Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • 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  


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


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!



nashvillecats2 said...

This was a fantastic interview Natalie, so enjoyable to read. Fancy living in the same part of the world?
Hope your ok and well, have got my pc sorted.
Have a great week.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think it's cool that Caroline's background in figure skating factored into the book! Sounds like a great MG read.

Computer Tutor said...

Interesting interview with Caroline. Always intriguing how writers get from idea to publication. Loved Valinora Troy's book. It sounds great.

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

This is an awesome interview, Natalie! I used to know some competitive figure skaters, and it's intriguing to see more books talking about that space. And I'm always excited to see LGBTQ+ representation in MG books as well! It's definitely impressive how much Caroline is juggling while also writing these intriguing books. I'll pass on the giveaway, but thanks so much for the great post!

Brenda said...

Nice that Caroline could use their experience skating to write the story. Sounds like a great story. Happy MMGM to you too.

Danielle H. said...

I missed out on seeing this author at Schuler's Books, but can't wait to read this book! I enjoy athletic characters in the novels I read. I shared this post on tumblr and follow Natalie on Twitter and Instagram. I also follow the author on Instagram. Thank you for the chance to win a copy to read and review.

Valinora Troy said...

Thanks so much for the shout-out, Natalie, really appreciated! :) For someone who hasn't much on this summer, you've certainly a very busy July planned (virtually anyway!) Wishing your daughter all the very best & lots of happiness in her married life, I hope it's a wonderful wedding and you have a blast! Thanks again!

Greg Pattridge said...

Fantastic interview and the insights into Caroline's path to publication were much appreciated. The story sounds like one kids and a few of us adults will enjoy. Thanks for being a part of MMGM once again.

Liz A. said...

7th grade is hard. Mars sounds like they have an even harder time of it. Sounds like a great book.

traveler said...

A wonderful interview and a captivating and unforgettable story. What a treasure to enjoy.

@melissa_trempe said...

Best of luck, Caroline! Sounds like a wonderful story!

Tonja Drecker said...

Congratulations, Caroline! It's so nice to see a novel about ice skating.
I have my eye on Yasuko and the Dream Eater too (looks like a wonderful pb)

Sandra Cox said...

Lots of new books coming out. Wishing everyone much success and many sales.

Rosi said...

Congratulations to Caroline. The book sounds wonderful. I am buried in books. Thanks for a very interesting interview.

Nick Wilford said...

This sounds like a great book for younger readers. Nice interview.

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

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