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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.

Pushing Back on Edits to Maintain Authenticity as a Marginalized Author by Agent/Author Jennifer Wills and Lillie Lainoff & One for All & Query Critique Giveaway & IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Lillie Lainoff and her agent Jennifer Wills here to share a guest post to celebrate the release of Lillie’s YA fairytale retelling One for All. It sounds like a fantastic retelling of The Three Musketeers, and I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

An OwnVoices, gender-bent retelling of The Three Musketeers, in which a girl with a chronic illness trains as a Musketeer and uncovers secrets, sisterhood, and self-love.

Tania de Batz is most herself with a sword in her hand. Everyone in town thinks her near-constant dizziness makes her weak, nothing but “a sick girl”; even her mother is desperate to marry her off for security. But Tania wants to be strong, independent, a fencer like her father—a former Musketeer and her greatest champion.

Then Papa is brutally, mysteriously murdered. His dying wish? For Tania to attend finishing school. But L’Académie des Mariées, Tania realizes, is no finishing school. It’s a secret training ground for a new kind of Musketeer: women who are socialites on the surface, but strap daggers under their skirts, seduce men into giving up dangerous secrets, and protect France from downfall. And they don’t shy away from a swordfight.

With her newfound sisters at her side, Tania feels for the first time like she has a purpose, like she belongs. But then she meets Étienne, her first target in uncovering a potential assassination plot. He’s kind, charming, and breathlessly attractive—and he might have information about what really happened to her father. Torn between duty and dizzying emotion, Tania will have to lean on her friends, listen to her own body, and decide where her loyalties lie…or risk losing everything she’s ever wanted.

This debut novel is a fierce, whirlwind adventure about the depth of found family, the strength that goes beyond the body, and the determination it takes to fight for what you love.


Before I get to my guest post by Lillie and Jennifer, I have 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 this month are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jacqui Murray, Sandra Cox, and Lee Lowery!

Optional Question: Is there someone who supported or influenced you that perhaps isn’t around anymore? Anyone you miss?

I knew the answer to this one right away. It’s Rudy, my late husband. who supported me in my blogging and writing. He read a lot, but it was always nonfiction. Even though we really didn’t have time to for me to spend writing or blogging because I was so busy working as an attorney, being his caregiver, and raising our daughter, he gave me time to pursue these interests.

I think he knew that writing and blogging would help me if he didn’t have a long life, which he didn’t have because he died a few months after he turned 60, and I was left alone. It’s one of a number of gifts he left me with that helps me go on and feel his love and support even though he’s not here anymore. I can’t express in words how much I miss, love, and appreciate him and our time together.

Do you have someone who supported you who is no longer around?

Lillie Lainoff and Jennifer Wills Guest Post

I always tell my clients that edits should be a collaboration, a conversation; that my intent isn’t to come in with my red pen blazing and start demanding changes. Neil Gaiman said, ““Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” I take that to heart on every project, and while I offer suggestions on how to fix something that I don’t think is working, my favorite moments are when authors understand what I’m getting at but come up with a different, better, way of addressing my concerns. Since I’m not disabled myself, I try to bring an extra amount of sensitivity to the table when approaching edits on Lillie’s – and my other marginalized clients’ – work.

I definitely agree with this! Jen’s approach to editing is very much a conversation rather than a monologue. Obviously, I don’t have the same kind of editing experience as Jen, but I was a partner at the Yale Writing Center for over three years and was the managing editor of the Yale Daily News Magazine (and have read/marked up SO MANY pieces in workshop settings), so I know what it’s like, to some extent, to be on the other side of the equation. I never like it when writers I give edits to accept my comments without question. I’m not always right, and I want writers to tell me when I’m not right! But I always do my best to point out what I think needs work and offer up multiple possibilities of how to address that—there is always more than one answer to a problem. Editing (and writing, for that matter) isn’t arithmetic!

 In the case of OFA, I remember at least one instance – I’m sure there were more – where I suggested a change and Lillie immediately shot me down and came up with something better. I think I wanted to change when Tania started training. She starts when she’s very young, I think age 4, so that by the time we meet her on the page, she’s already quite proficient with a sword. I suggested seeing her starting her training on the page at an older age, 12 or so, after she started having her dizziness. I don’t even remember why I felt that was a good idea… it must have been to add extra interest to the beginning, and to show the reader what she looked like when she started training vs how much better she was later on. Silly, right? Sigh.

Just going to briefly butt in here to assuage readers’ concerns: Tania at 4 only had wooden swords! She wasn’t that small child running around with a knife in the ‘A KNIFE!’ video. Okay, back to Jen…

Fortunately, Lillie explained how that wouldn’t be possible with POTS, that Tania needed to have started training at a young age before POTS took hold, otherwise she wouldn’t have had the strength. I just know that the solution that came out of that discussion turned out to be an incredible first chapter, which was far better than whatever it was that I had suggested. Lillie, I’ll never forget when you sent that revision back to me and I actually screamed “YAAAASSSSSS!” at the first line.

Oh my goodness, the first chapter! Truly though, I have no idea which version we settled on—we went through so many different ones. I stopped counting at ten.

But this editorial moment is one of my favorite memories of working on ONE FOR ALL with Jen, because it encapsulates why she’s such a good editorial agent. This kind of experience, one where I felt comfortable pushing back against an edit because it didn’t feel authentic to the story I was trying to tell or the characters I portrayed, gave me the confidence to work in the same way with my editor, Melissa Warten (who has a similar editing style to Jen’s— they are both open to listening and are committed to maintaining authenticity).

This is why it’s so important for every author, and especially those from marginalized communities, to have the confidence to stand up for their work. You know your story, your world, your characters better than anyone, and you have to stay true to your work. Don’t be afraid to challenge an editorial suggestion that you don’t buy into. Hear your editorial team, whether that’s your critique group or your agent or your editor, but don’t feel like you have to do every single thing that every single person suggests. That’s why it’s so crucial to have that trust in the agent-author relationship and the editor-author relationship. You have to feel comfortable enough to say thanks for the suggestion, but I’m going to do it this way instead.

One of the things I talk about a lot with other disabled authors is the fear of being ‘too much.’ Asking for ‘too many’ accommodations, writing books that are ‘too focused’ on disability, etc. And when we finally get an agent, an editor, etc. that fear is magnified, because what if someone decides you’re not worth all the ‘hassle’?

But here’s the thing: an agent does not sign you as a client if they do not love your book. An editor does not offer for your book if they do not love your book. They want to collaborate with you on making your book the best possible version of itself. And yes, there are exceptions to this statement, but, at the end of the day, you don’t want to be in a situation where you feel like you’re being asked to compromise on the authenticity of your work. Which is why, when you receive an agent offer, it’s important to ask about editorial style, collaboration, etc. I don’t think I asked Jen about anything like this on The Call, baby author that I was, so I seriously lucked out in that regard.  

Social media:

Jen (Twitter): @WillsWork4Books

Jen query manager: https://querymanager.com/query/JenniferWills

Lillie (Twitter/IG): @lillielainoff

ONE FOR ALL Preorder links:

Macmillan: https://bit.ly/3pfUD0Y

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3uOCEje

IndieBound: https://bit.ly/3ccUiXl

Bookshop: https://bit.ly/3cz1fCD

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2TJD2Tz

Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/3uR88oZ

Giveaway Details

Lille has generously offered a pre-order hardback of One for All and Jennifer 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 February 19th. 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 the query critique giveaway are International.

 Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, February 7th I have an interview with debut author Lisa Stringfellow and a giveaway of her MG fantasy A Comb of Wishes

Wednesday, February 9th I have an agent spotlight interview with Ginger Clark and a query critique giveaway

Monday, February 14th I have a guest post by Leigh Lewis and a giveaway of her MG nonfiction Pirate Queens: Dauntless Women Who Dared to Rule the High Seas

Wednesday, February 16th I’m participating in the Wish Big Giveaway Hop

Monday, February 21st I have an agent spotlight interview with Paige Terlip and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!



nashvillecats2 said...

Great posst Natalie, pleased your late husband helped with your writing, Mine didn't know I could write..... didn't find out myself until after his passing. It has helped me over the years also helping with losing John my youngest son in 2018.
Hope you are well.

Leigh Caron said...

ONE FOR ALL is an amazing story. And I always love when an agent shares their thoughts... especially how they approach editing. Great blog post!

Jennifer Hawes said...

That's amazing that your husband supported you like he did! You will keep that close to you the rest of your life:) I've always enjoyed the Three Musketeers.

Jemi Fraser said...

Rudy sounds like a great man - so glad you had your time together!

One For All sounds fabulous - that's a great twist on the finishing school idea! Good luck with the book!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, Rudy sounds like a wonderful person. Its really super that he was your writing support.

C. D. Gallant-King said...

Lots of great stuff on the docket this month!

And your husband does sound like a great and supportive man. It's wonderful he was so encouraging.

Megan said...

One for All sounds amazing!!!
I would love to enter the book giveaway (not critique), I folllow via GFC as Megan Summers and Bloglovin as ChickensGal.
Email: megan(dot)clarsach(at)gmail(dot)com
I also tweeted here: https://twitter.com/WordsThatStay1/status/1488879175448547329

Cathrina Constantine said...

What a wonderful tribute to your husband. He sounds amazing! Perhaps he laid the groundwork for a lifetime of support.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Rudy sounds like he was a wonderful husband. Lovely tribute, Natalie.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That was a wonderful and touching tribute to your husband.

Melissa said...

I agree with Alex. Touching tribute.

The interview really resonated with me. I just did an edit for hire, and, while I had specific suggestions for some things, I mostly listed the problems and let the author parse out the best solution. Not only does s/he have a better knowledge of the story, I have trouble keeping up with big-picture things such as the timeline, because I'm creeping through the document at such a slow pace and focusing on a million little details. Letting the author decide how to fix a problem is wise.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Bish Denham said...

It's wonderful that your husband was supportive. Spouses giving time to/for each other is the best gift.

I like the sound of this book and would love to have my name put in the hat.

It's the interview between author and agent. Feels real and authentic!

cleemckenzie said...

There's so much in your post today that it's hard to decide where to start with this comment.

You and I were very lucky to have such supportive husbands. Not everyone is as lucky. We weren't so lucky in losing them, but we at least have the memories to keep forever.

The advice about editing is perfect, and I really appreciated reading it. In fact, I've copied it and plan to keep it over my desk as a guideline for me as an editor and for me as writer being edited. It's important advice. Thanks for posting that today.

Jean Davis said...

That's awesome that your husband was so supportive.

Excellent advice on standing up for yourself with edits. Too often authors try to incorporate all the suggestions and end up losing the story they intended to tell.

Pat Garcia said...

I so agree with these editor suggestions. They are an encouragement for me.
All the best.

Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

Computer Tutor said...

I am so sorry about your husband. He was too young, and I know from experience finding that unquestioning supporter is nigh to impossible. I hope you found one.

And then there's that book. Wow. It didn't appeal to me at first because of the heading term "Marginalized Author". I'm of the school "no pain no gain"--but the blurb was amazing. I'm in!

Jenni said...

Your husband sounded like an amazing man. What a gift he gave you in supporting your writing. I was really touched by what you said.

This sounds like an amazing book. I love The Three Musketeers. I didn't know about POTS until fairly recently. I have a couple friends who have this condition. It is not an easy thing to live with. I'm glad it will be brought to others' attention through this book.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

That is a great interview—with some excellent points about both being and editor and being edited. Thanks!

Sadira Stone said...

How lucky you are to have had such a wonderful, supportive husband. Hugs to you, and I wish you happy writing in February. Thanks, too, for being such a supportive member of the author community!

Sandra Cox said...

I love Neil Gaiman's advice. Wishing both Jennifer and Lillie much success.
Natalie, I can't begin to imagine what you've been through losing your helpmate. I'm glad you have good memories to draw on.

Loni Townsend said...

I'm glad you had support in your writing through your husband! I'm sorry he's gone, but happy you can remember all the positive memories he left you with.

Patsy said...

Having someone who encourages and supports our writing makes such a difference, doesn't it? I'm lucky to have had several people do this for me – and to still have most of them.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That is wonderful your husband encouraged you to write and blog. A very lasting gift.

kjmckendry said...

Congratulations to Lillie! One For All sounds like a wonderful read!
Touching post about your husband, sounds like he was a wonderful man.

Liz A. said...

That sounds like a great book. It's good to find someone who will collaborate and not dictate.

So sorry about your husband.

Danielle H. said...

I can't wait to read this book! Thank you for the interview today and chance to win a copy. Please do not enter my name for the critique. I follow Natalie on Twitter and shared on tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter.


I'd love to win the query critique! I follow you via email!
helloelizabethjames -at- gmail.com

Nancy Gideon said...

(((HUGS))), Natalie. What a great way to remember him - for his encouragement and support - so with each connection, every success, he's there sharing it with you.

Anonymous said...

You and I share so much life experience. It is, indeed, impossible to put into words how much we miss, love, and appreciate the time we had with our husbands. And I appreciate being able to take strength from your own example of moving forward and giving encouragement in so many ways.

Carol Kilgore said...

Loving husbands are awesome. I'm so thankful mine is still here. He's my biggest supporter and cheerleader. I'm glad yours was, too.

emaginette said...

I can honestly say I've never had anyone that supportive. That said, I'm very glad you did. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Krista Harrington said...

What a great way to honor your late husband, Natalie.
I can't wait to read this fascinating retelling!

(I shared this on Twitter, also)

diedre Knight said...

Your posts are so insightful! I've yet to not learn something new. Best wishes for One for All, a lot of great collaboration went into it.
It's wonderful that even in his absence, your heart feels the love and support of your late husband. Keep thinking the good thoughts :)

Helen said...

Writers really don't get anywhere without support from those close to them. Your husband sounds like he was a great man.

Olga Godim said...

The book sounds amazing. I already want to read it.

kimlajevardi.com said...

My condolences on your loss.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Your tribute to your late husband was very moving. He sounds so special and you are inspiring. Congrats to Lillie. I love girls with swords stories.

Samantha Bryant said...

Quite a collection of feelings in this post :-) The gender-bent Musketeers sounds like fun! I'm sad with you on the loss of your husband. I'm glad you've kept writing. @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Fundy Blue said...

Rudy sounds like a magnificent husband and human being! How fortunate you were to have him! You continue to amaze and inspire me, Natalie! You're magnificent, too, and I'm absolutely certain that Rudy thought you were!

Melissa Miles said...

This was a great interview, and very reassuring to hear. I'd love the book, and I definitely follow you on Twitter!

Tyrean Martinson said...

I'm glad you had Rudy to cheer you on and support you, and I'm sorry he's gone. I hope you continued to feel inspired by memories of him.

Great interview, too - I think conversational editing sounds like a great kind of editing.

Beth Camp said...

Your appreciation for your husband and his support reminds me how lucky I am, for although my husband has struggled with ill health, he is still with me, well past 60. We just go a little slower these days. He's an amazing critic and makes sure I have writing space and time, always. Once again, your interview offers insights I didn't expect and another fascinating read. Thank you!

J.Q. Rose said...

Rudy sounds like the light in your life. What a heartfelt tribute to him. Thank you for sharing.

Jennifer P. said...

What a thoughtful and thought-provoking interview. Thank you for sharing. And your advice on collaboration to stay authentic resonates.

Angie Quantrell said...

I loved reading how supportive your husband was for your writing. That's a lovely thing to keep in your heart.

This book sounds wonderful! Great topic about pushing back and allowing your voice to show. Thanks! Congrats to Lillie!

Tweeting. angelecolline at yahoo dot com

Shanah Salter said...

Great post and this book sounds fantastic! I have shared on Twitter and would love to be considered for a critique. thank you!

Adrienne Reiter said...

Having the support of your partner is amazing. Beautiful tribute to him. Thank you for sharing the interview. I love the Neil Gaiman quote.

tetewa said...

Love discovering new authors, congrats on the release!

Shamaila J said...

I love that Neil Gaiman quote! I would love to enter the query critique. shamaila.siddique@gmail.com.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Thank you for the unforgettable interview. So very helpful!

I love the quote as well and posted it to my editing notes! xD

Gwen Gardner said...

Natalie: How lucky you were to have that encouragement! *hugs*

Lillie: I love mash ups and yours sounds really good. Congrats!

Shannon Lawrence said...

That's a great quote by Gaiman. It sounds like these two had a fantastic working relationship. It's important to make a great product in the end, but also important to listen to the creator.

Nick Wilford said...

What a great post and good advice for all. I imagine it might be all too easy for writers to feel forced into accepting changes at the hands of an agent or publisher. The author always has to feel comfortable with the changes or they won't work effectively.

Michelle Wallace said...

That was a lovely tribute to your husband. You were so lucky to have had that spousal support. Keep going, Natalie. You are such an inspiration to many.

Karen K. said...

THE THREE MUSKETEERS is one of my favorites. I can't wait to read ONE FOR ALL. I would love to win a copy of the book or the query critique

Elizabeth Seckman said...

The books sound amazing.

Your husband sounds like he was a very special guy. As mine approaches his middle-fifties with a family history of heart disease and coronaries, I can't even imagine moving forward alone. But I suppose it's never wise to dress rehearse the bad stuff and just deal with life as it comes. Hugs.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Great tribute to your husband. He sounds like he was a gem.

I've added the book to my TBR -- I can't resist stories featuring the three musketeers!

Erica Duarte said...

This book sounds fantastic, can't wait to read!

Katherine said...

Great post! I'm excited for One for All. I'm always looking for one voices novels highlighting disabled and chronically ill characters! khpinelake (at) gmail (dot) com

Talie D said...

Sounds like a really fun retelling of the Three Musketeers. Very touching about your husband's support, what beautiful memories. So sorry for your loss

KHO said...

Delightful to read about such a well matched pair.

Unknown said...

Thank you for standing up for disabled authors, an characters! What a grand story.

Unknown said...

SO sorry for your loss. I appreciate this post and the opportunity!