Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Mary Moore & Ema Watanabe Cohen Guest Post & The Lost Ryū & Query Critique Giveaway on 6/1/2022
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  • Kayla Cichella Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/13/2022

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.

Debut Author Interview: H.N. Khan and Wrong Side of the Court Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have H.N. Khan here to share about his YA contemporary Wrong Side of the Court. It sounds like a fantastic coming of age story that is told from a male’s POV, which isn’t seen enough of in YA books. I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Fifteen-year-old Fawad has big dreams about being the world's first Pakistani to be drafted into the NBA. A first-generation Pakistani coming-of-age story for fans of David Yoon and Ben Philippe.

Fifteen-year-old Fawad Chaudhry loves two things: basketball and his mother's potato and ground-beef stuffed parathas. Both are round and both help him forget about things like his father, who died two years ago, his mother's desire to arrange a marriage to his first cousin, Nusrat, back home in Pakistan, and the tiny apartment in Regent Park he shares with his mom and sister. Not to mention his estranged best friend Yousuf, who's coping with the shooting death of his older brother.

But Fawad has plans: like, asking out Ashley, even though she lives on the other, wealthier, side of the tracks, and saving his friend Arif from being beaten into a pulp for being the school flirt, and making the school basketball team and dreaming of being the world's first Pakistani to be drafted into the NBA. All he has to do now is convince his mother to let him try out for the basketball team. And let him date girls from his school. Not to mention somehow get Omar, the neighborhood bully, to leave him alone . .

 


Before I get to my interview with H.N., 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 with me are Janet Alcorn, Pat Garcia, and Shannon Lawrence!

I’m going to skip the optional question this month because I never dealt with this issue. I’ll just give a quick up on my progress on my manuscript. I’m writing the second chapter in a three-chapter climax. Then there can only be about three more chapters left after that and then I can say it’s done. It’ll still take a number of months for me to get there, but the end is in sight. 

It’ll only be the second manuscript I ever finished, so it feels like a big accomplishment. I’ll let you know when I finish.

Interview With H.N. Khan

Hi H.N! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

First off, thanks so much for having me Natalie. I have a lot in common with Fawad, or rather he has a lot in common with me. I’m a Pakistani-immigrant who grew up in a social housing project and was obsessed with basketball. And when I wasn’t playing, I was reading, which was my second obsession. Since middle school, I’d always journaled and wrote poetry but a gr. 12 Writer’s Craft course set me on the path of wanting to write fiction. The problem was I never got past a first draft.

It wouldn’t be until almost 10 years later that I’d get the desire to write fiction again in the midst of a major upheaval in my personal life. But this time, I was a little more resourceful and sought out the necessary help I needed to bring this story to life. From getting back in touch with my high school writing teacher to taking his advice and enrolling in a post-graduate correspondence program at a local college and meeting a mentor who changed the course of my life, I exercised grit and kept rewriting until I landed an agent who then helped land a deal with Penguin Teen. It’s been almost 5 years in the making but it feels great to have seen this project through and has given me a great deal of confidence for future works.

2. That’s great you got the desire to write again and found the help you needed to propel you on. Where did you get the idea for Wrong Side of the Court?

It all started when I finished “The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao” and for the first time experienced a novel that felt like a visceral gut punch and tackled all the confusion that comes with growing up in between two worlds. That’s when I started thinking back to all the confusion I felt as a teen, being pulled in myriad directions and never really feeling at peace with just having to pick one identity over an another but having to make do with a never-ending process of renegotiation between the different parts of myself. I had an inkling that had I read a book that had a protagonist that mirrored some of my experiences growing up, maybe I would’ve felt less alienated. And that’s when it became more about just writing a book but wanting to write something that might help even one immigrant teen more easily navigate their chaotic teenage years and feel seen.

3. You immigrated to Canada from Pakistan when you were seven years old. Share how your own experiences influenced your story.

A lot of my experiences influenced different elements of the story. Unlike Fawad, I grew up in a big family with six siblings but rather than make life too complicated for myself, I combined all of my siblings’ traits into his older sister Jamila. Similarly, growing up in Regent Park sometimes felt like an obstacle course and never knowing when you might turn a corner or go into the wrong alleyway or look someone the wrong way and have things turn sour, which is something I try to convey in the book. I was always pretty academic but always felt left out, it wasn’t until I discovered basketball, a sport I was actually able to get decent at, that I felt like I could get the social validation I was looking for and that drive to get better at it is something that Fawad embodies. I also had to deal with my mom being set on wanting me to marry my uncle’s daughter and like Fawad, wasn’t game, which wasn’t an easy conversation or process but a necessary one. We both also share a love for food and my mom’s home-cooked meals were unreal, just like his.

4. It sounds like you were able to draw a lot on your own experiences and that your story is one that other immigrants can relate to. Did you plot out your story or write without an outline? How did that work for you and how are you changing how you write from that experience?

I initially wrote without an outline but increasingly started experimenting with and then sticking with the beats outlined in Save the Cat as guide posts on which to hang the rest of the plot as I rewrote each draft. In general, I try to keep the initial draft or two as loose as possible again with those beats as guide posts, before really getting into the nitty gritty and deconstructing what I wrote and putting the story and characters back together more thoughtfully before I let someone else read it.

5. I want to use the beats in Save the Cat for my next novel too. Fawad sounds like a fantastic character dealing with challenges kids can relate too. Share three of your favorite things about him as a character.

He was a lot of fun to write. My three most favorite things about him would be:

1.     His resilience in the face of great odds

2.     His passion for the game of basketball

3.     His willingness to take feedback, work harder, and aspire for great heights

6. Tell us a bit about your experience working with your editor. What advice do you have for other authors?

My advice for other authors is to cultivate patience. Lots and lots of patience. Especially after getting a deal, it’s easy to feel like you’re on top of the world and a priority but the reality is, everyone in publishing is working on concurrent projects and yours is just one of them and whether it’s your agent or editor, they’ll get to your manuscript when they can and are able to. I’m pretty fast with edits and rewrites and so found myself waiting weeks and sometimes months for feedback and the best way to deal with that is to start working on the next project.

7. Your agent is Stacey Kondla. How did she become your agent and what was your right to publication like?

Stacey at The Rights Factory is amazing and I’m incredibly lucky to have her as my agent. I became aware of her through Sam Hiyate who founded The Rights Factory and frequently runs workshops and speaks at different events in the Toronto community for writers. I’d met him a few times and pitched him my book idea in person and gotten some really good feedback which I incorporated into future drafts. At a query letter writing workshop during the time I’d been actively querying and being met with either no response or rejection, I got a chance to read the umpteenth draft of my querying letter out loud and it caught his attention.

When I told him I’d finished Humber School for Writers correspondence program and was mentored by Tim Wynne-Jones, he mentioned I should look into querying Stacey who at the time was just in the process of building her list and looking for YA authors and so I did.

She read what I sent over, loved it, we had a phone call a few weeks later and she’d been impressed by the amount of revisions and rewrites I’d already done through the Humber program and I got an offer of representation. We then spent more then a year going back and forth before she felt like the manuscript was ready but I followed her lead and eventually we got it to a point where she was not only confident in pitching it but in the end found a home for it.

8. That’s such an encouraging story of how you found your agent. You also founded QueryCat. Tell us about it and how it can help writers on their agent search.

I just hated going through these really outdated literary agency websites and using tools like QueryTracker. I have a background in UX design and tech and had been wanting to launch something of my own for some time when I figured why not try to scratch my own itch. The premise behind QueryCat is that it’s a far more aesthetically-pleasing experience to research and build lists of agents you want to query and track your progress. Plus, each agent page has a cover image of a cat and so while the Querying process sucks and can be all-consuming, I hoped it would make the experience a little more fun.

9. What are you doing to promote your book when it releases? What plans do you have to market it in the future?

I am becoming more active on Instagram and LinkedIn and looking to hop on podcasts and do both virtual and in-person events. Like other writers, I’m an introvert and I’ll be honest, this part of the process feels really, really hard.

 10. I’m an introvert too so I know what you mean. What are you working on now?

I am currently in the final stages of editing a manuscript for an adult RomCom that’s a bit like Bollywood meets Crazy Rich Asians. Stacey is hoping to start pitching it this spring and I couldn’t be more excited.

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

https://www.instagram.com/_humayunk/

https://twitter.com/_humayunk

Giveaway Details

H.N. has generously offered an Amazon ebook of Wrong Side of the Court 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 19th. 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, March 7th I have an agent spotlight interview with Chelsea Eberly and a query critique giveaway

Tuesday, March 8th I’m participating in the Let’s Get Lucky Giveaway Hop

Monday, March 14th I have a guest post by debut author Sonja Thomas and her agent Ronald Gerber with a giveaway of her MG contemporary Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, March 16th I'm participating in the Chasing Rainbow Giveaway Hop and have an agent spotlight interview with Alyssa Eisner Henkin with a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 21st I have a guest post by debut author JC Peterson with a giveaway of her YA rom com Being Mary Bennett

Monday, March 28th I have an interview with debut author Ann Fraistat and a giveaway of her thriller/horror What We Harvest

Tuesday, April 5th I’m participating in the April Shows Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on Monday!

 

59 comments:

  1. Wrong Side of the Court sounds like a fascinating story. I really enjoyed your author interview with HN Khan, Natalie. Thank you for co-hosting the IWSG this month.

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  2. Save the Cat is a great book for writers.
    Three chapters to go! And thanks for co-hosting today.

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  3. What a wonderful story hook! That book sounds fantastic. I love interesting new story plots.

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  4. Congratulations for the second manuscript, which is almost done. I read Save the Cat only recently and found it pretty helpful. Thank you for co-hosting today.

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  5. I'm so excited for you to be nearly done with your MS. Even after all the books I've written, I still get a huge rush when I finish a first draft.

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  6. Seeing the end in sight is a great accomplishment! I wish I could say the same.

    Thank you for co-hosting!

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  7. Woohoo, Natalie! So exciting to writing those scenes!!

    Congrats to HN - the book has a great premise. I bet it's going to be a hit! Good luck :)

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  8. Wow, three-chapter climax. It sounds fascinating. Congratulations to HN. The book sounds wonderful. I'm going to give QueryCat a close look. Thanks for co-hosting, Natalie.

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  9. Woot Woot! You're getting close, Natalie!
    HN's mix of sport and more is sure to do very well...good luck to him!

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  10. Hi,
    It is a great accomplishment and I am proud of you. So, pat yourself on the back.
    Wishing you all the best.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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  11. I'm in awe of anyone who can write in a language other than their native tongue. Kudos.

    I only have a few chapters left of my WIP, too, Natalie. I'm spending some vacation time this week, writing like a fiend trying to finish the book. Aaaand then IWSG comes along. LOL Thanks for co-hosting.

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  12. Like Melissa, I am quite impressed with someone who can write a novel in another language. I wish you the best of success, Natalie, with finishing your latest project! I am now mired in teaching myself stage magic to do my own latest project justice! Ouch! My stiff stubborn fingers won't cooperate!

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  13. Great interview. Thanks so much for co-hosting for the IWSG this month. You have a lot of helpful information on your website - I really appreciate that. Keep up the good work! https://dianeweidenbenner.com/iwsg-how-to-get-past-writers-block/

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  14. Finishing up your second manuscript IS a big deal! One day I'll be there too. Congratulations!

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  15. The book sounds great. That is a young man with a full plate of problems and a head filled with dreams. Great example for all kids.

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  16. Stick with it, Natalie!! You can do it! Thanks for showcasing an exciting new to me author. Looking forward to reading his book!

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  17. Great when the end is in sight.

    Sure sounds like quite the process with all the drafts.

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  18. H.N Khan's book sounds wonderful. Wishing him loads of success and good luck.

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  19. Huge congrats on the manuscript completion, Natalie. That is no small accomplishment. Thanks for the interview and introducing H.N. to us.

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  20. Great interview! As a former teacher of teens, I'm grateful to YA authors like H.N. Khan whose stories hook young readers--not always an easy task in our computer-obsessed world.

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  21. The end in sight is always exciting. And your interview with H.N. Khan is great. I learned some things.

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  22. Interesting interview. Good luck on completing your novel. Thanks for co-hosting this month!

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  23. Congrats on nearing the finish-line with your next brain child. The last three chapters teeter between being the most fun to the most stressful to write. I write noir mystery so it's all about the climax and resolution - tying up all loose ends. Stick. The. Landing! Very exciting.

    Thank you for co-hosting, and Happy IWSG Day!

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  24. Great interview! It sounds like Mr. Kahn's book would really appeal to boys.

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  25. @Natalie: Finishing a manuscript is a great accomplishment. Good luck.
    @H.N.: Growing up as an immigrant kid is never easy. I was an immigrant myself. I sympathize. Your book sounds wonderful, especially for teenage boy readers.

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  26. Good luck with those last three chapters - and thanks for co-hosting today (and for all the other things going on!)
    I love the sound of this book. I must add it to my list, but I can't participate in the giveaway, wrong country :)

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  27. Congrats! Finishing is huge, and you're so close to wrapping it up. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  28. The end is in sight. Nice. Good luck with your novel ending. Thanks for an interesting interview. I will pass on the giveaway. Too many books here. Thanks for the post.

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  29. Excellent story premise! Very engaging.

    Natalie, glad to hear your writing is going well!

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  30. Natalie, if you can finish one, you can finish two for sure!

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  31. Woo hoo, Natalie! Way to go on your manuscript!! Woot. Woot.
    H.N., love your story line. Sounds very intriguing. Wishing you much success.

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  32. Congrats on the progress on your manuscript! Every word written is another step toward The End :)

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  33. Hi Natalie!
    You must be feeling fantastic about being on the backstretch of your second manuscript – you go, girl! With all you do for our IWSG members and the literary scene in general, I’m impressed by your progress.
    Wrong Side of the Court sounds like a great read, one that will bring H.N. Kahn well-deserved success. I really enjoyed the interview. Often the stories behind the stories are what makes a book all the more interesting, and a glimpse of a successful author’s journey is always encouraging. Thanks for sharing.
    And, thank you for co-hosting!

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  34. Congrats on the progress of your manuscript! It is so awesome to be able to see (even if squinting) the end in sight.

    Great interview with H.N. (as always). Wrong Side of the Court sounds both inspiring and challenging, especially for those readers in that age demographic. Congrats on the publication!

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  35. Thanks for co-hosting #IWSG this month. Best wishes on your current project.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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  36. Thanks for co-hosting. That's so exciting that you're getting so close to completion! Woot!

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  37. Congrats on the progress on your story. So close to the end. Wow. Thanks for cohosting this month.

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  38. Thank you for co-hosting!

    Cool giveaway. Great interview. We need diverse books like this one!

    Hope you're having a great day! My latest post has my theme for the April #AtoZChallenge (I'm writing speculative fiction and looking for prompts).
    At Operation Awesome we have the #PassOrPages query contest going on (friends or enemies to lovers Romance).
    Looks like I'll be very busy the next few weeks!
    March quote: "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do." - Mark Twain

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  39. Congrats on getting to the end of another manuscript! That, in and of itself, is a HUGE accomplishment. @samanthabwriter from
    Balancing Act

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  40. You're so close to finishing!! An early congrats for you!

    Wrong Side of the Court sounds great! Love the premise.

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  41. I'll have to go and take a look at QueryCat.

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  42. The finish line is in sight! That's amazing. Well done!

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  43. So exciting! Congratulations! I'm putting Wrong Side of the Court on my to-read list!

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  44. Congrats, Natalie, on being so close to finishing your book. That's a huge accomplishment!
    I really enjoyed this interview! I love how Wrong Side of the Court grew out of H.N. processing his own experiences as a teen. And Query Cat sounds really cool!

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  45. Congratulations to H.N. I'll have to check out QueryCat. Querying is definitely no fun.

    Natalie, good luck as you finish the novel! Sounds like it'll be soon.

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  46. Yay on being so close to the end of your book, Natalie! And I loved this interview! Wishing H.N. lots of success with his novel. Thanks for co-hosting today. I hope you had a great day!

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  47. Good luck with finishing your second book! You're almost there.

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  48. Natalie, it's great your making progress! You go, girl!

    H.N., I love the story of how you got your agent. It sure takes a lot of perseverance.

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  49. Great interview! I hear so much about how Save the Cat helps authors.

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  50. I swear I commented here yesterday morning...but I don't see it. I love the premise of this book. Thank you, Natalie for this interview and I'm glad to hear your writing is going well. I'm doing OK. Hanging in there. Second year has been harder. Thanks for your kind thoughts.

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  51. Are writers commonly introverted? I'm one as well! It's nice to have your door open wide for the muse!

    What a wonderful interview! Congratulations, H.N.. :)

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  52. Medeia Sharif writes books with Muslim characters. I love them. It gives me a peek into a world so different, yet so very similar to my Appalachian heritage.

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  53. Hey Natalie, you get that manuscript finished. I know how it is with you so busy with your blog - I have the same problem running WEP - but you have to find time for yourself. Ha. Look who's talking!

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  54. Wrong Side of the Court sounds wonderful!

    Congrats on being so close to done with your second manuscript! That's a huge accomplishment.

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  55. Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG bloghop this month, Natalie!
    Congrats on writing the second chapter of your manuscript. Keep going!

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  56. Thanks for co-hosting this month.
    Congratulations on the progress with your second manuscript.
    Great book feature and interview.

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  57. Had to return and say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Great job by HN - a multi-layered story with depth and an underlying message of love and hope!

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