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Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author Loriel Ryon and her agent Kristy Hunter here to share about Loriel's MG magical realism IN THE TALL, TALL GRASS. This sounds like a great book that has both magic and also deals with contemporary issues, like family, first love, and middle grade friendships.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Yolanda Rodríguez-O’Connell has a secret. All the members of her family have a magical gift—all, that is, except for Yolanda. Still, it’s something she can never talk about, or the townsfolk will call her family brujas—witches. When her grandmother, Wela, falls into an unexplained sleep, Yolanda is scared. Her father is off fighting in a faraway war, her mother died long ago, and Yolanda has isolated herself from her best friend and twin sister. If she loses her grandmother, who will she have left?

When a strange grass emerges in the desert behind their house, Wela miraculously wakes, begging Yolanda to take her to the lone pecan tree left on their land. Determined not to lose her, Yolanda sets out on this journey with her sister, her ex-best friend, and a boy who has a crush on her. But what is the mysterious box that her grandmother needs to find? And how will going to the pecan tree make everything all right?

Now here's Loriel and Kristy!

Query Critique Giveaway and Guest Post for Literary Rambles

·         Hi Kristy, I’m so excited that I get chance to interview you today!

I’m thrilled as well!
·         Can you tell us a little bit about becoming a literary agent? What other roles have you held in the publishing industry?

I attended the Columbia Publishing Course after undergrad—a great introduction to all things publishing. From there, I interned in Bloomsbury Children’s Books’ editorial department before working in publicity at Grove/Atlantic and Random House Children’s Books. Of all my jobs, agenting has been the most challenging AND the most rewarding. What writers sometimes forget is that agents are people too—we’re crushed when a book we believe in doesn’t sell. Or when an author decides to go with someone else for representation. But there’s nothing better than working on an extraordinary story. And seeing your client’s book on the shelf for the first time? Amazing.

I wanted a new adventure in publishing—one that not only utilized my previous industry knowledge but also presented fresh challenges. Agenting was the obvious answer. As an agent, I’m a publicist, a cheerleader, an editor, and so much more—you get to do it all, and there’s never a dull moment. I was ecstatic to join The Knight Agency team in 2014 and have been here ever since.
·         What age groups and genres do you represent?

I represent middle grade, young adult, and adult.

·         Would you consider yourself an editorial agent? How do you work with your authors to ensure you submitting the strongest manuscript possible for consideration to editors?

Yes, I do! When I offer representation, I always highlight what I love about the project, but also

where I see room for improvement (what could be fleshed out more, things that could be cut for pacing, etc). Once a writer signs with me, they’re fully prepared for what comes next!

My first round of edits is usually the most in-depth. I send my clients a full editorial letter, as well as a marked-up manuscript. Typically, I suggest my clients take about a week or so with the notes to fully work through them. Then we hop on the phone to discuss further, confirm that we’re on the same page, and make a plan of attack.

After that, it really depends on the writer and the project, but we usually do several rounds of edits before going on submission. The editing process is always collaborative—my client and I work together to ensure the manuscript is in tip-top shape before we share it with editors.

·         What makes you pick up a manuscript and want to represent it? What elements draw you in?

A great voice and a strong hook—those are the key elements that draw me in. And, of course, it has
to be a genre I represent. If a project checks those three boxes, I’m going to be eager to read more. Then it becomes a question of, is this a project that I love enough that I could read it again and again? Because as an agent, that’s exactly what I’ll do. I’ll read it over and over, think of the story from every different angle, pitch it for months, and talk to countless editors about it. If I don’t think I can do that and maintain my initial level of enthusiasm, then I’m probably not the best champion for it.
·         What made you want to represent INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS?

SO. MANY. THINGS. First of all—the writing. I still remember your opening scene. Yolanda creeping into her abuela’s bedroom and seeing her lying there, butterflies nestled in her hair. I was intrigued. It was lovely and instantly made me eager to understand this world. Your story touched on feeling like an outsider in a town, even in your own family—important and relevant themes for all readers, but especially middle grade readers. And right away, I could tell this story was infused with a huge amount of heart, which was further confirmed when we spoke on the phone. So much drew from your personal life and I could feel that coming through the pages. I loved Yolanda and KNEW I had to represent this story.

·         What are some of your favorite media that you’ve consumed lately? Books, TV, movies, podcasts?

I just finished Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Really fantastic—I highly recommend. Currently, I’m re-reading Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. One of my all-time favorite comfort reads.

·         What is on your manuscript wish list right now? #MSWL?

Well, I wouldn’t say no to another project in the same vein as Into the Tall, Tall Grass! That’s always going to be a sweet spot for me.

Outside of that, I’m actively building my list right now and eager to take on additional middle grade, young adult, and adult clients. Fresh stories with unforgettable voices always capture my interest and I’d love to see even more ownvoices projects across all genres.
In middle grade, I’m looking for fun sweeping fantasy adventures, mysteries, heartfelt contemporaries, upbeat contemporaries, light fantasy and magical realism projects.
When it comes to young adult, I’m open to most genres, but I’m specifically interested in seeing light fantasy and magical realism projects, rom-coms, upbeat contemporaries, contemporary projects that deal with hard issues in a unique or quirky way, mysteries, thrillers, and historical projects with a modern sensibility (to name a few).
And finally, in adult, I’m eager for rom-coms as well as women's fiction/book club fiction (which could include contemporary, historical, speculative, magical realism, etc).
·         How would interested authors query you?
The Knight Agency uses Query Manager. The link to query me and submit your first twenty pages is here: https://querymanager.com/query/Kristy_Hunter_TKA

·         Social media links?
Twitter and Instagram: @kristyshunter
Book Giveaway and Interview questions for: Loriel Ryon

1.      Can you tell us a little about how you started writing? Was it something you’ve always done?

I was an avid reader. I read everything I could get my hands on, ignoring my family at meal-times and devouring a book a day, but I never imagined I could ever actually write a book. Not a whole one. I tried multiple times. I remember writing a book about a snowman when I was 8, some terrible YA-esque thing when I was a teen and some kind of literary story in my early twenties. But I never made more than a few scenes before my motivation sizzled out. After I had my daughter and we moved back to New Mexico, I was home a lot more, working as a nurse only once a week. I needed a creative outlet from the day to day monotony of taking care of small children. So, I decided to try a story. I figured, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like anyone would actually read it. So, I gave myself homework every single day. (My Ravenclaw is showing!) The first day, it was write a paragraph. Then a page. Then a paragraph. Before long, I had a whole book. It was a terrible book (as many first books are), but once I did it once, I knew I could do it again. And I did. And that second book became INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS.

2.      Rejections are a part of publishing. How do you handle rejections? What would say to someone who is afraid of rejections.

Oh yes, rejections are a part of publishing for sure, and I do have a tendency to keep my expectations pretty low. I read the statistics. I was realistic about it. So realistic in fact that I didn’t tell anyone (other than my husband) that I had started writing and querying for an agent. If I was going to fail at it, I wanted to fail in private and not have everyone asking how it was going.

But I wanted to try. Because I knew that I wouldn’t ever be published if I didn’t put myself out there.
I’d read somewhere that a goal of getting 100 rejections a year means you are really making an effort to put yourself out there. So, my goal was to get 100 rejections. It was like a game with a spreadsheet that I added to. And sure, the rejections weren’t fun. But because I made a game out of it, it helped to see that my tally was going up.

I did the same thing when we went on submission. For every rejection I got on submission, I put $10 in a jar. And then when I finally sold the manuscript, I bought myself something nice with it to celebrate.

To someone who is afraid of rejections:
1. GIVE IT A SHOT! Put yourself out there. Assume that you will get rejected. Everyone does. And if you don’t get rejected now, you will later. It will happen.
2. Have a plan for dealing with rejections, reward yourself for trying.
Cry if you need to.
Then, toughen up and see if you can glean anything useful from it. If not, then put it to the side and try again.

3.      What has debuting during a pandemic been like?

Phew. Well, to be perfectly honest, it hasn’t been all that easy. Not that debuting in general is easy. My friends like to tease me because I am a realist leaning toward pessimism at times. I tend to be a little suspicious of good news. So, during this whole publishing experience, I felt like at any moment, someone would realize they made a mistake and it wasn’t actually going to happen.

But then the pandemic started to happen, and everything started to get canceled. First one event, then another. Then another. I tried to lower my expectations a little more. Okay, no events, but at very least, the ONE thing I really wanted was go get a fancy coffee and take pictures of my book in real life on a shelf on launch day.

Then they closed all non-essential business in my state, and I cried. Kristy, my wonderful agent (and
the much-needed optimism to my pessimism) consoled me.

Because I realized in even trying to keep my expectations in check, that no matter how much I tried to push it away, somewhere deep inside, I still had the tiniest bit of hope that this was all going to happen. And that hurt the most. That I tried to protect myself from it, and I couldn’t.

My internet also went out three days before launch. (It’s actually still out as I type this). I have two kids under 6 that I’m “homeschooling”, I work as a nurse as well and the looming coronavirus in our state sucked up a lot of my thoughts and concerns, rightly so. I am worried I’ll get it at work. I’m worried I’ll get it at the grocery store. I’m worried I’ll bring it home. I was, and still am, concerned about having to change nursing roles to care for patients who are really sick, things I haven’t done in quite a while. I am concerned about the lack of PPE needed to keep me safe.

But through all of this, the thing that surprised me the most, was the level of support I received on my book launch day. I didn’t have that many twitter followers. I thought I’d get a few likes and move on with my day. But the outreach from the publishing, reading and writing community was more than I could have ever expected. I couldn’t believe the number of people who were excited and shouted out about my book and all the other debuts that day. I was astounded. And it ended up being a really, really great day.

But once this is all over, I can’t wait to get my fancy coffee and peruse my local bookstore so I can see it on the shelf in real life.

4.      Tell us about your book.

INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS is an upper middle grade novel set in the New Mexico desert. It is about a 12-year-old girl who is the only one in her family who lacks the magical familial trait. Her grandmother is very ill, social services is knocking on her door, and she’s isolated herself from her twin sister and ex-best friend. One day a mysterious grass grows up in the desert and her grandmother wakes up and asks Yolanda to take her to the last pecan tree on their property, in hopes of saving her life. So, Yolanda embarks on this journey with her grandmother, her twin sister, her ex-best friend, a boy who has a crush on her, and her naughty little dog. It has magical realism and STEM elements, sister-relationships, first crushes, and explores nature and grief. It came out on April 7th with Margaret K. McElderry books and is available in hardcover, e-book and audio. The hardcover is absolutely stunning in person with a shiny gold metallic cover. The narrator, Marisa Blake, did an amazing job, so you can’t go wrong with either medium. 

5.      Where can we get your book and find you on social media?

Book links:

Social Media Links
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook: @Lorielryon
Website: www.Lorielryon.com

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Loriel and Kristy!

Loriel has generously offered a signed hardback of INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS and Kristy 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 May 2nd. 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. Please be sure I have your email address.

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.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up. Please support these authors who are debuting in these challenging times by stopping by and commenting:

Monday, April 27th I have an agent spotlight interview with Lindsay Davis and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, May 6th,I have an interview with Erin Bowman and a giveaway of her MG THE GIRL AND THE WITCH'S GARDEN and my IWSG post

Monday, May 18th Monday, May 18th I have an interview with Swati Teerdhala and a giveaway of THE ARCHER AT DAWN 

Wednesday, May 20th I have an agent spot light interview with Erin Clyburn and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, June 3rd I have a guest post by debut author Chelsea Ichaso and her agent Kristy Hunter and a giveaway of Chelsea's YA psychological thriller LITTLE CREEPY THINGS and a query critique by Kristy

Hope to see you on Monday!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh my gosh...a book launch, homeschooling, nursing and then the internet goes out! Things will definitely get better. That fancy coffee and photo with your book will mean even more when you can finally go do it. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

A book launch in the middle of this mess is rough. DLP is preparing for a second release during this time but it's been wonderful how supportive the online community has been for those two books.

Sherry Ellis said...

I like the idea of putting $10 into a jar for every rejection, and then buying something with it when you're finally accepted. If I had done that with my first Bubba and Squirt book, I would've been able to go on a nice vacation! LOL!

Ilona Bray said...

An interview with heart to match a book with heart! I appreciate both Loriel and Kristy's honesty about their ups and downs in the writing world. Hopefully it won't be too long before Loriel gets to see her book on the shelf in the "real" world!

Computer Tutor said...

Really interesting interview. I love the reason you decided to represent this author--so down to earth.

mshatch said...

I'm sorry Loriel had to launch during such uncertain times. I can only imagine the disappointment. This sounds like a lovely book and something my niece and I would both love. Congrats to Loriel :)

Michelle Hubbard said...

Sounds like a lovely, lovely book. michellehubbard19@gmail.com

Annmarie said...

I love the rejection jar idea!

Janice Sperry said...

I'll have to put that book on my to read list.

Danielle H. said...

This book is a perfect choice of reading for me. Thank you for the interview and insight into the writing life. Please do not enter me in the critique chance, but I've love to win a copy of this exciting book. I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/615948494231027712/loriel-ryon-and-kristy-hunter-guest-post-and-into

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

What a great interview, of both Ryon and Hunter! This book sounds amazing as well! Having a book debut during all this definitely sounds awful (although, as a reader, I'm kind of glad that at least some fun things are happening during this awful time!). Thanks for the great post!

Patricia T. said...

In the Tall, Tall Grass, sounds like an intriguing read -- I love the themes for in Loriel Ryon. Yolanda sounds like she's very grounded, even thought she has a lot to handle. Enjoyed the interview with Loriel.
Am also impressed with the depth of material that Kristy Hunter will consider -- including the fact she'll represent adults.

cathrynzak said...

This book sounds amazing. And I want that level of amazing in my life right now. Thanks to both Loriel and Kristy for opening the door to let us peek inside the publishing process.

Debbie said...

Oh I love the $10 dollars in a jar for every rejection. I’m doing that. I’m intrigued by the story intro. For in the Tall, Tall Grass.I can’t wait to read it.
It was super helpful to read how Kristy Hunter works with her clients. I’m impressed.

Peyton Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peyton Roberts said...

My heart goes out to anyone whose debut hit during pandemic madness. I really appreciate both Loriel's and Kristy's insights into the publishing process. Would love to read this book and have my query letter critiqued. Email is my full name at gmail and I will be retweeting. Thank you!

Jenni said...

Wonderful interview! I really loved hearing about the background of this book. $10 for every rejection--what a great idea! I'm so glad to hear how the kidlit community supported you during this time. I hope that special coffee/book store date comes soon!

Greg Pattridge said...

The setting and MC really has me intrigued. Such a unique plot. The interview was great with honest answers and insights.

Samantha Bryant said...

Great interview! I really enjoyed reading about this project. @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Flower T. said...

Enjoyed the interview and the glimpse into the problems of debuting right now. Perhaps after we buy the book, we can post pictures of it on our bookshelves and Loriel can enjoy them with some fancy homemade coffee.

Julie S said...

Thank you for the interview and giveaway. I'm looking forward to reading your book Loriel and thank you for your work as a nurse in these challenging times. I've tweeted this giveaway!

Suzi Guina said...

Congratulations, Loriel! I'm so excited to read your book! Thanks for the insights and the giveaway, and especially for your work as a nurse. Hoping you and your family stay safe! I'd love to be considered for the book giveaway: bonecabela at yahoo(.)com

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Great interview! Added the book to my TBR :-)

Mattea Orr said...

The cover had me and then the book reeled me in. Can't wait to read it with my daughters!

Rosi said...

What a tough time to debut a book! Good luck with that. The cover is beautiful and the story sounds sweet. Thanks for an interesting interview. I will pass on the critique giveaway.

Malia said...

Loriel, I know how hard it can be to tamper down hope and how much that can hurt if it doesn't come to fruition. But HUGE congratulations on getting your book out there! It sounds like an amazing story and will surely grab the interest of many! Natalie, I also followed you on twitter :)

Janet, said...

Thanks so much for the interview, I enjoyed it. This sounds like a good book and it has a beautiful cover. I already follow you on twitter.

DMS said...

I am so glad that launch day was made special by all the people who came together to support you. Wonderful! Definitely a hard time to be launching a book. I hope the events and experiences after will be magical!

Thanks for the giveaway. It sounds like a great book!

tetewa said...

I enjoyed the interview today would love to be in just for a copy of the book! Sounds good!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Having a book release during all this was hard enough, but having your debut come out now sounds even worse. Congratulations on your release! It's good to have an agent that supports you.

Tonja Drecker said...

I can't imagine how hard it is to have a release right now. A huge congratulations... and the book sounds amazing!

Shanah Salter said...

Wow, what a lot going on but the book sounds great :) I would love to be considered for a critique and have shared this interview on twitter

Anonymous said...

I'm super curious as to what you bought with your rejection money! What a fabulous idea!!!

Anonymous said...

Also, I have shared this interview on twitter. :)

justJoan said...

I love the idea of rejection money, and I’m totally going to use it as my own motivation.

Sara Wilhoite said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful interview. I hope everyone is well.

@RhondaLBrown2 said...

It has magical realism and STEM elements, sister-relationships, first crushes, and explores nature and grief. I love this line, as a teacher it pulled me in. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

@RhondaLBrown2 said...

rlbrown1028@gmail.com: Sorry about the unknown, I thought it would automatically pick up my email. Rhonda

Brittany said...

This book sounds dreamy! I feel for the author though...debuting during quarantine sounds like such a bummer. I do have to tell the author thank you for the great advice for rejections...I loved the idea of rewarding yourself for trying!

nancywestbooks said...

What terrific interviews with both author and agent! I love the premise of this book and look forward to reading it! Thank you, Literary Rambles!

Computer Tutor said...

Writer's House is a class act. I haven't had any luck with submittals to you-all but I definitely don't blame you for that! Great interview.

kendall calvert said...

Can't wait to read Into the Tall Tall Grass! I always love reading other author's journey to publication, thanks for sharing about rejections!! Would love some help with my query. Thanks for the opportunity, Literary Rambles!

Crystal @ Lost in Storyland said...

I enjoyed reading this interview and learning more about the agent and writer sides. INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS sounds like a wonderful book. I don't have a query for critique. I follow you on Twitter.

Jay Linden said...

Thank you Loriel and Kristy - what a generous interview - so much heart - how fabulous to have such a passionate champion agent for your book. The tips on rejections are much appreciated and will be implemented. Look forward to reading this intriguing magical realism novel. Would love to be included for the query critique giveaway:-)

Anonymous said...

Great interviews!

A book launch at any time is a challenge. But in the pandemic, with an internet outage? That takes on the elements of a magnificent quest!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I had the pleasure of hosting Loriel during a chat on Twitter last week. She's wonderful. So happy for her and her book baby! (Not entering giveaway.)