Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

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.

Writing Flawed Characters by Agent/Author Claire Friedman and M.K. Lobb and Seven Faceless Saints Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author M.K. Lobb and her agent Claire Friedman here to share about M.K.’s debut YA fantasy Seven Faceless Saints. I’m excited to read it because it sounds like a fascinating world and there’s a murder mystery to solve.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

In the city of Ombrazia, saints and their disciples rule with terrifying and unjust power, playing favorites while the unfavored struggle to survive.

After her father’s murder at the hands of the Ombrazian military, Rossana Lacertosa is willing to do whatever it takes to dismantle the corrupt system—tapping into her powers as a disciple of Patience, joining the rebellion, and facing the boy who broke her heart. As the youngest captain in the history of Palazzo security, Damian Venturi is expected to be ruthless and strong, and to serve the saints with unquestioning devotion. But three years spent fighting in a never-ending war have left him with deeper scars than he wants to admit… and a fear of confronting the girl he left behind.

Now a murderer stalks Ombrazia’s citizens. As the body count climbs, the Palazzo is all too happy to look the other way—that is, until a disciple becomes the newest victim. With every lead turning into a dead end, Damian and Roz must team up to find the killer, even if it means digging up buried emotions. As they dive into the underbelly of Ombrazia, the pair will discover something more sinister—and far less holy. With darkness closing in and time running out, will they be able to save the city from an evil so powerful that it threatens to destroy everything in its path?

Discover what’s lurking in the shadows in this dark fantasy debut with a murder-mystery twist, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kerri Maniscalco.


Before I get to M.K. and Claire’s guest post 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: Jacqui Murray, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Pat Garcia, and Gwen Gardner!

Optional Question: If you are an Indie author, do you make your own covers or purchase them? If you publish trad, how much input do you have about what goes on your cover?

I'll skip the optional question because I have no experience with covers yet. Here's a progress report on what I'm working on. First, I'm updating all my agent spotlights about every three years, which means that they are being updated this year. I've already completed 67 of 200+ agent spotlights and agent spotlight interviews.

I'm also working on my revisions to the manuscript I just completed. I'm working on chapters 17 and 19 now. There are 46 chapters, so I'm making good progress. I edit heavily as I submit my chapters to my critique group and after I get their feedback. I'm finding that this is making my revisions go much faster.

What about you? What's your experience with covers? 

Writing Flawed Characters by M.K. Lobb and Claire Friedman

M.K. Lobb: I feel like if there’s one thing I know for sure about Claire, it’s that she’s always down for me to write a book with a character who’s just an absolute mess. Or, in the case of Seven Faceless Saints, two of them! Of course, every well-written character needs to have some type of flaw in order to come across as realistic and relatable, but I really like to take things to the next level. Is this something you specifically look for when you’re reading queries, or are you just drawn to these characters?

Claire Friedman: To quote Marie Kondo, “I love mess!” And of course, nobody writes a morally questionable, endlessly fascinating disaster like M.K. At the end of the day, perfect characters are boring! It’s the flaws (whether big or small) that keep things interesting. I do have a bit of a darker side when it comes to my taste – I get tons of flak for consistently suggesting horror movies for family movie night – but I always look for the same complexity of character (or “flaws”) whether I’m reading a dark fantasy or a romantic comedy. Bring on the messiness!

MKL: You know I can definitely do that! In Seven Faceless Saints, Damian is the leader of the city’s security force. He is quite literally working for the story’s main oppressors. Add the fact that he murdered a bunch of people during his time at war, accidentally got his best friend killed, let Roz think he was dead for three years, and has a list of daddy issues a mile long… Yeah, he’s got a few issues. That said, Roz tends to be pointed to as the more “unlikeable” one because she’s angry, blunt, and determined to take charge. I think that when it comes to messy characters, people are more forgiving of actions than behaviours. Actions can be explained and understood, while behaviours are hard to get around, especially when you’re in a character’s head.

CF: Interesting! I don’t think I’ve ever drawn the behavior vs. action comparison before, but it’s certainly an intriguing one. I wonder if readers are more willing to forgive Damian because we relate to his internal monologue and understand his tortured relationship with his past – whereas Roz is less apologetic and has more of a “take me or leave me” attitude. That said, I do also see a certain amount of sexism at play here. Male characters seem to get away with murder (sometimes literally!), while female characters can’t step a toe out of line without being labelled as “unlikable.” Personally, I love an “unlikable” character, so I’m #TeamRoz all the way!

MKL: It’s funny you say that—I often wonder what would happen if the roles in my book were switched, since people seem to judge female characters more harshly. Would Roz be considered weak where Damian is a “soft boy?” Would Damian be seen as your attractive, morally grey love interest where Roz is overbearing and aggravating? It’s interesting to think about. It does feel like there’s still more room for male characters to be flawed on an inherent level.

CF: I would absolutely agree. “Relatable,” seems to be publishing’s latest code word for “likable” – ex. Roz is a complicated character, and is therefore “unrelatable.” It’s ridiculous! I’ve never had an editor tell me a male character is “unrelatable” – but it happens all the time with my female ones. I think editors and readers are starting to push back against these expectations, but it’s still a topic that’s very much in conversation.

MKL: You know, when it comes to relatability, I wonder if making a character too relatable can be a negative thing. I’ve heard it said that most people don’t like to see their own flaws reflected back at them. I honestly don’t know if that’s true or not—I tend to love characters who remind me of myself, even if it’s in a negative way! There’s something about seeing people with similar flaws go through trials and come out on top (assuming the book doesn’t end miserably). Do you find the same? Or do you prefer to follow characters who are totally different from you?

CF: As someone who has no flaws, this is a hard one for me to answer – but I’ll do my best. Honestly, I’m not sure I favor either direction! It’s always fun to recognize yourself on the page, but I also tend to read for escapism. While I don’t actively choose books based on my own personality, I will say that I’ve read books that have changed my outlook on certain behaviors. I’m quite stubborn – which is a good trait for an agent and a bad trait for most other social situations! – and after reading BOOK LOVERS, I immediately called my partner to apologize for being such a steamroller. Growth!

MKL: Ha, I related to the main character in that book so much as well! In the same vein, I feel like there’s a trend of readers being interested in more “unlikeable” or morally grey characters. Obviously I’m on board, but I feel like the messier a character is, the trickier they are to write. You have to balance all those flaws with some key elements that still make people want to root for them. For me, this means 1) giving them a motive readers can understand, 2) showing they’re capable of forming meaningful connections, and 3) shedding light on their moral framework. For example, your character might know full well that what they’re doing is wrong, but what they’re hoping to gain is more important. Can the reader emphasize, even if they disagree with the action/behaviour? That’s what you’re hoping to build. Of course, it’s also reality that nothing is going to be for everyone! Do you have any go-to suggestions when it comes to character work like this?

CF: This is such good advice for building a morally grey character! I completely agree – the idea is to balance the good with the bad. There’s a famous screenwriting book called SAVE THE CAT that (to massively paraphrase) suggests you have your hero “save the cat” to win the audience over. The same principle goes for “unlikable” characters. What’s their cat? What keeps the reader invested, even when the character is at their worst? Where’s the humanity behind their actions? And most importantly: what makes them fun to read?

Thanks for sharing all your advice, M.K. and Claire! You can find M.K. at:





Buy Links

Giveaway Details

M.K. is generously offering an ARC of Seven Faceless Saints 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 18th. 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 or M.K. on her social media sites, 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 book giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Tomorrow, February 2 I’m participating in the February Favorites Giveaway Hop

Monday, February 6 I have an agent spotlight interview with Lori Steel and a query critique giveaway

Monday, February 13 I have a guest post by Shawn Peters and a giveaway of book 1 or book 2 in his The Unforgettable Logan Foster series

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

Monday, February 20 I have an agent spotlight interview with Lori Steel and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, March 1 I have an interview with debut author Jenna Voris and a giveaway of her YA sci-fi Made of Stars and my IWSG Post

Thursday, March 2 I’m participating in the For the Love of Reading Giveaway Hop

Monday, March 6 I have an agent/author guest post by Lizz Nagle and J.A. Nielsen and a giveaway of J.A.’s YA fantasy The Claiming and a query critique giveaway by Lizz

Hope to see you tomorrow!




Liza said...

Thanks as always for the interviews Natalie. Glad to hear your editing is going well.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

I like that there's a murder to solve!

Sounds like you're going at a good pace updating your posts and revising your book.

Ronel visiting for IWSG day Strategies to Be a Successful Author

Jennifer Lane said...

Great editing progress, Natalie! I agree that we need to create flawed characters. I had two gorgeous people for my debut romance novel, but thankfully my editor helped me give them some physical flaws. Personality flaws are also more realistic.

Bish Denham said...

There must be a bit a work to do on the Agent Spotlights, what a wonderful thing you do for writers everywhere!

Jan Morrison said...

So happy to have found you! I love reading about the biz of writing, even if sometimes it is just to distract myself from the writing of writing! I am absolutely in favour of messing up our characters - making it somewhat impossible for them to not show us their flaws. Otherwise where is the story?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Seven Faceless Saints - great title.
Glad revisions are coming along so well, Natalie!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sounds like your revisions are really getting knocked out!

Computer Tutor said...

The book sounds amazing. I can feel the frustration with a government that is supposed to protect you. Glad it's progressing well.

cleemckenzie said...

You're so diligent about keeping this blog up to date! Huge thank you.

I enjoyed the interview today, and loved the "morally gray" reference to characters.

Beth Camp said...

Very useful discussion about 'relatable' characters, certainly something to think about as we draft that next story! I'm not sure I've ever made that distinction, though my characters, male and female, tend to be stubborn! Thank you for another fascinating post!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Seven Faceless Saints sounds super. I'm eager to read it. And this post about Writing Flawed Characters is wonderful.

J.Q. Rose said...

Thank you for the update on the progress of your WIP. WTG, girl. You are so fortunate to have a crit group. They are more precious than gold to a writer. Have fun with them and enjoy the time together. You have a fantastic number of agents to update. That project will keep you busy and out of trouble. :)

Diane Burton said...

So glad to hear about your progress. Keep it up!

Loni Townsend said...

Good job on your progress! That's awesome!

I tend to jump into a lot of edits after getting feedback from my critique group. At times, that can be bad for me as I'm working later in the book but submitting early chapters, therefore dragging my attention from what I'm working on. Oh well. I love the feedback too much.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Keep editing, Natalie.

Now that it's been mentioned, it does seem that male characters can be more messed up than females.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Yeh for progress! Keep at it! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like MK has created a fascinating world! Good luck with the book!

You're making good progress on your MS! I've passed the cover duties onto someone more talented :)

C.D. Gallant-King said...

Great interview, and congrats that your editing is going well. It can be such a slog sometimes.

emaginette said...

I've also started revising my latest too, but I'm not as far along as you. And, and this is the big one, I've not finished the story, yet.

I'm hoping revising with help me get there. hehehe

Anna from elements of emaginette

Gwen Gardner said...

Natalie, critique groups are so good at seeing what you don't and generally have great suggestions. You're doing great!

MK and Claire, mysteries are right up my alley and yours sounds intriguing. Good luck!

diedre Knight said...

Hi Natalie!

Wonderful to have a critique group. Sounds like you're making terrific headway with your manuscript!
I enjoyed the blurb and insightful interview.
Stay amazing!

Sandra Cox said...

Excellent post and yes we need our flawed characters. This sounds like a fascinating read.

Carol Kilgore said...

You're making great progress. Keep editing - a good critique group or partner is worth more than anything.

Samantha Bryant said...

I appreciate flawed characters. Paragons are usually dull. @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Carol Baldwin said...

So much work goes into every book- readers have NO idea. No need to enter my name in the giveaway.

Denise Covey said...

Talk about book covers! This one is a doozy. Hits all the high points!

Fundy Blue said...

You're making great progress on your revisions, Natalie! Onward and upward! "Seven Faceless Saints" sounds awesome. I think religious leaders are among the worst of authoritarians. Just look at Iran! I wish M. K. lots of success with her debut novel.

Sarah said...

Thanks for another great interview! I'm very interested in making sympathetic flawed characters so it was fun to read this.

Liz A. said...

It's definitely true that female characters (and actual women) are held to more stringent standards than male characters (and especially men). Keep pushing back on that.

Adrienne Reiter said...

Fun interview. I love the cover and great title! Congrats on your editing progress.

Erika Beebe said...

I always had better critique sessions when I edited heavily. I think it makes it easier to focus on the story :)

Jean Davis said...

Revisions are a lot of work but it sounds like yours are going well. Critique groups are a great help with edits. :)

Tonja Drecker said...

Yay to getting into edits (it's my favorite part of writing). I can't wait to see what you've been working on when it hits the shelves.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Good work with both the updates and the revisions. Revising is hard, and you sound like you've found a good process.

Juneta key said...

Great interview. Congrats on getting the updates done.

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Aziza Evans said...

would love to read this book

Megan said...

This book looks amazing! (Not entering the giveaway) :)

tetewa said...

I enjoy reading ARC's, sounds good!

Susan B said...

Thank you for the chance. Sounds like a fascinating book. Have a great day.

Michael Law said...

Looking forward to reading your novels.

polly said...

Email subscriber

Sue said...

Fun interview. My email is suhligford@gmail.com (just in case).