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: 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!



Pat Garcia said...

You have many things that you still want to do that would probably fulfilled your desire to write and I definitely understand that. Good luck with all you plan to do.
Shalom shalom

Jennifer Lane said...

An Echo in the City sounds fabulous! Congratulations to K.X. on her perseverance.

Volunteering is a great idea.

This is very true! "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."

Loni Townsend said...

I'd probably hop on the exercise wagon too! Though, my daughter wanted to start volunteering at the local Humane Society, and kids that age need an adult to volunteer with them. Maybe that's in my future.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Those sound like good post-retirement activities!

Congratulations to K.X!

Jemi Fraser said...

Love this line from KX's blurb...But Phoenix doesn't want big; she just wants home. Sounds like a great story!

I'm with you Natalie on not making plans to far ahead. Life tends to throw curve balls and I like being flexible!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I love how writing is one of those careers that we don't need to retire from unless we want to. We can go full time, part time, etc. You'll be great whatever you choose! :)

Diane Burton said...

I hope you're able to continue writing. Life is crazy with lots of surprises. Planning ahead can be frustrating. K.X., best wishes on your debut novel.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Once you retire, you'll have a lot more time for all of that. But sometimes it's hard to plan that far ahead.

emaginette said...

I love your choices. There is a life away from writing. I've just never strayed too far from it. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Computer Tutor said...

Writing for yourself--such a great reason. I barely ever submit to my critique group (never ready!) but love critiquing their work.

Please enter me in this contest. I know so little about the HK protests in 2019. Would love to learn more through this author's eyes.

cleemckenzie said...

I loved your answer to the question. This past year, that's exactly how I've felt--that I've been writing for my critique group. Well, they're excellent readers and while they don't let me get away with any lazy writing, they don't give me really bad reviews. :-)

An Echo in the City sounds great. I've lived in Hong Kong, and when the 2019 protest were the news, I followed it daily, remembering my time on those streets during more peaceful times and before the handover to China. Congratulations to Ms. Song.

Debs Carey said...

You make a great observation Natalie about not knowing what is ahead of us on the road. We had only guess what our reaction would be, but it sounds like you've a good idea of what you'd like you're post-retirement life to look like which is a fabulous way to start it when the time comes.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Had to laugh a little about your thought that you'd exercise more... I do find as I age that keeping fit and functional (i.e. doing PT) takes up more and more of my time!

An Echo in the City sounds like a great book, and I appreciated the comments about what had to happen in the editing process to make it better.

Cathrina Constantine said...

My girlfriend just retired and she started volunteering. She found something in a school, and it was rewarding. Now that school is out she's looking elsewhere. That's a great calling.

Enjoy the summer!

Brenda said...

Love your post-retirement ideas. Congratulations to Ms. Song, her book sounds very interesting.

Olga Godim said...

@Natalie: I like your retirement plans. :)
@K.X.: a fascinating interview.

C.D. Gallant-King said...

Great blurb for KX's book. I love stories that are set against the backdrop of real-world events, even recent ones.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Romance is between two people - yes! And a relationship needs to be organic.

I look forward to the retirement you describe.

Sandra Cox said...

Natalie,I love that you'd do more volunteering with spare time. Kudos to you.
K.X., Wishing you much success with this intriguing story.

Gwen Gardner said...

KX, Echo sounds like something I'd like to read! Congrats on your new release.

Natalie, I love being retired and doing what I want, but especially the writing. I have a hard time tearing myself away to do other things, but I am starting to do that. I took a painting class recently, and I want to start Yoga and meditation as well.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Yes, there is definitely life outside of publishing. I think I'd continue to write for the fun of it though.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Natalie - I'm glad you are writing for you, and daydreaming ahead even if solid plans are out of the question (I know how this feels - life moves too fast). Congratulations on your daughter's wedding! Have fun and dance the night away and give lots of hugs. (unless you prefer a quieter style, and then have a wonderful time doing what works best)

Cogratulations to KX on your new book! I loved reading about your writing journey and all that you've put into it.

Liz A. said...

What a great setting for the novel. I know I didn't hear too much about the protests, only that they were happening. A novel set during them definitely would explain them more to people like me who were mostly unaware of them.

Sarah Foster said...

Hopefully once you retire, you'll have time for writing AND all of the other activities (and some relaxation, too!).

Michael Law said...

This looks like a great novel. Cannot wait to read it

Melissa said...

Wow! What a setup for a book. Great premise!

“What would Kai do in this situation? How would someone like him respond?”
Yes, this! This is how I write, too. It's why my scenes don't always go as planned. I get there, and the feeling is wrong, or the behavior I originally imagined isn't plausible. I am definitely going to have to read this book.

Great interview. Best of luck!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Echo sounds like a wonderful read.

Sounds like if you stopped writing, you'd just do more of what you already do :)

nashvillecats2 said...

You have some excellent plan Natalie, good luck with them.

Adrienne Reiter said...

Hi Natalie!
Loved your interview with K.X. What a great origin story. Happy IWSG Day!

Danielle H. said...

I enjoy reading historical fiction and haven't read a book set in Hong Kong during 2019 so I'm excited to read this book and experience this culture myself. I follow Natalie on Twitter and the author on Instagram. I also shared this on tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/yesreaderwriterpoetmusician/719567885574569984/debut-author-interview-k-x-song-and-an-echo-in?source=share

diedre Knight said...

Great interview! I always say that because they always are ;-)
As you mentioned, planning ahead is extremely hard when every day is tightly planned. You don't even want to think that far ahead, and I can't blame you. As long as you enjoy what you do, there's no rush ;-)
Happy June, happy writing!

Rachel Stones said...

This sounds like a great book! I can't wait to read it.

Megan said...

This book sounds amazing!

tetewa said...

Congrats on the release, sounds like a good one!

Rosi Hollinbeck said...

Writing for yourself is the best kind of writing. Thanks for another informative interview. I will pass on the giveaway since I just won here. Thanks for picking me for the query critique! I got the email from Natasha today.

Samantha Bryant said...

It's good to have more than one way to express our creative sides. And KC's book sounds amazing! @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Tonja Drecker said...

This sounds like a wonderful read. Putting it on my radar! And I fully agree with every part of your answer, Natalie. Volunteering ranks high, and as for life, I'm at the stage of asking what I want to do when I grow up. (my kids laugh at that).

Jen said...

Life really does change so much, but I try to keep my feet grounded in what brings me joy. Art is at the top of that list and if I had to give up writing, I'd do more of that : hands on creating is such a wonderful stress reliever!

Great interview! Congratulations to K.X. on the new book! What an interesting premise to a story. All the best!

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Kimberly Yavorski said...

Thanks for the great tips on character and tension!

Tandi Cortez said...

I follow you though email and I shared this blog page on Twitter! Sounds like an interesting read! :) https://twitter.com/TandiCortez/status/1667762483266723840