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.

On Writing a Mult-Genre Story and Finding the Right Agent: Interview With Debut Author Amber Chen and Of Jade and Dragons Giveaway and my IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Amber Chen here to share about her YA silkpunk fantasy Of Jade and Dragons. I’m really excited to read her book because it combines silkpunk, fantasy, and mystery and has a strong main character interested in science.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Eighteen-year-old Aihui Ying dreams of becoming a world-class engineer like her father, but after his sudden murder, her life falls apart. Left with only a journal of her father’s engineering secrets and a jade pendant snatched from the assassin, a heartbroken Ying follows the trail to the capital and the prestigious Engineers Guild—a place that harbors her father’s hidden past—determined to discover why anyone would threaten a man who ultimately chose a quiet life over fame and fortune.

Disguised as her brother, Ying manages to infiltrate the guild’s male-only apprenticeship trial with the help of an unlikely ally—Aogiya Ye-yang, the taciturn eighth prince of the High Command. With her father’s renown placing a target firmly on her back, Ying must stay one step ahead of her fellow competitors, the jealous guild masters, and the killer still hunting for her father’s journal. Complicating everything is her increasingly tangled relationship with the prince, who may have mysterious plans of his own.

The secrets concealed within the guild can be as deadly as the weapons they build—and with her life and the future of her homeland at stake, Ying doesn’t know who to trust. Can she avenge her father even if it means going against everything he stood for, or will she be next in the mastermind’s line of fire?


Before I get to June’s interview post, I have my IWSG post.

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts this month are: JS Pailly, Rebecca Douglass, Pat Garcia, Louise-Fundy Blue, and me!

Optional Question: What are your favorite writing processing (e.g. Word, Scrivener, yWriter, Dabble), writing apps, software, and tools? Why do you recommend them? And which one is your all time favorite that you cannot live without and use daily or at least whenever you write?

Exciting Upcoming Agent Critique Opportunity for You

Before I answer the question, I want to be sure that you know of an upcoming agent spotlight interview with an amazing critique giveaway coming up on July 29th. I have an agent spotlight interview with Sheila Fernley that day. She is offering a very generous critique giveaway of a full picture book or three-chapter MG or YA critique and a one-hour Zoom call to discuss your project. I hope those of you who write kidlit stories and are looking for an agent will enter the giveaway contest, and you'll all tell your friends who are kidlit writers about this opportunity.

Guest Post at Anne R. Allen’s blog on 7/7/2024

I also want to let you know that I’ll be sharing a guest post on Anne R. Allen’s blog . . . with Ruth Harris next Sunday, 7/7/2024 that could help you in your search for an agent. My topic is Tips on Finding the Right Agent and My Secret Way to Discover Agents You Don't Know About. I’ll post a link to the guest post when it goes live on 7/7. I hope you'll stop by, read my post, and leave a comment.

Now here’s my answer to this month’s question. I keep it simple and just use Word and Grammarly. I have the upgraded version of Grammarly through my job as a writer, which I can open and check anything I write.

Alex has asked that we all start linking our IWSG posts on the IWSG Facebook page so that we can all see who has posted on IWSG dayt.

Interview With Amber Chen

Hi Amber! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hello! I’m Amber Chen, a Singaporean-Chinese author of SFF and contemporary fiction, and Of Jade and Dragons is my debut YA fantasy.

I’ve always been a book lover, but I didn’t think of writing my own stories until I was in university. While binging TV dramas (I watch a lot of these) in between lectures and tutorials, I realised that 1) there were so many unsatisfying plot points and endings out there and 2) there was a finite supply of content for me to indulge in, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and start writing my own stories.

2. Where did you get the idea for Of Jade and Dragon?

I really like reading up on history, and one of my hobbies is speculating about the lives and times of historical figures and filling in the gaps in historical records, so that’s what happened with Of Jade and Dragons. OJAD was inspired by the story of the first emperor of the Qing Dynasty and the woman he loved the most, Harjol, and there are plenty of easter eggs in the book that draw from real historical events during the transitional period from the late Ming to early Qing Dynasty of China.

Of Jade and Dragons was also inspired by the classic Chinese tale, The Butterfly Lovers. In that story, the FMC, Zhu Yingtai, disguises as a boy in order to study at a boys-only academy, because only boys were allowed to receive an education during that time period, and she managed to do all this because she had a supportive father who was willing to indulge her and support her dream. I loved that father-daughter dynamic, and it was what inspired Ying’s relationship with her father in OJAD!

Your Writing Process and Writing a Story That Combines Genres

3. Combining genres when writing a story can make it really interesting. Here you’ve combined three genres: fantasy, mystery, and silkpunk. First, explain what silkpunk is and talk about how you decided to combine these genres and the challenges you faced in doing so when writing your manuscript.

Silkpunk is a term that was crafted by the author Ken Liu for his Dandelion Dynasty series, to represent a “specific technology and literary aesthetic” that draws from the history and culture of East Asia and the Pacific islands. As a member of the punk family, it also encompasses the key themes of rebellion, anti-authoritarianism and a struggle for freedom.

OJAD began as a historical re-imagining, but I thought it would be interesting to invent a Chinese-inspired world that is tech-focused, given that most Chinese fantasies tend to be more magical in nature. That was how the idea for using silkpunk as the basis for the worldbuilding for the book came about. I think one of the main challenges in combining genres was trying to find ways to incorporate relevant technology with the main mystery plotline in a way that made sense for the world and the characters, without them feeling like two very disparate aspects of the story.   

4. I can see how combining them would have been challenging. Share about your world-building process and how you combined this with the true historical events and individuals you based your story on.

The world in OJAD is heavily inspired by Qing Dynasty China, so if you watch plenty of Chinese historical dramas then many of these elements such as the architecture, food, culture, would probably feel very familiar! Aspects like the hierarchical structure, the politics and the way the military is organised also take reference from the way things were in China during the 1600s. In order to create the fantasy world that OJAD is set in, what I did was to use the real historical elements as a frame, and then to layer on the fantastical (technological?) elements on top of that, so that everything feels like a world that could have realistically existed!

5. I love that Ying dreams of being an engineer in a male-dominated profession. Was it easy or hard to develop her as a compelling, strong main character as you’ve done? Why?

I think Ying’s character arc came quite naturally to me, because a lot of her experiences as a girl trying to establish herself in a male-dominated profession resonate very much with my own. The idea of empowering girls to not only take on but also excel in traditionally masculine fields, like engineering, is an important theme in OJAD, and a theme that is particularly close to my heart. When I crafted Ying, one thing that I made sure to keep in mind was to always keep her personal beliefs and motivations as a priority, and have that guide her actions as she navigates the world around her. 

Your Journey to Publication

6. Laura Crockett is your current agent, but not your first. Share about your journey to find an agent that was right for you. What advice do you have for writers in a similar situation as yours?

Laura is actually my third agent! I queried for about nine months before I got an offer of representation from my first agent, Anne Perry. Anne was absolutely fantastic and we went on to sell OJAD at auction only two months after sending it on sub, which I am incredibly thankful for. Sadly, Anne decided to leave agenting to return to the editorial side of the business, and I transferred to my second agent in the same agency who then went on to represent me in negotiating the contract for my debut book. I eventually decided to make the hard decision to part ways with my second agent and plunge back into the query trenches because I felt that the future books I wanted to write might not be a good fit with that agent’s list, and subsequently I went on to sign with Laura J

I think switching agents midway through your writing career is more common than people might imagine, and this could happen for a variety of reasons, like agents leaving the business, agents not being the right fit in terms of working style, agents not representing certain genres you want to write in, etc. It was quite scary being confronted with the possibility of having to jump into the query trenches again, but after I managed to get over that mental barrier, my second experience with querying actually went a lot better than I expected. For fellow writers that find themselves wondering whether or not they should switch agents, I’d say go for it! Having an agent that is a good fit for your body of work is incredibly important!

7. I agree with you authors sometimes have to switch agents. You went on submission and sold your book on auction two months later. What was the experience like for you?

It was incredibly exciting! But also nerve-wracking. You always hear about how slow publishing timelines are and how long it can take to get responses, so I was very lucky to have spent a relatively short time on sub. When my agent notified me about the first offer, I was already over the moon. I honestly did not expect there to be as much interest in my book as there turned out to be, and I’m super grateful to all the editors for seeing the potential in OJAD! I also really appreciated getting the opportunity to speak with all the offering editors to find out more about their vision for the book (they were all fantastic), because it really helped to spark plenty of new ideas for the book and also helped me get a sense of who might be a better fit for me to work with on this debut journey!    

Promoting Your Book

8. It’s interesting how talking to the editors gave you new ideas for your story. How are you planning to market your book and reach out to readers in the U.S. when you live in Singapore?

I’ve always been very sad about being half a world away from plenty of fun bookish things happening in the US! That said, I’m grateful that there are now plenty of opportunities for virtual events and social media is so prolific that there are many ways to interact with readers all across the world, so these will be my main avenues for book marketing and publicity. My publicity team has been very busy helping me to link up with bookstores, book bloggers, podcasters etc. to get word about the book out there, so thank you to them for doing all the hard work! I would love to get the chance to travel to meet readers overseas one day though!      

9. That’s great there are so many online ways you can connect to readers, bookstores, and bloggers. You’re also a contributing member of Path to Publication. Tell us about this group, how you joined it, and how it can help writers on their journey to getting published.

Path2Pub was a blog that was started by my very talented friend Lucia, who has been so passionate about helping fellow authors by gathering and sharing as much publishing wisdom as she can. She approached me and a few other authors who were all at different stages of the publication journey and invited us to become contributors to Path2Pub, and we worked together to maintain a regular updating schedule for the blog where we’d take turns to write posts about different aspects of publishing and our reflections on these topics. Path2Pub also features many interviews with agents and editors, which I love to read because I find these interviews shed a lot of light onto the opaque world of publishing! We’ve stopped updating the site as a group now, but Lucia’s still maintaining the blog with interviews with publishing personnel whenever she can, so I’d highly recommend everyone to check it out because it helps demystify the world of publishing J      

10. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on edits for Book 2 of the Fall of the Dragon duology, so hopefully we are on track for publication one year after Of Jade and Dragons is released J

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Amber. You can find Amber at ambercwrites.com, and @amberwrites88 on Instagram, X and TikTok.

Giveaway Details

Amber’s publisher is generously offering a hardback of Of Jade and Dragons 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 13th. 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 follow Amber 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

Monday, July 8th I have an agent spotlight interview with Rebecca Williamson and a query critique giveaway

Tuesday, July 16th I’m participating in the Sip Sip Hooray Giveaway Hop

Monday, July 22nd I have an interview with author Sally Pla and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Invisible Isabel

Monday, July 29th I have any agent spotlight interview with Sheila Fernley and a full picture book or three-chapter MG or YA critique and a one-hour Zoom call giveaway

I hope to see you on Monday!



Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Pen and paper -- then Word -- are my favourite tools, then ProWritingAid :-) Yeah, I'm not on Facebook, so I won't be sharing my link there.

Ronel visiting for IWSG day A Round-Up of Resources For Writers

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

A guest post at Anne's site - that is awesome!
Thanks for co-hosting today.

H. R. Sinclair said...

You had me ad "silkpunk fantasy Of Jade and Dragons." This book sound wonderful!.

Ronel -- I'm also not on Facebook, so not me either.

Señorida Anastasia said...

Not on facebook as well. Looking forward to read OJAD:)

Jennifer Lane said...

The premise of Amber's novel sounds interesting!

I'm not familiar with Grammerly. How does it work?

Debs Carey said...

Congrats on having a guest post on Anne Allen's blog - I shall look out for it. It's been a while since I've read it, and I'd like to get back into the habit of doing so, so this gives me a welcome nudge :)

I'm a Word person too, although working towards using Scrivener when the situation is right.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

A 1 hour Zoom call is priceless.

emaginette said...

Sadly, I've been avoiding all things social media--bots have done a job on my brain. So no Facebook for me.

Thanks for letting us know about the agents, though. Them reaching out to us is not how it usually works. hehehe

Anna from elements of emaginette

Fundy Blue said...

Thanks for co-hosting today, Natalie! Amber's book sounds wonderful ~ another great interview! I tried to add my link on the IWSG's FaceBook page and FaceBook blocked my link. ??? Have a great day!

Damyanti Biswas said...

Of Jade and Dragons sounds incredible, and congrats to Amber! The title and cover are absolutely stunning, too!

Pat Garcia said...

I use Microsoft Word and Grammarly, but I will be using Scrivener starting this month.
Good luck with your guest post.
Have a happy Fourth of July.

Shalom shalom,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

Danielle H. said...

This book is my most-anticipated debut of the year! The synopsis already has me connecting to this character and the cover is gorgeous. As a woman who earned a degree in engineering, I'm a huge cheerleader for girls to choose any career/life path they desire. I follow Natalie and the author on Twitter and Instagram and shared this post on Facebook, Twitter, and tumblr.

Sonia Dogra said...

Hi Natalie. Thanks for co-hosting. Of Jade and Dragons has an interesting premise. I would like to come back on 29 July and try my luck.

Nancy Gideon said...

Silkpunk! How cool is that! Okay, I'm off to explore . . . Thanks for bringing us such unique stuff, Natalie!!

Computer Tutor said...

What a busy post, Natalie! Lots that caught my attention, not the least was the genre, silkpunk. I definitely need to dig into that.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Combining 3 genres is amazing!

I'm with you on the keeping it basic with writing apps. :) I use Word and ProWriting Aid.

Gwen Gardner said...

I still use Word--what else is there? LOL. But I've added ProWritingAid for the helpful reports.

Thanks for co-hosting!

Kristina Kelly said...

Keeping it simple is usually a good thing!

Jemima Pett said...

Oh dear, it’s hard enough to get my blog post to stick on my own Facebook page. I’ll have a go with IWSG, but….
Thanks for co-hosting today!
Jemima @ https://jemimapett.com

Megan said...

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

Sandra Cox said...

Sounds like an intriguing story line.
'Lo, Natalie;)

Tyrean Martinson said...

Amber - your book sounds like a really fun read!
Natalie - I look forward to reading your guest post. Congrats!

Lisa Buie-Collard said...

Thanks so much for co-hosting today! You are soooo busy!

Samantha Bryant said...

Sounds like a great new book. You always find such interesting authors and books! @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

PJ Colando said...

Congrats on your blog opportunity. You are beyond generous to others always, and it's nice when the goodness returns for you.

Loni Townsend said...

Wow. Awesome critique opportunity. Good luck to the entries! I don't write kidlit myself, or YA, but that's a great chance for someone who does.

Olga Godim said...

I didn't know the word 'silkpunk' before. Now I do, and the book sounds fascinating.
I don't do Facebook at all, so I won't be connecting to it with my IWSG post either. I hope people would find me despite my absence on Facebook.

traveler said...

A captivating and intriguing novel. Wonderful and special. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Melissa Miles said...

This sounds like a wonderful story! Congrats on the book's success and best of luck in your future writing endeavors. I love the term silkpunk. I learned something new!

Beth Gallagher said...

This book looks fabulous!!! I can’t wait to read it! And thank you for such a great interview. I’m an old fashioned pen & paper writer, but will use word if necessary, probably because I write “ in the wild” and not at a desk. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this wonderful book! You can reach me at egallagherauthor@gmail.com

Donna K. Weaver said...

I used to use Grammarly but shifted to ProWritingAid. I really like it. I especially enjoy the "echoes" feature where it spots when I've used the same word or phrase to close to another use.

Joyana Peters said...

Happy belated IWSG day! I'm a huge believer in not fixing what's not broken. If old school Word is working for you, keep at it! Thanks for sharing the Facebook page link, I didn't know about it and just requested to join.

Janet Alcorn said...

I just subscribed to Path2Pub - looks like a great resource!

Congrats on getting a guest post slot on Anne's blog! I'm looking forward to reading it.

Kasey @ The Story Sanctuary said...

I'm about to start reading an ARC of this book, so it was really great to get to read more about the author's journey in writing it. I'm excited to read it!

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Thank you for cohosting this month, Natalie. And thank you for this informative interview.
Wow! Amber, your book sounds intriguing. More power to you and all the luck with your writing career.
I've followed you on Instagram AND Twitter/X and mentioned this contest on my writer facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/Victoria.Marie.Lees.Author/posts/pfbid02wawy6MmvMPcnd52aEX3rTqkvxW6vSa5mZdMJcRjnvbPHLD3WVWfyEWnVUkJexvgml I am not on TicTok.
Thank you for this opportunity to be a part of this contest.

Kate Larkindale said...

Never heard of silkpunk before, so I learned something new today!

Cathrina Constantine said...

Congrats to Amber. And what a wonderful Giveaway!

Thank you for co-hosting, Natalie.

Have a wonderful summer.

diedre Knight said...

A post full of wonderful giveaway treasures, Natalie. Congratulaions to Amber.
Very best to you for a perfectly peaceful summer ;-) Thanks for co-hosting!

Shradha said...

Congrats to Amber for making her publishing dream come true. And thank you for this blog post and giveaway! My email is matasing@yahoo.com if chosen.

Jean Davis said...

Grammarly is a helpful addition to Word. Thanks for cohosting! I'll try to remember to post on the IWSG FB next time. I've been quite intermittent with that. Oops.

Nancy P said...

Looks like an amazing book. Positive.ideas.4youATgmail goodreads twitter LifeSmartly BonneVivante

Tara Tyler said...

thanks for so much great info! i’ll check out the agents post at anne’s for sure!

and it was fun meeting Amber - I love dragons!

happy July

Tara Tyler Talks