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.

Debut Author Interview: Caroline Huntoon and Skating on Mars Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m super excited to have debut author Caroline Huntoon here to share about their MG contemporary Skating on Mars. I’m especially excited to have Caroline here because we both live in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area. And Skating on Mars sounds like a page-turner that pulls at your heart. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

A heartwarming debut from author Caroline Huntoon about a young figure skater discovering who they are on and off the ice.

Life isn’t easy on twelve-year-old Mars. As if seventh grade isn’t hard enough, Mars is also grappling with the recent death of their father and a realization they never got to share with him: they’re nonbinary. But with their skates laced up and the ice under their feet, all of those struggles melt away. When Mars’ triple toe loop draws the attention of a high school hot shot, he dares them to skate as a boy so the two can compete head-to-head. Unable to back down from a challenge, Mars accepts. But as competition draws near, the struggles of life off the rink start to complicate their performance in the rink, and Mars begins to second guess if there’s a place for them on the ice at all.

Skating on Mars is a tender examination of grief and a hopeful middle grade tale of self-discovery.

Follower News

Before I get to Caroline’s interview, I have Follower News to share. Valinora Troy has a new MG fantasy being released on 6/21/2023. Here’s a blurb: A forest of Monsters. An evil scheme. A birthday ritual to save or lose everything. Snatched by a horde of vicious boars, almost 11-year old twins Alan and Cathy are carried into the Great Forest. Shocked to discover that evil remains in the forest, Cathy and Alan are up against the deadliest battle of their lives, against the forest, the monsters, …and each other. The exciting conclusion to The Lucky Diamond trilogy, middle grade children’s fantasy. And here are a few links:

https://bit.ly/3nFCnlh (buy link)  https://amzn.to/3nFCbT5 Website

Followers Shutta Crum and Ruth McNally Barshaw have new picture book releases. Here's a blub: Award-winning writer Shutta Crum says Heaven is a wonderful place for grandmas and grandpas. Grandpas paddle canoes, tell knock-knock jokes, show off their bowling trophies and find handy things like bungee cords whenever they walk about. Grandmas drive fast convertibles, zip in on zip-lines, play hockey and find jumble sales whenever they walk about. Best of all, the grandparents keep an eye on all the grandchildren of the world. For in Grandma Heaven and Grandpa Heaven love never dies. And here's some links: Shutta:  https://www.shutta.com

Ruth:  https://ruthexpress.com Book buying links: https://www.schulerbooks.com/book/9781958302309  

https://www.schulerbooks.com/book/9781958302347 

Book Launch at Schuler Books in Ann Arbor, Thursday, July 13. 6:30pm. Link to Schuler event:

https://www.schulerbooks.com/event/grandma-heaven-and-grandpa-heaven-launch-shutta-crum-and-ruth-mcnally-barshaw



A. Kidd has a new a new picture book release, Yasuko and the Dream Eater, Here's a blurb: Yasuko has the same bad dream every night while visiting her grandmother in Japan, so her grandmother suggests she call the dream eater for help. When the dream eater is still hungry after devouring Yasuko’s nightmare, Yasuko must stop it from gobbling up her good dream too. And here are a few links: Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Yasuko-Dream-Eater-Kidd/dp/1733899235/ facebook author page: @a.kiddwrites website: www.akiddwrites.com twitter: @akiddwrites Instagram: @a.kiddwrites

 

Interview With Caroline Huntoon

Hi Caroline! 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! I’m Caroline (they/them) and in addition to writing I work as a teacher and theater director—both great places to find inspiration for stories. I’m also a single parent to my child, Winnie, so life is pretty busy. Prior to having Winnie, I would write, but it was more of a pastime and less of a craft. When Winnie was born, I needed a creative outlet that didn’t take me away from my baby, and writing worked very well. I wrote more and more and started actually finishing stories after I took a Writing for Children course at the Bread Loaf School of English. Skating on Mars is the fourth manuscript I completed.

2. Yes, you sound super busy. It’s amazing how much you have accomplished. Where did you get the idea for Skating on Mars?

Every couple of months, I make concept maps of ideas, words, and phrases—anything that interests me. If there’s something I want to learn more about or some pop culture/political moment that is sticking with me, it gets added to the map. Then I start drawing lines between things, connecting them in odd and interesting ways. With Skating on Mars, I knew going into it that I wanted to explore gender in a middle grade story… and figure skating had been on my concept maps since I started doing them. When I started playing with how those ideas could connect, I was excited. From there, I built a story to explore those themes.

About Your Writing Process

3. Share about Mars’ coping with their grief over their dad’s recent death and struggles to find their place on and off the ice. Did you plot it out or did you let their story emerge as you wrote it?

I knew certain elements would be a part of the story—Mars’ grief, their growing understanding of their gender, and their talent and passion related to figure skating. Beyond that, drafting this book involved a lot of discovery writing. I held those ideas and themes, but wrote my way into the rest of the book.

4. What made you decide to have Mars be a skater? What research did you have to do to make this part of the story realistic?

I love figure skating! I skated up until sixth grade and have been a lover of the sport since then. I was nowhere close to as talented or competitive as Mars, though! I read interviews and articles, watched competitions, and got back on the ice myself. I wanted the act of skating within the pages of my book to feel grounded and to be enjoyable for someone who knows about skating and someone who doesn’t.

5. That’s awesome you drew from your own experiences skating. From reading reviews, it sounds like you created a good balance of tackling hard subjects but also including joy and humor in your story. Was that something you consciously set out to do or did it develop as you wrote and revised your manuscript?

Yes. I want to write joyful books, especially about queer folks, and I explore humanity in my writing, so that usually means tackling hard subjects. I’m thankful that readers are connecting with both of those aspects of my writing. I hope to continue to balance those elements in my future projects.

6. You also are a teacher and a theater director, which are time-consuming jobs. And you’re a parent. How do you find enough time to write so that you can meet your publishing contract deadlines?

I’m not a “write two pages each day” kind of person. When I’m drafting, I carve out substantive chunks of time, get a babysitter or set up a playdate, and sit down to write a not-so-great draft. I trust in the writing process—which means I’ll revise, reverse outline, revise again, get readers’ eyes on it... all that jazz! Knowing that there are ways that the book will get better makes it easier to generate the initial content.

It's also worth noting that even though I’m busy, all of those parts of my life feed me in different ways. I’m able to generate ideas and write because I live a full life.

Your Road to Publication

7. Your agent is Jessica Mileo. How did Jessica become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Skating on Mars was the third manuscript I queried with. I wrote it in the fall of 2020 and sent it out to my first round of agents in December of that year. Jess asked for the full quickly and got back to me before the end of the year to schedule a phone call. After going through this process with no success for two years, it was wild to have things move so quickly. We revised the manuscript together throughout the beginning of 2021 and sent it to editors in the spring. Again, things moved quickly. We got an offer from Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, in about a month and moved forward from there. Looking back and knowing more, I realize that this timeline was incredibly quick. That said, getting my craft to the place where I had a book was ready to move at the pace took many years.

8. Share about your experience going on submission. What tips do you have for other debut authors going on submission for the first time?

It’s hard to really internalize this, because your book is your baby, but those editors and their teams are working to make a business decision. Yes, hopefully, they will publish your book because it’s good—but it also needs to be marketable; it needs to be something they can sell. Even though people saying no to your book feels personal, it rarely is.

As for advice, I recommend checking in with your own emotions and asking your agent for what you need. If you want to hear every time there’s news, ask for that. If you realize that’s too much—the nos will far outweigh the yeses and that will take a toll—you can change your mind. Communicate your needs.

Promoting Your Book

9. I saw that you are doing a book signing at the Ann Arbor District Library. Was it hard to set up with the library? What advice do you have for other debut authors trying to set up events around their book releases at a library or bookstore?

I have a good friend who works at the Ann Arbor District Library, so setting that up wasn’t hard at all! Now, walking into bookstores cold and introducing myself: oof! I’m terrible at that!

My advice is to reach out, have a website that up-to-date (particularly with events so people can see the kinds of things you are doing/can do), and remember that it doesn’t need to happen all at once. For my launch, I’m having a gathering with family and friends at an ice rink, a signing at a local book store (that was set up by my publicist), and a reading at the library once summer starts. I think authors feel pressure to have a docket of launch events, but I would urge debut authors to do what they will find enjoyable. How can you celebrate your book and your work?  

10. That’s great advice on promoting your book. How else are you planning to market your book?

I’m working with the team at Feiwel and Friends to set up some appearances conferences and events—for example, I’ll be at the Columbus Book Festival in July. I’m really interested in getting Skating on Mars in the hands of educators and librarians because they are a gateway to new books for young people.

11. What are you working on now?

I just finished line edits for my second book, Linus and Etta Could Use a Win, which comes out on May 7th, 2024. It’s about an over-it-all 8th grader to makes a bet with her ex-best friend that she can get the new boy at their school elected student council president—a task which proves difficult when that new boy, who came out as trans last year at his old school and is eager to “just be a boy” at his new school, refuses to draw any attention to himself. The story focuses on the friendship that grows between those two and was an absolute blast to write. Beyond that, I’ve got a couple of other stories brewing—so, hopefully, there’s lots more to come!

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

·       Caroline Huntoon’s website

·       Buy Skating on Mars at Booksweet

·       Buy Skating on Mars at Barnes and Noble

·       Buy Skating on Mars at Amazon

·       Add Skating on Mars on Goodreads

·       Add Linus and Etta Could Use a Win on Goodreads

Giveaway Details

Caroline and I are sharing in the cost of an ebook of Skating on Mars from Amazon 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 July 1st. If your email 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 Caroline on their 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 international.

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

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

FYI, I do not have as much planned this summer. I’m taking a little break to enjoy my daughter’s wedding celebrations and to help get ready for the wedding.

Thursday, July 1 I’m participating in the Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, July 7 I have an interview with debut author Kacy Ritter and a giveaway of her MG contemporary fantasy The Great Texas Dragon Race and my IWSG post

Monday, July 10 I have an interview with author Refe Tuma and a giveaway of his MG adventure story Frances and the Monster

Saturday, July 15 I’m participating in the Sip Sip Hooray Giveaway Hop

Monday, July 25 I have an agent spotlight interview with Danielle Hunter and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Thursday, July 1st!

 

Dad-o-mite Giveaway Contest-$10 Amazon Gift Card


Happy Thursday Everyone! I'm doing another giveaway contest. Today I'm excited to participate in the Dad-O-Mite Giveaway Hop hosted by MamatheFox.

Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

 

I'm offering a $10 gift card to Amazon for this giveaway.

I'm making this giveaway simple. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by June 30th telling me how you plan to use the gift card and your email address. Be sure to include your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media sites 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 International.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

FYI, I do not have as much planned this summer. I’m taking a little break to enjoy my daughter’s wedding celebrations and to help get ready for the wedding.

Monday, June 19 I have an interview with debut author Caroline Huntoon and a giveaway of their MG contemporary Skating on Mars

Thursday, July 1 I’m participating in the Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, July 7 I have an interview with debut author Kacy Ritter and a giveaway of her MG contemporary fantasy The Great Texas Dragon Race and my IWSG post

Monday, July 10 I have an interview with author Refe Tuma and a giveaway of his MG adventure story Frances and the Werewolves of the Black

Hope to see you on Monday!

And here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop:


MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Literary Agent Interview: Karly Dizon Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Karly Dizon here. She is a literary agent at Fuse Literary.

Status: Karly is currently closed to submissions. Please check the agency website to find out when she reopens to submissions.

Hi­ Karly! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Karly:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.

I entered the publishing world as a writer. I had just finished my first manuscript in 2016 but was as green as green could be. I thought it was just about finding an editor and getting it in the bookstore. It’s embarrassing how green I was haha. My friend encouraged me to attend the San Francisco Writers Conference. I applied for their scholarship and won! One of the prizes was breakfast with the director who was Laurie McLean at the time.

We scheduled to meet for breakfast on the third day of the conference, and I had every intention of winning Laurie over with my super unique, super original manuscript (hehehehe) but after three days of learning as well as discovering what an agent is, I sat down at that table with a blossoming passion: to be a champion to authors. When Laurie asked me if I wanted to pitch my work to her, I declined and said, “Teach me to be an amazing agent like you.” Seeing the interaction between agent and author as well as agent and editor ignited a spark in my heart that became an inferno by the time I met with Laurie. Who knew I could be a champion for someone? To help them take an already amazing piece of art and enhance their voice and story? I wanted in!

Laurie connected me with Tricia Skinner, another agent at Fuse, who provided hands-on and an intensive internship program. I worked with Tricia closely for three years, absorbing every kernel of knowledge and in 2019 I was promoted to associate agent. In Jan 2023 I was promoted to agent. And today I continue to grow my list of KidLit and illustrator clients as well as venturing into graphic novels and particular Adult Fiction.

About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

Fuse Literary is a boutique, collaborative agency, providing each client with the expertise and forward vision of the group. It really is a team effort where we strategize, brainstorm, and battleplan together to drive our clients’ successes. Fuse manages a wide variety of authors and illustrators, from bestsellers to debuts, working with fiction and nonfiction for readers of all ages and backgrounds. Our technical efficiency and outside-the-covers creative thinking fine-tunes each client’s career specifically for them. We blend the tried-and-true methods of traditional publishing with the brash, new opportunities of emerging technologies and an evolving author-agent relationship to actively meet the client’s unique needs.

What She’s Looking For:

3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

I represent across all KidLit as well as illustrators, graphic novels, and some adult. My list is predominantly picture book authors so I’m really trying to find that MG and YA that I get lost in. More than anything, voice will keep me hooked.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

I’m really looking for works that give voice to underrepresented voices and experiences. I want our youth to see themselves, their experiences, their culture celebrated, to connect with characters they can identify with through not only the hardships but the warm and fuzzy moments too.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

I’m open to a lot of works and will always give something a read.

Agent Philosophy:

6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

There’s always been something energizing about championing and elevating people, and I bring this same philosophy as an agent. I want to work with authors and books that champion our youth, that gives them a safe space to not only explore but also see themselves and their experiences celebrated and reflected on the pages.

Editorial Agent:

7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

Yes. This is probably the most enjoyable part of the job (besides calling my clients and telling them they’re getting published). Each client is different, but I offer my clients a brainstorm session to discuss the “next” work they want to tackle and compare this to editor manuscript wishlists and recent acquisitions of works that may be too similar. Then we do several rounds of in-depth revisions that dissects every element of their work, from voice to pacing to themes to turn page effect etc. Once we have a final draft, then we create that sub list and send it out.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)

8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?

I accept requested submissions from events only through querymanager. There is so much stress around the query letter but I’m simply looking for a quicky/hook-y blurb about your work, age group, genre, comps, and a short bio about the author.

9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

Please don’t submit to me Chapter 5 of your work, skipping over everything prior. This happens quite a lot. If you have to submit to me Chapter X because “that’s where it picks up”, are the chapters prior to that edited and fleshed out or even necessary? And then it makes me concerned whether the rest of the manuscript has been edited to eliminate fluffy chapters/scenes that may bog down the pacing.

I think with any “job”, there comes an expectation of grace as well as professionalism. This is a career and one that we’re trying to find a business connection which warrants that we both communicate in a manner appropriate to that. Overly familiar (unless already established camaraderie) or overly rude (has happened. Yep!) gives pause though the former is more welcome than the latter.

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

My goal lately is to respond to queries within 3-4 months though this does change based on client needs. There have been queries that are in my query manager longer than this and it’s not for a lack of interest and an auto reject response (I respond to every query that comes in). A nudge is always nice but please know that I will always respond.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:

11.  Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?

Of course! With one caveat: I cannot sub a work that is already published. All I ask is for transparency. Include any previous representation as well as published work within the bio portion of the query.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

I believe there are more opportunities today for authors to take charge of their career, and the role of the agent needs to be flexible and fluid to move with the changes in the industry. But I believe that an agent is important to help keep a career organized, be a partner in crime, a soundboard, a friend, a second pair of eyes not only for works but for contracts and ensuring an author’s best interest, etc. Is it necessary for everyone? Nah. It depends on each author’s goal both short and long term. But I believe it takes a community, and the writing industry can oftentimes feel lonely and isolating. It’s comforting and provides security when you know you have an agent there to have your back through it all.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

NoNieqa Ramos, Douglas Rees, Ciara O’Neal, Callie Dean, Dustin Resch, T. A. Chan, E.J. DeBrun, Shannon Doleski, Maureen Tai

Interviews and Guest Posts:

14. Please share the links to any interviews, guest posts, and podcasts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.

N/A

Links and Contact Info:

15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

Please send through querymanager please. For your readers, I have a special events link as my querymanager is closed to unsolicited queries at this time: QueryManager.com/Karly/LiteraryRambles

Update on 6/28/2023: If the query manager link is not working for you, it means that you missed the window of opportunity to query Karly.

Additional Advice:

16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

This industry is completely subjective and there is so much more happening behind the scenes if an agent passes. Do. Not. Give. Up. And hold close to heart why you started writing in the first place: the characters, words, experiences you were trying to give voice to. Use that as motivation to persevere. You hold a piece of art in your “hands”. You created that. Publishing your work would be amazing but just know what you’ve already completed is an achievement. A pass from an agent doesn’t mean failure. They just weren’t the right champion for your work. It only takes one. And in the meantime, write the next story that captures your heart. You have a story to share. Write it.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Karly.

­Karly is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment through June 24th. If your email is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or email me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

FYI, I do not have as much planned this summer. I’m taking a little break to enjoy my daughter’s wedding celebrations and to help get ready for the wedding.

Friday, June 16 I’m participating in the Dad-o-Mite Giveaway Hop

Monday, June 19 I have an interview with debut author Caroline Huntoon and a giveaway of their MG contemporary Skating on Mars

Thursday, July 1 I’m participating in the Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, July 7 I have an interview with debut author Kacy Ritter and a giveaway of her MG contemporary fantasy The Great Texas Dragon Race and my IWSG post

Monday, July 10 I have an interview with author Refe Tuma and a giveaway of his MG adventure story Frances and the Monster

Hope to see you on Friday!

 

 

 

Come Out & Play Giveaway Hop



Happy Thursday Everyone! Today I'm thrilled to be participating in the Come Out & Play GiveawayHop hosted by The Mommy Island and The Kids Did It. I hope everyone is doing well and is looking forward to a good summer. I'm super excited about mine. I'm hoping to have a lot of fun, and my daughter is getting married at the end of the summer. I couldn't ask for more. I'm going to slow down on my blogging this summer because of this, but I'll be doing two monthly giveaways like I've been doing when I participate in giveaway hops.

Book of Your Choice or Amazon Gift Card

 I am offering a book of your choice that is $20 or less on Amazon. I’m looking forward to seeing what books everyone is looking forward to reading. If you don’t have a book you want, you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.


Here are some newly released MG and YA books that you might want to consider.








If you haven't found a book you want, you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

 Giveaway Details

One lucky entrant selected by the entry form will receive a book of their choice listed above or a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Open to U.S. entrants for the book giveaway and internationally for the gift card giveaway, 13 years and older. Open for entry from 6/08 – 6/24/2023 at 11:59 pm EST. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email to claim this prize or a new winner will be selected.

Please note that you must be a blog follower and leave a blog comment to enter the contest. 


Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Monday, June 12 I have an agent spotlight interview with Karly Dizon and a query critique giveaway

Thursday, June 15 I'm participating in the Dad-o-mite Giveaway Hop

Monday, June 19 I have an interview with debut author Caroline Huntoon and a giveaway of their MG contemporary Skating on Mars

Thursday, July 1 I’m participating in the Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, July 7 I have an interview with debut author Kacy Ritter and a giveaway of her MG contemporary fantasy The Great Texas Dragon Race and my IWSG post

Monday, July 10 I have an interview with author Refe Tuma and a giveaway of his MG adventure story Frances and the Monster

Hope to see you on Monday!

And here are all the blogs participating in this blog hop:

Debut Author Interview: K. X. Song and An Echo in the City Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author K. X. Song here to share about her YA contemporary romance An Echo in the City. I’m super excited to read it because it’s set in 2019 during the Hong Kong protests.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Two star-crossed teenagers fall in love during the 2019 Hong Kong protests in this searing contemporary debut about coming of age in a time of change.

Sixteen-year-old Phoenix knows her parents have invested thousands of dollars to help her leave Hong Kong and get an elite Ivy League education. They think America means big status, big dreams, and big bank accounts. But Phoenix doesn't want big; she just wants home. The trouble is, she doesn't know where that is... until the Hong Kong protest movement unfolds, and she learns the city she's come to love is in danger of disappearing.
 
Seventeen-year-old Kai sees himself as an artist, not a filial son, and certainly not a cop. But when his mother dies, he's forced to leave Shanghai to reunite with his estranged father, a respected police officer, who's already enrolled him in the Hong Kong police academy. Kai wants to hate his job, but instead, he finds himself craving his father's approval. And when he accidentally swaps phones with Phoenix and discovers she’s part of a protest network, he finds a way to earn it: by infiltrating the group and reporting their plans back to the police. 
 
As Kai and Phoenix join the struggle for the future of Hong Kong, a spark forms between them, pulling them together even as their two worlds try to force them apart. But when their relationship is built on secrets and deception, will they still love the person left behind when the lies fall away?

 

Before I get to K.X.’s interview, 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: Patrcia Josephine, Diedre Knight, Olga Godim, J. Lenni Dorner, and Cathrina Constantine! 

Optional Question: If you ever did stop writing, what would you replace it with?

What a good question! I think about it from time to time. First of all, I already am mostly writing just for myself and my critique group, so I’m not sure I’d stop that. But if I did stop writing, I’d volunteer more, work on my blog, read, exercise more, and just live without being so busy. As I think about retiring, I might want to transition to this type of lifestyle someday. Though I’m really not sure what I’d do even two or three years from now. Life changes too much for me right now to plan that far ahead.  

Interview With K.X

Hi K. X.! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I don’t remember the exact moment I became a writer, but what I remember as a child is writing stories on the backs of paper towels and napkins, in restaurants or trains or even at school. As a kid I spent many aimless hours in Shanghai, with my grandparents, where the only English language books available to me were long classics like War and Peace—not exactly appealing to a child! So I started writing my own stories to amuse myself.

2. Where did you get the idea for An Echo in the City?

Being in Hong Kong in 2019, it would be impossible to not notice the change taking place in the city. The energy was electric, and everyone was talking about the protests, constantly. My sister was meeting with different organizers involved in the protest movement, and I tagged along. These conversations were pivotal in showing me what was happening behind the scenes, behind what we saw on TV. But it wasn’t until I returned to the States for school that I felt the urge to actually write an entire book about it. The contrast between the way western media portrayed Hong Kong, and how I’ve experienced the city, made me want to write something in the form of a novel, which allows for greater nuance than a pithy soundbite. I wanted to write a story that would capture not only the energy and atmosphere of the city, but also the real lives, hopes and dreams of the people on the ground.

About Your Writing Process

3. That’s great that you could rely on your own experiences. Share about whether you are a plotter or punster and how that has changed as you wrote and edited An Echo in the City?

During the novel ideation process, I’m a pantser. The first spark for AN ECHO IN THE CITY came to me as a setting, but from there, I continued to ask myself freeform questions. Which perspectives do I want to showcase here? What different kinds of stories can I tell? These questions spark images, scents, slivers of scenes. A girl in the rain, waiting for a boy who shouldn’t come. A boy looking at a painting on a billboard, feeling seen and yet invisible. These emotions and images guided me as I then took a more structured approach to outlining. Of course, my outline doesn’t remain the same as I write. The original outline for the story would’ve made the book over 150,000 words. I had to shorten and rearrange the order of several scenes. Certain beats I had planned didn’t make sense in lieu of a character’s changing personality. So I would say my approach became a combination of pantsing and plotting, with pantsing at the beginning and end, and plotting in the middle.

4. What research did you do into the 2019 protests?

While I was in HK, I was able to organically meet people from different walks of life and have conversations with them regarding how they perceived the protests, their changing ways of life, and the city in general. I didn’t record any of these conversations, because at this point, I didn’t think I would write a book about it. It was only later when I returned to the States that I started to consider writing the book. At that point, I also had to deal with the fifteen-hour time zone difference, and the changing laws, and the international coverage, which waxed and waned. Most of the research conducted was through one-on-one interviews. News sites also proved helpful, as did social media.

5. What are three tips you have for writing a romance that you learned from writing An Echo in the City?

1. Dialogue is pivotal for romance. When writing dialogue, listen to how people around you hold conversations. Often, people don’t talk in a direct and straightforward manner. They talk in circles; they don’t say what they really mean. Better understanding conversation patterns can help toward writing realistic dialogue between your main characters.

2. Grand gestures are fun, but romance can be found anywhere, in the everyday and mundane. Simple things like riding the train, which Phoenix and Kai do everyday, can become romantic when riding with someone you feel butterflies for. As a writer, I’m always asking myself, how can I inject this scene with greater energy and tension?

3. Romance is between two people. Let the characters guide the romance, as opposed to the plot. In my original outline for AN ECHO IN THE CITY, I had the grand climax / reveal happen between the two main characters in a way that felt orchestrated and was clearly just convenient for the plot. I ended up having to completely rework that subplot because it wasn’t realistic for those characters and their personalities. Instead, by asking myself, “What would Kai do in this situation? How would someone like him respond?” I was able to change the romance plot to suit their characters, making the climax feel more earned and cohesive to the story.

 Your Road to Publication

6. Those are great tips. Peter Knapp is your agent. How did he become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

My road was a bit unconventional. I signed with my first agent back in 2018 over a different manuscript. I ended up revising that one to death and we never went out on submission with it. I started writing AN ECHO IN THE CITY in 2019, when the protests were happening, but didn’t really make headway until 2020 when the pandemic began. We sold the book at the end of 2020, after several rounds of revisions. As for Pete, I signed with him in 2021, and it was simply though cold querying. The slush pile does work out sometimes!

7. Share two things you learned about the craft of writing from working with your editor on revising your manuscript.

In my first draft of ECHO, nearly all the events took place according to a historically accurate timeline. However, this made for a slow-paced and often tedious draft. My editors at Little, Brown were instrumental in helping me tighten the timeline and become more liberal about reconfiguring the order of events to refine the plot and pacing. Writing historical fiction, I learned you often must make a choice between story and fact-telling. As a novelist, I intentionally chose the former, while trying not to sacrifice the core of the historical time and place.

The other thing my editors helped greatly with was tension. Building tension is so important to keeping your readers engaged. You can do this by asking questions, then leaving them unanswered (until later in the plot). In books that are dual point of view, like AN ECHO IN THE CITY, you can have one character keep a secret that you know the other character would react negatively to, if they found out about that secret. In this way, the reader knows something that one of the narrators does not, and that anticipation adds to the overall tension of the plot. 

Promoting Your Book

8. What are you doing to celebrate the release of your book?

I’m running a preorder campaign with two of my favorite illustrators, who designed beautiful art prints of Phoenix and Kai, and a Hong Kong street scene. If you pre-order the book from either Books Inc Palo Alto or Kepler’s Books, you’ll receive an art print in your book, as well as a signed/personalized copy. International readers can preorder wherever books are sold and fill out this google form to receive an art card.

For launch day, I’m hosting a book launch party at my local indie bookstore on June 20th at Books Inc Palo Alto. Event details linked here. I’ll also be hosting a second event at Skylight Books in Los Angeles on June 22nd, also at 7pm. Event details linked here. I absolutely can’t wait to celebrate with readers, friends, and family, and hopefully eat delicious food together!

9. It sounds like you’re really organized. How else are you planning to market your book?

I’ve been more active on social media (Instagram) than I usually am in order to share awards ECHO receives, or UK publishing news, or podcasts and blog tours like this! It’s been fun to interact with readers through social media and hear their early thoughts as ARCs are sent out, though I probably will reduce my time after book launch in order to focus on revising my next one.

10. What are you working on now?

My next book is VERY different in genre and theme. I can’t say too much now except that it will be coming out next year over the summer! I’m in the middle of revisions for it right now and it’s such a blast; I can’t wait for it to come out into the world 😊  

Thanks for sharing all your advice, K.X.! You can find K. X. Song at https://kxsong.com/ or on IG @ksongwrites. Pre-order link: https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/k-x-song/an-echo-in-the-city/9780316396820/ 

Giveaway Details

K.X is generously offering a hardback of An Echo in the City for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by June 17th. If your email 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 K.X 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.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

FYI, I do not have as much planned this summer. I’m taking a little break to enjoy my daughter’s wedding celebrations and to help get ready for the wedding.

Tomorrow, June 8 I’m participating in the Come Out & Play Giveaway Hop

Monday, June 12 I have an agent spotlight interview with Karly Dizon and a query critique giveaway

Friday, June 16 I’m participating in the Dad-o-Mite Giveaway Hop

Monday, June 19 I have an interview with debut author Caroline Huntoon and a giveaway of their MG contemporary Skating on Mars

Thursday, July 1 I’m participating in the Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, July 7 I have an interview with debut author Kacy Ritter and a giveaway of her MG contemporary fantasy The Great Texas Dragon Race and my IWSG post

Monday, July 10 I have an interview with author Refe Tuma and a giveaway of his MG adventure story Frances and the Monster

Hope to see you tomorrow!