CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

Erin Casey Query Critique through October 3rd

Summer of L.U.C.K. through October 3rd

Lauren Bieker Query Critique through October 10th

Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews and Guest Posts w/ Debut Authors & Query Critique Giveaways

Adria Goetz and G.Z. Schmidt Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/19/20

Melanie Castillo Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/21/20

Tori Sharp Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 11/18/20

Maria Vincente Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/7/20

Amy Brewer and Dana Swift Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 1/18/21

Agent Spotlight Updates

All agent spotlights and interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated again in 2023.

NIKI LENZ INTERVIEW AND THE STEPMOM SKAKE-UP GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Niki Lenz here to share about her new MG humorous contemporary THE STEPMOM SKAKE-UP. It sounds like a great story that is funny but also deals with contemporary issues that middle graders go through. Niki is also the author of another MG funny book, BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN, which got fantastic reviews.

Here’s a blurb of THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP from Goodreads

After Grace's mom died, she and her dad grew extra close. They have special nicknames and are always busy with new projects-like building a puppy condo for their dog, Potus- and they love learning random facts about the US presidents. Grace thinks her little family of two is perfect.

Then some committee members at church suggest it's time for Dad to start dating again. And Dad agrees! Grace knows that adding a new member to the team will end in disaster.

No problem! She and her best friend have a plan: Operation Stepmoom Shake-Up! But what if a little shake-up is exactly what Grace's family needs?

Reverse PARENT TRAP-like antics offer a hilarious and heartwarming look at what it means to be a family.

Hi Niki! Thanks so much for joining us!

1. Tell us about yourself.

Hi! I am a wife and mom of two and I live here in Kansas City. I recently found out I will be adding “first grade teacher” to the bio in the 2020 school year. I love reading, writing, travel, jigsaw puzzles, glamping, red lipstick,  and oldies music.

2. Congrats on your new job. Where did you get the idea for THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP?
My husband and I were hosting a small dinner party, and I am bad at small talk, so I asked everyone to share a childhood memory. One of the guys said that his father was a minister and he and his brother used to go with him to the hospital when he would pray with people. The kids would run around and play hide and seek in the hospital while their dad did the rounds. For some reason that image stuck with me and a few days later I wrote a scene with a girl and her best friend going with her preacher Dad to the hospital. The characters wouldn’t leave me alone and so a rough draft began to form. In the ironic ways of the writing process that scene later got cut, but that is where it all began.

3. Writing a humorous story sounds really hard to me, but you seem really good at it. How do you incorporate humor into your stories? What advice do you have for other authors?

Well, the biggest advantage I have in that department is that my sense of humor never seemed to   I think kids can tell when you are trying too hard to entertain them. It’s also important to spend a lot of time around real life kids. Listen to how they talk and what they find funny.

develop past the level of a twelve year old! When I am writing, I am not necessarily thinking “What will kids think is funny?” I am thinking “What do I think is funny?” I write to amuse myself.

4. That's great advice. Share a bit about Grace, the main character in your story. Was she a well-developed character in your mind when you started writing her story or did this come later?

Grace came to me fully formed because she is based largely on my own daughter. I love her free
spirit and artistic outfits. She has a quick wit and a mischievous streak, much like my girl. What was surprising to me was how much the Dad character morphed into my husband. He didn’t start off that way!

5. That's so funny how the Dad character turned into your husband.What was a challenge you faced in writing THE STEPMOM SKAKE-UP? How did you overcome it?

The biggest struggle with writing THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP was the sheer amount of revisions we ended up doing. I did an extensive round with my agent, then another before acquisitions, then my first edit letter with my editor. At that point I felt like we should be pretty close to being done. Ha ha, no. The next round of edits involved an entirely new outline. I was scrambling to add brand new scenes and to cut whole characters. I cried every time I opened that edit letter. But you know what, in the end I think the story is stronger for it. It was during that ghastly round of edits that, in a move of desperation, I asked my daughter what she would do if she were trying to make two grown-ups fall in love. Without skipping a beat she said, “I’d give them one milkshake with two straws.” I turned on my heels and wrote that scene, which later inspired the new title and the cover art!

6. That does sound like a lot of revisions. Your agent is Kate Shafer Testerman. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like for your first and second book?

I had queried three other novels to about one hundred agents each. So if you are good at math, that means three hundred rejections. But I had a good feeling about my fourth novel. It had gotten some attention in an online contest and had a strong hook. So I narrowed my list to the top fifteen agents, my dream agents. Kate was on that list. She had been such an amazing partner in all of this. That fourth book didn’t sell, but BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN sold in the first round of subs to Random House. It was truly a dream come true. THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP was my option book and having the publisher decide to acquire it too felt like lightning striking twice.

7. I saw on your website that you had a virtual launch party on June 17th to celebrate the release of your book. Share how you set this up and your plans for the event.

I am still hoping to work with my local library and indie bookstore to create an event that will be interactive and fun. We are brainstorming games, photo challenges, prizes and all kinds of fun.

8. How else are you planning to promote your book in these challenging times? What advice do you have for other authors whose books will be released soon?

The one thing that I learned after my first book came out is that you can really grind yourself into the


ground with promotion and it doesn’t really move the needle. Travel, school visits, conferences and festivals are a no go right now, so I am going to focus on blog tours and podcasts. I also think it’s important to try and give during promotion, not just talk about yourself all the time and expect people to want to buy your books. I have been doing a writer’s workshop series of videos on my website for teachers to use during this crazy time. I am trying to help in any way that I can, including buying A LOT of books from my local bookstore.

9. I really like your idea of thinking of promotions as an opportunity to give to others. BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN released in March 2019 and was your debut book. I’m always curious to learn what authors have learned from their experience being a debut author and what they might have done differently. What did you learn from that process and what would you have done differently, especially in terms of promoting your book and developing your social platform?

Being a debut author is strange. You go from very high highs ( LOOK! MY BOOK IS ON THIS LIST!) to very low lows ( SOMEONE JUST LEFT A SUPER MEAN REVIEW). I think the biggest thing that new authors should remember is that you wrote a book and that is an amazing accomplishment. Try not to compare your experience with anyone elses, because you will always feel like things aren’t fair. And just celebrate every little victory along the way.  I am not the person to ask about promoting or social platforms. I just try to be myself and help and give when I can.

10. What are you working on now?

I actually just bombarded my poor agent with three middle grade manuscripts and one picture book
manuscript that I am hoping will go out on sub soon. I have an idea for the next thing I am going to write, but it’s still swimming around in my head at the moment. It’s been a bit hard to get focused work done with all of (gestures at the world) this going on.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Niki. You can find Niki at www.nikilenz.com, follow her on Twitter @NikiRLenz, Instagram @Smile4Niki and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NikiLenzAuthor/

Niki is generously offering a signed hardback of THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower  of my blog and leave a comment by July 4th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is international.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (Wednesday for me this month) is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, July 1st I have Chrys Fey here with a guest post and an e-book giveaway of one of her books and my IWSG post

Monday, July 6th I have an interview with debut author Ash Van Otterloo and a giveaway of her contemporary/fantasy CATTYWAMPUS FYI I read an ARC & loved it!

Monday, July 13th, I have interview with debut author Karin Biggs and giveaway of her YA fantasy THE KING'S 100

Monday, July 20th, I have with Jess Redman and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Quintessence

Wednesday, July 22nd, Angela Ackerman of Writers Helping Writers will be here to celebrate the release of THE OCCUPATION THESAURUS written by Becca Puglisi and her with a big giveaway  

Monday, July 27th I have an interview with Olivia Wildenstein and a giveaway of her YA romance Not Another Love Song 

Wednesday, July 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Erin Casey and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday, July 1st!





AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH KRISTINA PEREZ AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Kristina Perez here. She is an associate literary agent at Zeno Literary Agency.

Hi­ Kristina! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Kristina:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.
I joined the Zeno Agency in November 2019 and I am absolutely loving building my list. Becoming an agent seemed like a natural progression from my career as an author and my years as a freelance journalist. I adore pitching stories to editors, finding scoops––or, in this case, clients!––and all of the business aspects of publishing.
About the Agency:
2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.
Founded in 2008, the Zeno Agency is a boutique agency based in London, UK. Zeno is best known as a specialist in adult Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror but has recently expanded into MG/YA, Women’s Fiction, Romance, Non-Fiction, and Crime/Thrillers. We represent a top-drawer range of authors, both as primary agent and in association with a number of well-known agencies abroad.
Our list comprises major brand-names, high profile award winners, talented debut authors and prestigious literary estates. We are a small, highly collaborative team that works closely together as well as with a range of sub-agents, scouts, and Film/TV agents. We support our clients at every stage of a project and throughout their careers.
What She’s Looking For:
3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?
I represent MG, YA, adult SFF, Non-Fiction, and Romance. In MG and YA, I am open to all genres, but I tend to gravitate towards fantasy and historical. I will also consider YA non-fiction proposals in all subject areas. On the adult side, I’m particularly looking for Historical Romance and feminist fantasy retellings like Circe. For adult non-fiction, I’d love to see popular science with a feminist bent like Invisible Women or history in the vein of Latinx. (For my full wishlist, check out zenoagency.com)
4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?
I love retellings with a twist, whether it be contemporary or fantasy, especially LGBTQIA+ and those that draw on non-Western folklore and mythology. And I especially encourage submissions from writers from marginalised backgrounds.
What She Isn’t Looking For:
5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?
I am not the right agent for hard/military SF and any dystopian novels have to have a genuinely unique premise. I am also not currently looking for picture books.
Agent Philosophy:
6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?
In terms of the authors I want to work with and the books I want to represent, my philosophy is pretty simple: I want to represent the books that I want to read, and I want to work with authors who have something to say. I want to champion new and diverse voices that we need to hear more from across all categories. I want to work on projects that force us to reevaluate the world around us in big and small ways.
Editorial Agent:
7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?
Yes, as an author myself, I am a very editorial agent. It depends on the shape of the project, of course, but with a completed manuscript that I sign, I usually do at least one round of structural edits in addition to line edits before going on submission. For new projects, I work with my clients at all points in the developmental stages to make sure they’re going in the right direction.
Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)
8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?
I accept queries by email only (perez (at) zenoagency.com). Please paste only the first chapter of your manuscript beneath your query in the body of the email.
9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?
I read a lot of queries on my phone, so it irks me when authors attach the pages instead of pasting them in the email.
Response Time:
10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?
This can vary depending on what else I have on my plate. I usually designate one day per week to look at queries and try to respond within two weeks. For requested manuscripts, this can take up to twelve weeks but generally around six to eight.
 Self-Published and Small Press Authors:
11.  Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?
I am certainly open to representing previously published authors. With regards to previously published material that would have to be evaluated on a case by case basis. In terms of advice, I think it’s important to be as transparent and to provide as much information about your publication history as possible.
12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?
Publishing’s dynamism is part of what makes it such an exciting industry to work in. As an agent, I think it’s important to remain flexible and find innovative ways to serve my clients’ best interests. But what hasn’t changed amidst a changing landscape is that an agent’s primary purpose is to nurture and guide their clients’ careers to the best of their abilities.
Clients:
13. Who are some of the authors you represent?
I represent a diverse range of authors from established journalists to debut novelists. You can find my client list here: http://zenoagency.com/agents/kristina-perez/
Interviews and Guest Posts:
14. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.
I gave a Webinar on World Building 101 for Las Musas, which may be of interest to querying writers: https://youtu.be/srGtR8FxhG0
On May 29th, I am doing an AskAgent Webinar for Las Musas with a Live Q&A that will also be archived on the Musas website (www.lasmusasbooks.com).
Links and Contact Info:
15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.
Queries should be emailed to perez (at) zenoagency.com.
Twitter: @kperezagent
Instagram: @kkperezbooks
Additional Advice:
16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?
Don’t query until you’re 100% happy with your manuscript. Quite often I get a new query from an author with an “updated” version while I’m still considering the first manuscript that they sent me. I have to prioritize my clients’ work and so this will generally lead to a pass from me.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kristina.

­Kristina is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through June 26th.  If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.

ELAINE KAYE BLOG TOUR FOR THE BAD FAIRY AND THREE BOOK GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I have author Elaine Kaye here to celebrate the release of her MG fantasy THE BAD FAIRY. It is book one in the series and sounds like a sweet story kids will enjoy. In case you don't know this about Ellen, she's follower Chrys Fey's mother. Wouldn't it be cool to share writing with your mom?



Title: Bad Fairy
Series: A Bad Fairy Adventure (Book One)
Author: Elaine Kaye
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Fantasy Middle Grade
Length: 66 pages
Age Range: 8-12
 

BLURB: Thistle Greenbud is not a bad fairy. She simply doesn't like rules, and it's just her luck that her homework is to create a new rule for the fairy handbook. But first, she has more important things to do. Like figure out how to get back at Dusty and Moss for playing tricks on her.

Before she can carry out her plan, though, disaster strikes and she finds herself working alongside the very fairies she wanted revenge on. Can they work together and trust each other, or will things go from bad to worse?

BUY LINKS:


10 Things You May Not Know About Fairies:

-       They live for approximately 400 - 1,000 years.

-       Even when a fairy is 1,000 years old, they will always appear youthful.

-       When fairies reach the age of seven, they stop aging physically.

-       Also, at the age of seven, they are already adults.

-       Some fairies, though, are immortal.

-       A group of fairies is known as a troop.

-       Fairies live in another dimension known as the fairy realm that humans cannot not travel to freely, but humans with second sight can see fairies.

-       Fairies don’t want to be seen, though, so even if you have second sight it may be hard to see them, especially when they use invisibility to hide.

-       They know which herbs to use for their magical properties.

-       They can also weave magic into herbs to increase the herbs’ healing powers. 

EXCERPT:

As we watch the boys, the wind picks up, making the fern lay flat, exposing us. We gasp and make a dash for the closest tree. Behind it, we huddle together.

“Boogles! A branch just hit me,” Weedy says.

The sky turns black. Wind swirls dust and leaves, and spits pebbles at us. This is not good. We have to get going now or else our payback will get blown away.

“Let’s go!” I scream and lead the group from behind the tree, but the wind makes it hard for 
us to move forward.

Rose and Lilly grab hands as they run, screaming, toward the creek. Lacey stumbles over a fallen twig, landing flat and hitting her face hard on the ground. When she doesn’t move, I race to her as sand and pine needles prick my skin.

I help Lacey to her feet. Luckily, she only has a few cuts on her face. A tiny bit of blood streaks down her forehead. She looks at me. Fear is bright in her eyes. She needs help. We all need help. I peer toward the creek. The boys are still there, frantically trying to lift the bag full of stones.

Shouting a warning and waving my arms, I hurry to the creek, trying to get their attention. Finally, Dusty sees me. He looks as if he’s been caught with his hand in the pixie jar.

I point to the sky and wave them to come our way. Rain starts to fall. Dusty pulls Moss from the creek. Fat drops of water pelt my head and wings as I wait for the boys to reach me.

“It must be a twisty!” Dusty screams. “We better find shelter.”


GIVEAWAY:

3 Signed Paperback Picture Books –
Pea Soup Disaster, Doctor Mom, The Missing Alphabet


Eligibility: International

Number of Winners: One

Giveaway Ends: July 1, 2020 12:00am Eastern Standard Time





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Elaine Kaye is the author of A Gregory Green Adventure series. She first created Gregory Green after her son, who loved her homemade pea soup, thus inspiring the story Pea Soup DisasterBad Fairy is her middle grade debut and the first of A Bad Fairy Adventure series.

Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher’s assistant in elementary schools in the Sunshine State. She currently lives in Florida, but she has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home. She is a grandmother of three boys.

Amazon / Goodreads / BookBub / Instagram / Facebook Twitter / LinkedIn / Blog


Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (Wednesday for me this month) is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You
can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, June 17th I have an agent spotlight interview with Kristina Perez and a query critique giveaway

Monday, June 22nd I have an interview with author Niki Lenz and a giveaway of her MG humorous contemporary THE STEPMOM SHAKEUP

Wednesday, July 1st I have Chrys Fey here with a guest post and an e-book giveaway of one of her books


Hope to see you on Monday!

AGENT ALERT: SEE WHAT EMILY VAN BEEK IS ACTIVELY SEEKING NOW!

Happy Wednesday Everyone! I want to let you know about a great opportunity to submit to Emily van Beek at Folio Jr. Here is what she has to say about what she is actively looking for right now:

"*I need your help. If you know me, you know I'm not great at taking breaks. I'm ACTIVELY building my list right now. If you have stellar, fun, expansive, bright, fantastical, joyful, adventurous middle grade hiding somewhere, PLEASE query me. Tell your friends! Crow it from the rooftops! I'm standing by with my reading glasses on! The time is now! emily@foliolitmanagement.com* (via email)

You can find out what else Emily is looking for by reading her updated agent spotlight. And help her out by sharing this post on your social media sites. Thanks so much! Emily and I appreciate it.

 Here's what's coming up:

Monday, June 15th I have a guest post by MG and picture book author Elaine Kaye and a giveaway of three of her picture books

Wednesday, June 17th I have an agent spotlight interview with Kristina Perez and a query critique giveaway

Monday, June 22nd I have an interview with author Niki Lenz and a giveaway of her MG humorous contemporary THE STEPMOM SHAKEUP

Wednesday, July 1st I have Chrys Fey here with a guest post and an e-book giveaway of one of her books

Hope to see you on Monday!

JOSH ROBERTS INTERVIEW AND THE WITCHES OF WILLOW COVE GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Josh Roberts here to share about his MG fantasy/mystery THE WITCHES OF WILLOW COVE. I read an ARC and really enjoyed it. It’s got witches and magic, which I love, and also deals with issues you see in contemporary MG like friendships, romance, and trying to fit in. It’s a really action-packed story too that never drags. I know a lot of you that read middle grade novels would enjoy this one.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Six teenage witches. One mysterious stranger. A secret that could destroy them all.

It's not easy being a teenage witch. Seventh grader Abby Shepherd is just getting the hang of it when weird stuff starts happening all around her hometown of Willow Cove. Green slime bubbling to life in science class. Giant snakes slithering around the middle school gym. Her best friend suddenly keeping secrets and telling lies.
Things only begin to make sense when a stranger named Miss Winters reveals that Abby isn't the only young witch in town--and that Willow Cove is home to a secret past that connects them all. Miss Winters, herself a witch, even offers to teach Abby and the others everything she knows about witchcraft.
But as Abby learns more about Miss Winters' past, she begins to suspect her new mentor is keeping secrets of her own. Can Abby trust her, or does Miss Winters have something wicked planned for the young witches of Willow Cove?

Hi Josh! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Like most writers, I got into writing because I love stories. Not just telling them, but reading them, too. Especially reading them. I love books, and so writing one myself was always something I wanted to do. Thank goodness I didn’t realize how difficult it would be or I might never have gotten started. 

I often tell people that The Witches of Willow Cove is the book that taught me how to write a book. I made just about every mistake you can make as a writer in my early drafts, but I tried to learn from them and improve with each revision. I suppose I could have given up and written something else, but this was always the story I wanted to tell first, so it’s the one I kept coming back to and improving with each new draft. 

It was a long road from the first draft to the finished novel, but the upside of that is I’ve had a lot of time to figure out where I want to take this cast of characters in future novels before all is said and done. I’m well into the second book in the series now and having a ton of fun writing it.
2. Good to know that I'm not the only one who made a ton of mistakes in my first book. Where did you get the idea for THE WITCHES OF WILLOW COVE?

Growing up a few towns over from Salem, Massachusetts, I was always aware of the witch trials and how fundamental they were to our local history and lore. What fascinated me most, though, was the fact that what we think of as the Salem Witch Trials actually occurred in another town that used to be part of Salem, but no longer is. Salem gets all the tourists, but the witch history happened elsewhere.

I love the concept of a small town with a secret history, because it offers such rich territory to explore as a writer. What if you were growing up in that town and didn’t know anything about its secret past? What if as you learned about it, you discovered you had a special connection to it? Once I had that kernel of an idea, the rest of the story began to fall into place bit by bit until I was ready to sit down and see where it led me.

3. I loved the fact that Abby and some of her friends are witches and the magical powers they have. Share about how you developed this part of your story.

I suppose in some ways it was inevitable—you set out to write a story about witchcraft and witch history, some of the characters are going to end up being witches! It’s not something that arrived fully formed in my mind, though. I wrote the first scene, and then the second one, and pretty soon it was obvious to me that Abby was going to have to be a witch. But the other characters, and the idea of their coven and its connection to the witch lore of the area developed and deepened as the story itself developed and deepened.

I will say one thing that was always important to me, and served as a sort of guiding principle throughout, was that I never wanted to trivialize or romanticize the historical tragedy of the witch trials. The women (and some men) persecuted in the seventeenth century were not magical witches, they were victims, and it would have felt wrong to me to try to capitalize on their suffering by fictionalizing their story into something other than the tragedy it was.

I suppose that’s another reason I was attracted to the idea of a secret history. Those poor victims you learned about in history class? They weren’t witches. But these others girls…? Pull up a chair and let me tell you a story.

4. That's great how you turned the focus around in your story. You also have Abby and her friends trying to solve a centuries-old mystery. What’s really interesting is that Abby and her friends who are witches are trying to figure it out and then her best friend Robby and two other friends are also trying to figure it out on their own. How did you weave it all together and keep it all straight as you wrote this story?

I love that people might read my book and imagine themselves with magical powers, and I hope they
can identify with Abby and her friends and see themselves reflected in those characters. But I also hope people come away remembering that you don’t need magical powers to be remarkable—even in a story like this. Robby, Becca, and Zeus are meant to remind us that ordinary kids can make a difference, too.

Once I had the idea of Abby and her friends learning magic and developing that part of the story, it seemed natural for Robby and his friends to go the amateur detective route to solve the centuries-old mystery. The challenge wasn’t so much keeping it all straight as it was making sure that both story lines were progressing at about the same rate so that their major revelations happened at the same time before the two stories intersected again.

I will say that if I’d known how hard it would be to write a dual POV narrative with two main characters, I probably never would have done it. This is essentially two books in one, which might explain why my first draft was 150,000 words long. (The final published version is exactly half that long.)

5. You'd never know that you started with such a large word count. Another thing I enjoyed about your story was your pacing. It never lagged because there was always something going on. What were some of your techniques for making your story a page-turner?

I outline, but I don’t always stick to that outline. I leave myself room for surprises and if a better idea comes along as I’m writing—even if it blows up the entire plan—I go with it. Every time I sit down to write a chapter, I ask myself, “What is the most exciting thing that could happen right now?” Then I usually try to figure out how to make it happen.

6. That's a great question to ask yourself as you write. What was your road to publication like?

It was torture! I waited a long time to query because I knew the book wasn’t ready. Once I had the story where I wanted it, though, I began to send it out and quickly got requests for the full manuscript. Those were hopeful days that eventually led to a lot of disappointment.

Everyone seemed to have a different opinion about where the book should be positioned. I made a conscious choice to write a book with 13-year-old main characters, and the most consistent feedback I received was that the characters should either be aged down to address more typical middle grade themes, or aged up to go after the young adult audience.

Honestly, I felt a bit adrift because of that. The book I wrote—the story I wanted to tell—was entirely about that in-between age, and it was frustrating that there didn’t seem to be a home for stories like this in the publishing world. I tried to fulfill those “revise and resubmit” requests with younger and older versions of the main cast, but it never felt right to me. Ultimately, I decided to make one more pass at it with my original vision of the story and themes and send it around again.

I almost couldn’t believe it when someone finally said yes! And I’m thrilled to have found a supportive and enthusiastic publisher in Owl Hollow Press who shares my vision for a series of stories about these characters that will fully bridge the gap from middle grade to young adult.

7. You’ve also written articles for other publications, like USA Today and The Boston Sunday Globe. Has this helped you in your MG writing or in getting published? If so, how?

I’m a travel journalist by trade, and good travel journalism is all about setting the scene and telling a story. That has definitely helped me learn to be a writer, but as I alluded to earlier, there are some things about writing a novel that you can only learn by writing (and rewriting) a novel. It’s harder than it looks!

8. How are you marketing your book, especially in light of the Coronavirus?

It’s definitely a challenge I never anticipated. My launch party has been indefinitely postponed and
replaced with a virtual event. I’d scheduled book signings at stores all around the country, and those were are also either canceled or postponed. Most of the marketing has moved online now, and we’ve done a ton of ARC giveaways to generate early reviews and buzz on Goodreads, NetGalley, and social media.

I’ve lost count of how many independent bookstores I’ve contacted, too, but it’s not an easy situation for anyone, because most of those stores are still closed to customers and many are struggling to stay afloat. Mostly I’m just offering to be involved in any way that would be helpful—virtual events, signed copies, that kind of thing. My local bookstore, Copper Dog Books, is offering signed copies and can ship them anywhere in the U.S. and Canada.

I’m hopeful that by the fall the world will have reached something that more closely resembles normal life, and fall seems like a good time to try to promote my book again. It’s a Halloween story, after all. I’m biased but I think it would make a great addition to any bookstore’s or library’s Halloween display.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m deep into the sequel to The Witches of Willow Cove, and I’m desperate to share details about it with everyone… but I really should finish it first. I will share one thing, though. Book two jumps ahead by half a year and begins on Abby’s fourteenth birthday.

I’m also writing a young adult adventure novel set on the eve of World War II—that one’s about half finished and I absolutely love working on it—and I have a few chapters written in another spooky middle grade book that I’m especially excited about, too. (Totally unrelated to Willow Cove.) So, there’s no shortage of things to keep me busy.

Thanks for all your advice, Josh. You can find Josh at:
Signed copies (shipped to US and Canada): https://www.copperdogbooks.com/book/9781945654497 

Josh has generously offered a hardback of THE WITCHES OF WILLOW COVE for a giveaway.  To enter, all you need to do is be a follower  of my blog and leave a comment by June 20th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is international.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (Wednesday for me this month) is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, June 15th I have a guest post by MG and picture book author Elaine Kaye and a giveaway of three of her picture books

Wednesday, June 17th I have an agent spotlight interview with Kristina Perez and a query critique giveaway

Monday, June 22nd I have an interview with author Niki Lenz and a giveaway of her MG humorous contemporary THE STEPMOM SHAKEUP

Wednesday, July 1st I have Chrys Fey here with a guest post and an e-book giveaway of one of her books

Hope to see you on Monday!