Today is your lucky day because you get to hear from two very awesome peeps....
SOOO much great info here, guys! And this story has a bit of a twist. Love twists.
As usual, we'll hear from the author first, so help me welcome thee amazing, Amanda!! And check out her blog and twitter too!
C: First things first, what is your sweet of choice?
French macarons. I first fell for this little treat in Japan, where they’re super popular to give as gifts and every department store has a huge array of them. The displays would blow your mind. Then, my sister-in-law made some last Easter and my obsession was re-ignited. Anyway, along with my “YES” email to Jessica, I also sent her a box of fancy flavored macarons to her office as a surprise.
C: How long have you been writing?
I wrote sporadically in college, but four years ago I began writing during my every free moment.
C: How long did it take you to write WICKED SPIRITS?
It took me about a year and a half to write, and two years of revisions to get me to where I am with it now. I think I re-wrote it entirely three or four times, with about 10 mini-revisions in between. I could have moved on to another book, and I do have a few WIPs, but I needed to get this right first. Practice makes perfect. Don’t necessarily drawer your book, people. Reinvent! Ves s started out as a demon businesswoman and ended up as a Genie. Go figure!
C: How many did you query with this novel?
Ninety-one queries, twenty-four submissions. MANY near-misses with agents over the years, but I don’t mind because I made some really great connections and in a few cases, friends. I do really well with live pitching and contests, but in queryland, not so much.
C: What made you decide to enter the contest?
Contests are fun because you can watch them instead of your inbox. I love the real-time action of seeing responses and critiques and cheering on friends. I’m kind of a contest junkie—I got my offer right as #GUTGAA, #Pitchmadness and #CAGI were happening and part of me was like “awwww”….then I remembered I had the raddest agent ever and then felt better. ;)
C: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Plotting. I could never be a pantser. I love sitting and picturing things and watching little pieces of the plot click together until I can see a movie-trailer type vision of the book in my mind. Then, I write the query (NERD ALERT) and sometimes the synopsis. I know how lame this sounds.
C: What is your least favorite part of the writing process?
See my answer about revising FOR TWO YEARS. Reading until my eyes bleed, that sort of thing.
C: If you could only pick up three things from the grocery store, what would they be?
Ok, I’m a sucker for anything by Little Debbie. Honestly, when I was pregnant, I seriously considered the name Debbie because I was horking those Swiss Cake Rolls left and right. I also like the little Christmas Tree cakes that come out in winter and the waxy striped Zebra cakes.
Those only count as one item. Ahem. Item two would be goat cheese. I like to put goat cheese in fillings, in sweets (weird, but awesome), in sandwiches instead of spread, the list goes on.
The third item would probably be some sort of fun-flavored balsamic vinegar. Right now I’m using a vanilla bean balsamic in EVERYTHING, and last month I had a nice fig balsamic.
C: What advice do you have for other writers?
DO NOT SELL YOURSELF SHORT. Query and revise your query until the numbers get embarassing, like into the several hundreds. Fix your manuscript with help from many CPs and betas. Don’t give up on yourself or on your story. Read agent blogs and stories about how people get rep. Stop thinking you should write what’s popular and instead write what your muse tells you to. While I’m glad I have a WIP that caught the eye of my agent, I think really working your craft and perfecting one MS until you’re truly happy with it is better than drawering it. I am very passionate about this, despite my hatred of revising. That may be because I took mine too far, but hey.
C: What did you do to celebrate your offer?
The way every girl should—buying shoes and eating fancy food. I bought myself a pair of trendy-but-comfortable Coach sneakers and went to a nice French restaurant that had a neat little courtyard out back and drank champagne and raspberry cocktails.
C: Tell us a little about your success story:
This excerpt is from my blog entry on the topic.
When I began thinking about how I wanted to tell our agent story, I immediately got a little panicky. We do not have a traditional courtship to share, and I didn't want Jessica to get flooded with unconventional emails and the like, so I asked her if she didn't mind if I shared exactly how we got together.
She, being the wonderful and awesome human she is, said of course.
Ok, how'd I find Jessica? A contest. Specifically, Cupid's Agent Invasion (AWESOME blog with AWESOME contests, btw). But that's not the unconventional part.
How'd I get her interest? Tweeting about a WIP I hadn't even started.
Oh snap, you guys are thinking, that is really not smart of you, sword-bride-girl.
Oh, I know, I know.
Anyway, it went a little something like this. Jessica had tweeted that once an agent and author corresponded enough, you may want to start talking about WIPs. She had asked for my manuscript a month prior, and I tweeted back a little bit about my next project.
Jessica's a foodie-- I knew this. I thought the tweet would make her smile and maybe she'd remember it. I said, "My WIP is about a time-travelling food critic."
I expected a smiley-face at best.
I got a "tell me more".
Oh dear. I hadn't started GASTROPHYSICS yet. I had an outline and a query. Ok, ok, I'm a nerd who writes queries ahead of time. Sue me.
Anyway, I sent her the details (she knew I had zero word count) and she said she squealed out loud in her office when she read it. Then five minutes later she clarified the squeal and bounce was a good thing and that her intern may be terrified of her.
So we begin corresponding about this WIP. Then I wrote a little.
THEN SHE ASKED TO READ THE LITTLE TINY SAMPLE.
Oh no you didn't! is what you're thinking, isn't it. Why on earth would you share a rough, unfinished first draft, unbeta-ed, with your dream agent?! ARE YOU CRAZY?!
She was very persuasive. I sent it. She asked for more. I wrote more. This little dance continued and one day that email about "when's a good time to talk" showed up in my inbox and...
... The rest is history.
Needless to say, I'm thrilled and truthfully a little smitten. We've talked on the phone a few times and she makes me positively giddy. We're in sync in so many ways, it's actually baffling to me how I could find someone so perfect to represent me. Plus, Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency is so amazing and prestigious! Wow!
In the past week we’ve talked a lot, and honestly not only is she an awesome agent, but if we lived any closer I’d probably be calling her every day to hang out. She’s just awesome on every level.
Now we'll welcome Jessica Sinsheimer. Who is seriously (as mentioned) SO VERY AWESOME!! Check out more on her here. And if you're not already following her twitter (you crazy-head), do it now!
C: First things first, what is your sweet of choice?
Macarons. There's a store here, called Cafe Macaron, that manages to make them both crunchy and chewy. I go back and forth between those--in floral flavors, like lavender and rose--and chocolates. I love dark chocolate with marzipan, praline, pistachio...well. They're all wonderful. I've also been known to eat far too many chocolate-covered espresso beans. They're so delicious--it's hard to stop. Then I start bouncing around the office.
(Okay, that's...creepily cool!)
C: At what point during a MS can you usually tell you are going to offer?
It's funny--you'd think I'd realize by now that I can almost always tell within the first few pages that a work just has that special something--and yet there are times where, because like the idea so much on an intellectual level, I try to find a way to make it work.
But one thing I've learned in my time being an agent is that it's the books that make you feel something that are the ones that will succeed. While reading Amanda's work, I was grinning like an idiot, talking to my Kindle, laughing--and locked myself in my office, so I could forget about everything but her work. I'm not usually one to talk to Kindles (or televisions, for that matter--except during debates), but the characters were so real that I couldn't help myself.
Yeses take longer than Nos, of course--but whether something has a chance of being a yes--well, I can tell very quickly.
C: How can you tell?
The initial spark is easy to spot. I get giddy. I want to read portions to my colleagues. I'll neglect phone calls, meals, miss my stop on the train. I'll look up and suddenly it's well past normal office hours.
The true test is whether that spark stays. Sometimes I sit on a project to make sure that my excitement doesn't burn out immediately.
But when I find myself talking about the work many times and, if anything, my excitement about it grows--that's an excellent sign.
C: What is the first thing you will do after finishing a MS you are going to offer on?
I always give myself a waiting period. One of the great things about Amanda's work is that I kept talking about it--from the first chapter I read, straight through her other drafts--for weeks. I told everyone about how much I loved it. My excitement for the book didn't burn out at all--if anything, it intensified as she wrote more and I continued to learn more about her. She’s just so cool.
I knew, at that point, that I’d be willing to—if it came down to it—hop on a train, figure out the T, and go visit her for a meeting. I’d come back the same day, if need be. And it’d be worth it.
I fully plan to visit her someday soon. She mentioned a lounge with very creative floral-based cocktails. Happily, this will be a fun trip, versus a “Please work with me you are awesome” trip. So, much less stress.
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?
Few things are fast and easy in this business--I know some writers think that it's a matter of hitting Forward to a selected group of editors and then, well, waiting for offers. It isn't. There's an investment there--of time, thought, strategy, emotion--that makes no sense when I try to summarize the process. There’s a lot in there that you can’t understand unless you’ve sent out a project yourself. We care a LOT. Knowing how much I'm going to put into it, well--I need to make sure that it's likely to all seem worth it in the end.
C: Do YOU like to do anything to celebrate before/after MAKING "The Call"?
Well, I don't usually get an "Omigosh, yes!" right away--it's a big decision, and saying Yes immediately is a huge commitment without much time to think.
Amanda didn't tell me right away. She gave me some excellent hints—but I'm not one to count proverbial chickens. I told myself that, when it was official, then I'd celebrate—because I knew I'd be so sad if I lost her.
I got the official Yes from her on the morning of our “make a decision” deadline--I'm pretty sure she emailed me right when she woke up. When I got up (a few hours later, given that she has kids and I don’t get to the office until ten), I had my phone waiting on my nightstand and checked my email. I'm not a morning person at all, but I squealed and bounced out of bed.
When I got to the office, the most gorgeous box of macarons were waiting. How did she know?! She somehow got the best macaron store in the world (yes, I think so—they’re far superior to Ladurée, in my opinion) to deliver a solid forty blocks uptown of their usual territory--and selected their very best flavors. She even dictated a wonderful note to them, which came in the gorgeous package.
I know it sounds like a silly reaction to sweets, but I was really moved.
C: Do you have any advice for a writer who just received "The Call"?
As soon as you know you're getting on the phone with an agent, have a list of questions printed out. The standard "I'm getting The Call" questions are available online. Gauge whether you like the agent as a person as well as if you think you'll work well together. And don't feel guilty for asking questions--you're about to make a big decision. We know that, and understand your wanting to be sure.
C: What kind of things can you forgive in a MS when considering offering? What things must already be in good shape?
The most important thing is that I can see where the work is going, and that I'm confident the author and I can get it there. Line edits are easy. Huge changes of aesthetic are not.
C: If you could only grab three things from the grocery store, what would they be?
Short grain brown rice, chickpeas (canned, then drained and rinsed), and a vegetable. Since it's only three items, it'll be a salad in a bag. Then I'll cook the rice and toss everything with salad dressing.
Sounds gross, but it’s actually really good. I’m very fond of my (apparently indestructible—a good thing in an appliance!) rice cooker, and love having rice waiting for me when I get home from work.
And yes, some salad kits come with salad dressing and croutons, so I’m counting that as three total. :)
C: What made you request the full on WICKED SPIRITS/GASTROPHYSICS?
I liked the idea. What kept me reading was the voice. And so, when Amanda mentioned this other project--which just happened to be my dream book idea, though I didn't know it yet--of course I said that I wanted to see more!
C: What made you offer on GASTROPHYSICS?
I knew, in my heart of hearts, well before it would have been a good, sane, considered choice.
And, looking back, I can’t actually believe this happened as it did. It’s just so much synchronicity (and I’m a huge fan of synchronicity). Here’s how I remember it:
Amanda lives in Boston, and I’d just gone on a trip to the Berkshires for the weekend. My friend and I were on the way back to New York. I wasn't driving, of course--I'm a threat to self and others behind the wheel--so, naturally, I checked my email, and saw a note from Amanda mentioning a foodie opportunity she may have.
It was only a maybe. Something that could happen. Still, I felt something tugging at me. The sense that this was a woman who was going places. That's what I want in writers--not only success in writing, but in other areas of life. That “this person is going to do really cool things in the world” feeling. Some people just have that forward momentum.
But I think that's a lot of it--spotting the people who, even if it isn't this one particular project, or one particular area of life, just seem destined for great things.
We were just outside Boston when this happened. And then I Iooked up at the sky and saw that a skywriter had written a message that ended with "#GOSOX"--yes, hashtag included. (The Red Sox, incidentally, are also mentioned in GASTROPHYSICS.) I thought this was the perfect sign since, of course, Twitter had so much to do with our author-agent courtship.
She sent me the most recent draft later that same day, I read it practically in one sitting, and the rest is history.
C: What is the most common reason you will NOT upgrade a partial to a full?
The best answer has to do with something my boss said once--loving a manuscript is like meeting eyes with someone across the room. Something either happens--or it doesn't. If I don't feel that initial tug in a partial, I know I won't feel it in the full.
C: What is your biggest advice for writers seeking agents?
Remember that we're human. Interact with us as humans on Twitter (some refer to it as like the cocktail party after a conference) and as agents through email. Because Amanda and I just really like each other and naturally have a lot to talk about, I was happy to hear about her other projects while I still had the first. We bend the rules for the people we like.
C: What is your favorite part of being a literary agent?
Well, I do get to read for a living. Not much beats that.
C: Anything specific you are seeking right now?
We don't actually discriminate based on genre--any genre could work. It's all about the writing.
However, I have a particular fondness for heroines who go between being proper (when necessary) and badass (when justified). One of my books is about a teenage girl who takes down Jack the Ripper--all while wearing beautiful Victorian clothes. Its author just sent me her new book. I can’t wait to send it out.
So, yes. More books like that, please.
C: Now please tell us something super weird about yourself. :)
I actually really wish I had a pet--to the point where I'll borrow other peoples'. You could say that I aspire to being a cat lady.
I cat-sit for friends--especially for friends with orange cats. Strangely, most cats I know in NYC are orange, and they’re my favorite. And, last week, I actually put out a call (while the weather was gorgeous) to let me know if anyone near Central Park had a dog that needed walking. I was totally up for it. I had a big, fluffy samoyed when I was a kid, and loved running around with her.
Having my own isn't a possibility at this point--I travel almost every weekend, and though I like the new self-sufficient cat technology (cat water fountains, cat food mills that open at set times, self-cleaning litter boxes), I'd still need a kitty that pretty much sits there and doesn't run back and forth, which would drive me crazy in an apartment-sized space. Alas--urban living.
Do these guys not seem like such a perfect match? I love it!!
Thank you ladies for the interview!
And thank you readers for stopping by! Let me know what you think below! I love to hear from you!