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  • 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.

Guest Post: Agent Maura Kye-Casella and Debut Author Sam Subity and The Last Shadow Warrior and Query Critique Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Sam Subity and his agent Maura Kye-Casella here to share about Sam’s MG fantasy The Last Shadow Warrior. It sounds like a fantastic adventure story for fans of Percy Jackson, so I’m definitely looking forward to reading it.

Before I get to my guest post, I want to let those of you who follow by email know that I switched my email subscription service to follow.it because Feedburner is no longer going to be supported by Google. This is my first major change on the blog since Casey left the blog. She used to handle all these things. So if you're getting two email notices of posts, please delete the Feedburner one. Hopefully, you won't be getting those emails anymore.

Here’s a blurb of The Last Shadow Warrior from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Abby Beckett is proud to come from a long line of elite Viking warriors known as the Aesir. She's spent her entire life training to hunt the horrific creatures known as Grendels - the ancient foe of the Aesir - just like her mother did before she died. But there's just one, small problem: No one has seen a Grendel in centuries, and the Viking Council wants to disband the Aesir . . . forever.

When her father is injured in an attack that leaves him in a coma, Abby is forced to take refuge at Vale Hall, a mysterious school in Minnesota where nothing is quite as it seems. She soon discovers the tables have turned and a Grendel is hunting her, but when she tries to alert the Viking Council, they accuse her of making up stories for attention . . . just like her mother did.

Desperate to protect her father and clear her mother's name, Abby goes on a dangerous quest to discover the truth--a journey that brings her face-to-face with some unlikely foes, including a Ping-Pong-playing sea monster with a wicked backhand, and a dark Valkyrie with a fondness for bingo. Abby quickly realizes that someone at the school is trying to stop her progress and destroy the Aesir for good. And only she can unravel the sinister plot before it's too late.

Now here’s Sam and Maura!


Hi Maura, thanks so much for joining me on Literary Rambles today! It’s been fun working with you to get The Last Shadow Warrior out into the world!

1. I like how your bio on the Don Congdon Associates website says you traded your legal briefcase for a manuscript bag over a decade ago. What was it that drew you to becoming a literary agent?

Growing up I was a natural reader and always had a great love for books.  Some of my fondest memories as a child were when my mother would bring us to the library, as I was so excited to take out all the wonderful picture books.  I even loved the smell of books.  Reading and writing were always a special interest of mine, so I was drawn to the publishing industry and was lucky to land a short summer stint during college at the iconic Rolling Stone magazine.  After practicing law for a few years, I realized I yearned for more creativity in my life and was looking for a career that would incorporate my love of books, writing and contracts, and thankfully I came upon the amazing world of literary agenting.

2. What makes you pick up a manuscript and want to represent it? Are those the same things that drew you to The Last Shadow Warrior?

I love a good hook (for this work it was the modern day Beowulf retelling), compelling characters and wonderful writing.  The Last Shadow Warrior had all these elements, so I was excited to work on this fun-filled story with you.  Abby is a fantastically fierce female (extra points for kick-ass heroines) and has a lovely relationship with her dad.  The authenticity of that father- daughter relationship is also what drew me in.  Moreover, you created a vibrant Viking world in the middle of current day MN.  So, once I realized I could learn cool Viking lore, while being taken on a crazy adventure full of monsters from Norse mythology and friends with wings, I knew I wanted to go on this journey with you.

3. You represent a broad range of writers from non-fiction and women's fiction to YA and MG. Is there any difference in the way you approach these different areas?

With regards to fiction and non-fiction, it is a different approach for me.  The main difference on how I approach these types of works is that non-fiction is especially platform-driven.  If someone approaches me with a non-fiction work and the topic is of interest to me or timely, then I always have to consider the author’s platform.  Whereas with fiction, I don’t have to consider the logistics of an author’s platform as much, however, it is a bonus if the author has that built-in as well.  And then solely within the realm of fiction on the whole, I am drawn to both strong and flawed characters and I am always looking for authentic voices across all genres.  But due to the range of ages from MG, to YA to women’s fiction, I definitely approach these categories with a different hat, as character growth and experience is so vast between these areas and the difference of what’s at stake for each protagonist varies greatly as well.

4. Is there anything (story, genre, trope) you're particularly excited about finding in your inbox these days?

While I’m interested in all types of voices and storylines, I’m especially interested in fostering the stories of writers whose voices have been marginalized and historically underrepresented.  So I am always excited to see queries from writers with diverse voices.  Additionally, I am always looking for unique voices and stories that haven’t been told.  I’m happy to learn something new.  I also love magical realism and continue to seek works out that incorporate this in some way.  Oh, and I’m a big fan of stories about witches and/or ghosts, so I’m currently searching for stories that include these otherwordly characters, but it must be done in a way we haven’t seen before.  However, authors can always check out my agency website to see a more complete list of works I am looking to represent.

5. Where can readers find you online?

On social media, Twitter:  @AGENTMKC

Website: doncongdon.com


1. What is your book about?

The Last Shadow Warrior is Beowulf meets Percy Jackson, and is about a twelve-year-old Viking named Abby Beckett who has to save her school from creatures out of Norse mythology like a Ping-Pong playing sea monster and a dark Valkyrie with oven mitts of doom. She's spent her whole life training to hunt Grendels just like her mom did before she died, but finds out that the tables have turned and a Grendel is hunting her. It's full of adventure, twists, and humor, interwoven with real history like a Viking sport called knattleikr that Abby learns to play.

2. Tell me about "The Call."

I remember it was about a week before Christmas in 2018 when you emailed to say you'd just finished reading my manuscript and asked if we could talk live. By the time your number appeared on my phone’s screen, I was such a bundle of nervous energy that I couldn't sit still and ended up pacing circles around my Christmas tree the whole time. I hadn't had a lot of practice giving the elevator pitch for my book, but you were very gracious while I hemmed and hawed my way through it, and I must have been coherent enough because I ended up signing an agreement of representation with you a few days later and remember thinking it was definitely the best Christmas present ever!

3. What has your journey to publication since then looked like?

We spent a couple of months the following spring working on revisions to the manuscript and getting it ready to go on submission. You suggested opening the book with a training scene to immediately introduce readers to Abby as this fierce Viking warrior who's not the average twelve-year-old. I've had feedback from early readers that the first chapter really grabs them, so I think that suggestion worked! After finishing these new revisions, you sent out the manuscript to an initial list of publishers while I started tinkering around with other manuscripts, expecting the process to take many months or even years. But barely seven weeks later, you sent me an email with the subject line "OFFER(!)" and I could barely believe it. Then we had our first call with Scholastic not long after that, and I was on my way to signing my first publishing contract!

4. What was the hardest change you had to make to your original manuscript?

There were definitely some hard changes, including cutting almost 10,000 words to keep the story from becoming too long for younger readers. But I think maybe the hardest was changing the title. I'd heard from other authors not to get too attached to a title because it will probably change, but by the time I signed with Scholastic, I'd already been living with my story titled "Vale of Secrets" for a couple of years, and even had planned to call the next two books in the series Vale of Tears and Vale of Fire. Then late in the revision process, Scholastic asked, "Do kids know what a 'vale' is?" I turned to my own kids for help, thinking surely they would know. They didn't. Maybe we could have kept it anyway, but I had to trust that the folks at Scholastic know what they're doing way better than I do, and I agreed to come up with some alternate suggestions. I sent a list of my favorites to you (Maura) and Scholastic, and I think we all independently chose The Last Shadow Warrior as our favorite.

5. Where can readers find you and your book online?

On social media, I'm mostly on Twitter, but here are a few places you can find me:

Twitter and Instagram: @sjsubity

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SamSubityAuthor/

Website: samsubity.com

Thanks so much for having us both on Literary Rambles!

Giveaway Details

Sam has generously offered a hardback of The Shadow Warrior and Maura has offered a query critique 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 June 5th. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. 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 book giveaway is U.S. and Canada and the query critique giveaway is international.

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

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Wednesday, June 2nd I have a guest post with agent Janna Bonikowski and debut author Casie Bazey with a query critique giveaway by Janna and a giveaway of Not Our Summer, and YA contemporary by Casie and my IWSG post

Friday, June 4th I'm participating in the June 2021 of Books Giveaway Hop

Monday, June 7th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katherine Wessbecher and a query critique giveaway

Monday, June 14th I have an interview with debut author Joanne Rossmassler Fritz and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Everywhere Blue

Wednesday, June 16th I’m participating in the Dad-o-mite Giveaway Hop

Monday, June 21st I have an interview with debut author Mike Thayer and a giveaway of his MG fantasy The Double Life of Danny Day

Monday, June 28th I have an interview with Sacha Wunsch, founder of As You Wish Literary, with a 5 first pages plus query critique or 10 first pages critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday, June 2nd!



Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Wow, love the concept! A modern day Beowulf retelling for YA...such a great idea! Best wishes for the release.

Lauren H. Dowdle said...

Great interviews! It’s interesting how you had to change the book title because kids might not know what a vale is. I continue to feel old when I write something, only for a reader to ask if kids still know what that is! Lhdowdle@gmail.com

Erika said...

10,000 words! That must have been so difficult! Sounds like a great book with a lot of action. [I would like to enter the giveaway.]

Sandra Cox said...

A wonderful idea for a story.
Great questions and answers.
'Lo, Natalie:)

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

Great interviews! I always enjoy these posts where the author and agent interview each other, and this one is no different. It was interesting to hear about how this book's title changed so close to publication and about how Ms. Kye-Casella became an agent.

Also, I got this post through follow.it this morning, and everything seems to be working. It did have me click on a link to confirm that I wanted to be subscribed, but I think now it's all set! I was worried a lot of sites would just drop the email-subscription option, so I'm glad you're keeping that! I'll pass on both giveaways, but thanks so much for the great post!

Danielle H. said...

I had this debut book on my TBR/wishlist as soon as I found out about it. This book is going to be fun to read. I know titles are very important and I found it interesting that the publisher actually waited so long into the process to talk about changing it. I follow Natalie on Twitter. Please include me in the drawing for the book only. Thank you!

nashvillecats2 said...

Great interviews Natalie, made impressive reading.


Swoodswrites said...

Wow, this book sounds very interesting! I'd love to read it. Thanks for doing the giveaway, I shared on Twitter!

leeth (dot) sarah (at) gmail.com

John Zeleznik said...

This sounds so cool. I've interacted with Sam a few times and he got me pumped about my "13 Year Old Me Would Love This Book" fantasy. john (dot)zeleznik (at) gmail.com

Alana said...

This is such an interesting concept for a book. I love to read middle grade. I'm adding this to my TBR list.

Patricia T. said...

Love the idea of a Viking story set in Minnesota. What a great way to learn some Viking mythology/history and read a great novel at the same time! Will definitely seek this one out. Shared on twitter.
What a dynamic interview between author and literary agent! I learned so much. Good for Maura for following her heart and trading in her legal briefcase to become a literary agent -- know many attorneys who love their careers as authors. Thanks for sharing today!

Sarah said...

I love the premise of this story! I look forward to checking this one out.

Liz A. said...

I believe it's the 7th graders around here that read Beowulf (translated into modern English), so they'll be primed for this book.

Katie Robles said...

Thanks for sharing. Very cool book!

Rosi said...

Wow. A retelling of Beowulf with a female protagonist. I don't read fantasy, but this is very tempting. Thanks for another very interesting and informative post. I will pass on the giveaways.

SC Seaman said...

Thanks for another great interview Natalie. I definitely plan to check out this book. Also sharing this on Twitter.

Greg Pattridge said...

Super, informative interview! The books sounds like one many readers (both young and old) will enjoy reading. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

tetewa said...

Enjoyed the post today, sounds like something I would enjoy!

Tyrean Martinson said...

You had me at "oven mitts of doom." :) Love quirky, fun adventure reads, and I'll be passing on info about this book to a few of my students.
Thanks for sharing Maura and Sam today, Natalie!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Best of luck to Sam! Sounds like a fun story!

Sandra Cox said...

What fun to have an author-agent interview.

Brenda said...

Always enjoy these dual author/agent interviews. Congratulations to Sam Subity on the upcoming release of The Last Shadow Warrior, looks to be a fun adventure. Have a wonderful day Natalie.

Angie Quantrell said...

Such a fun interview! It's nice to hear from both agent and author. This book sounds fantastic! Congratulations to both of you!

I tweeted this post and I follow by email.

Jay Linden said...

I love books where humor is an essential part of the fantasy and where mythology is brought into a contemporary time and place - sounds like you had great fun writing the book - I look forward to getting my hands on a copy.

Flor Salcedo said...

I get excited reading about the author/agent relationship and how the call happened. Great stuff. Please enter in the giveaway. I have also shared this on Twitter. Thanks.

Shanah Salter said...

Wonderful post! I would love to be considered for the critique giveaway and have shared this interview on Twitter

DMS said...

I always love hearing about author's paths to publication. So many ways to getting a book out into the world. Sounds like the call was an amazing Christmas present! :) ~Jess

Pat Hatt said...

Great when things line up indeed and a good hook sure can delve one in. Humor is always a win too.

Michelle Mason said...

Loved this book and it was fun to read Sam's interview with his agent! No need to enter me in the giveaway, though :).

Stephanie Ward said...

Wow! Talk about killing your darlings. I like the old title but I'm in love with the new one! It wouldn't have crossed my mind that kids didn't know the meaning of 'vale' either. Great interview!

DonnellySports said...

Fingers crossed for the query critique

Jenelle Theis said...

would love the query critique. :)