Monday, August 31, 2009
Calling all SF Buffs and Romance Writers--heck even Time Travelers and Paranormal Writers! Get over here and take a look on an expert! Yeah, I think Rob is an expert on stuff. Why? Because he's that good and helpful, plus he reviews novels in his spare time from writing. You're probably thinking why's that so special--trust me once you see all he does, you'll be wondering how he has ANY spare time! This is Rob Shelsky, aka Rose Renee Shelly for Romance, and he is a very busy author with a great crafting style.
1.You have so much going on as an author so let’s dive right in. You’re a Science Fiction, Horror, AND Fantasy writer—where did the love of these genres come in?
I'd have to say ever since I was a kid. Even at the age of five, space fascinated me! I remember my first little book, the opening lines. It said, "The Earth is an enormous ball in space…" From then on, I was hooked! Even in Australia, other kids in school would ask me "What is space made of?" And I loved to learn and read about it. At the time, in Melbourne, most kids' books were fantasies of one sort or another, and so were the kids' radio programs (Australia had a lot of those at the time, but few television stations – before satellite.), like The Enchanted Forest, and such. I loved that one! Every time these kids climbed to the top of a tall tree, they landed on a different cloud with a different land! And oddly, having to visualize it for myself, because it was radio instead of television, helped stimulate my own imagination.
2.If you had to choose just one of your favorite genres, what would it be and why?
That's a hard question, because I truly do love so many different genres – you name it – I love it! But I think science fiction is my favorite. I mean, it's so versatile! You can have sci-fi mysteries, horror, romance, dark, comic, and so many other forms of it. Plus, I have this tremendous need to know! I have to know the answers to things. I don't care that they generate more questions; I want the answers to those, too! I love reading up on quantum mechanics, string theory, M-Branes, parallel universes, deep space, and cosmology. I love it all!
One editor at Aberrant Dreams really liked my story, Without Omens, because it attempted to answer Fermi's Paradox of why the "Great Silence" in the universe. Fermi asks, if there should be so many intelligent species in such a vast universe, why don't we "hear" from them via radio or some other means? Without Omens gives one possible answer. And I did the podcast for that, which was my first one, so that was cool!
3.While we recently talked, you mentioned about how you almost got scammed with some literary agents. Would you mind telling us the story?
Yes, being a novice at the time, I was hunting for literary agents to represent me. I'm sure what I did was the usual thing; sent out mass mailings to a whole bunch of them, followed up, blah, blah, blah. One of the first to respond said they would represent me. They were an agency supposedly located in New York, right on Fifth Avenue, and I was ecstatic! A New York agency representing me, and right off! Damn! So I had to be good – right? Wrong!
I found out by checking with SFWA and a couple other places, that the address was just a drop. They forwarded the mail to another city (I think it was even in another state!). I became suspicious when they said they had to have an editor "edit" my work. It could be of my choice, but they had a number of them they preferred, and "recommended." This was at a price, of course. I backed off immediately. A word of advice to all authors out there – you pour sweat, blood, tears, and a lot of time and effort into your work! If someone expects you to pay to be published in any way – don't go with them! They are supposed to be paying you! And never give it away free, unless it is for some type of charitable cause! Writing is a profession. You should be paid for what you do! Anyone who says "Oh, I just write because I love to, and don't care about getting paid," is doing their fellow authors a tremendous disservice! You don't hear doctors, lawyers, or engineers saying that! That's my feelings on the matter.
4.So no more agents, you went right to publishers and you have a lot going on. You have a time travel romance out now called Lost Echoes, a novella Bug Eyed Monsters, then you recently got a great letter for a three-book deal for novels Veracity in Truth, Faith and Fallibility, and Song of the Moonflower. (Did I miss any novels?) Could you tell us a little about these books?
Actually, I need to correct that statement just a little. Lost Echoes is also coming out as part of this three-book package, but as a reprint, along with the other two new ones, which, unbelievably, are Regency Romances! They are suspense ones, however. You see; I told you I love all genres! Song of the Moonflower is one about to be contracted for (we're dickering over the royalty amount right now) and is another series, pure sci-fi, in its own right. It will be a trilogy. And besides Bug-Eyed Monsters, which was at the request of the editor, I have a novella coming out this November with Aberrant Dreams. I think that's a good one! The editor told me (another requested novella, by the way), that I "came out swinging" with that one. And, it is appearing in the new anthology, The Awakening, right alongside such truly great authors, as Alastair Reynolds, Mary Rosenblum, and others. Can you imagine? Alastair Reynolds is the number one sci-fi author in the United Kingdom right now! I truly feel honored.
Song of the Moonflower is my prize, personally. I had the idea when traveling through southern France one time. They have massive fields of sunflowers there, all in bloom. Sitting there with nothing to do, I idly speculated what a "moonflower" would be like (not knowing then that they really existed). Between that, and the most beautiful, Australian Greek woman I ever met, Xaki, she of the liquid brown eyes, the story developed.
The hero, Xakee de Phaeton, inherits the moonflower on her Day of Womanhood celebration. This is an ancient, genetically engineered-from-scratch plant and designed as a gift to humanity's first emperor, some forty thousand years earlier. With the moonflower, there is both a legend and a curse, for the owner is said to be destined to become Emperor of The Sphere of Humanity (the "Empire"). However, should the moonflower ever actually bloom, myths say there is a psychic song it sings, and this is a dreadful omen, presages a great downfall.
Now, Lost Echoes is a time travel novel, where the hero, Peter Vincent, sees a portrait of a beautiful young woman in an antique store in Boston. Becoming obsessed with her image, he travels to Hampton Court Palace in England, where legend says she died under mysterious circumstances. There, he is thrust back in time and must somehow save Aurea from her fate. It all takes place in the Elizabethan period of England, when a plot by Mary Queen of Scots was occurring to steal the throne from Queen Elizabeth. Lost Echoes was fun to write, because it meant researching the period. And mysteries are tough! Historical mysteries are even tougher!
As for the Regency novels, Veracity In Truth, and Faith and Fallibility, they are filled with dark lords, smugglers, ship wreckers, highwaymen – you know -- the usual things that a pampered young woman of the Regency Period of England always found so entertaining. However, I make my women heroes strong! Although they love their men, they can make it on their own. They are sort of the Mary Tyler Moores of the Regency. Only instead of throwing their hats in the air, as Mary did at the beginning of each television show, my heroes flirtatiously drop their handkerchiefs.
5.You have some amazing credentials, stories appearing in AlienSkin, Continuum SF, Jim Baen’s Universe, Fables, Planetary Stories and Pulp Spirit. You also have some novella stories appearing in Aberrant Dreams and Planetary Stories. Those are just some! Is it hard sticking to certain genres or do the ideas keep flowing for you?
Wow! You have tough questions! Yes, it is hard to stick to certain genres, because I love to try new things, to test my limits and I'm always getting new ideas. I'm dying to do a cross-genre ghost novel, for one thing. I tested it out with my newest short story, Green Waters. I also would love to do a complete fantasy novel – not the typical sword and sorcery type, but a more thought-provoking one. Right now, I'm even working on a so-called "literary" novel, which I've only just completed, A Measure of Grace. I had read the book, and seen two different versions of the movie, The Shell Seekers. It made me want to write something similar.
In the meantime, I'm drifting toward very dark science fiction and horror for short stories, and more standard sci-fi when it comes to novels. I have to admit that Song of the Moonflower is a bit borderline, being supposedly pure sci-fi, but definitely bordering on the very edge of being a fantasy, too. But yes, I do have trouble (as you can see) sticking to any one genre. There's just so much out there to write, so much I want to try!
6.You also review books on Novelspot. How do you like that?
I enjoy very much doing book reviews for Novelspot. Strangely, my editor at Alienskin Magazine just informed me that a publisher has requested one of me – not for Novelspot, but rather as the columnist for AlienSkin Magazine. So I guess I'll be doing that, as well. Reviewing books isn't all it's cracked up to be, though. On the one hand, I want to be honest, and I must be, but I'm not a torpedo-style critic. I feel that anyone who can manage to complete a novel must have something going for him or her. So, I try to keep that in mind when writing the review. I point out the flaws, but I do try to point out the positives, as well. But as David Niven said, when he plays a Broadway critic in the movie, Please Don't Eat The Daisies, "When tripe is served, I will yell TRIPE!"
What I find appalling at times is the low level of writing skills some new authors have, and some editors, as well, apparently, when they let this stuff slip by and go ahead and publish the book! I mean, they almost seem borderline functionally illiterate at times!
Oh, I'm not talking about strict grammar guidelines, rigid rules of old that must be adhered to, but basic stuff, like making a sentence readable enough for the reader to understand what the author is saying! I'm telling you; some are just so bad! E-books are partly responsible for this. Until just a decade ago, it was common for editors actually to EDIT! Now, many push all this off onto the author. They must do it all. And the truth is, after an author has read and re-read their own books for the 20th time, they probably aren't reading what's there, but what they think is there. A fresh eye, which an astute editor supplies, does marvels for making a good book great! So many of the books I review are riddled with typos, and "spellos," the wrong versions of words, like "their" instead of "there," etc. For the reader, that must be annoying! It is for me! And it detracts from what otherwise may be a very good story.
7.I think every writer through the process has one story/novel they are truly proud of and love dearly. What is your favorite piece of work?
Again, with the tough questions! As I said, Song of the Moonflower is probably my favorite sci-fi novel to date. However, Veracity In Truth won the top-level position for a publisher's in-house, Regency Romance contest, for published authors only. Mine won in the top position, with full e-book and print contracts, and the first listed as such. That was great! To win over novices is one thing, but to win out against good, peer authors, all published, that was SWEET! Yeah, I'm humble. But seriously, it was a wonderful feeling to win.
Now, I think my next novel, A Measure of Grace, may be my best "literary" effort to date. Oh, and do novellas count? My novella, Avenger of the People, coming out with Aberrant Dreams' anthology, The Awakening, is probably my best dark sci-fi one. Now for space opera, I'd have to say Bug-Eyed Monsters with Planetary Stories. One reviewer compared me favorably (as did the editor himself) to Edward Hamilton, one of the all-time, great, space-opera writers. Flattering in the extreme, but probably not true! (See, I can be humble…sort of…)
But my point is, what is my best work also implies the question: for which genre and when? That's the trouble when an author genre hops – they never know where they are going to land, or if it will be on their feet! But authors should always be growing, learning their trade, getting better at it. So, what may be your best "all time" book of one year, should in all likelihood be eclipsed by a new one next year! If not, you aren't growing as an author "in my book." (Pun intended.)
8.You also dabble in romance under a pen name. Why did you choose to do the pen name and is there any meaning behind it?
Yes, with my Regency Romances and other romances (none, by the way, which are erotica – I simply can't do that from a woman's point of view, so won't write them), I do use a penname. This was at the suggestion of my editor, who wisely told me "women like romances written by women." It's true. They do. But then, so do men, it seems. I don't mean romances, but the types of books we like, as men. J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame knew this, and so did her publisher, apparently. It's said they deliberately used only her initials instead of spelling out her first name(s) to gently disguise the fact that she was a woman, because her books on Harry Potter were originally geared for young adults and adolescent boys. If she can do it, so can I, I guess, although I'm obviously not J.K. Rowling, but then who else is? I wish I were. I love Edinburgh where she lives, but it's so expensive! And it's hard to say which I admire more, Ms. Rowling, or her money! That's a joke…sort of…
Besides, from what another of my editors tells me, you'd be surprised how many "A-List" male authors also write under a female penname and vice versa. I loved Andre Norton as a child, voraciously read all the sci-fi books that Norton produced. It wasn't until years later I found out she was a woman. The famous "George" Sands was also a woman, so again it works both ways. Also, many authors just use different pennames because readers get tired of reading books by the same author, so writers use different pennames for different genres to "fool" them. I know one six-figure author who writes under one name for one set of mysteries, and under another name for a different series of mysteries. Hey, it works! Also, practically speaking, sometimes a reader, an editor, or publisher can be prejudiced against certain genres. If my science fiction background were too known in the romance field, probably that would interfere with my selling romances. The reverse is probably true, too. So sometimes, it's just best to keep your genres separated by using different pennames.
What's my penname, you ask? Lord, how I hate to answer that one, because I can just hear the laughter out there!!! Well, it's – aw heck, I ain't gonna say! Okay, yes I will. It's "Rose Renee Shelly." Get it – R.R.S – as in Rob R. Shelsky? I thought the "Renee" added a nice foreign touch, so my Euro readers would feel more at home, too. If it makes a reader feel more comfortable that way, I have no problem. However, the book signings could get a little hairy, and in more ways than one, because I look nothing like "Rose Renee!" Well, we both have the same well-defined cheek bones…
9.I got in touch with you through Kay (Senior Editor of AlienSkin) for an interview, but then after posting a tweet about my partial rejection (don’t worry a post will come of that) you’ve been completely awesome with me and I appreciate it so much. To me you’re the prime example of a writer paying it forward to a novice writer. Is helping fellow writers something you always wanted to do or did it just come naturally? Have there been any personal writer friends who have helped you through your writing career?
Great question! Sara, you are good at these! (That's the book reviewer in me coming out…) Some writers are very jealous of their positions and see all new, younger writers as upstarts, and threats, competition, if you will. They won't help them at all, either because they are too arrogant to do this, or just too scared of this new competition. I think they feel there are only so many places at the "top," and so they don't want to make room. But the writing market isn't a pie with just so many pieces! And in any case, even if it were, you can always make a new one. It happens all the time, new genres, cross-genres, changes in the old ones. One can "create" a market for one's books, and nobody has to "steal" somebody else's piece of the pie. I'm not into such scarcity thinking, but rather view the publishing world as a place that can grow and expand, if writers, editors, and publishers do the right things.
And yes, I had help along the way from other authors more experienced than me. Some of it was simply by reading so many wonderful books they wrote that it made me want to write, too. But I have met some marvelous writers along the way. I met Rod Serling, of Twilight Zone fame, and even had coffee with him once. (Yes, I'm still thrilled about that, oh-these-many years later!) I was very young at the time (of course), and hung on his every word!
But the best author I ever met, one who really helped me, was the incredibly famous Ray Bradbury. I once asked him, "How can I be a good writer?" His answer: "Read! Read everything you can get your hands on." He told me that writers steal from other writers all the time, not as plagiarists, but in ideas. You get an idea from reading someone else's work, and this sparks one of your own, which you then develop. My short story for Jim Baen's Universe, Dreamtime, was that way. I'd read another story on immortality, and I had read Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke. My story grew out of a new idea of combining the two concepts (not the plots), and then generating a plot based on that new idea. Dreamtime was the result! Thank you, Ray Bradbury!
So, yes, pass it on! Help others along the way! At the end of it all, who knows? You may be prouder for having done that throughout your life, than with your own personal success as an author. What's that saying about "we pass this way but once, let us do what we can to help along the way?" I firmly believe that. Pass it on!
10.Random Time! You’re a huge SF buff, which I think is great, so this one is so for you. You see an overpowering white light coming from the sky above a corn field near your house, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever saw, the first thing you do is…
Run like hell! Head for cover! Hide! Cower somewhere in the dark of the night and hope it doesn't find you, seek you out! Don't just stand there like some stupid cow chewing it's cud out in the middle of the field staring up at the sky while that thing descends on top of you – get the heck out of there!
Shame on you Sara; didn't you read my current series of articles on UFOs (just completed with the current issue of AlienSkin Magazine), and my interviews with possible abductees? Fascinating things? Yes, UFOs are fascinating! Amazing? Yes again! But have you really heard anything good in the way of an outcome from anyone's interaction with a "bright light?" Radiation burns, being run off the road, being abducted, anally probed, flesh "scooped" from you, implants, missing memory, even deaths and permanent disabilities – those things aren't exactly "wonderful memories for my wonderful book of memoirs on UFOs."
UFOs fascinate me, and yes, I'd probably stand there like a fool, as so many people seem to do. I've always wanted to sort of "kick the tires of one," just to see if they are real or not, if you know what I mean. But my advice, seriously? RUN! If that bright light "ain't" a helicopter or a jet, "get outta there!" As my article said, whatever UFOS are, and whoever might control them, they seem to have no regard for basic human rights. They seem to do what they want with people, when they want, and without any considerations for their feelings. With such immoral or amoral creatures, the best thing to do is to avoid them. Because, truthfully, it's my feeling they are more the stuff of nightmares than they are of dreams. Of course, my father thinks I'm one of them… no, he really does! He says I'm not like anyone else in the family. I told him he'd better have a long talk with Mom about that…
To find out more on Rob and his work check out the links below:
My home page:
Podcast of Without Omens:
Planetary Stories, Bug-Eyed Monster:
Aberrant Dreams Magazine's hardcover anthology, The Awakening with Rob's novella, Avenger Of The People:
Follow Rob on Twitter at:
A big, huge thanks to Rob for taking the time for me. He is truly such a motivater and honest person and of course a talented writer. I think we can all really look out in the horizon and say, perhaps there is more out there, and maybe just maybe, we should be scared! Haha I'm kidding, but yeah I did go back and read the full UFO Interviews on AlienSkin and was warped. It's insane so all you UFO people--check that read out for sure! It's so worth it! Also let's not forget his novels/shorts coming up, those will be just as great!
Rob is an awesome person through and through and he is definitley going to be added to people who has helped me along the way from in my own writing journey. A special thanks from me to you Rob for checking out my work and giving the most sincere feedback with huge kinks, all the helpful links and information for the science side of things, and encouragement. I am finally to the point of my novel, Jacks & Spades, where I am actually happy with it.
I never thought it was possible. =D
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Thank you so, so, so much for the award. This is three now and all so close together! I am super happy with everyone's comments with my interviews of awesome writers and editors. I've met some more amazing people as well, not just through the interviews but blogs as well.
I think I will pass this one to--Lisa and Laura. Why? These girls are fabulous and funny! Plus, I believe they will love the cleverness of the "I Give Good Blog" award title. You two ladies deserve it!
Not too mention, my audience is almost up to 100 followers! I will have to do something like a contest when I hit this number. Go ahead link your friends to the blog.
Maybe some book giveaways, critiques of partials, or maybe, well I won't say until I know details but let's hope option 3 is the thing I choose. Trust me, I'll make something good.
Anyways--tomorrow is Interview Monday so all you SF or Romance buffs be SURE to check in because Mr. Rob Shelsky is freakin amazing!!! I'm not even sugar coating that! This guy knows his stuff! Until tomorrow my friends--have a great night! Hopefully the interview will perk up the dreaded Monday...err Monday I think I cringed just typing that!
Monday, August 24, 2009
I am super excited about today’s interview with Matt Hilton. Agented Author with awesome deals in the UK and US, including with Harper Collins and four translations! That’s huge! If you didn’t get a chill of excitement from that, brace yourself—he’s also a Thriller writer with an awesome character Joe Hunter. Yeah, go ahead take in the rush of suspense and read on, it’s so worth it. If you don’t…well Joe Hunter could be visiting you! I am KIDDING!
1.I’ve never started an interview this way so let’s test it out. How are you doing?
I’ve just got back from a month long publicity trail that took me to New York for Thrillerfest, then to Cambridge in the UK for Bodies in the Bookshop at Heffers bookshop, and then to Harrogate in the UK for The Olde Peculier Crime Writing Festival. To say my head is buzzing would be an understatement. It’s been a tiring but an absolutely great time where once again I rubbed shoulders with some of my literary heroes and inspirations. I’ve just got back to dozens of emails and am finally getting through them, then it’s back to writing book 5 in my thriller series featuring vigilante tough guy, Joe Hunter. I can’t wait to get my teeth into it again. The adrenaline’s already bubbling.
2.I love when you take a break from work and dive right in with all this great stuff. You’re a thriller writer, a genre I’m not very familiar with until lately. Tell me what makes a thriller?
Thrillers cross genres and there is no specific form that lays full claim to the title. A Thriller – also called ‘Suspense’ in the USA – can be set anywhere at any time in history, even in the future or outer space. There are historical thrillers, adventure thrillers, supernatural thrillers, sci-fi thrillers, horror thrillers and the type that I generally write which are often referred to as crime thrillers. Even some crime thrillers are a misnomer, because into that pot we can throw in mystery thrillers or action thrillers. I tend to lean more towards the latter. A mystery thriller has a problem to be solved, while an action thriller has a problem to be overcome.
Basically, a thriller must grab the reader and keep them hooked, hold them breathless at the edge of their seat as they race to the conclusion. Clichéd, but true.
3.I truly think I could try to write a thriller, but it would not be good! You run Thrillers, Killers, ‘N’ Chillers (TKnC) and offer short stories of mysteries, thrillers, crime and horror. Why did you start a website based on these particular genres?
The short answer is that these genres are the type I most like to read. They are also very closely related and sometimes the distinction between the genres can be very blurred. For instance, is ‘Silence of the Lambs’ a mystery, crime, or horror book? I guess it’s a thriller.
The longer answer is that I have been writing for many years before I achieved my first publishing deal (more than twenty years in fact) and throughout that time I was submitting work to various agents and publishers with very little feedback from them – except for the obligatory rejection letter. I was slow to catch on to the whole internet and blogging thing, but thought it might be a good idea to start a site where unpublished works could be showcased. I must take a step back here: when I got my publishing deal - 5 books from Hodder and Stoughton in the UK, 3 books from William Morrow (Harper Collins) in the USA, and translations in four foreign countries – I got a lot of press. As a result many aspiring authors got in touch with me to express their best wishes and to ask for advice. Very few of them had ever showcased any of their writing, so I thought a site where they could post their work was a great idea. People could read their work and then offer feedback and support. I didn’t have this while I was an aspiring author – but I would have loved a resource just like it.
Believe it or not, but I thought that TKnC was a way in which I could help these other authors receive some recognition from their peers.
Col Bury was one of these aspiring authors. We met via a mutual friend (a major coincidence that you wouldn’t believe) and struck up a friendship through our common love of the thriller genre in general. When my deadlines became too much for me to handle TKnC alone I asked Col to come on board with me. TKnC has now taken on a life of its own. It gets four times the hits as my own blog!
4.We all know Col since we featured him last week, loved the humour with him. I think it’s great you took it upon yourself to make the site because even recognition and encouragement from writing peers can help a person move forward.
Recently, you had a reader inform your TKnC partner Col Bury about a crime class. The teacher suggested the students to check out your TKnC. I quoted from the site, “for english, at school, we're doing crime fiction. And my teacher strongly suggested your website as a point of call, to help familiarize ourselves with the world of crime, to see the different styles, views, perspectives of crime."
That’s quite amazing especially considering this is coming from a reader in Australia. How good did you feel knowing your offering inside views on these genres and your site being read from all over the globe?
It was an astonishing and humbling experience. That one comment validated everything that I tried to achieve with the site. It also goes to show the talent of the writers who have submitted work for inclusion. I think everyone who has ever featured on TKnC or even commented or given feedback can be as proud as I feel.
5.Another thing I noticed on that entry was you mentioned you’ve been where a lot of us are now. Submitting work while handling rejection, trying to land an agent, and ultimately hoping to see your work published. And now here you are with book deals with some leading publishers, such as Harper and Collins and four translations coming out, an agent, and your first book is currently out on shelves, what’s going through your head when you reflect over the journey?
I feel immensely grateful for the fact that my agent, Luigi Bonomi, saw the potential in my first book, Dead Men’s Dust, and had the faith in me to take it to the publishers. Without Luigi championing my side I don’t think I’d have got anywhere near to the deals that I have. I’ve been writing since I was a child, I’ve submitted book after book to other agents and publishers over the years but never got my foot in the door. Like an awful lot of authors out there I’ve been on the cusp of giving up on more occasions than I can remember. My best advice to any aspiring authors is to never give up.
I’m honest proof that grit and determination can finally get you there. I had no qualifications, had no friends in publishing, wasn’t a celebrity, in fact I had no shoe-in to the publishing world at all. Add to that that I live in a remote corner of the Lake District in the UK (about as far as you can get from the publishing houses) and you can see that I was probably the last person that would have achieved a record breaking deal for a first time author. It’s all very humbling when I look back on things, even though I worked very hard to get where I have. It’s been fifteen months since I signed the contracts and I still can’t believe it that it’s happening to me!
6.Your well on your way to becoming a celebrity in our world! Okay so tell us about your novel, Dead Men’s Dust and who is Joe Hunter? How did you create Joe, meaning is this completely fictional or is there parts of you in him?
It’s another long story I’m afraid, but here goes:
I’ve written for years, sent off the books, got the rejections. Then I’ve written more books, and so on. I finally had a wake up call where I realised that the reason that my books weren’t being picked up was because they weren’t commercially viable. By that I mean that they were stand alone books with a beginning, middle and end. No potential, in other words, for a follow up.
I then looked at the other books on the booksellers’ shelves and saw that most were part of a series with an ongoing lead protagonist.
Because of this I then set out to write about a character who had the specific skill set and back ground to be involved in an on-going series. I have worked in private security and have also been a police officer, but the last thing I wanted to do was write police procedurals. For one, I didn’t want to write about what I did at work, and secondly there are many writers who do it so much better than me. I’m a big fan of the American tradition of P.I’s but again, I saw that the shelves were already top heavy with these kinds of heroes. I decided to write about a character who acted outside the law – a vigilante for want of a better term – but who was driven by a sense of morals and justice.
Joe Hunter is an ex-counterterrorism soldier – part of a black ops team who carried out assassinations on terrorists and extremists - who is very handy in a fight. He is skilled in unarmed combat and is very skilful with a handgun. I thought that these factors gave him the necessary tools and background to get into various sticky situations throughout the world – in other words I believed that he could carry a series.
I suppose you could say that Joe Hunter is the part of me that wished I could just take the gloves off when I was being attacked or verbally assaulted by the criminals I was dealing with. Seriously, though, Joe Hunter and I share a history of dealing with violent people. We are both highly trained martial artists. Those two factors are probably the things that I carry over into my writing the most.
Dead Men’s Dust is an introductory story to the series where Hunter goes off from the UK to the USA in search of his wayward half-brother, John. Little does he know that when he arrives he is going to be thrown into a mix where John is being hunted by hit men from the mob, or that John has fallen into the cat and mouse game of a bone harvesting serial killer who has adopted the name of the Biblical Tubal Cain, the inventor of knives. I guess if I’d to define the style of thriller I’d call it a ‘chase thriller’ with crime as a backdrop.
7.It really sounds like you dug deeper after getting no hits for this book and all for the better. What inspired you to write Dead Men’s Dust? I understand this is part of a series, how many more are written or how many are you planning on?
My inspiration came from many sources. As a child I loved the pulp stories of Robert E. Howard (Conan the Cimmerian) and H.P. Lovecraft (horror master), and I also grew up reading men’s action books like Mack Bolan: The Executioner. I wanted to write books that captured the action of Howard, the creepiness of Lovecraft, but with a strong, charismatic and morally driven hero along Mack Bolan’s lines. I also wanted a hero a bit like the master-less samurai, or Wild West Marshall who just walked into town and dealt with the bad guys in an uncompromising manner. The result was Dead Men’s Dust.
Book 2 is called Judgement and Wrath and will be published by Hodder and Stoughton in the UK in October, with Book 3, Slash and Burn, next May, and Book 4, Cut and Run, coming next October. I’m currently on writing book 5, which at this moment is untitled. The books will be released annually in the USA, so I’m afraid you might have to wait a little longer. At present I have the five book deal, but obviously I’d love a further contract when this one finishes. I’d also love to put out a few stand alone thrillers (I’ve a few relinquishing on my hard drive that just may see some light in the future). I’ve also written a young adult horror/thriller which is currently with my agent.
8.Oh a YA Horror/Thriller! That’s my kind of my book. I have actually been dying to read some Lovecraft and cannot find it in my library! So frustrating…anyways to have a character and multiple plots to carry out a series is a great accomplishment. Are you going to be sad when the final book is written?
If it ever comes to it where no one wants another Joe Hunter thriller I will be tremendously sad. He’s become a huge part of my life and takes up many of my waking thoughts, so it would be like saying goodbye to a good friend. However, I’d also like to write about other characters in the future, so maybe a short hiatus from Joe wouldn’t be too bad – as long as there was a promise that he’d be back.
9.It would be kind of hard say goodbye to somewhere who has come went so far and (forgive the language) who sounds badass! Out of curiosity is Dead Men’s Dust the first novel you wrote?
The first novel I wrote was a teenage ‘coming of age’ book called AGGRO, but since then I’ve written many others. I have written fantasy, horror and crime books, but in the last few years I’ve concentrated on thrillers. After I wrote DMD, I wrote a supernatural thriller called The Thin Grey Man which has sat on my computer since, because I got the deal to write further Joe Hunter thrillers. And as I said, I’ve now completed the next three Hunter books and am on number five. I wrote the YA horror book in between episodes to give me a break between each of the Hunter books. I’ve also taken time out to write short stories and have posted these under the pen name of Vallon Jackson at TKnC, they tend to be horror or humorous crime stories. It gets me away from Joe Hunter for a while, clears my head, and gives me a fresh approach when I go back to the novels.
10.We’d love to know about your agent. How did you find him/her, what kind of credentials were listed in your query, how many rejections before you found him/her, and most importantly are you happy with the way things are going?
Like I mentioned earlier, I had this wake up call. When I’d come up with a book that I thought fit what publishers were looking for I then set out to find an agent to represent me. I researched who was who and found that Luigi Bonomi had been nominated as ‘agent of the year’ and had just had a massive success with Simon Kernick who was a huge bestselling author in the UK. When I looked at Luigi’s website, I saw that he accepted unsolicited manuscripts and had a desire to establish new authors. I sent him the obligatory synopsis and first three chapters, but also wrote a concise letter of introduction outlining my plans for an on-going series, my back ground as a police officer, and my previous publication successes (which to be frank only amounted to a couple of non-fiction articles in magazines). When Luigi asked to see the entire book I was shocked. He then asked me to do a re-write with his suggestions in mind, which I did. I also undertook another re-write to tighten and strengthen the book. I did all of this prior to actually being signed with him, and have since found out that I was being tested to see if I had what it took to deliver and to work with him. Moral of the story; if an agent shows interest and asks you to change something…do it. They know what they are talking about. And they may just be testing you.
I think I mentioned earlier that I’ve had numerous rejections prior to being signed by Luigi. I could probably wallpaper a bathroom with them. But, you only have to be accepted once to forget all about the past.
11.We all know it just takes the one agent to make your heart stop and dreams come true and I am so happy you found yours. I think that’s great advice about the re-writers from agents, I have a good friend who went through this and it made her work even better. Random Question Time! If you could choose any one of your books to be composed into a movie, it would be...
Dead Men’s Dust would make a great summer blockbuster! Or maybe The Thin Grey Man – I think that one would look beautiful, creepy and thrilling on screen.
If you'd like to know more about Matt, here's some personal links:
You can find out more about Matt Hilton and Joe Hunter at www.matthiltonbooks.com
Matt blogs at http://matthiltonbooks.blogspot.com
And you can read some excellent new short genre fiction at http://thrillskillsnchills.blogspot.com
Maybe you'd like to submit one!
Currently, I am still on the hunt trying to get Matt’s Dead Man’s Dust, and some darn HP Lovecraft. I miss city libraries.
A big thank you to Matt! He has been busy with writing, life, and TKnC and doing it wonderfully. I think this is a true Cinderella story, since Matt only had a few things published and took years to land a dream agent and deal. Four translations! Can anyone say NY Times Bestseller in the making? I think I can.
Being determined and believing in your work is the ultimate payoff. I think as long as we writers have that mentality we can get there, it may be months or even years, but if we truly believe in ourselves then nothing is being wasted. Thanks so much again Matt, a true inspiration.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Here's the rules.
1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might not know.
5. Nominate 7 Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.
So let's go down the list!
A big thanks to Becky again--she is awesome and truly one of the best writing buddies I have! Her motivation, trust, honesty, and passion are always inspiring. I am so lucky she found me! I'd be lost without her! Thank you so much Becky!
And Elana--love her blogs and help for fellow writers! Not only is she always keeping it real but fun, and that is so important for people like us who wish to pull out our hair! Oh and I shall mention again she totally helped me craft an awesome query letter! Thank you lots Elana!
Seven Things You May NOT Know:
1. I love writing dark horror short stories and hope a future WIP novel will be one.
2. Writing a novel and seeing it published was on my "Bucket List."
3. Music is key to make or break my day.
4. The deep ocean of monstrous sea creatures scare me.
5. I have a sick obsession with old fashioned jewelry.
6. My jump drive is named Sara (after yours truly).
7. If there is a PS3/XBOX/Super Nintendo/Wii around,(you/me) are totally playing it.
And now for the Nominations!
There you have it! Feel free to take one or both awards and follow the rules!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Okay so I been busy at home visiting inlaws in Holly, and now I am going up North near Clare till Friday! No internet there--I know I am bumming! Due to this I am moving interviews back--Matt Hilton will be making his appearance either Friday or Monday. I feel awful, but I had to post this up so everyone would be in the know because we're leaving in like three minutes!!
Until I get back--keep writing away!
Monday, August 10, 2009
Today we have Col Bury--Co-Editor of Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, and active Crime writer on the road with all of us--seeking representation for our pride and joy novels. Col gives us a great look into this genre and I love his random question answer at the end, I laugh every time! He's also got some nice publications, which you can check out below. Enjoy!
1.First off why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
I live in Manchester, UK, with my wonderful wife and two beautiful children, so I’m an extremely fortunate person family-wise. They understand how important both reading and writing are to me, and for that I’m thankful as free time is limited when you’re a dad and work full-time.
Being Co-Editor of ezine, Thrillers, Killers N Chillers, does take up some of my ‘writing time,’ but to be honest it’s a pleasure to be part of reading, analyzing, and editing work from some truly outstanding writers and, as a consequence, others tell me my own writing has developed considerably this year, which obviously spurs me on.
In my spare time (what’s left of it!) I read, read, read - with a critical eye - mainly crime novels at every opportunity, and I’m a keen 8-ball pool player (County level) with a garage full of trophies! I also love football with a passion, both playing and watching Manchester City.
I’ve been writing very spasmodically for twenty years and have had a few modest successes with articles published in magazines, plus I was once on the editorial team for a book about unemployment. I have loads of stuff stashed on discs, in drawers and in my head! It’s not only crime, although this is now my forte. I used to read a lot of horror - James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Stephen King - because I love the suspense/tension and that feeling of not wanting to turn the next page, but you just have to!
Over the years I’ve written broadly. There’s a children’s series that’s done the rounds without success, an old novel (it was naff, but good practice), a half-written humorous non-fiction ‘How-to’ book, numerous poems (even won a poetry comp’ once - there was only me who entered!), and many ‘scrawlings’, including stand up comedy routines, speeches and reviews. I’ve been called ‘a versatile writer’ before, but I think to have that label confirmed you need to be published widely.
My focus now is firmly on crime writing with an unflinching desire to become a crime novelist.
Just realized you asked for ‘a little bit about yourself.’ Ooops. Forgive me, but writers do ramble!
2.Crime writing huh? Mind telling us about your current novel project?
I’d say it’s a fast-paced, mainstream crime novel with plenty of action and conflict, written in a gritty, no nonsense voice with the sprinkles of dark humour throughout. It feels a tad uncomfortable blowing my own trumpet, especially as it’s not on the shelves…yet! But the story is Manchester-based and is a balance of police procedure - whereby my Detective Inspector hunts a highly skilled, prolific serial killer - and ‘action’ from the viewpoint of the killer. It does tackle the motivational issues of the ‘bad guy’ and also has a strong moral theme running throughout as it deals with ‘problems’ within society of which the killer is somewhat peeved (to say the least!). I’d like to think my characters are as sympathetic and 3-dimensional as possible, and do drive the story along.
There’s obviously much more to the plot than that, but you’ve probably got the gist. My aim is to write a book to entertain the reader, who is at the forefront of my mind with each sentence I write.
I am hoping to gain the representation of an Agent later in the year…so if anyone’s interested…!!!
3.I hear that! Representation is every writers dream (okay maybe not every writers dream) but a lot of us are hoping we get there. You’re a passionate crime writer—do you have any previous experience with the law? What attracts you personally to this genre?
I’m fascinated as to the motivations of the perpetrator. As a young lad growing up in a suburban area of Manchester, crime was all around me, and I recall wondering back then - and still now - why certain people chose to do certain things and, as I’m naturally inquisitive, I began to research. I’ve read lots of books on serial killers and true crime, which I believe is crucial to develop one’s understanding
I do have direct dealings with violent offenders in my job, but I’ll not elaborate on that for now. It’s not quite, ‘If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you,’ but now’s not the time. Maybe if my novel gets published…
4.Hmm…violent offenders through work? Interesting, I wonder if you’ll use any of their actions in your books. I think we can all agree on reading what we write because that’s what we like. It also lets you see how other authors execute that genre. So we know the basis of Crime Fiction, but I sometimes see ‘New’ Crime Fiction—is there a difference?
My blog is called Col Bury’s New Crime Fiction simply because I’m a newish writer of crime fiction. I guess that’s the main reason - a new take on things, a new voice in the genre. I assume that’s what this means elsewhere, too: please correct me if I’m wrong.
5.If any readers know otherwise, please leave it in the comment section. Not only are you a writer of short stories and working on a novel, but you’re the Co-Editor of Thrillers, Killers, ‘N’ Chillers (TKnC) with Matt Hilton, how did that all come about?
Knowing I was into writing, a mutual friend told me about Matt’s 5-book deal and I was intrigued (naturally inquisitive as I told you – or a nosey so n so: take your pick!) and my friend phoned Matt and put us in touch early in 2008. Matt’s been massively supportive of me for which I’m extremely grateful. We became good friends via near-daily emails, and the odd call, before we finally met up in Lancaster (half-way between Manchester and Carlisle) for a bite to eat and a non-stop chat about writing and life.
Matt has tried for years to get published, appreciating how difficult it is, and as he genuinely enjoys helping new writers, he started Thrillers, Killers N Chillers in January this year to do just that. I’d sent him a few stories on there to get the ball rolling as did a few other up and coming writers: Matt’s brother, Jim Hilton, and another writer called Amit Dhand. Then one of my Writers’ News Talkback friends, Bill Haddow-Allen joined us, but for the first three months that was it.
Unexpectedly, in March Matt kindly asked me to assist and I literally bit his hand off! Me…an Editor? A month or two later I recall Matt and I were debating via email the merits of accepting a certain submission and he made me laugh with a third email on the subject, saying, ‘Col, we’re becoming Editors …aaarrgh!!!’ I’m (we’re) so proud of how it’s taken off, though most of the credit should go to Matt for his foresight in creating the site: it’s his brainchild.
6.That’s wonderful to see the progress your both making, in fact next week I have an interview lined up with Matt. Thrillers, Killers, ‘N’ Chillers focuses on crime, thrillers, and mystery stories. Do you enjoy all of these genres? What are some plots you see all the time that new writers can try to stay away from the slush pile when they submit work?
Don’t forget horror, Sci-Fi, flash and micro fiction - anything that thrills, kills, or chills really. And, yes, I do love all of these genres.
But do you know what? The variety of submissions we receive from the many writing talents out there are so diverse that the different voices make the typical scenario - protagonist = problem with antagonist = kill antagonist - told in different ways, but sometimes with a twist from the obvious or an alternative take, still refreshingly entertaining to read.
Things to avoid when submitting: writing something that doesn’t fit the guidelines (which are actually very broad for an ezine) or poor grammar/plot. If it’s well-written and we’re not sure, we’ll have a brief ‘chat’ via email then usually agree. If not - which is extremely rare - we’ll let the readers decide.
7.It sounds like TK’n’C is very flexible, which is awesome for new writers to help get their work out there. I’ll be honest, I’ve never written a crime story because I’m more intimidated by this genre. I watch crime shows all the time, but it’s said over and over again these shows are complete fiction and the current technology does not allow cases to be solved that easily. In your writing do you have such fictional items to solve a murder or do you try to stay within the current technology for this time frame?
Crime writing doesn’t have to be like the old police procedurals where the reader is inside the head of a chain-smoking detective, seeing his every move, hearing his every thought. If this is the way you did want to write then it would need extensive research to make it authentic. There are other ways to write a crime novel (e.g. predominantly from the perpetrator’s viewpoint) where you’re somewhat freed from the shackles of the official viewpoint of a cop and your imagination can really kick in as oppose to worrying too much about police procedure. Nonetheless, it must be said, research is still required as most readers of crime will see right through you!
Obviously real crimes can take ages to solve (a novel can accommodate this better than a one-hour TV show), especially whether it involves forensics, fibres, DNA, etc, trawling through hours of CCTV or waiting for responses from witness appeals, but these TV shows, that you refer to, have to be hard-hitting and fast-paced otherwise they become boring. It’s like the Bill in the UK. It’s pretty entertaining, but cops actually write a lot. Imagine in one episode having them all doing their files for court! Riveting - not! And it makes me laugh when a call comes on the radio for a bloke in a red top carrying a package and, hey presto, there he is walking past! But I suppose the producers/writers have to do this otherwise their stories would drag.
8.I would need to do a ton of research if I planned to show the whole ‘murder case and procedure’ point of view, so maybe I’ll stick to the shows. So some shows inspire people, who/what has inspired you?
I think the first author to inspire me was horror writer, James Herbert whose books are easy to read, full of suspense and atmosphere, and sprinkled with humour. I’ve read three of Simon Kernick’s books recently – Relentless, Deadline, and The Murder Exchange – and have thoroughly enjoyed them, especially the fast pace and dry humour therein. The first actual crime novel I read that got me hooked was William Bayer's--Switch.
Ian Rankin’s work is, to me, much more serious and clearly well-researched and I admire him for this. I also like Mark Billingham and Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris is a must read for any aspiring crime writer. I really enjoyed Matt Hilton’s, Dead Men’s Dust, too, and can’t wait to read the rest in the Joe Hunter series.
However, just last month I began my first Lee Child novel, Persuader, and the end of the first chapter gave me that ‘wow’ feeling. I’m really loving this book and I can see why many people admire him so much. I’m hooked on Jack Reacher now so job done by Mr Child.
There are numerous crime writers on my ‘to read’ list and, to be honest, I will definitely get round to reading them all.
9.I have countless books on my reading list. Right now I am finally getting around to Suzanne Collins ‘The Hunger Games’ from all the reviews I’ve read on blogs. Let’s get to the Writing Platform, agents love seeing this on a query, but do you think writing short stories benefits the writer when composing a novel?
I wasn’t aware of Suzanne so there’s another for my list – thanks!
I agree that it’s almost expected for a writer to have some kind of ‘writing platform’ so an agent can see that they do have some marketing potential.
My writing was very ‘flabby’ when I first submitted to TKnC, but from the feedback received I know I’ve definitely tightened my work, which I feel has also hopefully improved my novel writing. The downside, perhaps, is at one stage I was in ‘short story mode’ (writing my own, plus reading and editing lots of others) and couldn’t get back into the novel. However, I finally overcame this by just writing scenes (a bit like short stories really) from the novel as the ideas popped into my head, which got me back into the flow.
10.I have to say being the Publishing Editor of FMM (Flash Me Magazine) has helped improve my own writing a lot. It allows you see some common mistakes to help you identify your own. You’ve had some short stories published, mind telling us a short blurb and how you develop your ideas? Can we read them online and if so where?
There’s a list on of my online stuff on my blog. To date I’ve got a dozen shorts on TKnC, one on Six Sentences, three over at A Twist Of Noir and I’m branching out a bit now and submitting to other ezines. A new piece of micro is due on Blink-Ink as we speak. Most are crime oriented, invariably written with a splash of humour and a twist. Some are particularly violent and a few have a supernatural theme, mainly mixed with crime (probably stemming from reading horror as a spotty teenager).
As you may have gathered, humour is important to me in writing: I feel it adds a further dimension and can offer a break from the tension, if your ‘comic timing’ is right and if used sparingly, while also adding to the characterization. Over-use of humour can become ‘author intrusion.’
I’ve only been submitting since January this year and was amazed when one of my stories, Forum of Fury, was selected for review at Eastern Standard Crime. I think this is arguably my favourite. It received a helluva lot of positive feedback that left me with an afterglow!
Encouraged by the positive feedback from the ezines I’ve started sending stuff out to magazines, other markets and competitions. I think I’ll always write short stories as I’ve definitely got the bug, but the novel takes precedence – it has to, otherwise I’d never finish it.
11.That’s great about all your accomplishments and I love the afterglow comment. I know I am radiant when I get an acceptance letter. Out of curiosity, do you really believe there is such a thing as “The Perfect Crime?” Why or why not?
Yes, I do. Programs like Dexter are good, and if forensically aware then you’ve got a chance. How many unsolved murders are there? Throughout history you could say that each unsolved case is arguably the ‘perfect crime.’ On a lesser level, a crime could be stealing a block of cheese from the corner shop. If you’re masked up and rush in and out at the right moment, then there’s a fair chance you could be scoffing away your cheese on toast watching Dexter without chastisement! Sadly thousands of crimes go undetected every day throughout the world, so the answer has to be a resounding ‘Yes,’ whether it may be by luck or meticulous planning on the criminal’s part.
12.Very interesting, I have to say I’ve never heard an answer like that before. Lastly, my random questions! I love these ones. You get a mysterious letter in the mail from someone claiming to have evidence that falsely accuses you of a crime, what would you do?
Kill them…only joking…I’d just torture them…again, just kidding. It wouldn’t be possible…I’d suss ‘em in the end and fight for justice. After all, I am a crime writer!
Haha! I love that above answer! If you would like to know more about Col Bury here are some personal links:
Col blogs and interviews crime writers here:
To read or submit a story to Thrillers, Killers N Chillers go here.(Don’t be shy - Matt and Col are very approachable chaps!)
Thank you so much Col for taking the time showing us readers a life in crime! Your answers have been great for giving us a glimpse into a genre I don’t hear a lot of writers writing, that may be a good thing when you’re targeting agents. I do wish you the best of luck with your writing journey and the success continues to grow for TK’n’C. It is an awesome read that I enjoy checking out and recommend it to anyone interested in these genres.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Today’s interview is awesome! Why? Because it’s one of our own—the thing all of us writers are striving to be and work hard to reach. Billy Coffey landed his literary agent and not just ANY agent—we’re talking about Rachelle Gardner from Word Serve Literary.
1. Let’s start off with your query, what were you pitching to agents? (What do you write?) Secondly, did you have a writing platform, if so what did that include?
I was grudgingly pitching a spiritual memoir. “Grudgingly” because I didn’t consider myself a memoirist in the least. In my head, that word conjured images of old men in tweed sport jackets who lounged in leather chairs and spoke. In. Short. Sentences. That wasn’t me. But I had everything a little backwards. Instead of picking a genre and writing a book, I wrote the book and then needed a genre. Spiritual memoir was closest.
My writing platform wasn’t as strong as some, but strong enough not to dissuade Rachelle. My blog had been steadily building readers, and I also write columns for a local newspaper, a regional magazine, and for Churchmouse Publications, an online syndicate service.
2. Your credentials look pretty good to me, as for the genre I think many writers can agree with that. Writing a book then finding a genre, some people find it close to something they wouldn’t ‘normally’ plan to write. With every interview I do I love to tie in the genres and their own definitions so how would you define your genre?
The spiritual memoir is based on the theory that we are not only outwardly linked by history we’re linked by it inwardly as well. What happens to one in the depths of his or her soul in some aspects happens to us all. So even though the story is unique to the storyteller, it also contains elements common to every reader. It’s the narrative of one person’s walk of faith that can cover a lifetime, a year, or, in my case, a single day.
3. A single day? That must have been one heck of a day to compose a high word count novel. What inspired you to write this book? Is there more come?
One horrible, wonderful day. I woke up to a snowstorm outside and news that I may be laid off from my job because of the economy. I went to bed with the stars shining and the knowledge that I had a very good life. I didn’t just want to write Snow Day. I had to.
My next book is in its final couple of drafts, and I have a pile of notes on my desk for a third.
4. Whenever we had a snowstorm I went to bed with worries, knowing my little car would have to trudge through to work. Just out of curiosity, how has your first draft of your novel changed to its final stage for querying (before editors get to it)?
Actually, not much. I’ve moved a few chapters around and added an epilogue, but that’s about it. My first manuscript went through twelve drafts and ended up completely different than what I had started with, but Snow Day wrote itself. The hardest thing was to simply get out of my own way and let it happen. I’m expecting that to be the exception rather than the rule, though. More often than not, I really don’t know what I’m trying to say until the third draft or so.
5. That’s interesting, because usually with my WIP’s I know what I’m trying to say, but it takes me twelve drafts so others understand it. Did you use any helpful sites such as Query Tracker, Writer’s Digest, or Agent Query to research agents or were sticking to the books like Literary Marketplace of updated agents?
I used them all, plus a few more! Query Tracker and Agent Query are great, but you have to be careful because not all of their listings are up to date. You can’t find a better source for writing and publishing tips than Writer’s Digest. I’ll add to that list the Preditors and Editors website, which was invaluable. Sadly, there are a lot of agents and publishers out there who are much less than what they appear. It’s easy to get sweet-talked into signing with someone who wants to feed off your dreams rather than believe in them.
I still have copies of Writer’s Guides from 2000 to 2008 on my bookshelves, all dog-eared and underlined. The same goes for the Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guides.
It’s never been easier to find avenues to reach agents and editors, and in that regard I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much information. The trick is knowing how to process it all and use it to your advantage.
6. I have to agree with you on that, it’s a big decision to sign with someone and I’ve read stories on writers who signed with someone they thought was perfect and now they’re seeking representation elsewhere. It’s always nice to see how it ranges for people, so may I ask how many rejections/partials/fulls you’ve received before getting the call?
I think I stopped keeping count after the first twenty-five rejections or so. I’ve heard of writers who used their rejection letters as fodder for their determination. Stephen King taped his to a dartboard, and I read once of a very famous author who used his as toilet paper. I’ve heard that from a business standpoint it’s always good to keep them on file. I tried that, but it really started to bug me when that file began to get thicker and thicker. In the end, I resorted to just marking the agent’s name off a list I kept in my notebook.
All in all, I had over forty rejections. Half of those came from my query, half of that from partials, and half of that from fulls. Yes, it was awful. More awful than I can say. And yes, I wanted to give up. But I’m a stubborn person, and that stubbornness paid off in the end.
7. A dartboard—that could be fun! Speaking of fun, it’s very funny because I actually found you on twitter (see social networking pays off) and I also follow Rachelle and when I saw her post about “making the call” I couldn’t believe she was picking someone up. Did you see that post? Were you prepared for the phone call or were caught off guard?
I did see that post, but only after the fact. Rachelle had contacted me a few days prior to set up a phone call, and contacted me again the day of to say not to worry because this was The Call. I didn’t dare get my hopes up after those forty plus rejections, but it did get me pretty excited.
She offered representation right away, which allowed me to inhale and continue the conversation. We talked about my book, how she wanted to market it, and what her plans were. Rachelle’s such a nice lady, and that put me right at ease.
But there was so much information going back and forth and my head was swimming so much that I forgot to ask her one thing: could I tell everyone the good news, or should I wait until after I had signed the contract?
I was planting some flowers for my wife a little while later when my cell phone started going crazy. In the span of about five minutes, I had over sixty new followers on Twitter. I went back later and saw Rachelle’s tweet. She’d answered my question for me.
And social networking? YES. I refused to believe I had to partake in blogs and Twitter and Facebook in order to get an agent, but I finally gave in out of desperation. That’s when things began to turn around for me. If you’re a writer, especially a beginning one, such things are mandatory.
8. Okay there you have it, for all of you I always see debating on keeping up with blogs and tweets—keep them going! I am assuming you and Rachelle connected with a similar vision of your book, if that connection wasn’t there would you have passed representation with her?
We’re exactly on the same page as far as the vision for Snow Day, and that’s made things so much easier. I like to think that I would have passed representation if that wasn’t the case. That would be the right thing to do. But the great thing about her is that she is up front about her desire for my input. I feel like I’m not working for her, not even that she’s working for me, but that we’re working together. I think that’s not only very important for a writer, but for a good agent as well. We talked enough before The Call that if that common vision wasn’t there, she would have likely recommended another agent rather than offered representation.
9. Working together with someone is always better than having it one sided and it’s wonderful that you found an agent who is behind you and your work. Okay, so you have an agent. What’s happening to your book right now?
Rachelle took my proposal to ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) and has sent it to the editors there who showed interest. She’s also working on the final edits for my manuscript, which she’ll send and I’ll go through to have ready if and when a publisher requests a full. The patience you have to exercise in getting an agent is repeated after you’ve signed with one. Some editors will get back with Rachelle in a matter of weeks. Others will take months. It’s a lot of hurry up and wait.
10. The speed of replies and feedback is one of the hardest parts sometimes. Instead of calling this the “Publishing Industry” they should refer it as the “Wait in Agony Industry”. What advice would you give to new writers searching for their own agents? Please don’t say the business is subjective, I do believe we’re all aware of that by now. =D
It’s easy to just write a generic query letter and carpet bomb the entire literary world with it, but you’re really better off whittling down the list of agents you have and concentrating on those who are most likely to show interest. Tailor your query according to them. Have you met them at a conference? Is your book comparable to that of a client? Do you enjoy their blog? Why is that agent the best fit for you?
Agents get hundreds of queries a month. Make yours stand out. Be personable and professional. Don’t go for gimmicks. Make your query your absolute best writing. And whatever you do, follow their guidelines to the letter. This is not the time to break rules.
And maybe most of all, make sure your book is as polished as it can be before you start querying. Have it torn apart by critique groups. Tear it apart yourself. If you can afford it, find a good freelance editor. Make sure it’s as good as it can possibly be, and an agent will have no choice but to take a closer look. The agents you’re querying are not members of a national cabal whose sole purpose is to keep you from getting published. It’s easy to start thinking they’re the enemy. They’re not. But if your book isn’t ready, they’ll make it feel that way.
11. A lot of my readers participate in Critique Groups and ask for Beta Readers that may be asked for just feedback or edits also so it’s nice to know that’s recognized as the right direction. What reflection(s) do you hope your novel will leave people when we see it polished and published in the store?
That the worst times of our lives can also be the best, that for every drop of darkness in our days there is a gallon of light, and that when we lose what means much, we often find what means more.
12. That’s a great answer, really great in fact I’m a little speechless on how to tie in the next question. You have a close friend, Kat, who is helping you out with more business like subjects so you can focus on your writing, how can I get my friends to do that when the time comes? I’m kidding, but it does convey the fact this is someone you truly trust and obviously respects with what you’re trying to do, have you two been life-long friends?
I’ve actually only known Kat since April. She happened upon my blog one day and left a smart aleck comment to my post. I always try to repay the kindness of someone commenting on a post by doing the same, so I followed her back to her blog (my comment? Not smart alek-y).
She emailed a week or so later wanting to know if I’d be interested in guest posting for her once a week. She’s a gifted painter and had gotten too busy to post something every day. I said sure.
After a few posts, she emailed again wanting to know if she could take a look at my manuscript. She read it, loved it, and then offered to help me in any way she could. I couldn’t begin to say how important she’s been. I absolutely trust and respect her, and her opinion is invaluable. She’s the first person who sees anything I write.
Writing is such a lonely task, and it’s necessary to have people to keep your writing honest and up to your abilities. And this is another reason to have a blog. If you post something on a regular basis that’s good quality then people will find you. Those people will be more than willing to help you get to your dreams.
13. That story makes me so happy! I have a writing buddy who is ‘My Kat’ who I also met online. It’s crazy how many important people you can meet online and think I’ve never met this person in my life and yet it feels like I’ve known them for ages. I adore all of my writing friends. Lastly, I always ask a random question. If you could tell everyone in the world something, and I mean everyone, what would tell them?
That’s not just the first rule for a writer, it’s the first rule for everyone. We miss so much good in life because we refuse to slow down and see it. There’s magic out there. Wonder and beauty and good. The world is full of tragedy, but there’s nothing as tragic as walking through our days carrying more burdens than hopes.
If you would like to know more about Billey here are some personal links:
His blog: http://www.billycoffey.blogspot.com
That wraps up this interview perfectly. I agree with all my heart, there’s magic out there, and I fell in love instantly with that line. I’d like to thank Billey and Kat for working with me for this interview, especially since Billey has been busy with his writing and Kat can match emailing speeds with me (that’s way impressive). I will be keeping in touch so we will all know when your book “Snow Day” is released and then of course we can rush in to get a copy. Sell big Rachelle!