This is our 10th Kari’s Queries! Woohoo! Snoopy Dance! Kermit Arms!
This also turns out to be one of my lengthier ones, proving that once you get me talking, I just won’t shut up. But really, I had important stuff to say!
News first! Today, I got my edit letter for A SHOT IN THE DARK, so my Nanowrimo days are at an end for this year. I have until January 1st to get these revisions done and back to The Editor. I’ve only done a cursory glance over the list so far, but it looks mostly cosmetic, which is good. The one big kicker (which I knew already) is that this book is coming up shorter than anyone would like. One of my big tasks over the next month and a half is to figure out if there is a subplot I can add, or expand on. The Editor has given me some ideas to think on, and I’m excited to let those stew in my cranium for a few days before settling in to work.
I am still waiting on permission to show ya’ll my cover art and back cover copy. I’m SO excited about this, guys, I can’t wait for you to see it!
And now, on to my questions.
How did you find and pick out your agent and publisher?
Hm. Trying to decide how much lecturing ya’ll can really put up with.
Ok, first off, I found my agent by writing a query letter. This is a letter of (typically) no more than three paragraphs, describing your book, and a little about yourself. The format will vary depending on whether or not you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, and there are a ton of resources around the web to help you learn how. My personal favorite is (as you all know) Absolute Write. Tons of info there on just about every subject imaginable, and if you’re not comfortable enough to participate, you can still lurk and learn a LOT.
Once I had my query letter, I used Agent Query and Query Tracker to make a list of agents who were accepting manuscripts in my genre. Using that list, I researched further online, making sure nobody was a scam, trying to get a better feel for who was really looking for the kind of thing I had written (agent blogs are a wonderful resource), who might be a good match for me personality-wise, etc. At the time, I was also really broke, so those who took email queries went to the top of the line, as opposed to those who only took snail-mail queries.
Over 6 months, I sent out 28 queries. One of the very last ones I sent out was to my agent, the wonderful and amazing Chris Lotts. He got back to me almost immediately, requesting the full manuscript, and a couple weeks later, he called to talk to me. We clicked on so many things, not only on his vision and enthusiasm for Devil, but for what I wanted to do with my career as an author.
(Note: An agent should never just want to represent only one book of yours. You should think of it like a long-term partnership, or dare I say it, marriage, which can span your entire writing career)
I did not choose my publisher. As part of what an agent does, Chris submitted my manuscript to editors at various houses that he knows are interested in urban fantasy like what I’d written. I don’t know who all he submitted to, because knowing would probably have made me more neurotic than I generally am. Really, I didn’t know what was happening until he called me to say “Hey, I have good news.”
HOWEVER… This is not to say that you cannot choose a publisher. While many publishers only look at submissions that come from agents, there are some who take submissions directly from authors without having an agent involved. In the sci-fi/fantasy world, Tor publishing is one of those. I know there are others, both in my genre and in others, but I’m not well-versed. A bit of internet research will do you wonders here. I know that most of the ones who do are generally slammed with submissions, and I’ve heard of people not hearing a word back for two years or more.
CAVEAT: Please please PLEASE do your research. There are a ton of “publishers” out there who are really just after your money. If they ask you to pay for “editing fees” or for your cover art design, or anything really, run the other way. A REAL publisher pays YOU, not the other way around. When in doubt, google the publisher you’ve chosen plus the word “scam” and see what pops up. Also check out Preditors & Editors, and on the Absolute Write forums, check out their Bewares, Recommendations and Background Checks section. This warning goes for agents too. Do your research, and don't pay ANYbody money.
What is the hardest part about writing a book?
The hardest part… Hmm… I think each book has its own unique brand of hell involved. (Can I say that to high school students?)
For any new book, there’s always the challenge of how to make the plot fresh and unique. There’s the intense interrogation of new characters to find out how they tick and why they do what they do. There’s the construction of a brand new world, sometimes, from the ground up. Everything from the geography, to the economy, to the theology.
(Tell you a secret, though, world-building is actually one of my favorite things to do. Shh. Don’t tell.)
For the JJD series, I’m finding that my challenge is in keeping Jesse’s sense of humor as his world gets darker and more dangerous. One of the things that has made the JJD series likeable is Jesse’s snarky wit, and sometimes I catch him sliding into a gloom and doom mindset, and then I have to step back and think, okay, how can I make this funnier?
I think humor is actually one of the hardest things you’ll ever try to write, because as anyone who’s ever told a joke knows, no two people will laugh at the same thing. What’s absolutely freakin’ hilarious to me may draw totally blank looks from others. (Ok, 90% of the time, DOES draw totally blank looks from others)
So yeah, I think writing humor is my hardest part.
What is your favorite or most influential movie to watch?
I guess that depends on what you’re wanting to be influenced to do.
As far as favorite movies… I have a few I fall back on when I just need something comfy on the TV. Crybaby is probably my very very most favoritest movie in the whole world. It’s the movie I want when I just need to let my brain relax, or when I’m banishing the zombies I just finished reading about. I have discovered, however, that I cannot watch it and write about Jesse at the same time. Jesse apparently does not like Crybaby. Big goober.
I also tend to stick Empire Records in for the same reasons, though Jesse doesn’t seem to avoid that one as much. If you notice, most movies that get my repeat business have a major soundtrack to them. Music seems to be the thing that draws me the most.
Influential… Hm. Well, I think that movies, like books, are something that you can always learn from, as a writer. There is a pattern to telling a story, be it on film or in print, and watching a wide variety of movies can help you learn to see that pattern. It can help you see what happens when you deviate from that pattern, why sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
One movie I saw recently that really struck me from a story-telling perspective (don’t laugh) was The Expendables. Now, this movie probably isn’t going to win any major awards, but it was highly entertaining, and several things really excited me about it. This movie had the potential to be a giant walking cliché. I mean, we had just about every major action star from my childhood (yes, I know most of you weren’t born yet when these guys ruled the silver screen, but even you know who most of them are) and guns and explosions and…! Wow! Boom! Bang! Kapow!
BUT, the writers acknowledged those clichés, paid homage to them even, and yet managed to avoid falling into them. I thought it was a great example of how to take a plot that’s been done a million times (like most plots, really), and still make it unique and entertaining.
Ok, I’ve babbled enough for one post.
Next week, Kari’s Queries will be on hiatus while we all go stuff ourselves with turkey and/or the vegetarian dish of your choice.
Everybody be safe, and I’ll see if I can’t come up with more fun and frivolity for you in the meantime.