Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

First Five Frenzy with Shannon Hassan of Marsal Lyon Literary May 22, 2015

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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. It’s tricky to get just the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today I’m proud to share Literary Agent, Shannon Hassan’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.




Amy: There is a belief among many 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?


Shannon: What matters to me is the overall impression I get from the opening pages: Am I drawn into the story? Do I care about the characters?




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?


Shannon: The alarm clock. The time or the date (“It was 4:30 on Tuesday”—yawn). The position of the sun in the sky.


A scene that opens with the character alone, doing nothing (or something mundane), and lost in his/her own thoughts, can also be tough to pull off.  Get them interacting with others and/or with their external environment—this will still tell us a lot about their character, and will be more engaging.




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?


Shannon: Many of the queries I receive don’t include opening pages, although I am totally fine receiving them. So I often make the decision whether to request the manuscript based on the query. If you can get your voice across in the query, that really helps.




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


Shannon: Some authors try to setup everything in the first few pages, and it can come across as too expository. I think this happens because authors are fleshing out the characters and storyline in their own minds as they start writing a novel. It is important, after you finish your draft, to revisit that first chapter and look at it critically. Are there parts of backstory that can wait until later? Is there a way to take much of what you are “telling” us up front and blend it more organically into the narrative later on?


Think of your opening pages as a first date… do you really tell your date everything about yourself or do you leave them wanting to learn more :)




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


Shannon: All of that is important. But voice is especially important because it either works for me or it doesn’t, whereas structural issues, like pacing, can often be fixed with editorial work.



Shannon Hassan, an agent at Marsal Lyon Literary, brings a depth of business and editorial experience to her role, having worked in publishing and law for more than a decade.  She represents authors of literary and commercial fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction, and select nonfiction.  She is drawn to fresh voices, compelling characters, and crisp prose, and enjoys both contemporary and historical settings.  She received her JD from Harvard and her BA from George Washington University. For more information, please visit:, or follow her @ShannonHassan.


If you’re interested in submitting to Shannon, please check the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency website for details.



W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Ashley Herring Blake May 20, 2015






Sometimes a passion for writing comes from the excitement of creating stories for a particular audience. As Ashley Herring Blake shares in today’s W.O.W., her drive to create comes from wanting to write extraordinary stories for teenagers. In her own words below, she explains how “teens are some of the bravest people she knows” and that inspires her to create important stories that speak to their struggles and the rapid changes they’re going through.


Many thanks to Ashley for sharing her writing journey today…




Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult Fiction?


Ashley: Simply put, I love writing YA because I really like teenagers. Adolescence is such a fraught period of our lives. Our bodies and minds are going through so many changes while we’re trying to figure out who we are, what we like, what we want to do. Add in sex and friendships and parents, and it’s a wonder any of us survive it. But we do. I think teenagers are some of the bravest people out there and I write for them because I admire them. I write for them because all of that painful growth, paired with the reality of who they are and the possibility of who they’ll become, inspires me even in my thirties.




Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to SUFFER LOVE?


Ashley: SUFFER LOVE was my fifth complete book. Sixth if you count the draft I got three-fourths through and stopped because SUFFER LOVE sort of took over my brain. The first two were middle grade—one a contemporary that I don’t like to even think about, and the other a fantasy. My third was a YA fantasy that I like to snicker about and it was around the time that I started my fourth—a paranormal that I turned into a contemporary—that I finally figured out that contemporary was where I needed to settle. So, lots of practice before I landed on “the one.”




Amy: How long did it take you to write the query for SUFFER LOVE? Did it go through many drafts?


Ashley: I’m not sure how long it took me exactly, but I do remember that it was an agonizing process. I went through many drafts. At the time, I didn’t have the writing community that I do now, so it was really just me and my fabulous critique partner travailing over this thing. I know I drove her nuts! I finally enlisted the help of a veteran author whom I reached out to via email. She really helped whip my query into shape. Honestly, I feel like the query was harder than the book. It’s really difficult for authors to pare down their 70K novel into 300 words, and I really recommend getting help on it. Sometimes, it’s easier for someone who’s not as close to your story and characters as you are to see what needs to be said about them.




Amy: How many agents did you query for SUFFER LOVE? Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?


Ashley: When all was said and done, I had queried close to thirty agents. I got a mix of rejections and either full or partial requests within a week or two and that went on for a while. An agent I was very interested in gave me a wonderful R&R. Her notes really improved the book. She ended up passing, which, honestly, was devastating, but it was the next day that I sucked it up, sent to another round of queries, and Rebecca contacted me within a week offering rep. I had two other offers, but she was the clear choice and I regret nothing that happened along my querying journey.




Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Rebecca Podos?  How did you know she was a good fit for you?


Ashley: My call with Rebecca was magical. There’s just no other way to describe it. She was my first offer (the other two came after a nudge), and I felt so comfortable with her. I knew she was a good fit for a few reasons. First, she LOVED my book. I think that’s key. It’s wholly possible for an agent to offer rep, because they believe they can sell your book and they like it and know it’s good, but not LOVE it. My other offers clearly liked my book, but not like Rebecca did. Second, I felt at ease with her. I knew I could call her up with crazy questions and not feel intimidated. This was important to me because I knew I WOULD be calling her up with crazy questions throughout this process! Lastly, she was new to the game, but had enough experience that I felt confident I would get the attention my needy little self required AND she would be able to represent me the way I wanted. She’d be able to sell and sell well. I’ve been with her almost a year and I have zero complaints about the amazing Rebecca Podos.




Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?


Ashley: Oh yes. When I first started really trying to write seriously, I had just finished a masters program in education. I decided to take the next year or so and really give it my all. I’m pretty sure I got a little loopy! I wrote every day, sometimes all day, and it was really overwhelming at first. It was stressful, thinking about how much I loved writing and the possibility that I might not be able to do it. Yes, writers will always write. But writers write for readers and it can be scary thinking that no one will ever care about what you’ve shed blood and tears for. After many rejections, I remember thinking, “I can’t do this again. I can’t write another book and query it again.” Honestly, I think I would’ve done it again. This is a slow craft and perseverance is a big part of success.




Amy: What advice did you get early on in your writing career that you still use today?


Ashley: Write. I know that sounds sort of obvious, but I know we can get so bogged down in planning or insecurities or fear of failure that we don’t write. If you want to write, write. Every time I start a new draft (ok, there have only been two new starts since SUFFER LOVE, but still), I get so nervous. It takes me weeks to really dive in. Yes, some of that is important prewriting, but there comes a point where you just have to suck it up and do it. If it sucks, it sucks. That’s what critique partners and agents and editors are for. Also, READ. Read everything. All the genres. I think MFAs in creative writing are wonderful and I’d love to participate in one someday if that’s ever possible for me, but I learned to write by reading. Sure, read some books on craft, but I guarantee you they won’t be as helpful as reading well-written (and, yeah, sometimes the not so well-written ones are helpful too) books. Another piece of advice has to do with community. I can’t tell you the difference having friends who write has made for me. Writing is such a strange job and it really helps to have people around you who understand the crazy. Surround yourself with these people, soak up their knowledge and experience and offer yours, even if it’s only online. My last piece of advice? Write.




AshleyHBlakeB&WAshley Herring Blake used to write songs and now she writes books. She reads them a lot too. She likes coffee, her boys, gloomy music, anything with pumpkin in it, Tiffany Blue-colored anything, scarves, and walks. She doesn’t like olives, soggy asparagus, or humidity and has not a lick of visual artistic talent. Ashley lives in Nashville, TN with her witty husband and two boisterous little boys. Previous jobs include songwriter and performer (though she made about enough money to cover the gas to the gigs), substitute teacher, barista, Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapist, teacher in a school for kids with autism, and, the hardest job in the world, mommyhood. That last one is still happening, along with lots of word making. SUFFER LOVE, a YA contemporary novel that follows two teens as they wade through an intense relationship complicated by their parents’ infidelities, is her first novel and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BFYR in 2016. For more on Ashley, check out her website or follow her on Twitter (@ashleyblake).





Monday Musings: Listening and Learning (An RT convention recap) May 18, 2015

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I just returned from an amazing five days in Dallas where I attended the Romantic Times Convention, aka RT. This year I went into the convention much more relaxed than New Orleans last year. I didn’t have to pitch and was excited about going to panels, hanging out with amazing writers, and being stress-free!



Before I went to the conference, I went through the daily agendas and plotted out which sessions looked interesting: diversity, being a hybrid author, writing strong female characters. These were just a few I was excited to attend.



Once the conference started, I found the right room for each panel and immersed myself in the sessions. While I learned a lot (and took copious notes) what I found was I gleaned much more information from sitting in casual settings (either in the bar or restaurant) and listening to my writing friends talk about their own experiences. How they interacted with editors, their own agents, or even about the struggles they went through to get an agent and secure their first book deal.



I’ll admit I was pretty intimidated by sitting in these groups. Most of these women are highly accomplished, having published numerous books, but when we all sat together they were just like you and me. Working on the next project. Waiting for feedback on their latest work. Concerned over their brand, or where they wanted their career to head next.



For me it was an eye-opening experience. I truly believed that once you got your agent, and secured a book deal, things after that were somewhat smooth sailing. Sure, you had the challenge of writing the next book, but you’d crossed that “magical threshold” of actually having a full-length novel published. Of course this is a huge accomplishment, but the worry and stress don’t end once you sign that contract.



Now I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom because these conversations were anything but that. Most of the time they turned into exciting exchanges about the evolving market, or even brainstorm sessions for future projects. During these moments I sat back and took it all in. Listening and learning to everything each of these amazing authors were willing to share.



While attending conferences are important, I would highly suggest you take time to interact and network with other writers. At lunch, dinner, or even during a moment between sessions, focus in on what they have to say. The sessions are important, but you may get even more of an education from listening to other writers and learning from their important experiences.





Kiera Cass(Meeting the very sweet Kiera Cass, author of The Selection series)


QUITE THE QUERY with Natasha Neagle and DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS May 8, 2015







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 letters/emails, 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 Natasha Neagle. This great query connected her with her agent, Andrea Somberg.



After her celebrity parents’ divorce, sixteen-year-old Arissa Jayne moves to the suburban hellhole of Innsbrooke, Florida and abandons the spotlight and drama for a quiet life. But Arissa’s existence as Girl Invisible is threatened when she tutors Erica, a flirty cheerleader, and they find themselves discovering more about the chemistry between them than the periodic table.


That’s when the harassment starts. Except it’s not the usual gay-bashing Arissa’s dealt with before. Each mysterious text or tweet threatens violence. All signed by Secret. When Arissa tries to block Secret from contacting her, the texts progress to a car accident. And murder. With the police involved and the evidence pointing at Arissa, she must confront Secret or go down for crimes she didn’t commit.


Determined to find out who’s hell bent on destroying Arissa’s life, she and Erica set a trap to expose Secret’s identity. But in a town where nobody plays by the rules and everyone has something to hide, taking down Secret to clear Arissa’s name might cost them their lives.


DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS is Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars Series meets Heathers for the LGBT community, a 79,000 word standalone YA Contemporary Thriller with series potential.



Fun tidbit: Andrea read my MS in one sitting and immediately offered me representation.




Nat picNatasha Neagle writes diverse YA thrillers about characters with more guts than her. She considers herself a diehard fictional character shipper and has way too much fun shopping for makeup and shoes. She is a firm believer that the best way to hear music is live, and can always be found on Twitter, especially if Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead is on. Natasha lives in Northern Virginia with her superhero husband, two crazy-smart kids, and their demon-possessed cats. For more on Natasha, check out her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.


BEHIND THE CURTAIN: What Happens When You Co-Write A Book? May 6, 2015

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I’ve always been curious about writers who co-author a book. A hundred questions race through my head when I think about the process. How do they select a concept? Who writes the main character? What’s the process when it comes time to sell?


Today, with the help of the fabulous Jen Malone, I’m pulling back the curtain on the co-writing process. In her own words, Jen shares how she and writer, Gail Nall, tackled the concept and writing duties for their upcoming Middle Grade novel, You’re Invited. While Jen addresses some of the larger issues, she continues her explanation of the process in a second post over on I highly suggest you head over that way tomorrow and check out the rest of this topic. It is fascinating! Oh, and p.s. make sure you scroll all the way to end of this post for a special giveaway offer!




On Co-Writing

By Jen Malone




I share most authors’ fascination with co-writing, even now that I’ve co-written a series alongside the talented Gail Nall. After all, writing a novel is such a deeply personal thing and we all have our own quirky writing styles and habits. How do you bring someone else into all that mess? With Gail and my middle grade series, You’re Invited, about to launch, I’m weighing in on just how this co-writing gig worked for us. Of course, I sat down to write one post and it grew and grew and grew, so this is going to jump over to for Part Two (see below for link). Part One below discusses the early process of brainstorming and selling our joint venture.


Obviously, everyone’s experience is different, but here’s how Gail and I pulled ours off:






Gail and I had been critique partners for about a year and a half before I approached her about co-writing this crazy “tween party planners” idea I had. I’d sold my debut, At Your Service, a few months prior and wanted to write more middle grade, but I also had a young adult novel (Wanderlost, HarperTeen, 2016) out on sub and thought co-writing could be a way to keep some skin in the game on the MG bookshelves, while devoting more of my time to building a YA list (somehow I thought co-writing would take half the time, but—duh, Jen!—that wasn’t necessarily the case).


Gail and I were both drawn to fun (and funny) contemporary stories about tween girls, so I hoped she would be excited about running with my idea. Luckily, she was! We’d also often joked that our writing sensibilities and sense of humor were so similar we could each finish each others’ books if need be. Our point was proven when we submitted sample chapters to our agents and even they guessed wrong when asked which of us had written each chapter. It also helps a lot that we love and respect each other’s writing and are friendly offline, despite living about ten states apart and having only met in person once for an hour. (At that point. We’ve since spent THREE whole days together at BEA).


Even though the initial concept for the series was my idea, I didn’t have much fleshed out when I approached Gail, and that was deliberate on my part. I wanted us both to have equal ownership over the books and our first plotting call was both of us tripping over each other with our “and what if…” ideas. We spent about an hour and a half on the phone coming up with some broad character sketches and a rough outline, then went off on our own to develop the two characters we’d each write (the book is told in alternating chapters from four friends’ first person POVs.) We sent each other character worksheets that described our two girls’ backgrounds and interests down to tiny details. Having those sheets as reference really helped us write the other’s characters into our own chapters and, after knowing these girls through two books, I now feel like I could probably write her characters’ chapters and I’d bet Gail would say the same.







A crazy thing happened between the time Gail and I first discussed this book and the time we wrote the proposal for it—Gail sold her debut middle grade novel, Breaking the Ice… to the same editor I was already working with at Aladdin. Talk about a happy accident! Having one editor who was already familiar with both of our writing made it much easier to sell our idea, but also helped us going forward because we both had relationships with Amy (Cloud, our fabulous editor) outside of our joint one. There was no feeling of “does my editor actually like my writing or am I just here because my cowriter dragged me in?” (note: Writer = Neurotic Maniac.)


More nitty gritty: our agents had a brief conversation ahead of time to decide who would handle submitting the proposal and who would handle negotiations and split those duties. When it was time to sign, Simon &Schuster basically divided our contract in half, so instead of signing one joint contract and having our agents separate the accounting, we each signed a contract that offered half the advance money and half the royalty rates. This way all monies were being evenly divided by S&S before being sent to our agents. This made it no-fuss for our agents through the life of the book. I’ve heard of other situations (anthologies, for example) where one author’s agent takes on the beast of a job of dividing all incoming monies among the contributing authors.


That’s all we have space for here, but later this week I’ll be posting on about the drafting, revision, and promoting process.


But we can’t leave you without a fun giveaway, so here’s your chance to win a digital ARC of You’re Invited that’s been lovingly annotated by both Gail and myself with fun behind-the-scenes info and tidbits AND a copy of the song our main character Becca writes, which the talented Grace Mann has composed and recorded. (We’re more than a little in love.) To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below with your contact information (email or Twitter handle). Entry window is open now and will close Monday, May 11 at 5 p.m. EST!




You're Invited cover high res




Four best friends start a party-planning business in this fresh, funny tween novel from the authors of At Your Service and Breaking the Ice.


Twelve-year-old Sadie loves helping her mom with her wedding planning business, and with Sadie’s mad organizational skills, she’s a natural! That’s why it’s so devastating when her mother “fires” her after a Little Mermaid–themed wedding goes awry.


Enter Sadie’s best friends: sporty Vi, ace student Lauren, and boy-crazy Becca. The girls decide that in order to get Sadie’s mom to reconsider, they have to make her see how amazing Sadie is at party planning. Except no one’s gonna hire a twelve-year-old to plan a wedding. A birthday party, though? Definite possibility.


Before long, RSVP—your one-stop shop for the most creative parties in town—is born. Of course, Sadie can’t wait to prove herself to her mom, but the other girls also have their reasons for enlisting: Vi has her eye on the perfect gift for her hardworking dad, and Becca’s all aflush at the thought of connecting with Ryan, the new Irish cutie in town. And though Lauren thinks she’s too busy with summer studies to “officially” join, she’s willing to help out in any way she can.


But in this particular party-planning business, nothing goes according to plan! Sadie’s mom is a perpetual no-show, Vi’s archrival is dead set on ruining her summer, Becca can’t seem to get Ryan to glance in her direction, and Lauren keeps choosing studying over her friends. Is the girls’ friendship strong enough to survive a business? Or does RSVP spell the end of these BFFs?



JenMaloneJen Malone writes books for tweens and teens. Her debut, At Your Service published with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin MIX in 2014 and her new series, You’re Invited (Simon & Schuster), co written with Gail Nall, launches with Book #1 in 2015. She has three young adult titles forthcoming with HarperCollins, beginning with Map to the Stars in Summer 2015. Jen lives outside Boston with her husband and three children, teaches at Boston University, loves school visits, and has a “thing” for cute hedgehog pictures. You can learn more about her and her books at






First Five Frenzy with Whitley Abell of Inklings Literary Agency May 1, 2015

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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. It’s tricky to get just the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.



Today, I’m proud to share Literary Agent, Whitley Abell’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.




Amy: There is a belief among many 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?


Whitley: It’s not nearly as important as the pitch and the first couple pages as a whole. That said, while the first line has (almost) never broken a pitch for me, the first line has definitely made a pitch. For a couple of my clients, it was their first line that made me root for them from the get-go, hoping I’d be just as in love when I reached the end. Once I’m hooked like that, I’m definitely going to keep reading.




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?



Whitley: I’m sorry to say that I see a lot of samples in MG where the first page is some variation of “My name is Hermione and I am 11 years old. I have frizzy brown hair and big teeth and brown eyes. I am in the first year at Hogwarts School of Witch Craft and Wizardry. Harry and Ron are my best friends. On a normal day, I would go to class. But today…” It’s so disappointing when a great pitch turns out to be something like this. This is my least favorite opener to see. Please don’t do that.


Other than that, what I see most (other than dreams) is too heavy a focus on the introduction of backstory and/or normal life. It’s tempting to set the scene, so to speak, to show stasis before the status quo is disrupted, but the best tactic is to begin the story immediately before the plot begins.


For example, the plot begins when a stranger steps through your front door, don’t start (1) in the kitchen, making the same ham sandwich you’ve made every day for the last three years since you learned your little brother was deathly allergic to peanut butter, and which you just finished eating when the knock came or (2) when the stranger dragged you back out the door and onto his flying carpet. Begin in that breath of a second before the first knock sounds.




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?


Whitley: For me to request, I need an authentic voice, great writing, vibrant characters who stories I care about and who I want to follow as they grow and struggle and change, and a unique (and sellable) hook. I’m looking for something that I can get excited about and something I can picture the audience and editor for.




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



Whitley: I see a lot of rushing through the first chapter or so, as though the author is just pushing through to get to the “good stuff”. This fosters a whole lot of telling instead of showing, and ends up weighing the sample down. Typically, it could have been solved by starting elsewhere.


There’s also a tendency to info dump. There is plenty of time to fill the reader in on any pertinent information in the backstory later. The first pages are for engaging the reader and drawing them in to the story! I actually see a lot of backstory dumping in dialogue. It’s good to see characters interacting, but if they’re just recapping the backstory line-by-line, the tension of the plot is still lost.




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


Whitley: Of the three, voice is the most important for me when I’m reading. I’m always looking for a narrative voice that I can really become invested in. Pacing is at a still important second. A unique concept is definitely important when talking about the query, but when it comes to the sample pages, I’ve seen many good concepts fall apart in the opening pages because the voice and pacing didn’t live up to the pitch’s promise.





Whitley Abell joined Inklings Literary Agency in 2013. Before joining Inklings, she completed successful internships with Carol Mann Agency and P.S. Literary Agency. She is based in St. Louis, MO, where she daylights writing proposals of the entirely unromantic variety. She graduated in 2011with a BA in English and Creative Writing, and again in 2012 with a MAT in Secondary English Education, which basically means she can tell you anything there is to know about feminist literary theory and the Common Core Standards.


Whitley is currently building her list and is primarily interested in Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Women’s fiction. She is open to almost anything within those arenas, be it contemporary or historical, romance or thriller, realistic or supernatural, tragic or quirky. She has a soft spot for the goofy guys, awkward ducks, April Ludgates, and devout fan girls of the world. Manic pixie dream girls will be turned away at the door.


Please, NO picture books, poetry, non-fiction, or genre romance, crime/mystery, or sci-fi/fantasy for the adult market.


If you’re interested in submitting to Whitley, please check the Inklings Literary website for their guidelines.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Charlie N. Holmberg April 29, 2015







One of the reasons I love doing this series is because sometimes a writer will answer a question with such a brave response that I’m both taken aback and excited to share. This happened in today’s W.O.W. with Charlie Holmberg. When I asked what she would say to a writer who wanted to give up, her answer was simple yet accurate – “go back and remember why you wanted to write in the first place.” I think many times we get so caught up in the machine of querying and subbing, we forget why we started writing – for the pure and simple joy of it.


Many thanks to Charlie for sharing her journey today and reminding me why I’m in this crazy and exhilarating business…for the stories!





Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?



Charlie: When I was thirteen. That’s when I decided I wanted to make my own stories, my own adventures. (I’m not going to lie, watching The Vision of Escaflowne pretty much spurred that desire. #nerdconfession)





Amy: I love the premise behind THE PAPER MAGICIAN. Where did the inspiration for the story come from?



Charlie: Thank you! And I honestly don’t remember. I always thought it’d be cool to have a side character who could manipulate paper—where that thought came from, I don’t know. Maybe from folding origami in church. ;) Later I decided that character could be the central focus of the book, and the rest stemmed from there.





Amy: Did you have critique partners for THE PAPER MAGICIAN? If so, how critical were they to your writing process?



Charlie: Oh yes. I have about ten to twelve of them at any given time! I have alpha readers—other writers—who read my rough draft, and beta readers—non-writers—who read a more polished draft. They are essential. They point out my big-picture flaws and my awkward grammatical errors. I couldn’t get by without them.





Amy: How many agents did you query for THE PAPER MAGICIAN? Did you receive immediate responses or did you have to wait a while for replies?



Charlie: You know, not very many. I think I may have been close to a dozen when I signed with Marlene. Some got back to me immediately (Marlene asked for my full an HOUR after I queried her), some I didn’t hear from or I had to withdraw my manuscript from. (That is a poorly-worded sentence. Oh well.)





Amy: Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Marlene Stringer? How did you know she was a good fit for you?



Charlie: Oh man, I was so nervous for that! It went really well. Marlene was upfront about everything and explained everything I would need to know. She answered all my questions with all the right answers. We talked for about an hour, me scribbling down her every word on a note pad and being very reserved and shy (which I very much am not, but intimidation, yo. I was so nervous!) And she said she liked me and wanted to represent me and I pretty much cried, ha! I knew she was a good fit from her answers, her confidence, and because Marlene doesn’t operate off a real contract. She makes it easy for me to end the partnership if I want to (not that I want to), so there was no pressure. I really admired that. Marlene’s now-15 years of experience really helped, too. I had agents on my favorite list who were still new to the field quitting left and right. I was terrified of being left by the roadside if I signed with a less-experienced agent.





Amy: From reading your bio, I know THE PAPER MAGICIAN was your ninth novel.Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?



Charlie: Nope. Next question.



Ha ha. But seriously, I never considered giving up. Even if I never got published, I’d still write books for my friends and family because I love doing it. And I always knew that, with enough work, I could get published. (I’m a real believer in the American dream.)






Amy: If you met a struggling writer at a book signing and they told you they were on the verge of giving up, what would you say to them?



Charlie: Honestly, if someone is really willing to give it up, maybe writing isn’t for them. It can be grueling, especially with the abundance of rejection. But there will always be rejection. Rejection from agents, from readers, from editors, from publishers.


I would tell them to go back and remember why they wanted to write in the first place. I would ask them if they’re really ready to stick a knife to all the ideas and aspirations in their head. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break when the going gets tough, but I really believe it’s better to tough it out.







Paper Magician

(Now available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retail outlets) 





Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever.


Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined — animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.


An Excisioner — a practitioner of dark, flesh magic — invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.  





CharlieHomegrown in Salt Lake City, Charlie was raised a Trekkie with three sisters who also have boy names. She writes fantasy novels and does freelance editing on the side. She’s a proud BYU alumna, plays the ukulele, and owns too many pairs of glasses. For more on Charlie, check out her website, or follow her on Twitter or Goodreads.




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