Thursday, October 16, 2014

I have an agent!!

So here it is--the post that every writer wants to write. The post that makes it all official, that makes all the hard work worth it. It's the one that says, "Yay! I wrote a book and someone likes it enough to fight for it so that it can go forth into the world for others to read and enjoy!" Well, here it is--my story:

The Short Version

For those of you who just want the basics, I recently signed with, and am now represented by, Holloway Literary. I'm super excited to be working with them and thrilled they loved DEFENSIVE GUN.

The Long Version (it's epic)

If you've been to my blog before or read my About page then you know how much I love to read. This probably isn't surprising since, duh, I'm a writer and in order to write and create, you kind of have to read. But I never really considered writing, being an author that is, as something I could do until about 7 years ago. 

I'd spent several years after college rarely picking up a book. I got married, started a full time job, and had my first kid all in the first year I was out of college. I was burnt out on reading and pretty much had forgotten the joy of reading for pleasure. Years of forced reading for education had done that to me. So when my sister repeatedly insisted I read this great series of books called TWILIGHT, I gave in and bought the books and tried them out. I was hooked! I read them all in like 3 days. Those books helped me re-discover my love for reading and what was more, they re-introduced me to YA. (I'm a former SWEET VALLEY HIGH addict). Soon after, I devoured everything in YA that even remotely interested me and after another conversation with my sister about an idea I had that I thought would make a great story (that idea evolved into my first MS, I AM CARAWAY) she said, "You know, you should try your hand at writing." 

And that my friends, is where it all began.

I spent about four months writing I AM CARAWAY and another couple of years learning my craft and revising and editing my MS. (That thing was a monster, clocking in at the end of the first draft at 157k words). I queried CARAWAY for about six months and in the meantime, wrote and polished DEFENSIVE GUN. 

**And that's what you really want to hear about, right? The book that got me the agent... 

ok, ok, here it is:

The idea for DEFENSIVE GUN came to me when I decided I wanted to write a contemporary YA. That was what all the agents and editors were looking for so that was the kind of book I wanted to write. It was a challenge for me because my ideas were always fantastical in nature so I had no idea how I would find an idea or write something contemporary. I knew I wanted my story to have a hook (like 13 REASONS WHY's cassette tapes) and to be intense, realistic, and emotional. Somehow the idea to tell the story of a girl who'd been kidnapped just popped into my head. 

I wanted the girl's story to be a reflection on what she'd been through and I wanted the hook, the way she reflected, to be a TV interview. I mean, we've all watched some sort of Barbara Walters-like interview at some point so that was the feeling I was going for. I wanted my MC Amanda to be the girl everyone felt like they knew just because they'd seen her on TV--like Elizabeth Smart, JonBenet Ramsey, Laci Peterson and countless other victims whose faces and stories took over the airwaves when they went missing. I wanted that attention to play into how Amanda was handling everything she'd been through now that she was back home. 

Through the course of the interview, Amanda relays the events leading up to, and all that happened during, the two years she was held prisoner. And in the meantime, she has to deal with having survived those things and being thrown back into not only her life, but the public eye as well. And I didn't want this to be just any kidnapping. I wanted Amanda to be the victim of an attempt at human trafficking. I also wanted her to be a fighter. I wanted her to fight for her life no matter what the cost. Here's my inspiration for that.

Finally, because kidnapping and human trafficking happen primarily to young adult women, it was a no-brainer for Amanda to be a teen. There really isn't a better place to tell her story than the YA universe. 

**side note** I've done tons of research on kidnapping. I also have some personal experience with it as well. In the past four years, two members of my husband's extended family in Mexico have been kidnapped and ransomed. One of them was returned and the other one was, unfortunately, ransomed and killed. So I REALLY wanted to do Amanda, and others like her, justice.

Amanda's story poured out of me. I wrote it in about a month and then spent several months revising it. Then I started querying. I got a lot of interest with DEFENSIVE GUN. I even had three R&Rs which I was really hopeful over and which made my MS even stronger. Those R&Rs eventually turned into complimentary passes with an invitation to submit future work. I was bummed; I'm not going to lie. The full requests and ultimate rejections kept coming in after that so I took a break from querying for a bit while I figured out what to do about DEFENSIVE GUN and while I decided what to write next. 

After a few months, I decided to give DEFENSIVE GUN one final go-round of queries. I saw a Writer's Digest tweet about Nikki and Holloway Literary and after combing through the website, I took the plunge and submitted. I was thrilled when my query and sample pages turned into a partial request and then a full request and then a request for a bio and inquiry about future works. I didn't want to get my hopes up so I sent what was requested and patiently waited. Then one day I was getting ready to leave work and decided to sneak a quick peek at my phone to see if I'd missed any texts or calls. I saw I had an email so I did a cursory screen pull-down to see who it was from. I saw Nikki's name and the word "pleased" and I about lost it! I opened the email and started grinning like a fool as I read her kind words over and over again. This was it! This was the moment I had been hoping for. 

I spent the next week emailing all the agents with my query and full and got a few more requests and some interest to represent me. In the end, I decided Nikki and Holloway Literary were the best fit for me. I am so happy to start the next phase of this journey and I can't wait to see where it all leads. Inspired by all the good feels, I started a new WIP that I am so excited about and wish I could spend day and night writing. (Which of course is impossible because unlike with my first two MSs, I now have a part-time job which makes finding the time to write soooo much harder than it was when I was a stay-at-home mom). Well, obviously there are other reasons I can't spend 24/7 writing, like adult responsibilities and you know, sleeping and eating.

There you have it--the very long and detailed version of my journey to get an agent. Now if you will bear with me for just a moment longer while I thank every person I can think of who in some way, either big or small, has helped me reach this moment. Yes, it reads like an Emmy win speech for what's probably a minor milestone in the grand scheme of things but I always like it when people say thank you to me so I am going to do the same for them. Most of these people don't know me and may only recognize me by my Twitter pic but I felt the need to name them nonetheless. Here it goes:

The Obvious

  • God
  • My parents who always bought me books to read
  • My sister for always listening to me rave about the books I love, for always encouraging me, and for reading that monstrous first draft of CARAWAY
  • My husband and kids for putting up with my face stuck in my laptop all the time
  • My brother-in-law Chris Spisak--a fellow writer and an amazeballs director who will always talk shop with me and who inspires me with his creativity
  • My CPs: Courtney Gilfillian (who Google chats with me about all things writing which I love), Susan Gray Foster, Laekan Kemp, and my new CP, Amabel Daniels (who I am sure will be reading my next WIP). These ladies helped make DG what it is today and for that I am grateful.

And a handful of writers I follow on Twitter whose contests, interviews, websites, and support of fellow writers, as well as their generous sharing of their own journeys, has helped me tremendously: 

Whew! Ok, you've made it to the end. I'll stop now :) Thanks you so much for reading all the way through. I can't wait to tell you more as this journey for me continues!


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