Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
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  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024

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: Dannie Olgiun on Creating Realistic Characters and Between Safe and Real Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Dannie Olgiun here to share about her YA contemporary Between Safe and Real. It sounds like a gripping story with a protagonist you can’t help sympathizing with. I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Fifteen-year-old Zoe Wilkes has ninety-nine problems, and a boring life ain't one. With two hungry siblings, an empty fridge, and a violent mother to tip-toe around, Zoe can't slow down enough to catch a breath. When she discovers Mama’s been reading her diary, Zoe realizes she has to stop writing in it. Trouble is, if she stops, Mama’s sure to think she’s hiding something, and will tear through her room like a tornado—again—to find out what. Her solution: write Mama-safe entries in the first diary, while writing her real thoughts in a plain-old composition book.

The more entries she makes, the fuzzier the line between safe lies and terrifying truths becomes, and it’s not long before Zoe fears she’s just as unstable as Mama. After all, the apple never falls too far from the tree. If there’s even a shred of truth to her safe journal, then maybe her real journal’s just a hot mess of made-up horrors. When things at home escalate, Zoe must face reality in order to keep herself and siblings safe. But facing reality means taking steps that could shatter her family. Can her friends, Cheryl and Nate, help her understand that love shouldn’t hurt and blood doesn’t make a family?

Before I get to my interview with Dannie, 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, Jemima Pett, Patricia Josephine, Louise - Fundy Blue, and Kim Lajevardi!

I'm going to skip the optional question because it doesn't apply to me. I want to share my exciting news instead. Literary Rambles was just selected as one of Feedspot's Top 25 Literary Agent Blogs and Websites. I'm so honored and happy to have been included in their list. And I'm hoping that the exposure will help me reach more writers who I can help on their journey to publication. 

Here's a new tool you might find helpful. Kindlepreneur created a new free hashtag generator for Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tiktok. You might want to checknit out.

Interview with Dannie Olgiun

Hi Dannie! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thank you! I’ve been a loyal Literary Rambles reader for years, so I’m thrilled to finally be here!

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

In second grade, I discovered my love of storytelling when our teacher had us do a semester-long project. Each week, we’d write a story about a classic monster, like King Kong or Godzilla. There were only two rules. Our monsters couldn’t be mean or hurt people, and anyone who didn’t finish that week’s story on time had to skip P.E. to finish. Needless to say, I missed P.E. every week for a semester!

It wasn’t until I was a month from my thirteenth birthday that I realized being an author was something I could actually achieve. I read Lightning by Dean Koontz and saw a character who reminded me a lot of myself achieve her lifelong dream of becoming a published author and I thought, if she can do it, so can I!

I wrote my first novel that summer. When I was fifteen, I got a typewriter for Christmas and taught myself how to type by revising that manuscript. I sent it, unsolicited, to some poor editor at a publishing company I no longer recall. Months later, I received my very first personalized rejection letter. Looking back, it was such a kind and encouraging thing for them to do. They told me I had promise and I had a way with words, but I needed to learn a lot before they could publish me. They finished off by saying they’d look forward to seeing my manuscripts in the future. At the time, I didn’t realize what a gift that was. All I saw was a letter telling me I wasn’t good enough. Instead of nailing it to the wall to stoke my writing fires, I threw it away, cried for a solid month, and vowed never to write again. That was an awful month and I realized when I’m not writing, I feel like I can’t breathe. Writing is a part of me and since I can’t give it up any more than I can give up swallowing when I drink water, I might as well work hard at it and make it my career. I wish I knew who sent me that letter so I could thank them.

2. That’s great that you were already writing as a kid. Where did you get the idea for Between Safe and Real?

We were at Ikea the day Mama lost her mind.

That sentence, spoken by a girl with a Texan accent, popped into my head one day while my husband and were walking our dogs. I had no context, no name, no idea what that meant, but the voice just repeated that sentence over and over for months. Eventually, I pulled out a notebook and asked who the voice belonged to. Zoe Wilkes introduced herself and told me she had a story we needed to tell. I asked her a few more questions and then opened a new document and let her tell me her story.

I’m a pantser, so I really didn’t know exactly what kind of story this would turn out to be, but I quickly realized that Zoe and I had similar stories. Not the same, but similar enough that it made sense she’d choose me to tell hers.

On Creating Realistic Characters

3. Your story has been described as gritty and very realistic. What research, if any, did you do on how a character like Zoe would relate to having an abusive mother and neglectful father? How did you know you could portray her situation so realistically?

As I said earlier, Zoe and I have similar stories. Like Zoe, my mother was abusive and my father was a doormat who didn’t do anything to protect me or my brother. Because of my upbringing, I’ve spent my entire adult life learning and reading books to help me better understand why my mother and father did the things they did. I’ve read countless books on mental health. One book, which I’m uncomfortable naming, has been a source of validation and education since about 2005, and I referenced this book frequently as I drafted Between Safe and Real. It was important to me that I portray Mama accurately, and that book helped.

For Zoe, I did a lot of journaling and remembering. I dug into my own memories and relived some of my experiences to get at the root of how going through those things felt emotionally. I drew a lot on my own reactions to stress and trauma for authenticity. I never questioned whether or not I could portray an abused kid accurately because I am a child abuse survivor.

It's terrifying to admit that simple truth, and I actually seriously considered saying this book is one-hundred percent fiction and that my childhood was all rainbows and ice cream, but that’s not the case. Being authentic and honest with myself and others has been a guiding principle for my life and I decided I didn’t want to start by published career off with inauthenticity and lies.

4. It sounds like you did a lot of research and pulling from your own experiences in writing your story. Share a bit about your process of creating Zoe as a character. What advice do you have for other writers who struggles with character development?

Although I’m a pantser and I never know what I’m going to write before I actually sit down to write, I always do a lot of journaling and interview questions with my main characters during the drafting stages. Zoe Wilkes was no different. I asked her questions about what she likes, what she’s afraid of, and what she wants to say. I asked her to tell me her favorite memory and a memory she wishes she could forget. With each revision, and there were many, I learned new things that made Zoe feel like a real person instead of a cardboard cutout.

5. What did you learn about deepening Zoe as a character and your plot from working with your editor?

I knew when I was on the first draft that I’d have a lot of work to do in order to deepen the plot of Between Safe and Real. That original draft was much, much shorter, and far more graphic. That was okay, though, because I knew Zoe just had to tell me her story in her own way and that I’d be able to add layers in and fill in the gaps in subsequent drafts. By the time my editor got her hands on it, it was a much deeper story, but there was still a lot of work to do. Sybelle helped me identify holes I could fill with world and character building, but ultimately, I learned that no character is ever done. Just as I never stop learning and growing, neither do my characters. At a certain point, you just have to recognize when you’ve developed a character or plot as much as you can and then stop mussing around with it.

6. It’s great that your editor helped you fill in the holes in your story. What was the biggest challenge in writing your story? How did you overcome it?

Without a doubt, my biggest challenge was keeping my own mental health intact while telling an incredibly painful and triggering story. There were days when writing upset me so much I cried or lashed out at my family. The things that got me through were the belief that I was working on something that had potential to help adults and kids in or from similar situations. I leaned heavily on long walks, taking breaks when necessary, yoga, and jogging. I also powered through by reminding myself that whatever situation Zoe was in when I stopped writing, she’d be stuck there until I got her out. That guilt alone was usually enough to get me fire up my laptop again.

On Your Road to Publication and Marketing Your Book

7. Your agent is Tina Schwartz. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I pitched the concept of Between Safe and Real at Dallas Fort-Worth Writers Conference in 2018. She loved the concept and told me to send the full as soon as I felt it was ready. A year later, in June 2019, I sent her the full and started my querying journey for this book. It felt like Tina had my manuscript for a million years, but I kept myself busy querying and living life. In March 2020 I got offers of representation from Tina and one other agent. I went with Tina because I liked her and she made me feel safe, which was incredibly important to me considering how scary and painful this book was to write! We got to work on revisions right away and in, I believe, July 2020 we went on submission. I signed my publishing contract in November 2020.

8. It’s cool that you met your agent at a conference. What have you done pre-release to promote your book? Would you have done anything differently in retrospect?

I’ve done my best to build buzz on social media by sharing things like unboxing videos and cover reveals. I also plugged into my 2022 Debut group and learned so much about marketing from them. Marketing is not my strong suit and my debut group was and continues to be invaluable. Plus, it’s really, really fun to watch and cheer on my debut year siblings as they release and succeed.

I did have one local indie bookstore who agreed to host an author event for my launch, but I never heard back from them and after several attempts, I scratched them off my list.

One of the coolest things I’ve done is help develop a panel with four other authors. The four of us who debut in 2022 are the panelists and the 2016 debut author is the moderator for our discussion about how to reach and engage at-risk youth through kidlit. On March 4, we presented our panel at the Association of Independent School Librarians’ virtual conference and at the end of June, we’ll present our panel at the American Library Association’s in-person conference in Washington D.C

This is a dream come true for me because I’ve always measured writing success not by hitting bestseller lists or making six-figure advances (though I wouldn’t sniff at those!), but by having my books in libraries so the kids who need them can access them for free. Because my publisher for this book is small, they don’t have the resources to help me market or get me on librarians’ radars, so the AISL and ALA conferences are my best shot at getting any attention from librarians.

9. It’s great how the 2022 Debut Group has helped you. What did you do to market your book when it was released in March? What plans do you have for promoting it in the upcoming months?

Between Safe and Real actually released a month earlier than I expected and I had a lot of personal things going on that kept me from being able to give it the marketing it deserved, and I feel so bad about that.

But as I said above, I’ve put a ton of work into our panel for the AISL and ALA. I also created a press release. Oh, and I talk about my book constantly at my day job. I work retail and I’ve had a surprising number of people ask for my card. I don’t know if chatting with people in person is translating into sales, but word of mouth is a marketing strategy, right?

10. What are you working on now?

I have a completed first draft of a YA horror that’s screaming for my attention, but I’ve been so consumed with personal stuff, work, and launching that I haven’t had time to look at it in what feels like seventy-three years. It’s still too rough for me to describe the plot, but it’s basically about trauma, sibling love, and learning to forgive yourself. Right now, I’m calling it The Devil’s Woods, but who knows if I’ll change the title in the next draft.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Dannie.

Thank you, Natalie! It’s been a pleasure! You can find Dannie at




Giveaway Details

Donnie has generously offered a paperback of Between Safe and Real 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 April 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.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, April 11th I have and agent spotlight interview with Kari Sutherland and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, April 13th I have a guest post by editor Mary Kole with a giveaway of one of her books

Saturday, April 16th I’m participating in the Raindrops on Roses Giveaway Hop

Monday, April 18th I have an agent/debut author guest post with Andrea Somberg and Carolyn Tara O’Neil and a giveaway of Carolyn’s YA historical fiction Daughters of a Dead Empire and a query critique by Andrea

Monday, April 25th I have a guest post by debut author Christina Matula with a giveaway of her MG contemporary The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei

Wednesday, May 4th I have an interview with debut author Betty Yee and a giveaway of her YA historical Gold Mountain

Monday, May 9th I have an agent spotlight interview with Jennifer Unter and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!





Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Thanks for the hashtag generator :-)
The books sounds like a great psychological thriller -- added it to my ever-expanding TBR.

Ronel visiting for IWSG day The Difference Between Reading Books and Collecting Books

Liza said...

Natalie, congratulations on making the top 25. You work so hard for writers and I'm glad it is acknowledged. Between Safe and Real sounds like a compelling read. Thank you for the interview.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I saw your post on Facebook about getting a top spot - congrats!

Michelle Wallace said...

Congrats on being selected as one of Feedspot's Top 25 Literary Agent Blogs and Websites! I saw it on Facebook too.
You do such fantastic work so it's no surprise that you've been selected! Enjoy the moment!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations to you and cool about the hashtag generator. That will come in handy.

Kalpana said...

Happy IWSG day. Danny Olguin's book is one I would like to read. What an amazing idea.

Kalpana said...

Congratulations on being included in the list. It's well deserved.

Computer Tutor said...

Such an important lesson for kids to learn, that love shouldn't hurt. The book sounds excellent.

Pat Garcia said...

Congratulations! I understand very well your joy!
All the best.
Shalom aleichem

Jemi Fraser said...

Oh, my heart! The premise for the book sounds amazing.

Congrats to you and your wonderful blog, Natalie - well-deserved!!!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Congratulations, Natalie! Well done! :)

Sadira Stone said...

Congratulations on the honors for your site! Happy writing in April.

Loni Townsend said...

Congratulations on the recognition! That's awesome!

Danielle H. said...

This book sounds so emotional and so needed for readers' mental health. I can tell from the interview that you put so much of yourself into this book. Congratulations on your release! And congratulations to Natalie for your blog's award! I follow Natalie on Twitter and shared to tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/680797827220275200/debut-author-interview-dannie-olgiun-on-creating

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congratulations Natalie on Literary Rambles's recognition.

Dannie's book 'Between Safe and Real, sounds amazing. Tina is a wonderful agent, a warm person, very approachable.

Samantha Bryant said...

Those monster stories that got Dannie started sound like fun :-) @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Lisa Dunn said...

Congratulations, Dannie! Enjoyed the interview!

Melissa said...

Congrats to you both!
Sounds like a really great book.

Sandra Cox said...

Congrats on this wonderful new release.
'Lo, Natalie:)

Olga Godim said...

Congrats on your blog's success, Natalie. Top 25 - wow! You well deserve it.
Your book sounds very emotional and realistic, Dannie. Sometimes life is hard, and lying is the only way to get through, especially when you're helpless. I like the cover. Simple and thoughtful.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Woohoo! That's fabulous news, Natalie! You've persevered through some tough times. Well done!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Congratulations, Natalie! I think your awesome recognition is well-deserved!
And congratulations to Dannie - I'm impressed and glad you've written such a hard book. It's good to have those truths out there, so readers can know they can overcome the hardships in their lives.

Jean Davis said...

Congratulations on the success of your blog, Natalie!

Chrys Fey said...

Congratulations on making it in the top 25! Well deserved, well earned.

"We were at Ikea the day Mama lost her mind." I got chills from reading this. Another book for my TBR list. :D

diedre Knight said...

Congratulations, Natalie! You more than deserve recognition for your tireless contributions to the literary scene. Thanks for the kindle tips.
Congratulations to Dannie on her debut. “Between Safe and Real” sounds like a powerful story of survival involving a subject that society has rarely deemed fit to pull from the back of the closet. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview and fully related to the importance of returning time and again to difficult scenes so as not to leave Zoe in perilous situations. Dannie’s dedication is palpable.
Very best wishes!

Brenda said...

Congratulations Natalie on the wonderful blog news!! Another wonderful interview and Between Safe and Real, sounds amazing. Have a lovely week.

Liz A. said...

This sounds like a harrowing book, but also like one that needs to exist. I'm sure there are many readers out there who need to find this book.

Fundy Blue said...

Way to go, Natalie! You deserve be recognized. What you do for writers, agents, and publishers is amazing! And I loved Dannie's interview. I, too, have worried that I might have inherited the mental health challenges of members of my family. Her story resonates with me. I hope that you have had fun today!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Between Safe and Real sounds like such a wonderful read. And totally relatable.

Congrats too to Natalie. I'm thrilled to hear your hard work is finding recognition.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

A very interesting concept for Between Safe and Real. I'm impressed the author wrote her first book at the age of 15!

Congratulations to you, Natalie. So pleased you've been recognized for the great work you do here.

kimlajevardi.com said...

Congratulations on being selected by Feedspot!

Jenni said...

This sounds like an amazing read! I really think we need more books like this.
Congrats to you, Natalie! You deserve to be featured for all your hard work.

Allison said...

Such a well-deserved award, Natalie. I can attest to how valuable your blog is. And congrats to Dannie. I can't wait to read “Between Safe and Real.” Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy! allison.prueitt@gmail.com

Denise Covey said...

Hello Natalie. I've said it before, but congratulations on your gong for your excellent site. Always so much going on here.

C.D. Gallant-King said...

Congrats on the Literary Agent award! That sounds like a great endorsement and recognition.

Jemima Pett said...

I'll echo what CD just said! Congrats! - and well done on a great and interesting interview.

Kim A. Larson said...

Congrats on making the top 25 blogs, Natalie! Great interview and sounds like a wonderful book, Dannie! Congrats to you too!

J.Q. Rose said...

Congrats on Literary Rambles award as one of Feedspot's Top 25 Literary Agent Blogs and Websites! Well-deserved!!

Melissa Miles said...

Congrats to both Natalie and Dannie! This books sounds SO GOOD! Oh goodness, just the blurb gives me all the feels.

Jay Linden said...

Well done Dannie for hanging in there and crafting such a powerful book that will be a validation for teenagers going through a difficult childhood and help other teenagers understand what might be happening to their friends. Great marketing idea to get together with fellow authors and be part of the librarian conferences. This is the kind of book that will be of great interest to teachers and mental health workers alike. I'm sure a lot of mental health organisations will be interested to hear about it - if you can find a way to reach them.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Bravo, Dannie! This is an important book for teens. Good marketing strategy. All the luck with this new release.

And also bravo, Natalie, for getting on Feedspot's top 25 blogs. Your blog is very helpful to writers and agents and publishers. Way to go!

Cathrina Constantine said...

Congratulations!!! Well Deserved!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Congrats! I'm glad your book found a warm, safe place to call home.

Carol Kilgore said...

Congrats on the top 25! Your blog is awesome for writers. I'm going to check out the hashtag generator. Thank you :)

Gwen Gardner said...

Thanks for making the top 25 on FeedSpots, Natalie! That's quite the accomplishment.

Congrats to Dannie on her new release--good luck!

Gwen Gardner said...

Darn it! I meant to say Congrats on making the top 25 on FeedSpot!!!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Congratulations on the accomplishment, Natalie!

It takes a lot to put a personal trauma on the pages like that. Congratulations to Dannie on the book release!

polly said...


Nancy P said...

Sounds wonderful. Great cover. positive.ideas.4youATgmail.com

Lori L. MacLaughlin said...

Congrats on being selected as one of the top 25! And congrats to Dannie on her new book! I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to write. Thanks for the hashtag generator. I'll check it out.

Mewla said...

Thank you for this excellent interview!

momo said...

This is wonderful news, so glad for you Dannie, hope you have a wonderful day too. Congrats!

Rachel said...

Thanks, Dannie, for sharing your story. You'll likely never know just how many kids find refuge in your book.