Monday, December 21, 2015

Query Critique Winner

Before I dive into this month's critique, I have to tell you all my good news!  Santa has come early this year, because these are the presents I've received so far:

1. DEAL! Taylor Zajonc's sequel for THE WRECKING CREW is going to be with Blank Slate again, and I'm so happy that they're excited enough about his first book to tied down the second before anything has even published!
2. WINNER!  Kristin Lenz is the 2015 winner of Elephant Rock's prestigious Sheehan Prize.  Her novel, THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO is going to publish with them and I am so thrilled for her.
3. DEALS! Brianna DuMont has landed a two-book deal with National Geographic and it is the largest advance I've landed yet, so :D:D:D:D:D
4. L'AFFARE!  Thanks to Susan Blumberg-Kason, I now have my first ever foreign deal.  GOOD CHINESE WIFE is going to be coming out in Italian with Newton Compton.  Hooray!

So that puts me way over my deal goal for 2015 and pretty much means I don't need any holiday or birthday gifts this year.

Now down to business!  This month's query critique winner was Cecelia Mecca--congrats, Cecelia!  Here is her original query:

Dear Ms. Pestritto:
I am seeking representation for Border Reiver, a 13th century historical romance novel complete at 74,000 words. In Border Reiver a landless knight and powerful English countess are thrown together, forced to navigate an inevitable clash between their obligations and desires.
Lady Sara Caiser accepts her father’s death as a catalyst for marriage to secure her inheritance, including Kenshire Castle. She is appalled to learn, however, two lawless border reivers will serve as protectors while she awaits the arrival of her betrothed. Sir Geoffrey Waryn, intent on exacting revenge against those who stole his birthright, reluctantly agrees to protect Lady Sara at his uncle’s request.
With a greedy distant relative intent on conquering Kenshire and a powerful earl poised to claim both Sara and her lands, the countess and border reiver must learn to put aside their past in order to forge a new future.
An active PRO member of RWA with degrees in Education, English and PhD in Curriculum/Language and Literacy, I am also the co-owner of a digital media marketing company.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I would be honored to send you a full manuscript and can be reached at xxx-xxx-xxxx or via email.
Sincerely,
Cecelia Mecca

And here is my critique:

Dear Ms. Pestritto:
I am seeking representation for Border Reiver [either have the title in all caps or italicize], a 13th century historical romance novel complete at 74,000 words. In Border Reiver a landless knight and powerful English countess are thrown together, forced to navigate an inevitable clash between their obligations and desires. [I think you need something a little more compelling and specific to draw us into the story here.  If this were the back cover copy of your novel, what would it say?  This intro seems a little general to me.]

Lady Sara Caiser accepts her father’s death as a catalyst for marriage to secure her inheritance, including Kenshire Castle [I'm not quite sure what this means here, and I think the word "catalyst" is what's confusing me.  Does she just accept the fact that now that her father is dead, she needs to get married?  I think there is a simpler way to say this, if so.]. She is appalled to learn, however, two lawless border reivers will serve as protectors while she awaits the arrival of her betrothed [Who hires these border reivers?  Doesn't she have any other family or servants who can protect her if she's in a castle?  And what is a border reiver?  This is bringing up a lot of questions for me.]
[Made this a new paragraph and combined with next.] Sir Geoffrey Waryn, intent on exacting revenge against those who stole his birthright, reluctantly agrees to protect Lady Sara at his uncle’s request. With a greedy distant relative intent on conquering Kenshire and a powerful earl poised to claim both Sara and her lands, the countess and border reiver must learn to put aside their past in order to forge a new future. [But why does Sir Geoffrey care about helping Sara?]

An active PRO member of RWA with degrees in Education, English and PhD in Curriculum/Language and Literacy, I am also the co-owner of a digital media marketing company.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I would be honored to send you a full manuscript and can be reached at xxx-xxx-xxxx or via email.
Sincerely,
Cecelia Mecca

As you can see, I didn't have a lot of comments on Cecelia's writing, which was good, but a lot of questions about content.  I wasn't incredibly clear what the hook of the story was, or why these characters were invested in each other, or how they come to have their lives entangled.  Something I mentioned, which I think works well in general when thinking about querying, is to think about writing back cover copy for your book.  In a couple paragraphs, you want to entice with me the big points of the story and leave me wanting to read more!

I will also say that although I absolutely LOVE historical fiction, I've been seeing many of my historical fiction authors get push back on stories that aren't "near historicals," meaning later than the nineteenth century.  If you aren't writing about a person that's well-known, i.e. Cleopatra or Queen Elizabeth, or have a character that someone connects with those well-known figures, it can be hard to have a historical fiction from an earlier era.  One exception right now, of course, is Scottish historicals or romances!  So I think that for BORDER REIVER, it's also important to let us know why we want to read about this time period.  What happens and who is in the story (directly or tangentially) that we might be familiar with?

I'd love to know what you think, too, so please feel free to comment below.  And don't forget to post any questions you want me to answer in the comments section with the hashtag #IHAVEAQUESTION!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Have You Met Kirsten??

I had to keep this on hold to do the query critique and Nicole's pub day interview, but I'm starting this week off with an interview from Prospect's newest agent, the awesome Kirsten Carleton!!!

Kirsten Carleton

How did you become an agent?

I’ve wanted to be in publishing since seventh grade, when I decided to be a writer. Over the years, I took loads of writing workshops and gradually realized that what I loved most was giving editorial feedback and helping other writers with their work. After graduating, I did the Columbia Publishing Course, where I got a great overview of the industry, and then started at Sobel Weber as an assistant, where I got a great overview of the agenting process. Eventually I struck out as an agent myself, first at Waxman Leavell, and now at Prospect. I love being the one in the author’s corner, championing their work and getting others to fall in love with it the way I have.

What genres are you looking to build your list with, and are there any dream projects that you hope to see?

My focus is on literary, thriller, and speculative fiction for YA and adults. Great writing is a must, as is a plot that grabs my interest early on. I’ve got a strong interest in stories that feature diverse characters and feminist themes. A couple specific things I’d love to see: epic fantasy based on Journey to the West and featuring Monkey; historical fiction about Ching Shih, the undefeated Chinese pirate queen; murder mystery set in space.

What is one of your favorite projects so far that you've worked on?

I’m super excited about The Duke of Bannerman Prep, a contemporary YA by the incredibly talented Katie Nelson that’s forthcoming from Sky Pony. It’s a clever retelling of The Great Gatsby in which blue-collar debate star Tanner is recruited to an elite prep school, where he’s partnered with a larger-than-life playboy everybody calls “The Duke.” They’re an odd couple at first, but Tanner eventually gets sucked into the Duke’s glitzy lifestyle, only to find that he’s more conman than caviar. I love the depth of Tanner’s character: he’s devoted to his single mom and disabled brother, but winning Nationals means a ticket to Stanford and it’s easy to see how playing the Duke’s games seems worth the risk if they’ll get him there. The Duke is marvelously ambiguous, and as we learn more about him, every revelation feels both surprising and inevitable.

Any advice for aspiring authors or writers looking to query you?

It may sound like basic stuff, but professionalism goes a long way towards making you stand out as someone with whom I’d like to work. Research any agent you’re querying (if you’re reading this interview, you’re already on the right track), and make sure you’re only submitting books in genres I represent. When you’re putting together your query letter, make sure you that you’ve covered the basics: introduce the character and the setting, show me the conflict, establish the stakes, and give a hint about what the character will do next.

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you?  Quirky facts are always fun to know!

Hmm, random facts about me! I have an awesome dog! I’m a big Buffy and Veronica Mars fan! I used to do archery and am kind of getting back into it! I think I’ve used too many exclamation points!

Also, a bunch of you have been asking, so here are some of the photos from our wedding :)
  • ✧・゚: *✧・゚:* Wedding Pictures *:・゚✧*:・゚✧







Monday, December 7, 2015

Happy (Belated) Pub Day!

Happy pub day to Nicole!  Because of Thanksgiving and wedding malarkey, I forgot to send her the interview questions in time for her December 1 release, so this is a little behind the times.  But as is tradition, here is her interview about writing and GIRLS WHO TRAVEL!


Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I am an American ex-pat living in London, and more often than not, you can find me writing, reading, or drinking red wine and daydreaming about where to go next. I’ve been obsessed with travel for as long as I can remember, so it was a natural theme for a fiction book.

How did you end up writing GIRLS WHO TRAVEL?
I wanted to write something uplifting and fun—a beach read, but also something with a bit of resonance and inspiration; something that would make you want to go out there and live! Girls Who Travel was born out of those sentiments. I wanted to write a book for all the other girls like me with their heads in the clouds and big beautiful adventures on their Pinterest boards.

How has its genre changed along the way and what has that meant to the book and to you?
I always intended on writing a chick lit book even though chick lit has been fighting off a bad rap for a while. That said, I do think the genre is at a place where it's finally more respected. 

So far it's been kind of a magical ride.  You signed with Jackie Cantor at Berkley and have been getting pretty fantastic reviews for the book from bloggers and from places like RT.  Tell us what that has been like!
At the risk of coming off like an uncool fangirl: it’s been freakin’ amazing! I couldn’t ask for a better editor or more finely tuned publishing house. I hope I get to work with them again in the future.

What else are you working on?  Anything next for Kika?
I’m half-way through another travel-centric romcom set in the Alps. 

Any advice for writers you'd like to share?
It took me many years and many books to get to this day. Don’t compare your journey to anyone else's. You do you.

Be sure to pick up a copy of the book--and if you do, let me know how you enjoy the read!  I always love hearing peoples' reactions to projects I work on!  

We're keeping it very Q&A at Literary Carrie right now, because next week I am finally going to post the interview with Kirsten I've been promising (and wedding photos)!!!