Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • 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
  • Alex Brown Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/9/2024
  • Leslie Zampetti Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/7/2024

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.

Author Interview: Donna Galanti and Unicorn Island Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Donna Galanti here to share about her new MG fantasy, Unicorn Island. It sounds like a fast-paced magical adventure. I can’t wait to read it and am hoping my library orders it after I requested it.

Donna shared a fascinating guest post in 2015 on how to get past the agent gatekeeper when her first MG book, Joshua and the Lightning Road, released.

Here's a blurb of Unicorn Island:

Beyond the mist lies a magical secret waiting to be discovered. Unicorn Island is a middle-grade illustrated novel series about a young girl who discovers a mysterious island full of mythical beasts and darker dangers!  When Sam arrives in Foggy Harbor, population 3,230, all she can see is a small, boring town that’s way too far from home. And knowing that she’s stuck there all summer with her grumpy Uncle Mitch only makes things worse. But when Sam discovers a hidden trapdoor leading to a room full of strange artifacts, she realizes Foggy Harbor isn’t as sleepy as it seems. With the help of a new friend, Sam discovers an extraordinary secret beyond the fog: an island of unicorns whose fates are intertwined with hers.

 Follower News

Before I get to Donna’s interview, I have follower news to share.

Sue Heavenrich released a new picture book, 13 ways to eat a fly. Here’s a blurb and a few links:
Math meets science as a swarm of flies meet their demise. Whether they are zapped, wrapped, liquefied, or zombified, the science is real--and hilariously gross. Includes a guide to eating bugs, complete with nutritional information for a single serving of flies.www.riverow.com

Cathrina Constantine has a new YA release, The Upside Down of Nora Gaines. FYI it’s currently on

sale for $1.99 this week. Here’s a blurb and a few links: Nora has visions of horrific things. Things that lurk in the shadows and feast on bones. After moving with her mother into an old farmhouse, Nora discovers a blank journal that fills itself with an ominous warning. A cursed beast is coming for her and time is running out.
Twitter @cathconstantine

Pat Garcia has a new short story being published, Turn on the Light. Here’s a blurb and a few links:
Meet Della Cartwright. A superstar at what she does professionally, but when the tall, mysterious, Italian stranger, Alessio Terracina, enters her world, she begins to question her judgment and everything about her.
Website: http://patgarciaauthor.com
Facebook Fan Page: http://facebook.com/patgarciaauthor/
Twitter: HTTP://Twitter.com/pat_garcia

Interview With Donna Galanti

Hi Donna! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

I’m an avid outdoor adventurer and nature lover. My favorite pastimes are hiking, biking, and kayaking. I usually go off in the woods every day and it’s where I get my story ideas. I knew I wanted to be a writer at seven years old after falling in love with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. After that I wrote a screenplay, a murder mystery, and acted it out with the neighborhood kids. I went on to write my first fantasy story when I was ten about Dodo birds, wizards, and a flying ship—and I’ve loved writing fantasy ever since. However, it was a long road to becoming a published author. I held corporate marketing and communication jobs, after a stint in the U.S. Navy as a photographer for Fleet Intelligence Pacific in Hawaii, and didn’t start writing novels until I was forty. That was the year my mother died from cancer. My mom had been my champion and she especially supported my writing. I always wanted to write a book and in her passing away my mom left me a gift—the gift to follow my dream of sharing my stories with the world. 

2. I’m glad your mom left you a gift. I’ve found it comforting to see the gifts my husband left me too. Where did you get the idea for Unicorn Island?

The idea actually came over lunch! My publisher tossed out that he’d like me to write a book “about a girl who has to take care of a unicorn.” From that, we spent six months bashing around the concept. We wanted to write a story with a strong, misplaced girl character but one that appealed to all genders. I love stories that are magical but also set in the real world—and that’s what guided me.

3. How awesome that your publisher suggested the idea. Your book has been described as a fast-paced adventure. How did you keep the plot moving so readers want to continue turning the pages?

I actually started out writing thrillers for adults and applied what I learned there to write thrillers for kids. As my son became a selective reader, I discovered that kids love to be thrilled not just in movies but in books, too. I started reading some of the books my son had on his bookshelf and in doing this, I saw patterns in these kid adventure tales—and I began applying what I learned to create my own stories. I also discovered that ending chapters on cliffhangers encourages kids to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.

4. I saw on your website that there are five books in this series and more will be released in Spring 2021. How did you plot this out as a series? What tips do you have for other writers planning a series?

My main focus for the series was the mystery and secrets of Unicorn Island. With this in mind, I created the main character, Sam, to come into her own with uncovering the truth and fulfilling what she believes is her legacy. With each story I wanted a complete plot that has a satisfying ending, but also leaves threads open for the possibility of more to come—and reveal there are still secrets to be uncovered. The story Unicorn Island released first digitally in May 2020 as a 5-part serial with Epic, the leading digital reading platform for kids 12 and under
. Epic then partnered with Andrews McMeel, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, to release the series as an illustrated hardcover. The next 5 books in the series come out on Epic this May, Unicorn Island: Secret Beneath the Sand, and then again in hardcover next winter.

For writing a series, one thing I recommend is that writers create a “series bible”. These are things that will be included in each book such as the theme, the setting, the rules of the world, and ongoing characters. While it’s key that each book in the series have a story arc that is complete, it’s also important for the series to have a story arc that spans the entire series. This story arc is something that won’t be resolved in book one but at the end of the series. Plotting this out beforehand can help drive the story, create tension, and make it cohesive.

5. I love your idea of a series bible. Your first series was published by a small publisher and then you republished some books on your own. Unicorn Island is being published by Simon & Schuster. Share a bit about how you’ve grown your career as a hybrid author.

It’s definitely been a learning experience! With small and large publishers, I’ve been lucky in having amazing editors to work with and learn from to improve my writing craft. With each book process I’ve grown as a writer and learned more about how the industry works. I dabbled in self-publishing when I created a prequel of short stories for my adult thrillers in the Element Trilogy. This helped me when I received the rights back to some of my books and re-published them myself. Through all of this over the years, the biggest benefit was building a large network of writing peers, authors, and industry professionals such as agents, editors, and publishers. Having a great-fit critique partner has also helped boost my writing and encourage me when tough rewrites are needed. I like to say we can write alone but we can’t get published alone. This network of wonderful people has helped me advance in my publishing career. And it was one such connection that led to new opportunities, including work-for-hire which led to several book projects in the last two years.

6. It’s great that networking has helped your career and given you so many more opportunities. What has it been like working with a larger publisher and your editor for this series? What have you learned from the process?

The marketing department of Andrews McMeel has been fantastic to work with! They have been so organized with driving publicity, connecting with review contacts, and also creating bookmarks, bookplates, a book trailer, and downloadable activities for kids. My editor has also been fantastic. We are both in sync with the story series and she always calls me out on the things I know should be changed or fixed but don’t address right away. I also learned how to write fast under deadline. It was inspiring to get it done so quickly while also enjoying the process.

7. Your agent is Liza Fleissig. Share how she became your agent.

I actually knew Liza for many years before becoming her client. My critique partner, Erica George, is agented by her as well so we would all see each other at various writing conferences. When I was ready to submit work, Liza, and I had a pow wow at the SCBWI conference in NJ. Liza is a fireball of energy and tells you like it is! I knew right away that I’d love to partner with her. Finally, I signed with her in the spring of 2019 with a contemporary middle grade novel.

8. How are you planning to market Unicorn Island and the rest of this series, especially in light of the pandemic.

I love doing author visits and have had some virtual visits already and more planned with young readers. I also did an Author in Conversation virtual launch event on the day of the release, February 9th, with my local bookshop. My publisher has done quite a lot, too. They’ve set up several online interviews and podcasts, reviews with bloggers and industry publications, and publicity with industry events. 

9. You have been a published author for 5+ years now. What have you learned about having a social media platform and marketing your books that you think would be helpful to other writers?

There are so many things writers can be doing with platform and marketing. I think most importantly,

it’s key to align yourself with your peers and band with other authors. If you’re a debut author, try and join a debut group to cross promote for more exposure. Also, joining local and industry organizations related to your genre and audience can help you network and discover opportunities. Depending on what you write, these can be organizations such as SCBWI, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Science Fiction Fantasy Writers, or Horror Writers of America. Over the years I’ve taught writing marketing and craft at dozens of workshops and conferences and eventually turned many of them into online courses for writers. Writers can get a sneak peek at them and try my free course here, 5-Step Blueprint for Author Platform Success: https://www.udemy.com/user/donna-galanti/

10. What are you working on now?

I have so many projects on my plate and a goal to finish most of them this year! I have another online course on world building to create and publish. I’m revising two contemporary MG novels and finishing the draft of another contemporary middle grade. All of these stories have a strong nature theme running throughout them. I also have a fantasy MG to revise that involves a world with a floating island, a broken legacy, and a medieval flavor. I also have the final novel in my Element Trilogy for adults to publish. And I already have a new idea for a MG with a magical realism steampunk element to it. Clearly, I need more days in my year!

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







Giveaway Details

Donna has generously offered a hardback of Unicorn Island 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 March 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. The giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

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

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, March 15th I have a guest post by debut author Merriam Sarcia Saunders and her agent Caryn Wiseman with a query critique giveaway by Caryn and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Trouble with a Tiny t by Merriman

Tuesday, March 16th I’m participating in the Chasing Rainbows Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, March 17th I have an agent spotlight interview with Jennifer Herrington and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 22nd I have an interview with debut author Christina Li and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Clues to the Universe

Wednesday, March 24th I have an interview with publisher Maria Dismondy of Cardinal Rule Press

Monday, March 29th I have an interview with debut author Jessica Olsen and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Sing Me Forgotten

Hope to see you on Monday!



DonnaGalanti said...

Natalie, thanks so much for having me back on today! One other thing I want to mention to writers trying to get published, is to have more than one project you're working on.

If you're trying to find an agent, they like to know of your other projects when you have a discussion. It shows you're committed and not just a "one-book" writer.

Also, it helps to have other project ideas when you get stuck on one story or one story doesn't work out. It's motivational to have other "eggs in your basket" to keep you going with your writing rather than put all your hopes on one story! And sometimes a story just isn't ready yet. I have two books that are complete, one I began in 2013 and one in 2015 and I am still re-working them in-between other projects. :) Happy writing and reading everyone!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Smart to check out the books your son enjoyed.
This business is all about networking.
Good luck with the whole series, Donna.

DonnaGalanti said...

You are right on that, Alex! It really is all about networking. I like to think we can write alone but we can't get published alone. Thanks for the well wishes!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Congratulations to you, Donna! And I agree...series bibles are the best. :)

Alice said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LindaG said...

I love the idea that such a place as Unicorn Island exists and that the author is targeting a younger audience to get them hooked on reading. (lindaoakton@yahoo.com)

L.C. said...

Thank you for making this for Canada too.🦄
(harperyn (at) outlook (dot) com)

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks Elizabeth! Oh yes, writing fantasy a series bible is really key but I think it's good for any type of series! It can be hard to juggle all those details in your head. :)

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks Linda! Yes, this is perfect for young middle grade. I love writing real world settings with magical elements and that was my aim here with Unicorn Island! :)

DonnaGalanti said...

Good luck with the contest! I can see you are a unicorn lover :)

Greg Pattridge said...

I so much enjoyed reading and reviewing UNICORN ISLAND recently. The insightful interview helped me appreciate the story even more. Best of luck with all of your projects, Donna. No need to enter me into the drawing as I already have a copy safely in a young reader's hands.

Patricia T. said...

Just got a copy of Donna's book and look forward to reading it, especially after reading your interview with Donna! What a journey. Want to pass this interview a long to a friend who I think would benefit from your wisdom and experiences. Look forward to reading Unicorn Island and knowing the next books will be out soon!

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks for stopping by, Greg, and also for reading and reviewing Unicorn Island on your blog, too! Glad the interview gave you a sneak peek into the story process with it. :)

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks so much Patricia! I hope you enjoy Unicorn Island. And I hope the post is helpful to your friend.

Stephanie Owen said...

Congratulations, Donna, on Unicorn Island!

Liz A. said...

That's definitely a different "how I signed with my agent" story. I agree, series bibles are vital.

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks so much Stephanie! It was definitely fun to write :)

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks Liz! And actually Liza is my 2nd agent. How I got my first agent was interesting, too. I actually got a 2-book deal first and THEN queried agents with that book deal to get an agent. An email with a subject line like that gets their attention. LOL! But we eventually parted ways very amicably. :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Congrats to Donna on Unicorn Island. Looks like fun!

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

Sorry about the deleted comment—I hit publish too fast! What a great interview! I've seen Unicorn Island on a ton of blogs lately, so whatever your publicists are doing is working! I love the idea of a "story bible," as I find myself frustrated by some series that let the main arc drag on and on and on. It's also great how many projects you're working on right now! I'll pass on the giveaway, but thank you both for the great post!

Fundy Blue said...

Congratulations on the release of "Unicorn Island," Donna. I hope your book is successful. You always do great i terriers, Natalie, and this is another one!

Fundy Blue said...

LOL. I have no idea how interviews turned into i terriers!

Rosi said...

I have Sue Heavenrich's new book coming in this week. Yay! Unicorn Island is getting a lot of buzz. It sounds like a really fun read. Thanks for the interesting interview.

ken ohl said...

congratulations on Unicorn Island think my little neice would love this

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks so much Weaver! It was fun to write :)

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks so much for stopping by! Yes, it's super fun to create a story bible. However, I find I can also go down a rabbit hole with worldbuilding as it's fun and is a way to procrastinate about my writing. LOL!

With that in mind, I also recommend building your world as you go. We don't need to create every piece of this world before we sit down to write the story. We can build as we go so we don't get bogged down in worldbuilding. Also, we don't need the entire world fleshed out. For example, the rich details of one street can give us the flavor of the entire town. :)

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks for the laugh on "terriers" Fundy! And thanks for the well wishes. :)

DonnaGalanti said...

Glad you enjoyed the interview, Rosi, and thanks for stopping by! The second book was just as fun to write, especially with creating new characters and creatures.

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks Ken! I hope she enjoys it if you get her a copy. I also love to send young readers personalized signed bookplate labels and bookmarks. Just email me her name and your address to send it to and I can do that! donna(at)donnagalanti.com :)

Jessica Lawson said...

Thank you Donna and Natalie! I love hearing about the journey that leads authors to a writing career~ the book series sounds delightful! (PS, I am in AWE of your productivity~ go Donna!)

Elizabeth Mueller said...

The cover to Unicorn Island is lovely! I'd love a sneak peak of the art within--is it scattered throughout like The Magic Tree House?

Also, how creative to be able to have the story arc stretch over an entire series. Kudos!

♥.•*¨Elizabeth Mueller¨*•.♥

Danielle H. said...

I didn't know that the idea for the book came as a suggestion from your publisher! That is awesome that this editor picked you to write this book. I am amazed how much you have going on as far as books and classes and visits. I follow Natalie on Twitter and always enjoy her posts.

nashvillecats2 said...

Great post Natalie. and congrars to Donna on her wonderful book.


tetewa said...

Congrats on your release, sounds like a good one!

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks so much Jessica! And actually a book that really helped me become more productive is DEEP WORK by Cal Newport. Check it out! It's all about going deep to get more work done faster and better. Last September I actually did a 53,000 word MG novel in 30 days on deadline. It was intense! :)

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks so much Elizabeth! And yes, there are many illustrations throughout Unicorn Island. The illustrator, Bethany Stancliffe, did an amazing job bringing the story to life with her atmospheric scenes.

DonnaGalanti said...

Thank you Danielle! I've found that having multiple gigs as a writer helps keep it challenging and interesting--and also if one thing doesn't work out, there are others to focus on. :)

Debra Branigan said...

This one keeps popping up! I can't wait to read it and share with my granddaughter. This sounds like a fantastic read. Congratulations on the novel. Shared on twitter.

K.A. Cummins said...

Great interview! I really enjoyed the insights about the book and writing a series. Very helpful. No need to enter me in the giveaway, but I do look forward to reading Unicorn Island.

Angie Quantrell said...

This sounds just like I need to start reading a new series (I love knowing there is more to come when I finish a book). Yay! Congratulations!

I tweeted this and I follow you by email, Natalie.

Congrats to the other authors too! All great news!

Melissa Miles said...

I enjoyed this interview so much! Great to hear how you got started, and the concrete advice on building a platform. Congrats on the news series, and best of luck with ALL your projects! :) And, thank you for not leaving each book on a cliffhanger. I completely agree with you that each book in a series should be able to stand alone.

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks so much! :)

DonnaGalanti said...

Thank you very much!

DonnaGalanti said...

Oh thank you, Debra! I think it is a fun book to do read alouds with as well. Hope you both enjoy it!

DonnaGalanti said...

I'm so glad the interview was of interest. Hope you enjoy Unicorn Island!

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks Angie! I hope you enjoy it. I think book 2 was just as fun to write with new creatures and characters. :)

DonnaGalanti said...

Melissa, thanks for the well wishes! And yes, we need that satisfying conclusion to any book but it's also great to have a window open to more in the series. :)

Sandra Cox said...

Looks like all kinds of new and wonderful releases. Thanks for helping get the word out. The writing community appreciates you:)

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I swore I'd slow down my purchases, but there were just too may books here that needed to be purchased!

Samantha Bryant said...

Sounds like a great series!

Cathrina Constantine said...

Natalie, Thank You for the shout out!! I truly appreciate it!!

DonnaGalanti said...

Thanks so much Samantha! I hope you enjoy it if you read it :)

DMS said...

So exciting to see Donna here. We have been friends through writing and blogging for years. Stephanie and I are so excited for Donna and her newest book. How wonderful!! We are wishing Donna all the best.

I won't put my name in the hat to win a copy of Unicorn Island, as I already have a copy- but good luck to all the entrants. :)

Leela said...

Thanks for the giveaway!

DonnaGalanti said...

Jess and Stephanie, thanks for all of your amazing support throughout these years! And thanks so much for the well wishes with Unicorn Island. :)