Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • 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.

Debut Author Interview: KayLynn Flanders and Shielded Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Kaylynn Flanders here to share about her YA fantasy Shielded. It sounds like a real pager, and Jenna sounds like a great heroine that readers start loving right away. I’m excited to read it.

Follower News

Before I get to KayLynn's interview, I have Follower News to share. Jacqui Murray recently released

Against All Odds. Here's a blurb: Xhosa’s extraordinary prehistoric saga concludes, filled with hardship, courage, survival, and family.

And here's some helpful links: 

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU 
Blog: https://worddreams.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/worddreams
Website: https://jacquimur ray.net

KayLynn's Interview

Here’s a blurb of Shielded from Goodreads

For fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Furyborn comes a thrilling new fantasy about a kingdom ravaged by war, and the princess who might be the key to saving not only those closest to her, but the kingdom itself, if she reveals the very secret that could destroy her.

The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It's losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn's--her brother's--magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong--the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it's too late--for her and for her entire kingdom.

Hi KayLynn! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

Thank you for having me! I’m a wife/mother/reader/athlete/editor who recently discovered a love for writing. Growing up, I always loved reading. But anytime I tried to write my own stories, I’d quite five pages in because writing a whole story is hard. However, I always believed in the power that stories have, and decided to study editing in college. Just before I turned thirty, I got the idea for Shielded and attended my first writing conference with a friend who wanted to write a book, and I decided to give writing a book another try. It took five years and over twenty huge revisions to get Shielded where it is today, but I discovered something about myself along the way: I am a writer at heart. I love everything about creating a story and crafting an experience for the reader. I love the possibility found within a blank page, and the euphoria that comes as each draft gets better. Writing is a lot of work, but it’s is a part of me I’m so glad I discovered.

2. How cool that you studied edited and were willing to edit your manuscript so many times. Where did you get the idea for Shielded?

The very first idea I had for Shielded started in a dream. I won’t share spoilers, but there were people in trouble, and I woke up before they were safe. My heart was pounding so hard at the cliffhanger, and I needed to find a way for them to be safe so I could go back to sleep. The only solution I could think of was magic. I eventually went back to sleep, but the characters stayed with me. I let that idea grow over a few months, asking questions about who the characters were, why they were in danger, and how they got out of danger. The dream was wildly different than what my book ended up being (there were neon yellow tanks in the dream, for example), but the core emotion of that scene is one of the key parts of the book that hasn’t changed over the drafts.

 3. From some of the reviews, your book sounds like a real page turner that sucks readers in right away in the first chapter. What was your plotting process like? Did you change your process at all as you wrote your story?

I’ve been an editor for over ten years, so I’m all about making changes and finding better ways to do things. My plotting process started as asking questions about the characters and about their world, and piecing the information into a plot and reworking it as I received feedback. Over the twenty drafts Shielded went through, my plotting process definitely changed as I read books about writing craft and attended conferences. I’ve learned that there’s no One True Way to plot a book. I’m still revising my methods, bringing in things I think will help and integrating them into my process.

4. That's great advice on there being no One True Way. World building is so important in a fantasy. How did you develop your two kingdoms, which sound like they are very different cultures? How do keep the two different kingdoms and all their nuances straight in your head?

The two kingdoms sprouted from a need to have two kingdoms that needed to rely on each other for basic resources and supplies. So they developed as I thought about the resources needed to maintain a kingdom, and then sort of split them up so they could complement each other. Once I had a feel for what type of kingdom each was, I pulled from places I’d been and research I did to create more of a traditional culture behind the basic resources. And so, Kingdom 1 became Hálendi—influenced by Icelandic and Nordic cultures; and Kingdom 2 became Turia—based on Etruscan history with Italian influences.

 As for keeping the details separate, I kept a separate document with research and details for each kingdom. I also found that having a Pinterest board for each kingdom helped get me into the right mindset as I drafted and revised. My Pinterest boards aren’t elaborate (Pinterest can be a black hole), but they are enough to help me remember the feel of each kingdom.

5. The way you describe the two kingdoms makes so much sense planning-wise. Shielded is the first book in your duology. What made you decide on a duology rather than a trilogy? How did knowing the series would continue affect the story you told in Shielded?

When I very first started writing Shielded, I had thought to make it a trilogy. Trilogies were all the rage

at the time, and I had a vague idea of what each book would be about. But as I revised and as the market changed, I realized I didn’t want it to be three books. Leigh Bardugo had released her Six of Crows duology, and I loved that I didn’t have to wait three years to finish a series, and that the classic “book two slump” wasn’t an issue. So I decided to change from three books to two, partly because it would be a stronger series that way, and partly because my own attention span is about two books long. I won’t say there will never be a third book, though.

Changing from a trilogy to a duology didn’t actually affect Shielded very much. It did affect book two. But again, I think for this particular series, the overall story is stronger with two books instead of three.

6. I like your reasoning for making this a two-book series. It sounds like Jenna is a really strong leader and heroine. Was she an easy character to write and did you discover much new about her as you told her story?

Jenna’s voice was really strong from the beginning. Almost to the point where I could say, “What if this happened,” and she’d tell me how she’d react. That being said, writing is an act of discovery, so yes, I definitely discovered new things about her as I wrote and revised.

 7. Your agent is Laura Crockett. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

After I’d worked on Shielded for two years, getting a lot of feedback and attending writing conferences and revising it fourteen times, I decided I was ready to start querying. I’d written something I loved, and wanted to see how far I could take it. I queried agents for several months, getting a lot of rejections along with some interest. Laura requested the full manuscript, and then offered representation, and I’m so happy to work with her—she is fantastic! After I signed with her, we did another major revision, and then the manuscript was on submission with editors for about a year before Delacorte Press bought it. Shielded went through a few more rounds of revision with my fabulous editor, Monica Jean, and it was published July 21, 2020!

 8. One thing that I liked on your website is how you share links to reviews and interviews on book review blogs. When did you start connecting with blogs for interviews and reviews and how did you find them?

I started reaching out to a few bloggers I’d heard of a little over three months before my publication date. I didn’t feel comfortable reaching out and asking people I didn’t know to help me promote my book that wasn’t even out yet, and I said something on Twitter about how nervous it made me. A ton of bloggers responded to that tweet and emailed me, offering to help however they could! It was an amazing outpouring of support, and it’s something I’ve seen again and again in the book community. I wanted my readers to be able to find those reviews, so I decided to link them to my website, hoping I could push more traffic to the bloggers as well, since they’d come through for me and my book. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up with it now that the book is released and more reviews are popping up, but I’ll try as long as I can! Word of mouth really is the best way to market a book, and any success I’ve had is because people have read my book, loved it, and then told their friends about it.

 9. I've found some new bloggers by following your blog tour that was going on in August. How are you planning to celebrate the release of your book and promote it given COVID-19.

My book had a couple online launch events—a Facebook Live in conjunction with my local indie bookstore, and some Instagram Lives with Instagrammers. Promotion has all gone online, so the bloggers and Instagrammers posting about my book are the lifeblood of my marketing at the moment. Shielded is a fun escape into another world, filled with hope and magic and possibility, and that’s something a lot of people are looking for during these uncertain times.

 10. What are you working on now?

I’m working on the second book of the Shielded duology with my editor at the moment, and I’m really excited to take readers on another adventure within the Shielded world. There will be new point-of-view characters, and we’ll get to dive deep into the magic of the Plateau. I’m also working on a standalone fantasy that’s got loyalty and betrayal, forests of oaks with huge, twisty branches, and a knifer who must choose whether to trust the boy who’s always been her enemy, or her friends, who have started crossing lines she’s not willing to cross.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, KayLynn. You can find KayLynn at kaylynnflanders.com or on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Giveaway Details

KayLynn has generously offered a hardback of Shielded for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by August 29th. 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 U.S.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Here's what's coming up:

Monday,  August 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with Veronica Park and a query critique giveaway

Tuesday, September 1st I'm participating in the September to Remember Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, September 2nd I have an interview with debut author Andrea Contos and a giveaway of her YA thriller Throwaway Girls

Monday, September 7th I have an agent spotlight interview with Carlisle Weber and a query critique giveaway

Monday, September 14th I have an interview with debut author Rebecca Coffindaffer and a giveaway of her YA space opera Crownchasers

Wednesday, September 16th I have an agent spotlight interview with Erin Casey and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!


nashvillecats2 said...

Another great interview Natalie, made most interesting reading.
Still trying to fathom the new blogger but at present am with the old one. Have been blogging for 15 years why do they want to change I've yet to asertain.
Have a good new week.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great interview! I wonder how being a professional editor affected the pace of KayLynn's writing and if it made her edit as she went instead of after her first draft. Congratulations to her on the book!

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like terrific world building!
Coming at creating a book from an editor's viewpoint sounds great!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

A series of two - you don't see many of those.

All of my stories have come from dreams. That's where the imagination just explodes.

Computer Tutor said...

Thanks for the mention, Natalie. Woot!

Sherry Ellis said...

That's cool that the idea for the book came to you from a dream. I wonder how often that happens.

Greg Pattridge said...

So this all started with a dream! I might have to put a notebook by my bed tonight. Great interview and the story sounds fantastic. I'll pass on the drawing as I have a stack of 20 MG books still to read, but I'll keep this new fantasy in mind as a recommendation to others.

JadeSky said...

Wow! This sounds like an exciting adventure...just the type of story I like. I will definitely be checking this book out. Thanks for the great post and interview!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

So many exciting things are happening I can't keep up with it all. Congratulations to all on your great news. I'm changing emails, Natalie. My new one is BeverlyStoweMcClure@gmail.com
The old one is still good for a while, but not long, I hope.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for letting me know, Beverly. I changed your address in my address book.

KatiZee said...

I read this via NetGalley, it's so good. I loved it! Thanks for the chance!

Jenni said...

This one sounds so good! I love YA fantasy especially with a strong heroine and battling kingdoms. It was really interesting reading about how KayLynn uses Pinterest for her planning. Great interview!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Thank you, Natalie. I thought this was the easiest way. Hae a good week.

Pat Hatt said...

Dreams are a great source of inspiration indeed

Liz A. said...

Sounds like a great book. Worldbuilding is so hard. It sounds like she nailed it.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Shielded is definitely on my TBR list!

ken ohl said...

this looks so intriguing

Nick Wilford said...

Congrats to Kaylynn! This sounds excellent. I love that this came from such a visceral beginning, with needing to rescue characters that appeared in a dream. That's a strong start for any story.

Sherri said...

I love the descriptions of these two kingdoms and can’t wait to read this! Wow 20 revisions and WOW it sounds like it was your first novel written, as well? Congrats

Megan said...

This book looks amazing!
GFC: Megan S.
Email: megan(dot)clarsach(at)gmail(dot)com
Tweet: https://twitter.com/WordsThatStay1/status/1295721328767569924

Angie Quantrell said...

Oh, this book sounds engaging and wonderful! I can't wait to read it. Congratulations!

angelecolline at yahoo dot com

I tweeted this post as well. :)

Danielle H. said...

I have this book high on my wish list. Thank you for the interview and chance to win a copy. I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/626807483593310209/debut-author-interview-kaylynn-flanders-and

Debra Branigan said...

The book sounds like a great YA read for those Fantasy readers. I look forward to the book as well. I shared on twitter (https://twitter.com/BraniganDebra/status/1295812735792484352?s=20)

Ada Griffiths said...

Love this interview!
I follow by email (elephantlover099@gmail.com)

Sandra Cox said...

What a great interview. Thank you.
Jacqui's book is amazing.
Kaylynn's read sounds good and the cover is great.
My goodness Natalie. You are closing in 5K followers. That is quite a landmark to reach.

tetewa said...

Thanks for introducing me to yet another author that I'm sure I will enjoy! Sounds like a good one! tWarner419(at)aol(dot)com

Computer Tutor said...

Kaylynn's book really sounded interesting. Thanks for your kind words about mine!

Rosi said...

Another interesting interview. I always enjoy reading them and learning from them. The book sounds great, but I will pass on the giveaway. Buried in books here.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the giveaway!

MichelleCat said...


MichelleCat said...

E-mail subscriber ~ bonita7878 (@) yahoo

MichelleCat said...

I like how she admits to revising her works and accepting feedback :-) Love the interview