Because of all this greatness, I feel terrible since this interview should've been up a week ago, but I was gone on vacation and had very limited computer access. SORRY! *ugly cry face*
But it's never NEVER too late to celebrate, so let's give a big welcome to Leigh Ann and her fabulous new agent, Tricia Lawrence from the Erin Murphy Literary Agency!!!
First, we'll start with Leigh Ann and then we'll here from Tricia. I know, I know. Hearing from both author and agent is the best, right?
C: First things first, what is your sweet of choice?
L: Our local artisan ice cream shop makes ice cream sandwiches with macaroons as the cookie. They are TO DIE FOR. With coffee. Always coffee.
C: How long have you been writing?
L: About a year and a half.
C: How long did it take you to write ONE?
L: From first word to CPs, four months, plus another five or six weeks for revisions according to their suggestions.
C: How many did you query with this novel?
L: 127. (Yes. One hundred and twenty-seven. Plus dozens of other agents saw it in various contests.)
C: What made you decide to enter the contest?
L: The Writer's Voice was ONE's last stand. After this contest, I was going to tuck it into a drawer and throw all my attention into my work-in-progress. So, I wanted to enter as sort of a reassurance to myself that I had done everything I could to see it grab an agent's attention.
C: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
L: Is it lame to say that I love it all? I love the inspired, frantic, slinging-words-down-whenever-and-wherever drafting phase; I freak out over critique partner feedback (yes, even when it's "delete 10k and rewrite a quarter of the chapters) because it means someone else loved it enough to give criticism to make it better; I get a charge out of tearing it apart and knitting it back together in ultimately more awesome ways during revisions.
C: What is your least favorite part of the writing process?
L: I guess if we're calling everything to do with writing part of the process, I hate the query trenches. HATE THEM. It's a special kind of hell that only the strongest people with the best support teams can survive for any significant length of time. Thankfully, I have the best support team on the planet.
C: If you could only pick up three things from the grocery store, what would they be?
L: I assume this is a fun alternate universe where I don't have to stress about nourishing my children or my general health and well-being, right? Okay. Then, ice cream, brownies, and coffee. Always coffee.
C: What advice do you have for other writers?
L: Confession - I HATE giving advice for other writers, because inevitably it will apply to some people and make other people want to throw rotten tomatoes at me. Also, it makes me sound like I know what I'm doing, WHICH I DON'T.
But. Here goes: Keep writing, if that's what makes you happy; surround yourself with helpful, loving, supportive people; keep sending your work out there if you believe in it. And help other people, a lot, with a full heart.
C: What did you do to celebrate your offer?
L: It just so happened that my husband and I had a work-sponsored all-expenses-paid, sans-kids trip to Sedona, Arizona coming up that weekend! So, I flew to Arizona and spent 36 hours sleeping when I wanted, reading, writing, and eating free, fancy food. It was awesome.
C: Tell us a little about your success story:
L: I finished the manuscript in January, with much encouragement from my critique partners that the story was solid, the characters were awesome, and my writing was much improved from my previous (drawered) manuscript. With the help of my CPs, I worked on the query for weeks, then queried my first batch of 30 agents. I got just two requests, so we went back to the drawing board and completely overhauled the query. The next query run yielded similar results. I reworked again, sent another batch of queries, and the same thing happened.
Obviously, something was very, very wrong with this picture, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what it was. I didn't think my query was all that bad. Most people who read the manuscript liked it. Some people loved it! But the only explanation was that the story, or the writing itself, was the problem. But I love and believe in One so much - SO MUCH - and everyone said the story and writing were fine. I didn't want to give up on it, so I gave it one last chance - The Writer's Voice Contest. If it didn't get picked from slush, and from there attract some sort of agent attention, it was going in the drawer.
When Cupid picked One out of the gigantic and awesome contest slush pile, I was floored. When Tricia asked to see more pages, I was shocked. I'd heard such incredible things about Tricia. One of my friends had just signed with her (Hi Ann!) and was still fangirling over this agent two weeks later. And she was an agent at EMLA! Do you guys even UNDERSTAND how kick-butt EMLA is? So, I assumed that for some weird reason Tricia was just being nice, and I wrote her off. I expected a sweet form rejection a few weeks later.
Well, a few weeks later I did hear from Tricia - except, instead of a rejection, she was asking me whether she was too late to read the full. Um....NO. That night, I had actually driven two hours to have dinner with a couple of my CPs, and thank goodness one of them had a level head (Hi Megan!) because she helped me figure out how to send Tricia the full manuscript from my phone in the middle of a loud, crowded bar. The next morning - twelve hours later! - Tricia sent me an email saying she loved the MS, what was I thinking in terms of a sequel, and, oh yeah, we should probably talk on the phone about this.
Um. So...not a rejection? It turned out that Tricia wasn't joking with me - she really did love my MS, and seemed to know more about the characters and story than I did. She was so excited and passionate about not only One, but possibly Two (!) and all the other ideas and half-finished MSs I have floating around in my netbook that signing with her was a no-brainer.
So. I still have no idea what was wrong with my querying materials. But after 89 form rejections, I got lucky enough to be fished out of the slushpile by the amazing Cupid, catch the eye of a closed-to-queries agent, and win the freaking representation lottery. I have Cupid, and of course the entirety of the whole goshdarn-aren't-we-amazing online writer's community, to thank.
Oh! And I got three more form rejections in the last five days.
Ta-da! Is that not completely inspiring? I love this story!
Now keep reading...more greatness coming your way from agent-extraordinairre, Tricia Lawrence! Follow her, follow her! Here and here!
C: First things first, what is your sweet of choice?
T: Dark chocolate (dairy-free/vegan)
C: At what point during a MS can you usually tell you are going to offer?
T: Within the first 50 pages
C: How can you tell?
T: I'm breathless because of a character that has charmed me or scared me or reaches out and grabs me and won't let go.
C: What is the first thing you will do after finishing a MS you are going to offer on?
T: I will go eat dark chocolate, tell all my colleagues at EMLA, and then keep replaying something about the book's character over and over in my mind.
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?
T: It's a fast love. I usually see my hesitance or lack of obsession with a manuscript and/or character to be an indicator that I'm not the right fit.
C: Do YOU like to do anything to celebrate before/after MAKING "The Call"?
T: Eat dark chocolate. Repeat.
C: Do you have any advice for a writer who just received "The Call"?
T: Breathe. Eat dark chocolate.
C: What kind of things can you forgive in a MS when considering offering? What things must already be in good shape?
T: I can forgive what I think I can help to fix. If I can't figure out how to fix it, that's when the enthusiasm diminishes greatly.
I would expect to see drafts that a. are not first or second or third drafts, but have obviously been fine-toothed combed over and b. that feel settled into shape (not boring), almost like we could print the darn thing right this minute!
C: If you could only grab three things from the grocery store, what would they be?
T: Dark chocolate (haha!), sea salt Ruffles (my FAVORITE), and fresh raspberries.
C: What made you request the full on ONE?
T: The character of Merrin intrigued me and the premise (future-world small-town Nebraska) intrigued me. I wanted to know what happened next (this is typically why I request all of my fulls).
C: What made you offer on ONE?
T: Merrin did not need to be rescued and I like how Leigh Ann explored that throughout the book, plus the backdrop of the story (future-world small-town Nebraska and what it hides) fits seamlessly into this key element.
C: What is the most common reason you will NOT upgrade a partial to a full?
T: Simply this: I am not intrigued enough, and yet that is SO subjective. What intrigues me can change at any given moment, but usually the character just didn't reach out and grab me for whatever reason.
C: What is your biggest advice for writers seeking agents?
T: Patience, persistence, and pluckitude (my word for "I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never going to keep me down" Chumbawamba style).
C: What is your favorite part of being a literary agent?
T: Being part of the creative process and getting inspired by my clients and the stories I read as submissions. By seeing creative patience, persistence, and pluckitude happening right in front of my eyes. It could happen to anybody, seriously. Anyone reading this COULD BE NEXT!
C: Anything specific you are seeking right now?
T: I always say characters, wounded characters. Any size, shape, or genre for zero through 18. ;)
C: Now please tell us something super weird about yourself. :)
I pick up rocks ALL THE TIME. If my hubby finds a cool rock and shows me, I ask if I can have it. I keep them in my pockets, I line them up on my mantel and on my window sills and on my bookcases. I have jars of rocks (and shells). I still will go to a rock beach (they are within easy reach here in Seattle) and try to haul the entire beach home.
Okay, loving the rock thing and majorly loving the word pluckitude!
Thank you Leigh Ann and Tricia for sharing your experiences and words with us!!! Priceless!
Now everyone go find some dark chocolate and coffee and keep writing! More fun stuff coming soon!