Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
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  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024

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: Sasha Laurens and A Wicked Magic Giveaway/IWSG & Keep Writing With Fey Blog Hop

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Hope you're all doing good. Did you see my big announcement about my agent spotlights and interviews? If not, read my birthday post to learn all about it. Also, I'm starting to participate in big monthly book giveaway hops again as they are available. You can find the link to the August giveaway at the top of the blog. I've got lots of MG and YA new releases for you

Today I am excited to have debut author Sasha Laurens here to celebrate the release of her YA fantasy A WICKED MAGIC. I’m excited to read it because it has witches and magic, and is a thriller. 

IWSG and Keep Writing With Fey Blog Hop Post

Before I get to Sasha's interview, I have my IWSG Post. I'm also participating in Chrys Fey's blog hop to celebrate her new book and am doing a joint post because it all deals with my writing.

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

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!

The co-hosts this month are Susan Baury Rouchard, Nancy Gideon, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Hawes, Chemist Ken, and Chrys Fey!

Here's a blurb of Chrys' book Keep Writing With Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer's Block, Depression, and Burnout:
Catch the sparks you need to conquer writer’s block, depression, and burnout!
When Chrys Fey shared her story about depression and burnout, it struck a chord with other writers. That put into perspective for her how desperate writers are to hear they aren’t alone. Many creative types experience these challenges, battling to recover. Let Keep Writing with Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer's Block, Depression, and Burnout guide you through:
· Writer's block
· Depression
· Writer's burnout
· What a writer doesn’t need to succeed
· Finding creativity boosts
With these sparks, you can begin your journey of rediscovering your creativity and get back to what you love - writing.
Amazon / Nook / iTunes / Kobo

My post is about how I've handled depression. I don't think that it's been any secret that I've been depressed since I lost my husband six years ago and then lost my job and became an empty nester within 18 months of that. I haven't been very interested in much, including this blog and my writing. I came pretty close to deleting any manuscripts I'd been working on in one of my darkest time. Going through this all has been the hardest time of my life.

Fortunately, I'm doing much better. Some of it is just that it takes time to go through the grieving process and figure out your life again. It's also included admitting that I'm depressed and sometimes have PTSD symptoms related to all the changes I went through in such a short period of time.  I've helped myself by practicing gratitude, meditating, reading what I love, helping others, taking a tincture for the PTSD, spending time with family and friends, and walking daily. It's really a combination of a lot of things that helps me keep the depression and PTSD in control.

I know it will probably be a life-long journey dealing with depression, grief, and life changes for me. But I'm grateful to finally be feeling more like the person I was before all this happened to me. I'm also grateful that things like helping other writers through my blog and my writing mean more to me now.

What about you? How have you dealt with one of the issues that Chrys' book deals with?

Interview With Sasha Laurens

Now here's my interview with Sasha. First, here's a blurb of A Wicked Magic from Goodreads:

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The Craft when modern witches must save teens stolen by an ancient demon in this YA fantasy-thriller debut.

Dan and Liss are witches. The Black Book granted them that power. Harnessing that power feels good, especially when everything in their lives makes them feel powerless.

During a spell gone wrong, Liss's boyfriend is snatched away by an evil entity and presumed dead. Dan and Liss's friendship dies that night, too. How can they practice magic after the darkness that they conjured?

Months later, Liss discovers that her boyfriend is alive, trapped underground in the grips of an ancient force. She must save him, and she needs Dan and the power of The Black Book to do so. Dan is quickly sucked back into Liss's orbit and pushes away her best friend, Alexa. But Alexa has some big secrets she's hiding and her own unique magical disaster to deal with.

When another teenager disappears, the girls know it's no coincidence. What greedy magic have they awakened? And what does it want with these teens it has stolen?

Set in the atmospheric wilds of California's northern coast, Sasha Laurens's thrilling debut novel is about the complications of friendship, how to take back power, and how to embrace the darkness that lives within us all.

Hi Sasha! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve been making up stories since I was a little kid. In high school, I started taking writing classes at 826 Valencia, and when I got to college, I nearly majored in creative writing. But I was always focused on literary fiction, especially short stories. With literary fiction, the path to publication usually requires an MFA, and at a certain point, I knew an MFA wasn’t in the cards for me. This will sound horrible, but I decided to try writing YA—which I never even read at that time—because how hard could it be? I started drafting my first YA novel at NaNoWriMo in 2013, and I realized pretty quickly that I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into. I didn’t know how to plot or set up character arcs! I started taking it seriously, reading as much as I could in the genre, and studying craft, and the rest is history.

2. I think a lot of people don't realize how hard it is to write until they start. Where did you get the idea for A WICKED MAGIC?

I was reading a book about the history of folklore and magic in Russia that included stories of the dangers of crossroads. One of these stories said that if an odd number of people found themselves at a crossroads, demons might abduct one of them to even the count. I couldn’t get that story out of my head, and I knew it would work in a contemporary setting. At the same time, I was working on a story about female friendship, and the strange way it can be painful and life-giving at the same time. In particular, I was thinking about how easy it is to hurt your friends and be hurt by them when you’re young and don’t really know yourself. Those two ideas came together to form the idea-germ of A WICKED MAGIC.

3. I love that your story mixes the fantasy and thriller genres. What made you decide to combine them and what challenges did it create in developing the story?

To be perfectly honest, I had never thought about this story as a thriller until after I signed my deal. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have been able to write it! Plot doesn’t come very naturally to me—if I had my way, my characters just sit around thinking for 300 pages. I’m also not great at coming up with cool magical moments either. Because I know that about myself, I really work to make sure that every scene is pulling its weight and advancing the plot. Contemporary fantasy and thrillers both have this sense of something unknown, and possibly dangerous, lurking just beneath the surface, so I think they’re actually pretty compatible genres!

4. What was your plotting process like and what tips do you have for someone who wants to write a thriller.

Many index cards died in service to A WICKED MAGIC. I do a lot of outlining and reverse-outline
(which is outlining what you’ve already written). This allows me to check that every scene is firing at all cylinders—advancing the plot and the character arcs, and escalating towards the climax. Outlining makes it easy to see where readers might get bored. It also allows me to find places in earlier parts of the story to slip in foreshadowing, so the reader has enough information to put everything together a half-second before the characters do.

Writing gripping plots, no matter your genre, is a question of craft. Read craft books! Personally I love The Anatomy of Story and Save the Cat.

5. I'll have to check out The Anatomy of Story. Another thing that draws me to your story is that it deals with a lot f heavy contemporary issues, like suicide, mental health issues, and child abuse. Those are only a few of the issues you warn of on your website. How hard was it to write about these issues and kind of experience them through your writing?

When A WICKED MAGIC begins, Dan and Liss are dealing with the fallout of something terrible they did months ago—and they’re not dealing well. Both of them cope with their guilt, depression and other negative feelings in ways that are destructive to themselves and others. Over the course of the story, they gain some insight into those behaviors and begin to work to resolve their past trauma and guilt. I felt that was an important journey to show, even if it does require some uncomfortable scenes.

Writing these elements wasn’t difficult because I had to vicariously experience those things. Many of them were things I had already experienced myself in real life or watched close friends wrestle with. A far more difficult thing was to represent these bad coping strategies in such a way that it was clear why the girls were using them, but without glamorizing them. Glamorizing bad behavior is really easy to do when your audience is young people, and I definitely do not want any young person to walk away from this book thinking that they should follow in Dan or Liss’s self-destructive footsteps. At the same time I didn’t want to sound moralizing or inauthentic. Striking that balance was hard and I still wonder if I did it right.

On my website, I tried to cast a wide net with the content warnings I posted, to provide information to readers who wanted it. Not all those topics are a major focus of the narrative.

6. Sounds like you hit the right balance. Liss and Dan are your two protagonists who must learn to work together after their friendship sours. Which one was the easier one for you to develop as a character and why?

When I first conceived of Dan and Liss, I imagined Dan as having been taken advantage of by Liss, and Liss as this domineering, insensitive villain, who didn’t take care with Dan’s feelings. I expected to have a hard time connecting to Liss as I wrote, but Dan was ultimately much more difficult. The more time I spent with Dan, the more it became clear that because she sees herself as a victim, she’s able to ignore her responsibility for the end of her friendship with Liss. At the same time, she’s settled for feeling guilty about Johnny’s disappearance, rather than facing what she did and taking action. That passivity was super annoying to write—I just wanted her to stop feeling sorry for herself! The more time I spent writing from Liss’s POV, the more I connected with her perfectionist drive and her need to be loved, and I came to appreciate how Dan had really hurt her as well. Ultimately, the girls are foils for each other, so their characters are deeply intertwined.
7. You are also pursuing your PhD at the University of Michigan. How do you find the writing time you need with the grueling schedule of a PhD student?

It’s definitely difficult! But a PhD program also gives you near-total freedom over how you manage you time and no one cares how long you spend working if you get stuff done, so it’s much easier to find time to write than when I had a full-time job. I usually write in the morning until around 10 or 11, during the week, and then spend as much time as I can on Saturday. The exception is if I’m doing fieldwork (my research is about Russia). Then I don’t write at all.

8. That's great that you control your own schedule. Your agent is Jennifer Udden. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I signed with Jen on a different novel that died on submission. That was the first novel I’d written (in that 2013 NaNo). It took a few years to revise it and find an agent, although I only queried about 50 total. Jen was actually the last agent I was waiting to hear from before I trunked that project entirely, so it’s pretty fortunate that she wanted to sign me! At that point, I had already begun working on what would become A WICKED MAGIC. A year or so later, we were preparing for a second round of submission for that first novel, when I realized I didn’t want that book to sell—A WICKED MAGIC was significantly better, but quite different, and I felt if I could finish it, editors would be interested. So we pulled the first novel and went out with AWM a few months later. We had interest within a month!

9. How are you planning to market your book and celebrate its release given COVID-19? What advise do you have for other authors whose book will be released during the pandemic?

This is such a tough question!  Everyone is doing their best, but it’s still really hard to know at this point what works. I am running a pre-order campaign where you can get free stickers based on the book cover, if you fill out the form at https://www.sashalaurens.com/pre-order-campaign. I am also planning some live-streamed events with other authors at the end of July/early August to celebrate the release. You can follow me on twitter or Instagram for updates on that.
Personally, I’m planning to celebrate with some friends and family on zoom, and maybe have drinks with some folks in person. Still I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel a little anticlimactic.

10. What are you working on now?

I can’t say much about it, but the working title is “Vampire Boarding School.”

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Sasha. You can find Sasha at:

Pre-orders can request free AWM stickers here: https://www.sashalaurens.com/pre-order-campaign

Giveaway Details

Sasha has generously offered an ARC of A Wicked Magic for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog and leave a comment by August 22nd. 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 and Canada.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, August 10th I have an interview with debut author Chris Negron and a giveaway of his MG contemporary Unmasked

Monday, August 17th I have an interview with debut author KayLynn Flanders and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Shielded

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

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!


Patsy said...

Like everyone I have periods when I'm more, or less, cheerful than others, but so far I've been fortunate and escaped true depression. I have however been 'down' or unsettled enough not to be able to write for a time and that's left me feeling a bit lost.

nashvillecats2 said...

I have been a follower of Chrys for some time and think her book wonderful. Having had a rough spell my poetry had suffered but must be more positive I guess.
A wonderful interview with Sasha.
Have a good month Natalie and keep well.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

So glad you're doing better! That was a lot of really stressful change and sadness all at one time.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Russian magic - now that's unique!
Glad you are doing better, Natalie. One day at a time. Life is a process.

Jemi Fraser said...

Fascinating cover and premise for the book!
Natalie - you had such changes in so short a time. Hard on the heart and soul. Glad you're feeling more 'you' - sending hugs your way!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Love the title A Wicked Magic, and also the premise. Wishing Sasha loads of success for her book!

Liza said...

Wonderful interview. Love reading about Sasha’s writing process. Natalie, thank you for all you do for other writers, as well as your personal kindness.

Diane Burton said...

Boy, you were hit with a double whammy. Glad you're starting to feel better. Best wishes to Sasha and Chrys.

Tamara Narayan said...

I love the cover art and comps (big fan of both The Craft and new Sabrina series) for Sasha's novel! Witchcraft is such a fascinating topic.


Natalie, you must be so strong to go through all those unimaginable and difficult things at the same time. I wish you well in your ongoing recovery.

Nicki Elson said...

Wow, that is a lot of painful experience packed into a short timeframe. I'm happy you found and identified the practices that help you continue to be you.

Congrats to Sasha. That cover is fantastic!

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story! <3

Depression, grief, PTSD...they are painful. Dealing, healing, accepting, and living with those things is a process. And they can be life-long. I know my depression (as well as the PTSD I have from past situations) will be life-long. I'm getting better at dealing with them, though, which comes with time and reflection.

I'm glad you've found things that help you. Gratitude, mediation, walking, etc. are wonderful remedies.

Take care! And thank you so much for participating in my blog hop.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I am in absolute love with this cover! Best of luck, Sasha!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

My prayers are with you. That's about the time I lost my husband, too, so I understand your feelings. The memories are there, forever. Take care of yourself. Each day is a blessing.

Samantha Bryant said...

Congratulations on finding a way forward through so much grief and change. May the experience leave you stronger. @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Jennifer Lane said...

I'm so glad you're coming out of your depression, Natalie. I've recently learned a PTSD treatment called cognitive processing therapy that is really awesome. There's a podcast about it called Ten Sessions, part of This American Life.

Congratulations to Chrys and Sasha!

Gwen Gardner said...

Natalie, it takes time to grieve and figure out a way forward. You're doing great!

Sasha, your book sounds amazing. I think your reverse-outline is a great idea and part of the process I've been missing in my own writing. Congrats on your success!

cleemckenzie said...

Congrats again to Chrys and to Sasha. Anatomy of a Story does sound like a great resource.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Natalie, I truly admire the way you have turned to supporting other writers as you struggle to return to your own writing. Your example has been inspiring to me, as I struggle with much the same, and cling to writing as the one constant.

Lynn La Vita said...

Thank you for being so honest about your enormous losses and sharing your journey with your readers. You teach and inspire all those around you.

emaginette said...

I've found acceptance and encouraging self-talk really helped me with my depression. We change and grow everyday. We can't be who we were yesterday; we can only be what we've become today.

Anna from elements of emaginette

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Releasing a book now does feel really anti-climatic.

Natalie, maybe use writing as your therapy. I know I did.

Olga Godim said...

I was diagnosed with depression more that a dozen years ago. Since then, I've been keeping it under control, but it's not easy. I bow to you, Natalie, for keeping yours dormant and becoming such a huge help to other writers.

Cathrina Constantine said...

I released by 8th novel on July 6th, which seemed like a bad idea with what's been happening around the world. But, it went well. People like to read, and it helps me to get away from the harsh reality.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I'm glad you're feeling more yourself, Natalie! I think a combination of methods to deal with depression and grief can be ideal - so if one isn't quite hitting the right spot, another one kicks in. Happy Writing!
And, thank you for sharing authors and agents here!

Sandra Cox said...

Ooh, Sasha's book sounds intriguing and I love the cover!
And Chrys's is definitely going to be a huge help to the writing community.

Carol Kilgore said...

Sasha's book sounds great! I also see it's included in the yummy free book giveaway in the post below this one :)
Happy August, Natalie.

Sherry Ellis said...

Sasha's book sounds like a great read. I love magic and witches and stuff like that.

A lot of us have gone through some dark times which has caused us to go through a writing slump. Glad you got through yours. Chrys' book will be a big help to the writing community!

Jennifer Hawes said...

Love the cover!! The book sounds amazing!

Erika Beebe said...

I agree with Sherry. A Wicked Magic, sounds really intriguing, and I'm so happy you are finding your way back to writing and what makes you smile again. Congratulations to Chrys!

Elizabeth Mueller said...

It does help to help others out when you're down. I'm glad to hear that you're better. Take care.

Jenni said...

Natalie, thanks so much for sharing your story. You've gone through so much! I've had a couple periods in my life where I had to battle the double whammy of grief and other challenges at the same time. It is no easy task. It is amazing how small things, like walks and spending time with others can really help. Hugs! We all really appreciate what you do for our writing community.

Please count me out of this giveaway as it sounds a little too scary for me.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

A WICKED MAGIC sounds awesome and I love the cover!

Congrats too to Chrys.

Denise Covey said...

I'm sorry to hear about how hard it's been for you since losing your husband, Natalie. But your daughter has done well! Hopefully you'll once again find joy in your manuscripts and see them through to fruition.

Great interview!

Fundy Blue said...

Boy, Natalie, you are an inspiration! I have no clue how you manage to do all you do. As always, I enjoy your interviews, and good luck to Sasha with her book. Thanks for sharing your struggle with depression and PTSD. Journeying through depression is no easy passage. I'm glad to hear that you are coming out on the other side. Please take care!

Stephen Tremp said...

Hi Natalie, I love the "rediscovering your creativity and get back to what you love - writing" I take breaks from writing because of life demands but I am always seeking ways to wedge in writing here and there and by the end of the week I\m amazed at how much I accomplished.

ken ohl said...

This looks like a very intriguing book sorry for your loss just lost my mother thanks for the uplifting words

Chemist Ken said...

Life has certainly thrown you a few curve balls in recent years, but don't toss away any manuscripts. You don't know how you'll feel as time goes on.

A thriller with magic and witches? Interesting.

Danielle H. said...

Thank you for the interview. My favorite part was the discussion about the difficult issues this book deals with and how the author wanted to make sure they weren't glamorized. I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/625713563049263104/debut-author-interview-sasha-laurens-and-a-wicked

Chelly Writes said...

Ooh I definitely need to read this one and that cover is gorgeous!

Debra Branigan said...

I am glad you are feeling better. The highlighted novel, A Wicked Magic sounds so unique and interesting. I would love to read this one. Best wishes to the author on the novel. I shared on twitter: (https://twitter.com/BraniganDebra/status/1291421869376245760?s=20)

Pat Hatt said...

Everything sure can hit at once. Good you are keeping on.

Yep. Very anti climatic these days with releases indeed.

tetewa said...

Enjoyed the interview and congrats on the release! Sounds like my kind of genre and love the title for the next book! I'm always looking for new authors to read, sounds good! tWarner419(at)aol(dot)com

Toi Thomas said...

Thank you for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you for all you've had to face. I'm glad to hear you are in a better place and find purpose in helping other writers.
I like the cover of A Wicked Magic and the concept sounds realy cool. I wish Sasha Laurens all the best with her pre-order campaign and giveaway.

Tonja Drecker said...

Congrats to Chrys! And yes, I've been suffering a writing slump for well over a year. But I think life comes in phases. GLad to hear you're seeing a nearing light!
And A Wicked Magic sounds like my kind of read!

Empty Nest Insider said...

Natalie, It’s understandable that you experienced PTSD after losing your husband so young. And it had to be awfully bittersweet when your daughter went away to college while you were still grieving. I’m so glad you’re feeling better now, and admire your hard work and perseverance. Stay strong & healthy.

On another note, congrats to Chrys and Sasha on their new books!


Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

I had no idea about what you've dealt with these past few years, and I'm so sorry you had to go through all of that! I really appreciate your honesty about what it's been like to deal with everything. It often seems like so much of the media is trying to push the false narrative that people should aim to be happy all of the time, when actually, that is neither feasible nor beneficial.

A Wicked Magic sounds like an excellent book! I had never heard of reverse-outlining, but it sounds like a super-useful strategy! Also, I've never seen an author put up content warnings on their website, and I appreciate Ms. Laurens doing that—I've read some books where sensitive subjects just pop up out of the woodwork, and I can imagine that must be extremely painful for readers dealing with such subjects themselves. I'll pass on the giveaway, but thank you for the great interview!

diedre Knight said...

I'm so glad you found the strength to carry on, and that you did not delete your manuscripts! As inspiring as you already are, I can well imagine how deep your well of creativity goes.
"The only way round is through," ~ Robert Frost

Congratulations to Chrys and Sasha!

Anonymous said...

This sounds lovely! I appreciate the insight into Sasha's process with this book. Thank you for the giveaway!