Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Another Cupid's Connection Interview!!!

I'm really excited to announce this very special CLC connection because it's from Blind Speed Dating, which we did in February! And the agent and writer are super awesome, and I'm thrilled to have interviewed both of them. So let's get started with Deana Barnhart who recently signed with Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, Ltd.!! And please go check out her great BSD entry, RIPPLE! And as always, follow her blog and Twitter too! 

C: First things first, what is your sweet of choice?

DB: Hands down it is Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and I swear it's not because Sarah likes them:) Honestly, in high school I thought they were my favorite because my maiden name is Reese, but then I realized it's because there is nothing in the world like the union of chocolate and peanut butter!

C: How long have you been writing?

DB: I've been writing bits and pieces since high school, but it wasn't until five years ago that the voice in my head telling me to take writing seriously got so annoying I had to obey.

C: How long did it take you to write RIPPLE?

DB: It took three months to write it, but since I was semi-pantsting, the editing took 6 months. I have learned since then that I need some kind of outline in order to stay sane.

C: How many did you query with this novel?

DB: I'm not sure on the exact count, but I'm thinking 25 give or take a couple.

C: What made you decide to enter the contest?

DB: Well, I had heard that contests were a good way to get an in with agents and I loved your first contest (but didn't make the cut) so I thought I'd try again. I am so glad I did!

C: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

DB: The start of a novel! I get this burning feeling in my chest when an idea formulates in my head and it's so stinkin' strong that I  lose focus over everything else until I begin to write.  It's like a high that I can't get enough of and my fingers just fly over the keyboards trying to get it out. I love that!

C: What is your least favorite part of the writing process?

DB: Trying to get an idea to work. Writing sci-fi is fun because you can create things, but you still have to make said things seem plausible. I've mulled over ideas that I've loved so much and then had to throw them out because I can't get it to make any sense.

C: If you could only pick up three things from the grocery store, what would they be?

Diet Pepsi, Lucky Charms and milk. Yep, I'm a real health nut:)

C: What advice do you have for other writers?

DB: Read Save the Cat! I am not usually a fan on books of craft, but this one changed my life. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but for real. Changed my life!

C: What did you do to celebrate your offer? 

DB: Besides screaming and jumping around my house with no one present but the dog? It was pretty low key. My sister and her husband took me and my husband out where they proceeded to tell everyone I had an agent and that they would want my autograph some day. Nothing like some good old fashioned humiliation to top off the perfect day :)

C: Tell us a little about your success story: 
DB: Sure! Before I do I thought a would share a side note about myself since it relates to the story. I try to be an optimistic person, but I also choose to think the worst will happen so that if it does I can be positive about the crappy things too. Weird, I know.
On to the story. Back in Jan I began querying Ripple as a YA dystopian. I also entered it into some contests; Cupid's being one of them. I was denied on the first round, but not taking no for an answer, I entered the Feb contest the next month. I didn't think much would come of it given my whole philosophy about thinking the worst. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I got past the bouncers AND was struck with Ryan Gosling's arrow in round two. I had been hearing over and over how dystopian was played out, but this cupid thought there was something special about mine!! I couldn't believe it and was even more thrilled when I learned the Ryan Gosling cupid was Sarah LaPolla. I'd done my agent homework and knew how great she was. She's totally lived up to that expectation by the way.
I sent in my 100 page partial and she replied right away, telling me it would take about four weeks to let me know what she thought. While I waited, I sent out another round of queries which continued to get similar rejections about how dystopia has saturated the market already. I began to think that maybe I needed to shelve Ripple, when I got an email from Sarah telling me how much she enjoyed the first 100 pages and get this, it sounded more sci-fi than dystopian to her. Huyah! She requested the full. I sent Ripple out to her and also another round of queries, this time as a YA sci-fi.
Wouldn't you know, my request rate increased. Still, nothing really stuck and once again I thought maybe I should forget about Ripple and begin this Magical Realism piece I had in my head. Before I did, I felt like I needed to do one more round of queries and enter a couple more contests. From this last batch I got an offer! I was so not expecting this.
Of course I had not forgotten about Sarah, so I emailed her and she asked that I give her the weekend finish reading it. I was totally willing to do this because deep down Sarah was on the top of my list.
Monday came at a snail's pace and when I went to check my email Sarah had responded.  My heart was beating out of my chest. I so badly wanted her to love it, but because I am a think-the-worst kind of gal I was convinced this was going to be a big fat rejection. I was so sure of this, in fact, that I didn't even check the email! I know, I'm shaking my head at myself too. It was like a two hour battle in my head about clicking on the email or not. I chose to check Twitter instead.
What I found was about the best thing ever. Sarah had friend requested me AND  tweeted about how she just offered someone representation and (totally paraphrasing here) that waiting on a reply was like waiting on an answer from a guy you really like and have asked to prom. She actually said it way better than that though.
I finally opened the email and was floored by Sarah's response. She compared my story to Mad Max and Dr. Who. She was officially offering me representation and wanted to talk!  
After screaming and jumping and screaming some more, I responded.  We had "the call" that same day and I knew before I got off the phone that she was who I wanted to go with. Truth be told, I think I kind of knew from the very first comment she made during the Speed Date contest. All because she was willing to give my story a chance, even being labeled as a dystopian. Her excitement over my project and future projects overwhelms me and I couldn't be happier!

Ah! Awesome! I love it! Seriously, that is a cool story! 

Now let's hear from her new agent, Sarah LaPolla. And I'm sure you're already stalking her, but just in case, find her blog here and Twitter here

C: First things first, what is your sweet of choice?

SL: Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups are my weakness, but if you put ice cream in front of me I won’t turn it away.

C: At what point during a MS can you usually tell you are going to offer?

SL: I won’t know for sure until I finish it. I’ve been disappointed in the past where I’ve loved a manuscript for about ¾ of the way, and then suddenly things take a weird turn and the ending falls apart. There are those moments while reading it though where I think “this is something special” and keep reading it with the intention of making an offer.

C: How can you tell?

SL: Usually I know I’ll end up offering representation if I’m already formulating a pitch letter in my head and thinking of specific editors I’d want to send it to. So much goes into making an offer – whether what the type of book it is, if the writing is strong enough, if I think the writer and I will work well together – so if I get to a point where I know where it can fit in the market and which publisher will be a good fit, that’s a huge factor in my decision.

C: What is the first thing you will do after finishing a MS you are going to offer on?

SL: Squee! Then I compose myself and arrange a phone call with the author. I like doing this instead of just calling them on the spot because they tend to get nervous. A pre-arranged call gives us both time to prepare.

C: Do you ever offer on a MS that you had to take time to decide on first? Or is it typically a fast and easy love?

SL: Hm… a little of both I guess. It’s always a fast and easy love, but more goes into making an offer than just loving the book, which is sad sometimes. I want to take on an author, not just the book they queried me with. So, I’ll ask them what else they’re working on, if they’re vision the book is in keeping with my revision notes, what type of relationship they want with their agent, etc. It’s a business partnership. If the manuscript I love is their only book in that genre, and everything else they write is in something I don’t represent or am not as skilled in, then I probably won’t be the best agent for them in the long run.

C: Do YOU like to do anything to celebrate before/after MAKING "The Call"?

SL: “The Call?” No. But after I receive an answer from the author and they pick me sometimes I buy shoes. Or eat something I probably shouldn’t.

C: Do you have any advice for a writer who just received "The Call"?

SL: Stay calm and have a list of questions ready. Writers shouldn’t be afraid to ask where an agent plans to send their book and when they’ll submit it. You have the power to turn us down, and we get nervous too.

C: What kind of things can you forgive in a MS when considering offering? What things must already be in good shape?

SL: I forgive the occasional typo and grammar mistake, but if too many appear in every chapter then I assume the writer was not ready to query. It looks unprofessional, and more than that it’s distracting. Similarly, if there are glaring plot holes or inconsistencies, then I think the writer rushed to send it. Few things are more obnoxious than requesting a manuscript and waiting over a month to receive it. Don’t query until the manuscript is polished and ready to send.

C: If you could only grab three things from the grocery store, what would they be?

SL: Strawberry ice cream. (You meant only three words, right?)

C: What made you request the full on RIPPLE?

SL: It’s strange because when I go back and see the original entry for the Cupid contest, it’s like a completely different book to me. For one, the beginning is different and the voice is much stronger in the version she sent me. Also, Deana pitched it as dystopian, and it’s not at all. The premise hooked me right away though and I knew there was more to it than a standard dystopian or sci-fi.

C: What made you offer on RIPPLE?

SL: It constantly surprised me. It’s about time travel, which is very hard to write so I was impressed right away with Deana’s ability to do that well. I also loved how the book plays with genre and nothing was ever as it seemed to be. It kept me guessing in a good way!

C: What is the most common reason you will NOT upgrade a partial to a full?

SL: If the writing just isn’t getting my attention, I won’t request more pages. More often than that, that’s the reason. The other common reason I pass on a partial is if I’m not connecting with the characters, especially the main character. If I went 25-50 pages without relating to the person I’m supposed to, it’s safe to say I won’t care what happens to them beyond those pages.

C: What is your biggest advice for writers seeking agents?

SL: Don’t query agents you don’t want to work with. Do your research, know who represents what you write, and query the ones you think will be the best fit for you. The “any agent is better than no agent” maxim is a myth. Also – and this one sounds obvious – know what an agent does before you query them. There has been an influx of queries in the past two years, possibly because of self-publishing, in which writers seem to be confusing agents with publicists.

C: What is your favorite part of being a literary agent?

SL: This answer changes all the time, so I’ll go with the most recent one that came to me over the weekend when I was reading a client’s manuscript. There’s a moment when you go back and read a client’s work and you remember why you fell in love with their writing in the first place – it just feels fantastic.

C: Anything specific you are seeking right now?

SL: What I always look for – characters I fall in love with and books I can’t put down. Not very specific, I know.

C: Now please tell us something super weird about yourself. :)

Not so much weird as it is embarrassing, but my favorite song of all time is Poison by Bel Biv Devoe. (I’m well aware there’s a difference between “favorite” and “best!”)


Oh man, I always love reading these interviews! Not only are they insightful and inspiring, they usually make me laugh too! And who doesn't love Reese's PB cups?

Thank you Deana and Sarah for sharing your awesomeness with us! 

Now, watch for more connection stories peeps, cause their rolling in! 


  1. Yay, Deana! This was so wonderful to read. You've come a long way, girl. I can't think of anyone who deserves a super agent like Sarah more than you. Hugs!

  2. Great interview! Congrats to you both, and of course to Cupid on yet another successful pairing!

  3. Great interview! Success stories are always encouraging. Like Deana, I also tend to hope for the best but plan for the worst...I call it optimistic pessimism. Glad to know I'm not alone! :-) Congrats Deana and Sarah!

  4. Awesome interviews! I love hearing from both sides of the coin! :)

  5. Yes, that was fun to read the success from both points of view. :)

  6. Congratulations Deana! Thanks for the great interview Cupid - and for bringing so many writers and agents together. You rock pretty hard!

  7. Yay Deana, you rock! I'm so thrilled for you. :)

  8. Thanks Cupid for the interview! It was fun:) And thanks to everyone who commented! Ya'll are awesome!

  9. Fantastic interviews! D, I just got Save the Cat from the library on Tuesday--been wanting to read it for a long time. Haven't had time to start it yet but now you've motivated me:-D

  10. Yes, yes a thousand times yes on Save The Cat. These interviews were so real.