Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Hillary Fazzari Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 4/22/2024
  • Miriam Cortinovis Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/6/2024
  • Jenniea Carter Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/8/2024
  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
  • Jenna Satterthwaite Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/10/2024
  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/24/2024

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.

Old School Giveaway Hop

 


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I'm excited to participate in the Old School Giveaway Hop sponsored by MamatheFox. I hope you're having a good last few weeks of summer. My daughter's wedding is in 10 days, and I'm super excited.

Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

 


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

Giveaway Details

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 July 31st 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.

Tuesday, September 1 I'm participating in the Glam and Glitz Giveaway Hop

Wednesday. September 6 I have a guest post by Victoria Wlosok and a giveaway of her YA mystery How to Find a Missing Girl

Thursday, September 7 I’m participating in the September Holiday Giveaway Hop

Monday, September 11 I have an agent spotlight interview with Heather Cashman and a query critique giveaway

Saturday, September 16 I'm participating in the Falling Leaves Giveaway Hop

Monday, September 18 I have an interview with Emi Pinot and a giveaway of her MG modern fairytale retelling Bee Bakshi and the Gingerbread Sisters

Monday, September 25 I have an agent spotlight interview with Jen Newens and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!

And here are all the 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: Daniele Hunter Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Daniele Hunter here. She is a junior literary agent at McIntosh and Otis.

Hi­ Daniele! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thank you so much for having me—I really appreciate your interest!

About Daniele:

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

I’ve known I wanted to be an agent since I was a little kid (I know, I was a bizarre one!), but it took me quite a while to get here. After college, I hopped around in the publishing industry—teaching creative writing classes, working for submission services and literary magazines, tutoring, and so forth. Following about a zillion applications, I landed a remote job reading for McIntosh & Otis in 2016, and they haven’t been able to get rid of me ever since! I’m very grateful to be here, especially with my incredible boss and mentor, Christa Heschke.

About the Agency:

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

McIntosh & Otis works with both children’s and adult clients. The agency has been around since 1928 (it was the first literary agency started by women, in 1928, which is a fun fact I share whenever possible!). We’re very small and personal, and work with authors not just on domestic book deals, but on subsidiary rights such as foreign translation, audiobooks, stage adaptations, and film/TV adaptations.

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?

In order of priority, I’m looking for: YA, MG, and picture books!

For YA and MG, in terms of genre: Contemporary, novels-in-verse, and contemporary fantasy are my favorites and top priorities! I also look for select suspense/thriller, historical, and higher fantasy. I’m a fan of genre-bending books, too—for example, I don’t work on genre horror, but am open to contemporary or fantasy with horror elements. For picture books, I tend to prefer real-world stories with human narrators, but am open to touches of magic here, too.

I have a heavy preference for first-person—I’d say that about 90% of the time, a third-person book isn’t going to be for me. I’m more relaxed on this when it comes to picture books, though!

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

I love the “heavy” and “dark” and “gritty” books, the ones that center hard-hitting topics like grief, loss, abuse, mental health battles, etc. And I love books that focus in on relationships, but that doesn’t have to mean romance for me; I’m equally passionate about friendship stories, complex family dynamics, etc.

Overall, the most important elements to me are writing style and character development: Whether a book is verse or prose, and even in more commercial genres, I love writing that’s incredibly literary and lyrical. I fall for books with three-dimensional, lived-in character and relationship dynamics; books with tons of narrative interiority. I’m also excited about books that are immersive and descriptive in terms of both emotion and physical setting, and I love mixed-media or unconventional formats in manuscripts.

It’s important to me to work with stories from all underrepresented creators, whether or not their books are explicitly about marginalization. I’m quite open in terms of a book’s topics—but as a queer and disabled agent, I’m also extremely passionate about books that center LGBTQIA+ and/or disability or chronic illness representation!

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

In picture books, rhyme is not for me, and I tend not to be a good fit for concept books—while I do value characterization, I also prefer picture books with more of a plot arc! I don’t work with chapter books or early readers, middle grade with narrators under 11, or adult books. I tend to be most drawn to books with narrators who are 12 years old and above.

Of course, if a client I already represent has one of those categories, I’m more than happy to work with it, often with the help of my boss!

In terms of genre, I’m not a good fit for graphic novels, sci-fi, or most horror. I’m also not the right reader for anything that heavily features insects (with apologies to my boss’s client Ann Fraistat, whose upcoming bug-centric book is amazing!).

In MG and YA, I’m not a fit for talking animal characters, pirates, court fantasy, or any non-human characters other than ghosts (I LOVE ghost stories!). And while I love YA stories set in college, and books with crossover potential, I’m not right for any book that is solidly New Adult (hopefully someday, though!). In any age range, I’m also not a good fit for Christian religious themes or parables.

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?

My foremost priority with my clients is, and always will be, communication. I know agents can be intimidating to authors, and I never want my clients to feel afraid of me! Whether they have questions or want to raise issues, I’m always here to listen and troubleshoot. For authors working with me, I want every part of the publishing process to be an open dialogue, from creating and editing manuscripts, to the submission process, to contracting with a publisher, to working with that publisher toward publication, and beyond.

I also believe that, though publishing is a business, creating these deeply personal, vulnerable stories is not. I will always treat my clients and their stories with respect. To me, this also means that working with underrepresented authors necessitates willingness to champion and protect these authors and their books in the industry.

As far as the books I work on, I want to work with such heavy topics because I’ve always believed that young readers and teens experience much more, and feel much more deeply, than adults tend to give them credit for. I think books have so much power for readers who are struggling—I know they did for me!

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, I’m extremely editorial! I love working with clients on both developmental edits and line-level tweaks, and I almost never recommend going on submission with a manuscript before it’s had some editing. In such a tight, competitive publishing market, I think it’s in the client’s best interest to make sure their manuscript is as strong as possible before going on sub.

I always lay out my editorial vision for a manuscript when I first offer representation—it’s important to me to make sure that the author is on board with how editorial I am in nature, as well as my vision for their book specifically.

Once I already represent a client, I’m excited to offer my editorial opinions at any stage of the process, whether they’ve just gotten the idea for a new book, get “stuck” while writing, or have a completed draft. Typically, my clients and I will volley back and forth on a few drafts before going on submission.

This all being said, though, I make sure my clients know that my notes are suggestions, not requirements. While I’ll always have lots of editorial ideas, I want to make sure the author is happy with the book they’re putting into the world—so if they want to go in a different direction than I’ve proposed, I’m always okay with that! The only exception would be any potentially problematic content flagged in a draft.

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?

Please query me only via Query Manager—this helps me keep much better track of queries than I could via email. Include a query letter, synopsis (this should be a summary of the whole book, including the ending), and either the first 25 pages or first 3 chapters of your manuscript (whichever is more).

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

In my personal opinion, a query letter should be one page or less: While you want to give agents a solid idea of your premise and world, you also don’t want to get too bogged down with details. Often, for picture books, writers may need even less space—a paragraph or two might be enough space to adequately set up the plot.

I also appreciate comp titles! From the moment I first read a query, I’m thinking about where I as an agent might be able to place this book in the literary market, and being able to picture some comparative books (or shows, movies, albums, etc.) is very helpful.

I tend to connect most strongly with opening pages that strike a good balance between action and exposition: It’s difficult to hook a reader’s attention with paragraphs of expository narrative; but it can also be jarring to start in the middle of a battle scene, for example, where readers may lack proper context. In perpetually seeking this balance, I don’t tend to be a fan of prologues (but they’re not a dealbreaker for me by any means!). Also, I love seeing dialogue in the opening pages, to give me a sense of characters’ voices right away.

For novels, I like to come away from the opening chapters with an idea of where the plot is heading: a solid sense of the protagonist, a feel for the setting and atmosphere, an inciting plot incident. Though of course revealing the entire plot is a tall order for only three chapters, I find it’s easiest for me as an agent to want more when the author has set up a solid foundation for the story!

Response Time:

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

I know how tough it is for authors in the query trenches right now, and how vulnerable it can feel to put your book out there—I never want to leave an author hanging. That being said, my response times can lag more than I’d ideally like them to. For one thing, my job as a junior agent is incredibly busy, especially because I assist on my boss’s list, and also have a handful of clients I share with her. Also, I’m a chronically ill agent, which makes my health and capacity variable. I always strive to get back to authors within 2-3 months’ time, but can fall behind on that (I am right now).

I’ll also admit that sometimes I catch myself sitting on manuscripts I’m interested in—if something about a query has hooked my interest, but I’m not sure about it for whatever reason (editorial vision, similarity to another book I’m working on, voice, etc.), I can hold onto it for much longer than I intend by mistake.

All of this is to say, I apologize in advance for any delays and welcome nudges from authors! I will always respond to queries, no matter how long it’s been, and am happy to confirm receipt with writers or give them a sense of my current timeline.

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! I don’t work with manuscripts that are currently published or self-published, but am always happy to hear from writers who have pursued these avenues for past projects. (Also, I love small presses—I submit to many of them as an agent! I think they’re an integral part of the publishing world.)

I know the query trenches can be especially frustrating for already-published writers, but I believe this is the best way to match with an agent. (Almost all of the clients I co-represent with my boss started out as cold-call queries!) I’m always excited to hear about other books an author has published, and always Google them while reading my queries, so definitely feel free to include those in your query letter. I also appreciate when published writers tell me in their queries whether they envision their next books being similar to what they’ve already published, or whether they want to branch out into new genres or age ranges.

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?

That’s a great question! At its heart, agenting is about advocating for and protecting authors: It’s my job to make sure that authors and their stories are in the best hands possible, and get the best possible deals. That being said, the list of things we need to watch out for and new technologies we need to know about is ever-changing (a good example right now is the growing popularity of AI technologies, and how AI can affect publishing components like audiobooks, editing, and art). I think a core part of being an agent is being adaptable.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I actually just recently signed with the first client for whom I’m the primary agent, Kade Dishmon! His book is YA—a trans, gorgeously lyrical and dark, emotional ghost story that centers grief, queerness, and friendship—trust me when I say I’m head-over-heels. :) I’m also incredibly lucky to co-represent some extraordinarily talented creators with my boss, Christa Heschke: Jennifer Archer (YA), Eric Bell (MG), Stacey Byer (PB author-illustrator), Maribel Castells (PB author-illustrator), Kim Chance (MG, YA), Catherine Cal Tanner (YA), Tiffany Golden (PB, MG, YA, and she illustrates!), Chad Lucas (MG), Diana Ma (MG, YA), Amren Ortega (YA), and Karyn Riddle (YA).

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.

Just one so far—earlier this summer, I had the amazing opportunity to do a podcast interview for the AALA subgroup I’m part of, Literary Agents of Change:

https://manuscriptacademy.com/podcast-daniele-hunter

Links and Contact Info:

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

Website: https://www.dhunteragent.com/

Query Manager: https://www.querymanager.com/ddhunter/

AALA Member profile: https://aalitagents.org/author/dhuntermcintoshandotis-com/

Publishers Marketplace: https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/danielehunter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/danieledhunter/

Bluesky: https://bsky.app/profile/danieledhunter.bsky.social

Additional Advice:

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

As rough as the query trenches are, as backlogged as many agents are, and as slowly as the publication process can move—don’t lose hope. Your voice, and your story, matter. Find a band of authors to get you through the many idiosyncrasies of publishing (and a band of non-authors to occasionally pull you away from your laptop J).

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Daniele.

­Daniele 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 August 26th. 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 follow me on Twitter or 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.

Wednesday, August 16 I’m participating in the Old School Giveaway Hop

Wednesday. September 6 I have a guest post by Victoria Wlosok and a giveaway of her YA mystery How to Find a Missing Girl

Thursday, September 7 I’m participating in the September Holiday Giveaway Hop

Monday, September 11 I have an agent spotlight interview with Heather Cashman and a query critique giveaway

Monday, September 18 I have an interview with Emi Pinot and a giveaway of her MG modern fairytale retelling Bee Bakshi and the Gingerbread Sisters

Monday, September 25 I have an agent spotlight interview with Jen Newens and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

Debut Author Interview: Vanessa Montalban and A Tall Dark Trouble Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Vanessa Montalban here to share about her YA contemporary fantasy A Tall Dark Trouble. I’m a huge fan of contemporary fantasy, and this one also has a murder mystery to solve. So, I’m super excited to read it.

 Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

 

Practical Magic meets Erika L. Sanchez in this propulsive YA fantasy about a Cuban American family of brujas who get entangled in love, magic, and murder, alternating between 1980s Cuba and present-day Miami.

Twin sisters Ofelia and Delfi know better than to get involved with magic. Their mom has seen to that. After all, it was magic that cursed their family, turning love into a poison. Romance is off the table for the Sanchez women. They’ve seen the curse take hold enough times to know how that road ends. And yet. Sometimes a girl catches feelings and just can’t help herself.

When Ofelia and Delfi begin having premonitions of a series of murders, the sisters know it is time to embrace their magical inheritance to get to the bottom of the mystery and save innocent lives. Teaming up with their best friend Ethan and with brooding detective-in-training Andres, the sisters set out to learn the truth. They just need to make sure Mami doesn’t find out what they’re up to.

Meanwhile, in 1980 Cuba, Anita struggles with a different magical conflict. Her mother, Mama Orti, is a bruja who belongs to a secret coven of elders and Anita knows she will be forced to join the coven herself one day. She sees no escape, though the thought of staying and letting this future claim her is terrifying. Ofelia, Delfi, and Anita’s stories collide as each woman steps into her power and embraces who she truly is, refusing to be subdued by any person, coven, or curse.

In this stunning YA contemporary fantasy, debut author Vanessa Montalban explores the interlocking struggles of three generations of women in one family. An unputdownable debut for anyone who roots for magic, sisterhood, and love.

 


Before I get to Vanessa’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: Kate Larkinsdale, Diane Burton, Janet Alcorn, and Shannon Lawrence!

I’m going to skip the optional question since I never had that situation happen. Instead, I’ll update you on what’s going on with me. My exciting news is that I got invited to do a Michigan SCBWI webinar with the co-regional advisor on how to find a literary agent. I have imposter syndrome because I have published anything or even queried. I had it as an attorney too when I would go to court and see everyone look so adult in their suits. Of course, I wore one too but I felt out of place.

I wrote out the whole presentation and was surprised that I had enough info to talk for an hour. I only have 30 to 40 minutes so I won’t get to it all. But I never thought I had so much to say. Right now I’m creating a Google slide show for the first time and learning to put graphics from Canva in the presentation because it’s on Zoom. It’s a bit challenging, but I can get help if I get stuck.

I’ve been practicing it too so I sound smooth. The presentation is September 6th—the first Wednesday of the month, which is about 10 days after my daughter’s wedding. I’m grateful that it’s also IWSG day. I’m sure I’ll be very insecure that day.

I’ve had to put my writing on hold while I get this presentation ready so that it’s basically done two weeks before the wedding. I’m mostly excited about the opportunity and how it might help me promote Literary Rambles and the new opportunities that might open up for me.

Interview With Vanessa Montalban 

Hi Vanessa! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thank you so much for having me! I’m so glad I can take my time with these answers. Nothing makes me freeze up more than being asked who I am. I forget every single thing in a heartbeat. But to sum me up, I’m a Cancer, Pisces rising, Libra moon bookworm with a penchant for moody poetry. I’m a Miami girl who moved up the Florida peninsula with my family to be closer to Mickey and affordable-ish housing. And I can finally say, I’m an author. How cool is that! I really don’t have a single defining moment of when I knew I wanted to become a writer, but there were early tells. Like my elaborate Barbie montages that would span years of my life. The spooky short stories I’d pen after a good Louis Duncan book. And the infinite bad poetry that usually arose after a bad breakup. However, it wasn’t up until my twenties that I really focused on publishing, and I loathe to admit, but the Twilight franchise had a lot to do with it. Basically, Twilight opened up the world of early young adult novels to me, along with Divergent, The Hunger Games, etc. I fell in love with reading again after my tumultuous teen years, and there was no looking back. Writing young adult became a way for me to reclaim a lot of lost time, and I’m still not willing to let go.

2. I loved Divergent and the Hunger Games too. Where did you get the idea for A Tall Dark Trouble?

There are varying accounts to this, because I grew up surrounded by the magic featured in A Tall Dark Trouble, I knew I’d eventually write something in that realm. The moment when connections were made in my brain, however, that this should be a multi-generational story in both Cuba and Miami surrounding specific historical events, took place in my father’s guest room as I took in the news­—Fidel Castro had just died. There were fireworks outside, people slamming on their horns, banging pots and pans. The streets of Miami became a hub of celebration. All this over one man. I didn’t know how to feel then, and I still don’t. I felt disconnected from the event, but I understood on a fundamental level the relief of my father and all other Cubans who’d fled their home from oppression. I wanted a character to portray the diasporic disconnect I was feeling, but I also wanted to show a character who’d feel the commandant’s death in a way I couldn’t understand in that moment.

About Your Writing Process

3. Share how you plotted your story overall and Ofelia, Delfi, and Anita’s storylines so that they all weaved together in the end.

Weaving the storylines took a lot of trial and error with my Las Musas mentor (a mentorship program for Latinx creators), my agent, and then my editor. Took a village, you could say, to have all three storylines line up in a way that felt organic and coincided with the preceding/following chapters. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted three different main characters. I was fortunate enough with this story that the characters came to me fully formed and it was just a matter of getting down their story right. I knew before I even started drafting that the twin’s chapters would take up more space because theirs is the story I most closely relate to. I would like to say I plotted and outlined heavily before starting, but the truth is I made some notes, some character charts, and wrote a query before I just dove into the drafting process. I didn’t even know who the villain would be until near the end (which is probably why it took me so long to draft). A Tall Dark Trouble really had its chance to shine during revisions. I had the hardest time figuring out how I wanted to end the story, and it took a lot of guidance from my Las Musas mentor, Nina Moreno. Nina really helped me figure out what I wanted readers to come away with when they were finished, and I kept thinking of hope even in the uncertainty of the future.

4.  That must have been hard writing not knowing the ending. What was the world-building process like for creating a modern-day Miami that had magical elements and 1980 Cuba, which also had a magical system and had to be historically correct?

For context, the magic system in A Tall Dark Trouble is heavily influenced by Caribbean Spiritism and Santeria—an Afro-Cuban religion. It’s the magic, powers, and beliefs I grew up with. Creating the Miami world with spirits and psychic powers, didn’t feel so far-fetched. Of course, fantasy gave me the room to embellish and play with some of my favorite witchy tropes and it was really so much fun infusing the Miami I know with the supernaturally-drenched Miami the twins grew up with. For the twins, specifically, I really wanted the magic to feel both comforting and dangerous in a way that says a lot about them as individuals. I was also heavily influenced by my two favorite sisters in Practical Magic.  

However, I did extensive research on Santeria and other Afro-Cuban religions. Since they are heavily syncretized religions, it’s challenging to narrow down one way of practicing, or certain steadfast beliefs. My goal from the beginning was to remain true to my own experiences while respecting different practitioners through thorough study. The same is true for the historical events in ATDT, like the Mariel Cuban boatlift of the 1980s. My father came in the Mariel, and I grew up with his harrowing stories, but I researched different accounts, watched countless documentaries, and dove into the research rabbit hole. Spoiler, I love to research!

5. I love the mashing up of the fantasy and murder mystery elements of your story. I’d love to do the same someday but am not sure how to write a compelling mystery. What are your tips on writing one, planting false leads to keep the reader guessing, and having teens realistically solve the murder?

Mystery is so tough to write so I completely get the fear. I was uncovering a lot of the mystery as I drafted. In a way, the twins and I were uncovering the killer together. But my main focus was not on the reveals, but on how the characters processed those reveals. For me, it was about how their internalized fears kept them from unraveling the mystery sooner, and how they processed the fallouts. That’s what I really love about mysteries. I like experiencing the disorientation and anticipation of what awaits alongside the characters. Though I highly suggest mapping out your mystery plot to its completion before drafting. So much had to be reworked during revisions in order to place in red herrings, false leads, and gradual clues in a way that made sense in a mystery. My reverse outline was so helpful for this process. Reverse, in that I outlined after I drafted. I got to know the characters first which was helpful but soon realized some of their motivations and some subplots didn’t push the mystery forward. So I mapped out every subplot: romance, magic, character arcs, and then made sure that each plot point for the mystery was integral to pushing the characters forward. I had to go back and make sure each revealed clue drove the characters toward the next scene, that every false lead had them questioning themselves and their internal lies. I needed the plot twists to the mystery to do more than just reveal something in the mystery itself, but to pull double or triple duty in the other subplots.

As for making the teens be the ones to realistically solve the murder, I had to work in the parameters of their world. Figure out how and when they’d be allowed to leave home to go off galivanting in search of a killer. Every teen is different, but we do tend to be more impulsive when we’re younger, something that leads to rushed decisions into dangerous situations. But in a mystery, that just makes things more interesting!

Your Road to Publication

6. That’s such great advice. Danielle Burby is your agent. Share how she became your agent and what your road to getting a publishing process was like.

I’m sure most writers will tell you that the path to publication was a long, arduous one, unless they had the unicorn of experiences. I started querying my first novel before it was ready. I didn’t know it then, but looking back, I made so many mistakes which I guess is just a rite of passage. Mistakes like querying huge batches of agents without doing the research I should’ve been doing. My first novel actually got picked up by a small publisher but after my editor left, I asked for my rights back. For my second novel, I finally snagged an agent but that also didn’t go any further. It was a lot of false starts and I was feeling very low. But I was always writing the next thing. A Tall Dark Trouble was my comfort story, my third novel. It was the story I wasn’t sure people would want since, at the time, publishing’s diverse list was practically non-existent. But the story made me happy. The Sanchez family reminded me so much of my family. The setting, the characters—it was thoroughly me. I was going into the querying process a lot more cautiously this time around after my not so stellar experiences prior. Twitter pitch contests were still pretty big at the time, and I joined both #DVpit and #Latinxpitch which just so happened to occur back to back in 2020. To my astonishment my pitches did so well! I made them funny and silly, but agents seemed to really like it. I had a huge list to query, but again, I researched this time around until I had a list of agents and agencies I’d love to work with. And Danielle wasn’t even one of the agents that liked my pitch! Another agent in her agency actually sent over my manuscript to her. I’d already gotten some offers from other agents, so Danielle read my manuscript in like a day! As soon as I had the zoom call with her and saw the passion and enthusiasm she had for my story, I knew she was the right fit. And as they say, the rest is history.

7. What was something that surprised you about your path to becoming a published author? Why?

Everything? *crying/laughing* No but seriously, I was surprised the most about how the goal posts just keep creeping forward. How there’s still rejection in every step. This has been one of the best times of my life, I won’t lie. The feeling of accomplishment I got when I held my book for the first time, when I get happy emails from my agent and editor. The feeling of pure joy when I got the first call from my agent with the news we’d sold. I’ve been incandescently happy, and yes, I’ll quote Pride and Prejudice. But I’ve also been anxious and hurt through every step. Because once you reach that goal you’ve dreamed of, you want to know what the next step is almost immediately after. Once your book is out in the world, not every reader is going to love it. Revisions in the publishing world are hard core, and it’ll feel like slicing into your heart with every removed character, scene, or chapter. I’m truly not trying to be pessimistic, but for every writer reaching for that first, second, third goal, know that there will be more hurdles and more triumphs ahead. So enjoy every second. Hold onto the joy of writing, but also find your happiness in anything else you can. 

Promoting Your Book

8. I totally get what you’re saying about there being rejections and hard times every step of the way. Your advice is right on. What are your plans to market your book and celebrate its release?

Aside from doing interviews with really cool blogs like this one, and giving myself over to whatever my publishing team has in store, I’ll keep looking for different ways to move the needle. Giveaways, staying active in the reader and writer community, keeping up with social media posts are all ways I can help market, but ultimately, I’m trying to take a deep breath and launch my book child into the world with as little stress as possible. As always, I’ll keep working on the next thing!

I plan on celebrating with desserts. Lots of desserts. And if you’d like to celebrate with me, you can find me here:

August 29th - Coral Gables, FL - Launch event at Books & Books with Alex Flinn

September 1st - Manhattan, NY - Book event at PT Knitwear with Kat Cho

September 9th - Sanford, FL - Book event at Spellbound Books with Nina Moreno

9. I wish I could come but I live in Ann Arbor. What’s your advice to other writers who are preparing to debut about building a social media platform and marketing their book? How soon do you recommend they begin all this?

I would say to start building a social media platform right away but don’t exhaust yourself. Pick a platform or two that you really enjoy. Anything you’re dragging your feet to do will be apparent to your audience so make sure you’re having fun, and you’ll find your people. But building a community with other writers and readers is really necessary, not just as a small business (because that’s what you are when you publish), but as a human who enjoys reading and writing. This can be a lonely journey, and finding others to relate to and build real friendships with is incredibly helpful. That’s the only way I can describe how I’ve approached building a platform. I’m looking for friends not numbers. And as a wise author friend (Isabel Sterling) once told me, a good way to market yourself is to think of it as a service to readers. You’re taking what your book has to offer and helping a new reader find something they can hopefully treasure and relate to. I don’t know, but this shift in thinking really helped me change my perspective on marketing “my brand” or my books to something that felt more like a gift, making it less scary to attempt.

10. What are you working on now?

Many fun things! I was lucky enough to have sold two books with Zando Young Readers so now we’re working on book two which is another standalone, young adult contemporary fantasy. Think small, strange town, a haunted manor, and a vengeful, wish-granting ghost that haunts the woods and lures men to their deaths based on Nicaraguan folklore. Of course there’s also romance, mystery-solving, and mom-issues because apparently that’s my brand. I seriously can’t wait to talk more about it soon!

Ooh, that one sounds really good too. Thanks for sharing all your advice, Vanessa. You can find Vanessa at:

www.vanessamontalban.com

www.twitter.com/vvmontalban

www.instagram.com/vvmontalban

Preorder campaign: https://woobox.com/jr4sv4

Giveaway Details

Vanessa’s publisher is generously offering a hardback of A Tall Dark Trouble 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 August 12th. 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 Vanessa 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.

Monday, August 14 I have an agent spotlight interview with Danielle Hunter and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, August 16 I’m participating in the Old School Giveaway Hop

Tuesday, September 1 I'm participating in the Glam and Glitz Giveaway Hop

Wednesday. September 6 I have a guest post by Victoria Wlosok and a giveaway of her YA mystery How to Find a Missing Girl

Thursday, September 7 I’m participating in the September Holiday Giveaway Hop

Monday, September 11 I have an agent spotlight interview with Heather Cashman and a query critique giveaway

Saturday, September 16 I'm participating in the Falling Leaves Giveaway Hop

Monday, September 18 I have an interview with Emi Pinot and a giveaway of her MG modern fairytale retelling Bee Bakshi and the Gingerbread Sisters

Monday, September 25 I have an agent spotlight interview with Jen Newens and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!

 

Apple a Day Giveaway Hop

 


Happy Tuesday Everyone! Today I'm excited to participate in the Apple a Day Giveaway Hop hosted by MamatheFox. I hope you're having a great summer. I am having a fantastic one. I've been busy having fun and getting ready for my daughter's wedding at the end of the month. It's been one of my best summers in a long time.

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.

Giveaway Details

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 August 15th telling me whether you want a book, and if so, which one, or the Amazon 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. The book giveaway is U.S. only and the Amazon gift card 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.

Tomorrow, August 2 I have an interview with debut author Vanessa Montalban and a giveaway of her YA contemporary fantasy A Tall Dark Promise and my IWSG post

Monday, August 14 I have an agent spotlight interview with Daniele Hunter and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, August 16 I’m participating in the Old School Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you tomorrow!

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.