story, which I talked about last month, is about a 15-year-old Mexican-American teen who finds a strange button that turns out to be a magical implement. I have been a part of my late husband's Mexican-American family for over 30 years, and I did include her cooking some of the Mexican dishes that I learned from my mother-in-law in a few scenes. That's all I've included so far of my own traditions.

What traditions/customs have you included?


Here's a blurb of IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN from Goodreads:

It’s 1661 in Paris, and magicians thrill nobles with enchanting illusions. Exiled in France, 17-year-old Henriette of England wishes she could use her magic to gain entry at court. Instead, her plan is to hide her magical talents, and accept an arranged marriage to the French king’s younger brother.

Henriette soon realizes her fiancé prefers the company of young men to hers, and court magicians turn up killed by a mysterious sorcerer who uses forbidden magic. When an accident forces Henriette to reveal her uniquely powerful gift for enchantments to Louis, he asks for her help: she alone can defeat the dark magician threatening his authority and aid his own plans to build the new, enchanted seat of his power - the Palace of Versailles.

Now here's E.M. and Carrie!

EM Castellan to Carrie Pestritto:
  1. What was it about IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN that made you offer representation?

The writing and the story absolutely captivated me. You created a really fun world that felt decadent and lush, not to mention your characters’ voices were fantastic. Normally when I read requested manuscripts, I take notes as I go on areas/elements to revise, but with IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN, I was so caught up that I just sat back and read straight through!

  1. Being a literary agent requires an incredible range of skills. How do you manage to juggle everything in the course of a day? And what do you enjoy most about your job?

I think the key thing to note is that I definitely don’t get everything done in the course of a day that I want to! There is always more to do. I am very organized, though, and that helps a lot. 

While I’m in the office, I mostly work on administrative tasks (looking through contracts, rights lists, submissions, royalties, emails, etc.) and audio-related duties (since I am also LDLA’s audio rights director).  Actual reading is usually done at night and during my daily commutes!

What I enjoy most about being an agent are the achievement highs.  Finding an awesome manuscript; signing a new client I’m excited about; selling something to a great publisher; getting starred reviews—all those moments are what make it worthwhile and leave me feeling on top of the world!

  1. You’re an editorial agent. Would you say that working with your clients on their manuscripts is the most important part of your job?

It definitely is an important part of what I do, but not the MOST important. I think the more
critical aspects of my job revolve around career advice, marketplace knowledge, and contracts.  I do like jumping on phone calls with my clients for brainstorming sessions (those are always a lot of fun and very productive), but I specifically choose to work with authors who are already strong revisers, so that when I give them big-picture feedback, they can run off and do amazing things with it without much hand-holding…like you, Eve!

  1. In a submission, what is it that makes you want to request the full manuscript? The concept? The query? The pages?

I know it sounds basic, but the writing. More than the concept, more than the characters, more than the plot, whenever something has a really fantastic voice that blows me out of the water, I’m hooked.  For instance, when I first read the query for Mara Fitzgerald’s BEYOND THE RUBY VEIL, I was on the fence—the plot seemed kind of out-there and I didn’t know if I wanted something that was that wacky and dark—but then I read her opening pages and fell head-over-heels in love.  Her writing was just out-of-this-world and immediately made me a super fan.
  1. What are you looking for at the moment?

I'm a little full on YA right now, so on the children’s side, definitely more upper MG.  For adult, I’m looking for rom-coms and romance, cozy mysteries, domestic suspense, thrillers, commercial fiction, and narrative nonfiction.  Diversity is a big priority for me, as well as finding projects that are fresh and high-concept. 

To get a more in-depth idea of what I'm interested in, people can always check out my #MSWL.

  1. What upcoming releases from clients are you most excited about now?

Well, I’m obviously soooo excited for IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN!  I’m also looking forward to Shauna Holyoak’s KAZU JONES AND THE COMIC BOOK CRIMINAL, Robyn Gigl’s BY WAY OF SORROW, Mara Fitzgerald’s BEYOND THE RUBY VEIL, and Kalyn Josephson’s THE CROW RIDER!

Carrie Pestritto to EM Castellan:

  1. What about my background and/or our interactions made you decide to sign with me?

I knew from my research that you had experience in the publishing industry. When I signed with you, you had already been working for a literary agency for more than 5 years, and you had sold books in my genre and category, which was really important to me. Additionally, your enthusiasm for my book, as well as your willingness to answer all my questions, was very reassuring to me. 

  1. By the time you send me something to look at, it’s usually pretty polished.  What are some behind-the-scenes things you do when writing or revising that I don’t know about?

Before writing a first draft, I spend a lot of time planning, doing research, and generally thinking about the story. I need to have a clear vision of what the characters and plot are going to be before I even sit down to write. I also don’t like having anyone read my manuscript before it’s quite polished. As a result, the story will go through several rounds of revisions before I even ask critique partners, beta readers, and you, to read a draft.

  1. What have you found most helpful about having an agent, outside of editorial help and contract negotiation? 

Publishing is a complex world, and I have found that having someone to guide me through it is invaluable. As a debut author, it’s hard to know what expectations to have, and having an agent saying ‘this is normal’, or ‘I know who to ask to answer your question’ is incredibly useful.

  1. How do you decide which books to pursue?  How much do your own interests factor in as opposed to marketplace trends?

I have a lot of ideas for potential books. When it’s time to focus on a new project, I try to see which ideas I’m most fond of, and which ones are easier to pitch. From there I narrow my list down to 3-4 pitches, which I send to you – and you can then tell me which one has the most potential. I have to love a project to be able to write it, but I’m also mindful of marketplace trends.

  1. What are you working on next?

When I’m not working on the last edits of the sequel to IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN, I’m getting ready to draft a secret new project. It’s another YA Historical Fantasy, set in a time period I love, and with what I hope is a fun magic system!

  1. What is the most important writing craft or tool you’ve learned to use, e.g. sparkling dialogue, making sure to show instead of tell, etc.?

Learning to show instead of tell was definitely an important step in my writing journey. Historical Fantasy requires descriptions, and I’m always keen to bring a world to life rather than just describe it. I also find subtly weaving backstory into the story very important, in order to avoid the infamous ‘info-dumping’. Lastly, I’m always mindful of pace when writing a YA book. I find it’s important to grab the reader’s attention – and to keep it for as long as possible!

Carrie’s links:

EM’s links:

Thanks for sharing all your advice, E.M. and Carrie!

E.M. and her publisher have generously offered a hardback of IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN and Carrie has offered a query critique 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 March 21st.  If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. 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. The book giveaway is U.S. and the query critique giveaway is International.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, March 9 I have an interview with debut author Tanya Guerrero and a giveaway of her MG contemporary HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA

Saturday, March 14 I am participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop 

Monday, March 16 I have an interview with author Beverly McClure and a giveaway of her YA contemporary GABE'S GUARDIAN ANGEL

Monday, March 18 I have an agent spotlight interview with Ann Rose and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 25 I have an interview with debut author Alechia Dow  and giveaway of her YA sci-fi THE SOUND OF STARS

Hope to see you on Monday!


nashvillecats2 said...

It certainly took a while to read but what a most interesting read I had Natalie. Thanks it took away for me the bad weather for a while.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now I'm hungry for Mexican food.
I always wondered when agents did their reading.
EM, I do a lot of planning and polishing before anyone reads my work as well.
Thanks for co-hosting today, Natalie!

Donna K. Weaver said...

I've included a few things in passing. It's never a big part of the story though.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

How nice you included some of those recipes!

Thanks for co-hosting. :)

Patsy said...

Family recipes can be very traditional – and tell us quite a lot about people/characters.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I have lived in Mexico for 7 years now, and Christmas is wonderful. I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience the holidays here. Thanks for co-hosting, Natalie!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Such a good point Carrie made about always having more to do each day, but *stopping*. That's something I need to learn! :)

Your story sounds intriguing, Natalie!

Jemi Fraser said...

Thanks for including DWD!! :)
I've picked up Elizabeth's book - looking forward to it!
I love how you've used the cooking in your story - it's such a huge part of 'family' for me.
Great interview & the book sounds terrific!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I'm reading Jemi's book right now. So insightful and raw. It's nice to see dementia from the perspective of family who've lived through it - the ups and downs, the confusion for the sufferer as well as the family members. I'd totally recommend it.

Congratulations to EM! It's wonderful to see her and Carrie working so well together. {Gives me hope I'll find another agent again, someday - the one that was meant for me. :) } Thank you for co-hosting, Natalie!

Ilona Bray said...

Wow, 1661 Paris sounds like a fabulous setting. I want to read this!

Tamara Narayan said...

So many interesting books coming out. Congrats to all these authors!

Thank you for co-hosting!

Lisa said...

Great interview and informative! The books sounds fascinating. Thanks for co-hosting this month!

Nancy Gideon said...

What great first hand sources! I hope they're patient with your questions. Great interview! Thanks for co-hosting this month, Natalie!!

Sadira Stone said...

Thanks for co-hosting!

Computer Tutor said...

I think authentic food is great. You can find it online but it's so much more real from a mom or grandma with their special touches. Excellent addition.

Pat Garcia said...

I love Mexican food and we used to have a great one here near me until it closed down. I miss it.
Also, I enjoy reading through your website. It is always informative about what is going on in the publishing world.
Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

cleemckenzie said...

I've put About Us and Dancing With Dementia on my TBR list--at the top. I look forward to some new stories from people I interact with online. That's always exciting. Thanks also for introducing the other authors here today. I always pick up great reading suggestions from your blog, Natalie. Great hosting today!

David Powers King said...

Loving the premise of your book. Congrats to both E.M and Carrie! :)

Mary Aalgaard said...

Sounds great. First hand knowledge of traditions, and all those delicious meals. Win-Win!

Thanks for co-hosting this month!

Mary at Play off the Page

Brenda said...

Lately my reads have England as a setting, curious about one set in France. In the Shadow of the Sun sounds like a lovely premise.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Its great that you used some of your recipes in your book. I too used a few family recipes in my last book.

Juneta key said...

That made me hungry. Very cool tradition. Thank you for co-hosting this month.

Loni Townsend said...

Mmmm. Food. I think food is a great way to work in personal family connections!

Lynn La Vita said...

We lived in Mexico since 2006. Love the cooking. You are most fortunate to have some family recipes. Thanks for co-hosting the March IWSG blog hop.

Lynn La Vita blog: Writers Supporting Writers

Dave said...

That's a fascinating interview. Thanks for posting it.


Suzanne Furness said...

Family recipes/food is a great thing to include. I am afraid I could not think of anything particular that has slipped into my writing. Best wishes to you.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Voice is important to me, too. Some submissions I just read, some just come to life immediately with a personality all their own. Those are the ones I want.

Carol Kilgore said...

I include a lot of Texas things in my books, especially the Gracie ones. They don't always apply to me, but sometimes they do.

emaginette said...

Your story makes me think of magical realism. I'm a little envious. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Chrys Fey said...

It's an amazing thing when an agent sits back and reads straight through a book without taking notes on things to revise. :)

Aryn said...

I love seeing both perspectives on the author/agent process!

Jennifer Lane said...

Congratulations to Elizabeth, Jemi, EM, and Carrie! The cover of In the Shadow of the Sun is beautiful.

Which Mexican dishes did your character cook, Natalie?

Sarah Foster said...

That's awesome how you were able to work your mother-in-law's recipes into your story!

Jean Davis said...

When characters cook tasty food in books, it always makes me hungry. Sounds like the perfect thing to slip into your book.

I can't say as I've included any traditions in my books so far. Perhaps someday.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Elizabeth and Jemi!

I have not included any family traditions in my work so far, but I love the food aspect! My grandma Em was an amazing cook, on a modest budget. She gardened, canned, dried, and froze as much as she could grow.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Food is a great family tradition to carry on and put in your writing. My mother-in-law was an awesome cook.

Bish Denham said...

I don't recall including any family traditions in any of my stories, but I have used experiences from my life. I love the cover and title of In the Shadow of the Sun! Congratulations, E.M.!

Jenni said...

This sounds like an amazing book. I have a trunked (for now) manuscript set in that time period--such a fascinating time period, magical in its own way.
I love that you incorporated your husband's family's traditions, Natalie, into your writing. What a nice way to remember him.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Interesting interview, ladies. Thank you. I also love the idea that you cooked some of the recipes from your mother-in-law.

Olga Godim said...

Including family recipes in your books is a fun way to connect your family with your fiction. I should look into it.

Pat Hatt said...

A recipe is a win.

The writing being the winner sure is the way to be.

Showing and not telling sure needed to be worked on here too, maybe still does sometimes lol

Samantha Bryant said...

I've used a lot of small details from my personal life and people I love in my fiction, but I'm not sure there's anything that qualifies as a tradition among them. It's an interesting thought. @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Denise Covey said...

Was interesting to learn that you've incorporated some of your late husband's traditions into your story. I'm looking forward to reading it one day.
Thanks for all the information on your blog!

Fundy Blue said...

I always find your posts fascinating, Natalie! You do so much to promote others. Thank you!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Congrats to Elizabeth and Jemi.
I love the sound of your story, Natalie.
In the Shadow of the Sun sounds like a great read too. My kinda story!

Heather Erickson said...

I always love reading about people cooking. Mealtime is the heart of a family, so it says a lot about the setting, the characters, and their connections. Thank you for including such a wonderful, informative interview. Congrats!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Food is such a big part of people's lives that I bet a scene like the one you wrote really appealed to readers.

Tonja Drecker said...

I think we'll have Mexican for dinner!
This sounds like a wonderful book...love the surmise.

Danielle H. said...

Wow to the editor reading and enjoying this manuscript right away. I would like to be entered into the chance to win a copy of this book, but not for the critique at this time. I follow Natalie on twitter as @dhammelef

J.Q. Rose said...

So much great info in your post. I love Mexican food too. And readers love reading about it, such a universal topic. Thanks for co hosting.!!
JQ Rose

diedre Knight said...

Terrific post, as always Natalie ;-)
Having cared for three loved ones stricken with dementia I'm quite sure "Dancing with Dementia" will tug some heartstrings as well as provide valuable insight.
Born and raised less than an hour from the border, I too tend to coalesce the flavors and unique cultural traditions of our southern neighbors into my stories without even thinking about it.
Thanks for co-hosting!

Rosi said...

Another intersting and informative interview. Thanks for that. I will pass on the giveaways.

Debra Renée Byrd said...

That sounds like a great way to honor him and his mother. :) Thanks for co-hosting!

Lidy said...

Thanks for co-hosting. And congrats to Elizabeth Seckman and Jemi Fraser on their releases. So many interesting books coming out I don't think my TBR list can take it.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

What an intriguing dementia book. Bravo to all who have new releases coming out. I'm so proud of you all! Thanks for co-hosting, Natalie. Very good interviews. They usually are. I always enjoy the information on your blog. I love romances. All best to you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this interview! I loved reading about the other side of book publishing!

Anonymous said...

This book is on my list! Thank you for the giveaway!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Thank you so much for the shout out. You're such a busy lady, it's amazing you have time to write! I'm ready to read it, so back to work. :)

Judith L. Roth said...

I especially enjoyed hearing how EM decides which book to work on next. Good advice for me!

Diane Burton said...

Those are great traditions to include in your own books. Love reading about food. Thanks for co-hosting this month.

DMS said...

Awesome to see Elizabeth and Jemi here! Congrats to both of them.

What a fun interview. I always enjoy learning about other people's experiences. :)

Unknown said...
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Andrea Carroll said...

My middle school students are going enjoy reading this!

Becca B said...

Thank you. It's good to know good writing still makes an impact.

Liesbet said...

Being a part of a multi-culture relationship surely gives us a good start for including different traditions in our stories! To me, my Belgian and American lives are starting to blend, however, after all those years...

I am a bit late for the query critique give-away this time, and for the entire IWSG blog reading for that matter, but I truly enjoyed reading the interview between Carrie and EM.

Thanks for co-hosting!