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: Olivia Chadha Interview and Rise of the Red Hand Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday and Happy New Year Everyone! I hope you had a happy and safe holiday. Mine was very quiet but I was grateful to spend time with my boyfriend and a little bit of time with my daughter and her boyfriend. I would be lying if I didn't say it was hard as much of 2020 was. But I'm trying to do what's right to keep my family and me safe and healthy and keep everyone safe too. I know things will be getting better by the summer, and I hold onto that hope to give me strength during these challenging times. I hope you do to. For those of you who have lost loved ones either this year or earlier like me, I know that is really hard.

Today I’m excited to start 2021 with an interview with debut author Olivia Chadha to celebrate the release of her YA dystopian, Rise of the Red Hand. It sounds like a fantastic story that deals with really timely issues like climate change and a possible pandemic. What's amazing is that she wrote it before all this happened to us.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

A rare, searing portrayal of the future of climate change in South Asia. A streetrat turned revolutionary and the disillusioned hacker son of a politician try to take down a ruthlessly technocratic government that sacrifices its poorest citizens to build its utopia.

The South Asian Province is split in two. Uplanders lead luxurious lives inside a climate-controlled biodome, dependent on technology and gene therapy to keep them healthy and youthful forever. Outside, the poor and forgotten scrape by with discarded black-market robotics, a society of poverty-stricken cyborgs struggling to survive in slums threatened by rising sea levels, unbreathable air, and deadly superbugs.

Ashiva works for the Red Hand, an underground network of revolutionaries fighting the government, which is run by a merciless computer algorithm that dictates every citizen’s fate. She’s a smuggler with the best robotic arm and cybernetic enhancements the slums can offer, and her cargo includes the most vulnerable of the city’s abandoned children.

When Ashiva crosses paths with the brilliant hacker Riz-Ali, a privileged Uplander who finds himself embroiled in the Red Hand’s dangerous activities, they uncover a horrifying conspiracy that the government will do anything to bury. From armed guardians kidnapping children to massive robots flattening the slums, to a pandemic that threatens to sweep through the city like wildfire, Ashiva and Riz-Ali will have to put aside their differences in order to fight the system and save the communities they love from destruction.


Before I get to my interview with Olivia, I've got my IWSG Post.

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 awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, and Louise - Fundy Blue!

Optional Question: Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

My daughter's 9th grade English teacher gave her an excellent piece of advice that I've followed since I heard it. She said that if you don't like a book by page 50, put it down and start something new. For me, I need a fast-paced plot and characters I care about to keep reading. Flowery words, "literary" works, lots of description, and too much telling turn me off when I'm reading, and I don't finish those stories. 

What about you? What frustrates you when you read?

Interview With Olivia Chadha

Hi Olivia! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thanks for having me! I was one of those little kids who asked for notebooks and pens instead of toys. I studied literature and creative writing at UCSB, CU Boulder, and did my doctorate at Binghamton University where I studied creative writing, folklore and literature. Professionally, I got my start writing a few comic book scripts for Michael Turner’s Fathom. My first adult literary novel, Balance of Fragile Things centers on teens but is written for adults. It took me a while to realize that the young adult arena is the place I wanted to be. But when I did, I joined my local SCBWI and dove right in. The kid lit writing community is the most supportive I’ve found.

2. I agree with you on how supportive the kidlit and writing communities like the IWSG are. Where did you get the idea for The Rise of the Red Hand?

I wanted to write a story about two characters who live across a border from one another to highlight the impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations, particularly in South Asia. Early on, I drafted a few chapters with a similar story in a fantasy landscape, but it wasn’t working. Finally, I realized it needed to be in a near future setting in South Asia. At its heart, Rise of the Red Hand is about empathy. How to dig deep into your being and cultivate it even when you’re full of anger. It’s a story about two teens in a future South Asia from opposite sides of the domed city: Ashiva is a hard-hearted smuggler who has spent her life fighting for scraps outside in the Narrows slums. Riz-Ali is a wealthy uplander who exists in a world filled with every luxury imaginable. When their lives unexpectedly crash together, they’re propelled on a thrill-ride of a journey to take down fascist regime. But their larger story is something much more difficult than a mech battle and survival: it’s about working together to facilitate change during an environmental crisis and envisioning a world in which we can all thrive.

3. What made you decide to have your plot deal focus on climate change and a pandemic crisis, which are both really big issues in our own times? Did it feel weird to discover that you were writing about a world in danger of a pandemic and then find yourself experiencing one yourself?

Definitely. Like most, I was not prepared for 2020 and all the challenges it has presented! I wrote the

first draft of Rise a couple years ago, so I could easily imagine a difficult future, but little did I know we’d be experiencing one. I’ve spent years researching the environment. My first novel, Balance of Fragile Things is literary eco-fiction and I did extensive research on pollinators and invertebrates, mostly butterflies. I’m an avid gardener who is obsessed with animals, and passionate about the natural world. In my research I’ve been focused on how the impacts of climate change go far beyond rising temperatures in our day to day lives. The most terrifying discoveries are being made in melting glaciers. Scientists are discovering that the melt is exposing viruses and bacteria that haven’t seen the light of day for centuries, or longer. The physical boundary between humans and wildlife is narrowing. So, in many ways climate change and pandemics are intrinsically linked.

4. That's great that you could bring your passions to your story. Your world building sounds fantastic. What research did you do to create your world and what was your world building process like?

In many ways, Rise of the Red Hand deals with boundaries: between people, governments, humanity

and machine. I’ve spent years researching environmental literature and India’s Partition so I was ready to jump into a novel that could highlight both a climate crisis and changing borders and boundaries at the same time in a science fiction landscape. For this book I looked to the future while looking at the past. I tried to imagine what the world would be like if all efforts to curb the inevitable impacts of climate change were ignored. My research consisted of pouring over maps envisioning how the water would rise and change the borders of continents. I looked into how some governments and people might rely on technology to solve the problems, while others would look to nature for solutions. Extreme climate changes cause drought, flood and famine. Inevitably there will be massive groups of vulnerable refugees who will be forced out of their land into new areas. I also wanted to write a novel that thinks about the border between humanity and machine with mechas and cyberpunk influences as I adore that genre.

5. Was it more challenging to develop Ashiva or Riz-Ali as a character? Why? Share something that surprised you about each character.

Ashiva and Riz-Ali are both characters whose lives are balanced atop the edge of a knife. At first glance they appear opposite in every way. Riz is posh, wealthy, and genetically perfect but he has to appear perfect or else suffer the consequences. Ashiva is rebuilt with scrap technology, poor, and deemed unfit for the future by the algorithm Solace. Ashiva seems simple, all smash now and ask forgiveness later, but it’s a defense she’s relies on in a world that continues to make life impossible for her and the others living in the orphanage, The Children of Without. Riz could have easily become a caricature of a rich, spoiled kid. And Ashiva could have been a victim. That was probably the most complicated part about writing them, pushing both of them into the grey space that makes up the distance between their binary opposition. I wanted to show that assumptions we make about others aren’t always true in order to show the similarities between us and build that bridge to empathy.

6. You started out writing comic book scripts for Fathom. What did you learn from that experience that helped you when you wrote this story?

Comic books are my first love. I was a lucky twenty-two-year-old who stumbled into an opportunity when I wrote scripts for the late Michael Turner. He was a genius illustrator with a generous heart and just gave me a shot. I learned a lot, mostly that I needed to work on my writing craft to reign in the crazy ideas I had. I also learned that writing a book can seem like a solo study, but publishing a book is definitely a team effort. I look forward to writing comic books again.

7. That's awesome that you could start writing comic scripts in your early 20's. Eric Smith is your agent. How did he become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I revised Rise and felt ready to query and sent a few out. At the top of my list was Eric Smith because he’s such an amazing advocate for diverse authors. Then I saw that #DVpit was coming up. So, I polished some pitches and entered. Eric liked my pitch, requested my novel, and offered representation right away. Funny enough, he was one of the agents I queried before #DVpit, so it was meant to be! I was in tears reading his email. After I signed, we touched up the book, then went on sub. It was a few months before we connected with Erewhon Books, and the rest is history. All this sounds so easy. But keep in mind I wrote three novels and published one of them before landing an agent. It was literally the right book at the right time with the right agent. The lesson here is, don’t give up. Keep writing new things. If one book doesn’t work, write another one.

8. That's great advice. You’re a member of The 21ders, a debut middle group and young adult group. How has this helped you navigate your debut year? How did you find out about this group?

The21ders are my life! I love them all so dearly. Each member is so supportive, kind, and generous with their knowledge. I don’t know what I would do without them. Seriously, if you’re a debut author, seek out and find your debut group. I think I originally googled them or found them on a social media site. Our slack has been a lifeline. I’m gushing, but it’s true. Check out the upcoming 2021 novels at www.21ders.com. Debuting is terrifying anytime, but debut during a pandemic is so difficult because we need support and guidance. I am so thankful for The21ders!

9. I would definitely want to be part of a debut group. How are you promoting your book given the pandemic? What advice do you have for other writers who will have a book published in 2021 or early 2022?

Promo seems to have gone into hyper drive now that all events can be done virtually. While we miss seeing people, I think there are even more opportunities to connect with a larger audience now. From podcasts, to interviews, IG live events, online classes, and live panels my schedule has been quite full. I only wish I could do school visits and connect with the teen readers in person. The best advice someone gave me for this year was to say no to promo opportunities that don’t bring you joy. And to remember that while you’re busy doing other things, that you are first a writer, and it’s your duty to protect your creativity.

10. That's great that you have a lot of opportunities to connect to more readers. What are you working on now?

I’m polishing up the second book in The Mechanists duology and working on two other YA projects that I can’t say much about right now. But just know they are hopepunk through and through. J

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Olivia. You can find Olivia at:
@ockaur on twitter
@okchadha on Instagram
Giveaway Details

Olivia and her publisher have generously offered an ARC of Rise of the Red Hand 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 January 23rd. 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

Monday, January 11th I have an interview with debut author Caroline Gertler and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Many Points of Me

Saturday, January 16th I'm participating in the Winter Wishes Giveaway Hop

Monday, January 18th I have a guest post by debut author Dana Swift and her agent Amy Brewer and a query critique giveaway and book giveaway of Dana's YA fantasy Cast in Firelight 

Wednesday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Tricia Skinner and query critique giveaway

Monday, January 25th I have an interview with debut author Chrystal Giles and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Take Back the Block

Wednesday, January 27th I have an interview with author Gita Trelease and a giveaway of Everything That Burns as part of her blog tour

Hope to see you on Monday, January 11th!


nashvillecats2 said...

Happy New Year Natalie, pleased you got to spend some time with family and boyfriend over Christmas.
Wonderful interview with Olivia, I wish her well with her writing.
Take care.

Pat Garcia said...

Hi and Happy New Year!
Reading the interview with Olivia made me think of the Fridays for Future Movement that started here in Europe. So, I will put this one on my TBR List.

Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

Jemi Fraser said...

Olivia's book sounds terrific - great premise!

I'm with you. 50 pages is a good chance for a book to grab me.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Those things throw me out of a book!

C.D. Gallant-King said...

I hate it when people say: "the first book is kinda slow, but the second picks up and is awesome!" But why would I want to spend 300-400 pages on a book that I don't like, for the possibility that I MIGHT like the next one? If the first act of a single book is boring, you usually won't stick with it, so why would you stick with an entire book???

Happy New Year!

Brenda said...

What throws me off of a book varies so much. At times it is all the things you mentioned, and then sometimes I quite enjoy the flowery words and descriptions. I think I must be a mood based reader, sometimes it just clicks with my mood at the moment.

Diane Burton said...

Happy New Year, Natalie. Like you, our Christmas was low key, just Hubs and me. We're still healthy and awaiting the vaccine. I like that teacher's advice. There are too many good books out there to waste time on one you don't care for.

Great interview with Olivia. That book has a scary premise. Best wishes, Olivia.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, Happy New Year. So happy that you could spend time over the holidays with your boyfriend and your daughter.

Loved the interview with Olivia, climate change is a serious concern everywhere.

Nancy Gideon said...

Happy New Year, Natalie! As always, a great post, filled with information. And, yes, teachers always make the best sages. I wouldn't be an author if not for the encouragement of two of mine.

Computer Tutor said...

There's a lot in this book that I see happening today (a few of the unrestrained tech giants come to mind). Very dystopian. Good luck with this!

Cathrina Constantine said...

I guess I do like some flowery words. In YA, I like action and interesting dialogue. There was a book series that was made into 3 movies. Book 1, I loved, which brought me to book 2. Reading book 2, by the time I hit page 50 it became totally boring! I slugged through it and on to book3, which I never should have bothered. And that series, which I'm not going to mention, hit the NYT Best Sellers, and had 3 movies made out of them. There were plenty of readers that despised the ending.
Have you ever read The Hobbit Trilogy? Talk about descriptions...tons. It makes me chuckle, it seemed as if Tolkien described every blade of grass. But great books.

PK HREZO said...

Happy New Year Natalie!! That's great advice from your daughter's teacher. I agree. There is no reason to keep reading something that doesn't interest you.

Patsy said...

That teacher's advice is great, but I'm less patient. If I'm not enjoying it by the second page I stop. Often I'll give it another try later, especially if I was expecting to like it, because sometimes it's just my mood but I don't struggle long with a book I don't like – there are too many others to try.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Right book at the right time is exactly what it is.

Fifty pages often translates to three chapters, so now you know why that's what publishers and agents often request for a partial.

emaginette said...

I don't have a page number that I must be hooked by, but if I have any qualms about picking it up again, I don't bother. 'So many books and so little time' is cliché for a reason. ;-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

cleemckenzie said...

That teacher gave your daughter some good advice. By 50 pages in, that story has to have you by the throat or it's not one for you.

Congratulations to Olivia.

Lynn La Vita said...

Teachers can be a powerful influence. They can shape young lives and sometimes their parents and friends.
Filler words and lengthy descriptions bring my imagination to grinding halt. It's taken years to learn I don't have to finish a book.
Happy new years!

Olga Godim said...

Too much description and too much telling always spoil a story for me too.
Good luck to Olivia with her new book.

Adrienne Reiter said...

Happy IWSG!
If the story reads as inauthentic I can't jump into it. I know this is subjective, but it's true.

Loni Townsend said...

I could never get into literary works either. Grats to Olivia!

Nicki Elson said...

Fifty pages definitely seems like enough of a chance for a book to grab you - I think I'll take that advice, too.

Congrats to Olivia! Sounds like a thought provoking read.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Happy IWSG! I agree with that teacher, by page 50 or chapter 8, something needs to be happening. :)

Congrats to Olivia! Her novel sounds both gripping and thought-provoking.

Tonja Drecker said...

I'm putting this one on my TBR list..it sounds amazing! The last year was tough for so many. Have a Happy New Year full of many great things!

Jennifer Hawes said...

Fifty pages is so generous! If I'm not hooked after the first chapter, I'm out. Happy New Year!

Erika Beebe said...

Happy New Year, Natalie. It has definitely been a lonely, helpless feeling sort of year. I woke up this morning with the urge to listen to the Beach Boys, Good Vibrations song, and you know what? It really put some pep in my step. I'm going to make a vow to start my day as best as I can each and every day, and I really hope 2021 turns out so much better for all of us.

Page 50 sounds like a number I use too. I definitely try to get into the first four chapters. I figure if I don't know who from who by then, the book isn't working for me.

Congrats to Olivia!

Samantha Bryant said...

First 50 pages is a good test, I think. If I don't care by then, I'm probably not going to.

Steph W. said...

Good advice! Thanks for your post today. I love learning about new authors!

Beth Camp said...

Thank you for lessening my guilt! I love that guideline if the book hasn't grabbed me by page 50, let go! Also, your interview with Olivia Chadha was quite interesting. Altogether, your blog is delightful, connected to writers and writing, and especially soothing to read today.

Liza said...

Happy NewYear, Natalie. Thank you for all your caring. Congratulations to Olivia. I am less patient than you. I need to be all in by about page 2!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Happy New Year, Natalie. It's been a rough one but like you, I have to believe it will be better by the middle of the year. Congrats to Olivia for having a story that is so relatable to the current world situation.

Jenni said...

I really like the South Asian setting! This sounds like a very unique take on the dystopian novel. Congrats to Olivia! Thanks for a wonderful interview, Natalie!
Happy New Year!

Fundy Blue said...

Olivia's "Rise of the Red Hand" sounds so good, Natalie. Thanks for another great interview. And thank you for trying to do what's right to keep you, your family, and everyone safe. It's a constant struggle to do what's right in these difficult times. We'll get there though. Stay careful and safe!

Liz A. said...

Great interview. It must be nice to have a group of debuts to connect with. Very supportive.

Emma G said...

Happy New Year! 50 pages sounds like a good line, I’ve always found it hard to know when to give up on a book. :)

ken ohl said...

this book looks intriguing love to check this out

Melissa Miles said...

Congrats on the book release! Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

Joanne Roberts said...

I prefer Steampunk to Cyberpunk, but I am intrigued by your setting. Looking forward to reading. Thanks and congratulations! BookishAmbition@gmail.com

Victoria Dixon said...

I so look forward to reading this!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I usually give a book a handful of pages - sometimes 10, sometimes 20, but usually no more than 25. If I'm not intrigued in some way, shape or form by then, I probably won't ever be. :)

Erin Madigan said...

50 pages is definitely a good teaser, and if it hasn't grabbed my attention by then- it is definitely time to let it go! :)

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Wow! A truly intriguing premise, Olivia. Bravo! What an interesting interview, Natalie. I always learn so much from how other writers created their stories. All the luck with this new release, Olivia. Happy New Year!

Angie Quantrell said...

Doesn't sound like this book could be too much in the future! Congratulations, Olivia! Great "connecting with your agent" story!

I will tweet this, Natalie. :) angelecolline at yahoo dot com

Amanda said...

Sounds like an interesting plot! Best wishes with this new release!

Jamie Krakover said...

Super excited for this book. YAY for all the YA sci fi!

tetewa said...

Congrats on your release, enjoyed the interview! I enjoy hearing about how authors come up with their ideas for their reads. This sounds like something I would love. Thanks for being here and continued success!

diedre Knight said...

"Rise of the Red Hand" sounds riveting! A fascinating interview, as well.

Last year was just the pits. Having to choose who to see (if at all) during the holidays was a justifiably crying shame. If I wasn't already somewhat of an introvert, it would have been much harder to bear. While facetime and Zoom are wonderfully useful tools, it's not the same as a hug.
Here's to a year full of warm hugs and sunny smiles!

Danielle H. said...

Congratulations on your debut! Thank you for the interview and chance to win an ARC to read and review! I follow Natalie on Twitter.

Angela Brown said...

Happy New Year and wow, the story and interview are both quite wonderful!

Gwen Gardner said...

Hi Natalie, 50 pages is more than fair. Hopefully it doesn't take that long to hook me though.
Congrats to Olivia! Sounds like an exciting read.

Pat Hatt said...

That is a fine time to stop if it doesn't hook you.

Lots of great people in the writing groups indeed.

Ellen Jacobson said...

I used to try to slog books and finish them, but more and more if I'm not hooked right away, I put it down. 50 pages seems reasonable to me to give something a chance.

I was fascinated by Olivia's interview. I never realized that there was an eco-literature genre and I'm completely intrigued by it!

Liesbet said...

Great advice of your daughter’s English teacher. Now, how does 50 pages translate to Kindle pages? :-) I’m glad you had on okay start to the new year, Natalie, and I wish you much happiness and a return to normalcy by summer!

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the giveaway!

Carla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carla said...

Love this statement: "writing a book can seem like a solo study, but publishing a book is definitely a team effort." Also appreciate learning about the 21ders.

Carla said...

I posted on twitter. I also follow you. Thanks!

Melissa said...

The haves and the have nots with a twist. Interesting premise.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm tardy in making return visits for IWSG because I was helping my mom move last week.

Chaya said...

Would be awesome to read this!

Donna Jacoby said...

This sounds like a great read. Congratulations on your debut and thank you for the giveaway!

Unknown said...

My email is Apratt194@gmail.com

Betty C said...

I'm a follower. willitara@gmail.com