chasingthecrazies

Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

50TH (!) First Five Frenzy with Patricia Nelson of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency November 28, 2014

FFF SideWords

 

 

When the idea for the First Five Frenzy series came to me in 2012, I thought there was a very slim chance agents would agree to answer my questions. I mean, come on, I was a little blogger with barely any readers. Why would they answer my questions? But as most people do, I underestimated the generosity and kindness of literary agents.

 

The first interview request I sent was to Bridget Smith at Dunham Literary, and within hours she replied with a “yes”. Read her F3 here. Ever since that first post, agents have agreed to answer my questions, sharing what pulls them in, and turns them off, in those important first five pages.

 

So today I am proud, and very humbled, to share the 50th (!!!) First Five Frenzy with Patricia Nelson from Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. I hope you’ll learn from her words of wisdom and come back time after time to enjoy what each of the participating agents have to share.

 

To celebrate this fun accomplishment, both Bridget and Patricia have graciously agreed to look at one lucky writer’s first five pages and give feedback. Details on how to enter are below! GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

 

Thank you as always to everyone who reads and supports this blog. I could have never gotten to this amazing milestone without your encouragement!

 

 

Many thanks again to Patricia for sharing her thoughts on those important first pages…

 

 

Amy: There is a belief among writers that having a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

 

 

Patricia: A really amazing first line in a submission will definitely get me excited to read the manuscript, but it’s by no means the be all and end all. A first line can easily be changed before we send a manuscript out to editors, which means that while a good one is a bonus, a bad one isn’t a dealbreaker.

 

 

 

Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?

 

 

Patricia: It’s interesting that what all of the examples listed in the question have in common are that they’re things that happen at the beginning of the day – as is another one of my least favorite openings, the “arriving at school/walking into the classroom for first period” opening. It’s not that these can never work, but the issue is that often they seem to have been chosen arbitrarily: “start of the day = start of the book.” But if you were describing a day when something important happened to you, would you lead with describing the way the light looked when you first opened your eyes or the route of your standard morning commute? Get right to the point when the character gets the first hint that things are going to get interesting.

 

 

 

Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

 

 

Patricia: A character that I want to know better, a line of narration or dialogue that made me smile, or a beautiful sentence. I once read nearly half of a requested manuscript that wasn’t really working for me just because there was one perfect sentence in the first five pages that I had loved so much I wanted to talk myself into offering representation. (For the curious: that sentence was *not* the first line of the manuscript.) That’s the power of gorgeous writing!

 

 

 

Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?

 

 

Patricia: The two mistakes that I tend to see most frequently are inverses of each other: either too little information/action in the first few pages, or too much. On the one hand, something important or intriguing needs to happen at the beginning of a story to keep me reading – especially in YA contemporaries, I often see opening pages that just seem to depict an ordinary person going about an ordinary day, which doesn’t make me want to read on. But the opposite problem, which I see more often in fantasy or speculative fiction, is when an author lays out too many components of the story all at once: if I’m introduced to 4+ characters, a magic system, and lots of specifics about a different world right at the beginning, I’m likely to just get confused and give up. In other words: keep it simple, but not boring. Start me off with one interesting character confronted with one strange thing or person or dilemma. That’s enough for five pages.

 

 

 

Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

 

 

​Patricia: Your unique concept should be conveyed in the query letter, so what I’m looking for in the opening pages is voice and characterization, as well as the style and clarity of your prose. If your protagonist intrigues me and your writing carries me along, chances are I’m going to want to keep reading.

 

 

 

Patricia Nelson is a literary agent with Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. She represents adult and YA fiction, and is actively building her list. For more about what she’s looking for, check out her agency page or her manuscript wish list, or follow her on twitter @patricianels​.

 

If you’re interested in submitting to Patricia, please check the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency website for their guidelines.

 

 

Giveaway details…

 

To enter to win a critique of your first five pages, please share a comment about what you’ve learned from reading this series. After your comment, please leave contact info (email or Twitter handle).  Entry window will be open until 5pm PST on Monday, December 1, 2014. Winners will be notified on Tuesday, December 2. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dahlia Adler’s LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT EXCERPT November 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — chasingthecrazies @ 8:51 am

If you’re a regular on Twitter you may have heard of Dahlia Adler. Not only is she an amazing writer, but she is what I consider a force to be reckoned with when it comes understanding the world of both Young Adult and New Adult books. Need an amazing recommendation for a YA Thriller? Dahlia is your girl. Want a better understanding of how to approach the crazy world of publishing? Check out Dahlia’s blog.

 

I devoured Dahlia’s first book, BEHIND THE SCENES, and am eagerly awaiting her first New Adult book, LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT.  Here are a few details:

 

 

 

Dahlia Last Will

 

 

Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she’s acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she’ll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn’t exactly Lizzie’s biggest fan.

 

But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you’re ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks… and that she’d like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he’s not the kind of guy who’d ever reciprocate.

 

Until he does.

 

Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.

 

Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.

 

 

And here is a chapter excerpt…

 

“Did you mean what you said?” he asks. “About dropping?”

 

“I’m not sure yet.” No point in lying, especially to the one person who’s actually been helping me organize my thoughts. It’s not like I know I can get into another class this late, but I do know the idea of sitting in one with him is torture. And the truth is, it’s not just his class I’ve been thinking about leaving. The more of Tyler’s moodiness I observe, the more I wonder if Radleigh itself just isn’t the right place for us right now.

 

“You can’t make me the difference between staying and going,” he says tightly, bracing a hand on the back of kitchen chair. He doesn’t meet my eyes, but instead watches his own knuckles go white from his grip. “That’s not fair.”

 

I snort. “First of all, you’re talking to someone who lost her parents in an instant and became an eighteen-year-old mother of two, so if you want to compete about ‘fair,’ you’ve brought a fucking watergun to the Second Crusade.”

 

“That’s not—”

 

“Second of all, this isn’t a ‘boo hoo, the boy I like doesn’t like me back so I’m uprooting my life’ situation, okay? I need an A in all my classes this semester in order to keep my scholarship, which I need to stay here. Now my transcript is shot to hell. Honestly, it’d probably be better for both me and the boys if I stopped wasting money on my tuition altogether and got a full-time job instead. Maybe then I could actually afford to get the boys’ their own damn bedrooms.”

 

“But you’re getting an A in the class….”

 

“Maybe for now, but you think that’s gonna hold up without you tutoring me?” I all but growl, taking care to make sure the boys can’t hear me through the door. “You think I’m gonna be able to focus in class every day? Watching you hand out papers and remembering how those hands feel on my skin? I’m supposed to listen to you lecture and not think about how you said my name like I was a glass of water and you were dying of thirst?”

 

“Lizzie, stop.” His knuckles are so white now I swear I can see bone through the skin. But I don’t care. I’m not done.

 

“I can’t be around you. I’m sorry if that sounds crazy to you or whatever. But I need to focus, and I don’t see myself doing that when all I can think about when I see you is finishing what we started.”

 

Connor swallows hard. “Even now?”

 

“I threw myself at you earlier today, Connor. Just because your feelings go away with the snap of your fingers doesn’t mean mine do.” The humiliation of my admission burns in my face, and I gather up the remaining dishes with a clatter and stalk past him to drop them in the sink. When I turn back around, he’s standing in my face, so close I can feel body heat radiating from every inch of him.

 

“You don’t really think that’s what happened, do you?”

 

“I don’t know how else to explain it,” I counter, but all the fight’s gone out of my voice. He’s just too close. The heady scent of his aftershave is scrambling my brain cells.

 

“I told you—because I’m your TA. And everything you just said is exactly why they forbid us from getting involved.”

 

“Then why are you here?” I rasp.

 

“Because I can’t not be.” He takes the last step needed to close the space between us and slides his hands into my hair, pulling me into a starving, searching kiss. His tongue sweeps my mouth as if he doesn’t want to miss a spot, and pressed up against him as I am now, there’s no doubt he wants me every bit as much as he did last night, if not more. Even when he pulls away, panting.

 

Be sure to check out this stunning book when it becomes available December 9 via Amazon.

 

DahliaAdlerDahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and a YA/NA author and blogger at every spare moment in between. More often than not, you can find her on Twitter as @MissDahlELama, and if you tweet her pictures of macarons, she just might fall in love with you. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves.

 

 

 

Monday Musings: It Only Takes One Yes November 24, 2014

 

 

 

386,196 (estimated-but close)

 

Number of words I’ve written over the last four years.

 

3

 

Total number of manuscripts queried

 

349

 

Total days in the query trenches (UGH!)

 

48 (estimated)

 

Number of  times people told me it, “It only takes one yes.”

 

43

 

Number of times I wanted to scream when I heard above saying.

 

Why am I sharing this? Because when I was in the query trenches the last thing I wanted to hear about was that elusive “yes” waiting for me. After so many rejections, those words, while said with good intentions, lost their meaning. Now I want to swallow back every one of those screams, and give a huge bear hug to each person who said that to me, because they were right.

 

Here’s the reality of it all. Each query sent, and rejection received, feels like a small stab in the heart. After a while you begin to believe it will NEVER happen for you. That magical email will NEVER appear in your inbox. As someone once aptly posted, “you’ll never get to join the adults table where all the agented and/or published writers sit.”

 

Well I’m here to tell you, you are WRONG!

 

I’m not saying your “yes” is going to happen tomorrow. Or next week. Or even next year. But I truly believe if you keep writing. Improving your craft. Connecting with other writers. Letting new critique partners look at your work. IT will happen one day. I’m a living testament to that.

 

There were so many times I wanted to give up. Querying felt like a roller coaster. In one day I got FIVE full requests. A week later, guess what? FIVE rejections. And then guess what happened? One of my critique partners signed with an agent. Then a few days later, another got a book deal. What did I do?  I celebrated with them. Sent them virtual hugs. I was so happy for them. But when the celebrations were over, I cried and then screamed. I even wanted to toss my laptop in the dumpster. It wasn’t that I was angry or jealous, I just wanted my own “yes.”

 

How did I get through it? I kept writing. Pushing myself to try new things. Going to conferences. Making connections in publishing. Working, writing, and sharing all my hopes and fears on this blog. All of it I believe contributed to me connecting with an agent.

 

Yes, it’s true. You’ll hear stories about people writing one manuscript, sending two queries, and getting an agent. But I’m here to tell you, that is NOT REALITY. Research some of your favorite authors. You’ll see how often they were rejected. Learn how many times, even if they were agented, their books didn’t sell. Find out some are on their second or even third agent. What separates them from other aspiring authors? They NEVER gave up. They kept writing. But most of all they kept believing their “yes” was in the shadows waiting for the right time to appear.

 

So if you’re in the trenches right now, or pulling back after an unsuccessful push, take a deep breath. Even step away from the computer if need be and think about your goals. Can you live each and every day without expressing yourself via writing? If so, then maybe it’s time to stop. But if you get up every morning itching to touch the keyboard, new characters begging you to bring them to life, then get back to work. Continue planning and plotting. Keep believing your “yes” is coming. You just have to put your head down, focus on your goal, and most of all keep writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUITE THE QUERY: Jessica Lawson & THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER November 21, 2014

QuiteTheQuery

 

 

 

If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the emails/letters, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!

 

Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences. But for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.

 

With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Jessica Lawson. This great query connected her with her agent, Tina Wexler at ICM.

 

Mark Twain probably didn’t mean to be a big fat liar, but it’s about time somebody told the truth about whitewashing and treasure hunting (and a whole lot more, thank you very much). THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER is a 50,000-word middle grade retelling of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer written from Becky Thatcher’s point of view.

 

In 1860, 11-year-old Becky Thatcher’s immediate goals after moving to St. Petersburg, Missouri include never growing up and finding a way to keep the promise she made to her recently deceased brother, Jon. With a Mama still frozen by grief, Becky is free to explore the Mississippi riverbanks in a pair of Jon’s old overalls and spit all the cherry pits she can with new best friend, Amy Lawrence. Even the fact that the thieving, possibly murderous, Pritchard brothers are on the loose can’t keep Becky from sneaking out and causing mischief.

 

The girls decide to go up against the town charmer, Sid Sawyer, to win a bet on who can steal from Witchy Widow Douglas’s place (because it don’t count as stealing if a rumored witch is involved). With a plan as daring as the Mississippi is long, Becky might just get Mama to notice her again and fulfill her promise to Jon in a most dangerous and unexpected way…if that tattle-telling Tom Sawyer would quit following her around.

 

 

Jessica’s query tidbit:

 

Tina Wexler was one of the first agents I queried with The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher. My query was tweaked throughout my process, so this isn’t the version that all agents saw. I remember cringing right after I sent this letter, because I was afraid it had too much voice and would come across as unprofessional. Everything worked out okay, though 🙂

 

 

 

 

The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher

 

Now available via Simon & Schuster, Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.

 

 

 

JessicaLawsonJessica Lawson is a member of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI and her work has appeared in Stories For Children, The Motherhood MuseThe Denver Post, and Parenting Journals. She enjoys living/playing in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and children, and has to seasonally inform the landlord about bear damage to the trash bin at the end of her driveway. She writes middle grade, lots of to-do lists, and songs about diapers. She blogs at Falling Leaflets, http://fallingleaflets.blogspot.com and you can follow her on Twitter at @JS_Lawson.

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Gina Ciocca November 19, 2014

WOW

 

 

Inevitably when an author talks about their writing journey we always hear about querying and “the call”, but one of the things I always ask  about in interviews, and feel is incredibly important, is the critique process.

 

As today’s featured writer, Gina Ciocca points out, critique partners and beta readers are critical to the process of writing, “You get to a point where you’re just too close to the manuscript to see where it needs improvement, and that’s when your CP’s and betas can breathe new life into it.”

 

While many of us don’t worry about critiques when we first start writing, we learn very early on that having people review our work is a critical step in getting our stories to bookshelves one day.

 

Many thanks to Gina for sharing her thoughts on the critique process and for giving us a peek into her writing odyssey…

 

 

Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?

 

Gina: I’ve been reading and writing for as long as I’ve known how, but I didn’t actually sit down and write a complete manuscript until 2010. I was stuck in a rut with my job, and had just miscarried my first pregnancy, and realized that I’d let corporate shenanigans and the real world take me away from my outlet. I wanted to do something I loved and could be proud of. Of course, that manuscript was definitely a training wheels project that I’d never let anyone read today unless I did some serious revisions, but it was how I dipped my toes in the water of the whole publishing biz.

 

 

Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?

 

Gina: I finished LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE at the end of 2011. It was my second manuscript, but the first YA.

 

 

Amy: I love stories about second chances. What inspired you to write LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE?

 

Gina: Oh my goodness, so many things. The biggest of which was probably a dream I had. In it, I saw a girl and her boyfriend snuggling up against the lockers at school (because I dream of strangers, apparently?). Then the door at the end of the hall opened, and another boy walked in, someone who obviously didn’t belong there. The girl’s face fell and she turned white. She ran to him and threw her arms around him leaving her boyfriend – and me – to wonder WTF had just happened.

 

That was what started it. But there’s a scene in the book where David tells Kelsey he wanted to know what would happen if the two of them were ever in the same place at the same time again. And I think at some point, almost everyone wonders that about someone who might have drifted out of their life. Except that not everyone gets to ask “what if” and find out the answer. These two do.

 

 

Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE? If so, how critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?

 

Gina: Absolutely! Good, honest readers are so important to the writing process. You get to a point where you’re just too close to the manuscript to see where it needs improvement, and that’s when your CP’s and betas can breathe new life into it. It’s scary to hand your work to someone and ask them to judge it, but it’s so, so necessary, and the story is stronger for it in the end.

 

 

Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?

 

Gina: Writing the query was the hardest part, but again – with good CP’s, it’s that much easier. LYM actually fared far better in the query trenches than my first manuscript, but it’s never not an emotional rollercoaster. The waiting and guessing and hoping and wallowing is exhausting!

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE?

 

Gina: About 60. I had roughly 13 requests for material, and 2 offers of representation.

 

 

Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?

 

Gina: It varied. One request came within 10 minutes of me hitting send on the query, and I was so over the moon, only to get a form rejection a few days later. Funny enough, the other agent who offered rep on LYM rejected my query, but requested the full manuscript from my pitch in a contest. Which made me all kinds of paranoid that I’d created a horrible representation of the story with my query!

 

 

Amy: What was your call like with your agent, John Cusick?  How did you know he was the right fit for you?

 

Gina: I can honestly tell you that I had no intention of querying John, because I thought he was so far out of my league. I thought he’d have no interest in a romance. But then he bid on my Pitch Madness entry, so I thought, “Eh, why not?” He requested the full, and three weeks later, called me completely unexpectedly as I was prepping dinner. I almost didn’t pick up the phone because I assumed it was a sales call. I had no questions prepared, and I grabbed the closest scrap of paper I could find and scribbled down his suggestions for revisions. Those suggestions were ultimately the reason I knew I wanted him to represent my book. The other agent who offered was fantastic, but I felt like John’s editorial notes would really make the story stronger. Plus he got points for phone bombing me.

 

 

Amy: What is one piece of writing/publishing advice you got early on that you still use today?

 

Gina: As cliché as it is, don’t give up! My book didn’t sell until it had been off submission for a year. You really never know!

 

 

 

Last Years Mistake

 

 

 

Before:
Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey’s parents decided to move away, she couldn’t wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn’t ready to let her go…


After:
Now it’s senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David’s family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey’s second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.


Told in alternating sections, LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE is a charming and romantic debut about loving, leaving, and letting go.
  

 

 

 

 

GinaCGina Ciocca graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in English. She relocated from Connecticut to Georgia, where she lives with her husband and son. Gina is a member of the writing and blogging group YA Misfits, and you can find her at writersblog-gina.blogspot.com. LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE is her debut novel.

 

FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Heather Alexander of Pippin Properties November 14, 2014

FFF SideWords

 

 

 

If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.

 

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.

 

Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Heather Alexander’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.

 

 

 

Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

 

Heather: First lines are actually pretty important to me. Why wait until the second or third or fourth line to draw me in close? Readers shouldn’t have to dig too far to get a handle on the world. A good first line can create stability right away. A wobbly start is a wobbly start.

 

 

 

Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?

 

Heather: I think many writers take “start in the action” way too literally. I don’t like to jump in mid-conversation, or mid-chase scene, or when a character is angry or suffering in some way. I want a chance to understand who this person is, and how they exist in their regular world before being thrown into a situation that is outside their normal existence.

 

 

 

Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

 

Heather: Gorgeous, thoughtful writing will snag me immediately. But more generally speaking, it’s a great voice and an interesting idea, or a really unique viewpoint. A well-drawn world, a clear idea of who the character is; all of these things will get me to ask for more.

 

 

 

Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?

 

Heather: Something I see quite often is using the opening pages to “tell” a lot of background. If there is a lot of “Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene…” I’ll space out a little. I’d rather the story fill me in on what came before, and why it is important to tell this story now. I don’t want to be caught up to speed with a lot of exposition at the outset.

 

 

 

Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

 

Heather: For me, it goes a bit like this: beautiful writing first, great or authentic voice, unique, well thought-out characters, and quickly understanding why their story is important. Just like I prefer conversations with friends about their ideas more than what happened that day, I want characters who make me say, “Yeah! I never thought of it that way. Brilliant.”

 

 

Heather Alexander, Agent, Pippin Properties, came to Pippin after six years in editorial at Dial. One of her favorite projects has been the hilarious graphic chapter book, Mr. Pants, It’s Go Time! by Scott McCormick and RH Lazzell. She loved working on the recent thriller, Nerve by Jeanne Ryan, and the Batchelder Medal Winner, My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve. Keep your eyes out for The Thing About Yetis by Vin Vogel, an author/illustrator discovered through SCBWI. Heather’s dream projects are about those moments that change a person forever, where the world will never be the same. She’s looking for literary books for all ages, picture books through young adult, including graphic novels. Funny is a fast way to her heart, but beautiful writing will keep it, and she leans toward boy books with girl appeal.

 

If you’re interested in submitting to Heather, please check the Pippin Properties website for their guidelines.

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Renée Ahdieh November 12, 2014

WOW

 

 

 

Sometimes when I send questions to authors I’m never quite sure what kind of responses I’m going to get. I knew today’s W.O.W. was going to be a good one when Renée Ahdieh admitted that her earliest writing was Nancy Drew fanfiction!! Love it! But seriously, one of the things I love about Renee and her writing journey is her take on the purity of the writing process. As she states below, “Write because you have to write. Not because you need someone to tell you you should.”

 

Many thanks to Renée for sharing her writing journey today…

 

 

 

Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?

 

 

Renée: In 2009, I started writing a contemporary romance novel. Then I began the process of learning how to write a query letter and how to find an agent. Prior to that, I mostly wrote for fun. As a child, I wrote a lot of horrible poetry and stuff that really amounted to nothing more than Nancy Drew fanfiction.

 

 

Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?

 

 

Renée: I completed my first Young Adult manuscript in 2010. It was awful. Lots of dreck about beautifully broken boys and girls who were strong, but devoid of fully-realized personalities. I never queried it, but it was a terrific learning experience (translation: my dog now uses it as a step onto the couch)

 

 

Amy: Your debut, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN is a reimagining of THE ARABIAN NIGHTS. What inspired you to put a new twist on this classic?

 

 

Renée: My husband is Persian, and his parents have this amazing tapestry on the wall of their living room. At a distance, it looks like a hundred different vignettes strung together at random. It’s actually tales from 1001 Nights. This provided the initial inspiration for THE WRATH AND THE DAWN. I’m also a huge fan of Paulo Coelho. He wrote The Alchemist based on a story from THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, and I thought it would be neat to write a Young Adult version of the tale of Scheherazade.

 

 

Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish THE WRATH AND THE DAWN?  If so, how critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?

 

 

Renée: I had both critique partners and beta readers for THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, and I find them to be of absolute necessity. Not only do they keep me on target, but they also provide much-needed support in a world that can be a bit lonely. Writing is a very solitary profession, and there are times when self-doubt becomes rather pervasive. It’s so important to have good friends around to champion you and your writing.

 

 

Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?

 

 

Renée: I liken the process of querying and finding an agent to a pride-swallowing siege. Suffice to say, it took me a while to get where I am today. This is not an industry for the faint of heart. Of course, you need talent and timing on your side to make it work, but, above all, you need tenacity.

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for THE WRATH AND THE DAWN?

 

 

Renée: I actually didn’t have to query any. My agent signed me off the book I wrote prior to writing THE WRATH AND THE DAWN. Alas, that book didn’t sell. It was a Young Adult urban fantasy. It came close, but the market at the time wasn’t biting.

 

 

Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?

 

 

Renée: A mix of the two. I queried the novel that garnered me representation for a few months, give or take. My agent made an offer after two weeks. Once she made an offer, I received two more offers of representation. At the time, I had about ten fulls/partials out with different agents, from about sixty queries on that particular manuscript.

 

 

Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Barbara Poelle?  How did you know she was the right fit for you?

 

 

Renée: Crazy! I was completely taken unawares. She didn’t set up a time to chat or anything. She just called, out of the blue. Honestly, this kind of no-holds-barred attitude was really what convinced me she was the right agent for me. I could tell she was passionate about my work and passionate about her job. I knew that if she went after things she wanted with this kind of zeal, she would be an incredible advocate for me.

 

 

Amy: If you met a fellow writer on the street and they told you they were on the brink of giving up on their publishing dream, what advice would you give them?

 

 

Renée: First, I would tell them I absolutely understand the sense that they’re slogging up a hill with an impossible incline. I have many rejections to my name, from many failed manuscripts. But then I would ask them why they want to quit. If they said they felt discouraged because they’d been met with a great deal of rejection, I’d ask them what they were seeking to find in publication. For me, I could never give up writing, because it’s so much a part of what makes me happy. It’s true that a lot of writers seek the validation of a book deal or a publishing contract, but I don’t know that that sense of validation ever really comes with achieving those things. There’s always another mountain to scale, whether it be sales numbers or bestseller lists. If you don’t find validation in the words, then it’s never going to come from someone or something else. Write because you have to write. Not because you need someone to tell you you should.

 

 

 

 

Wrath and Dawn

 

 

 

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

 

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.


She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.
  

 

 

 
Renee AhdiehRenée Ahdieh is an honors graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a highrise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds.

 

She lives in North Carolina with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog. Her young adult fantasy THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, a reimagining of The Arabian Nights, will be published by Penguin/Putnam in 2015. For more on Renée, check out her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.

 

 

 

 
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