Sunday, August 29, 2010

Meet Author Elle Strauss

Today, I have another author represented by Natalie Fischer.

*Drum roll please.* ELLE STRAUSS!

So please welcome her to my little blog by leaving comments below and say hi.

I met Elle through my blog. She was kind enough to stop by and say hi, then she won my Barnes & Noble gift card. It is so funny how you end up meeting people.

So here is my regular little spiel--stop by blogs, enter contests, and connect with people. Most don't bite. I've met such interesting people through contests and blogs. Such as the Elle.

As I said, Elle is a newly discovered talent represented by Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. She currently has two novels, CLOCKWISE and PLAYING WITH MATCHES, on submission to publishers.

I haven't had the opportunity to read either of these books as of yet. Um...hint, hint, hint.

Let's meet Elle now....

Tell me a little about yourself.....

Well, let’s see, besides being a writer of YA fiction, I’m a wife, mother of four, daughter, friend….I also like to read (obviously), bike, float on the lake and travel—especially Europe.

When did you first discover your love for reading books?

I guess I’ve always loved reading, but unfortunately I didn’t come from family of readers and wasn’t introduced to all the childhood favourites many people have. When it comes to writing and discovering great books, I’m a late bloomer.

When you were a child, what was your favorite book?

I remember liking Clifford, The Big Red Dog.

What's your favorite book now?

Hmmm, that a hard one. I’m going to go with the classic, Pride and Prejudice.

So we know you write, when did this passion bloom?

Like I said, I started writing later in life. I sort of jumped from one creative venture to another, landing for a while on water colour painting. That didn’t work out so well when my kids were little, with them getting into my supplies, etc, so I turned to writing. I started out with attempting to write children’s books under the common misbelief that they are easy to write. Then I attempted middle grade, young adult, women’s fiction until finally settling back into young adult.

I’ll add that I read every book in the library on the craft of writing and every issue of Writer’s Digest up to that point.

Can you tell us about the first novel you wrote? Did you query it? What do you think about it now?

The first novel was a middle grade called Angel Train. No, I never queried it. I barely remember it to be honest, and I’m sure it’s better that way. :D

Can you give us a teaser about the two books on submission now?

This is from the blurb found on my blog profile (

I am the author of CLOCKWISE, a YA chicklit about a teenage time traveler who accidentally takes the cutest boy in the school back in time, and of PLAYING WITH MATCHES, a YA historical about a boy who grows up in Hitler Youth.

Quick but oh so satisfying:

Vanilla or Chocolate? Chocolate (duh)

Cookies or Cupcakes? Cookies

Angels or Zombies? Definitely Angels

Edward or Lestat? Who?

Orlando Bloom or Gerard Butler? Happily married, but if pressed, Orlando Bloom.

Wine or Whiskey? Red wine all the way.

Okay, now to what unpublished writers want to know....

How many revisions did you do on your query letter?

A zillion. I suck at writing queries.

I'm not sure about most people, but I hate writing a synopsis. What's your feeling about them?

I’d choose a synopsis over a query any day.

Apparently your query was a winner, how many requests did you receive?


What made you choose Ms. Fischer to query?

I knew that I had a better shot with a new agent and I capitalized on the correct assumption that a lot of people wouldn’t bother with a snail mail query. I got in early and, yeah, she liked it.

How did you know she was a perfect match?

I didn’t really know that at the beginning. It’s like dating. We had something in common (we both liked my manuscript), and an initial attraction (I liked that she was an agent, she liked that I was a writer). The more time we spent working on projects together and the more I got to know her (her on-line presence has grown rapidly since then) the more I was convinced that she was the absolute right agent for me.

You got an agent--now what?

Well, now these babies are out on submission to editors.

Can you tell us how many revisions you had to do before your books were ready for submission?

I would say at least three or four rounds of revisions with Natalie on each before they were ready.

I know from personal experience how anxious I am to check my email everyday just from having an agent request my manuscript. Since you have an agent, what does it feel like having your books on submission to publishers?

At first I’d wake up every day and wonder, is this the day? Is this the day I find out that an editor has made an offer on one of my books? Many months have passed and with summer being traditionally S L O W well, I don’t do that anymore. This business is really random. It can happen quickly, it can happen slowly, it can happen NOT at all.

I can let you on a little sekret. I have a new book that’s going to be making the rounds soon. *squee*

Any advice you'd like to share?

Keep working on your craft but don’t lose the joy.

And there you have, right from an agented author.

Thank you so very much for visiting my little blog, Elle. I hope you'll let me interview you again when your books hit the shelf.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meet Jessie Harrell

Today, I am conducting an interview with an aspiring author. *Drum roll please.* JESSE HARRELL! So please welcome her to my little blog by leaving comments below and say hi.

I met Jessie through YALITCHAT and, of course, I stalk her on twitter.

Always meeting such great people. Remember---networking!

I have had the opportunity to read just the first few pages of Jessie's novel DESTINED. And if those few pages are any indication, then the book is definitely going to delivered. You can see more here and here

I also blog with some fabulous ladies over at Oasis for YA

If you’d like to stalk me too, I can be found on twitter under the very stealth code name: @jessieharrell (shhh! Don’t tell.)

When DESTINED does make it to the place where all of us aspiring authors dream to be, I would love to read the ARC. Did anyone see the hint there??

You got it. In fact, if DESTINED gets that far, I might even vlog a little happy dance for you.

Okay, off to meet to Jessie....

Tell me a little about yourself.....

Such an open-ended question – you’d never get away with asking that in a trial. Hee, hee. See, that was my way of letting your know I’m a lawyer. I can be very clever like that. :)

In a nutshell, I’m a wife, a mother, a former litigator turned part-time appellate attorney, and an aspiring author – not necessarily in that order. Depends on the day. I like summer more than winter; coffee better than tea; and I’ll eat chocolate just-about-anything (I draw the line at crickets, grasshoppers, etc.).

When you were a child, what was your favorite series?

I LOVED Sweet Valley High – couldn’t get enough of those twins. Of course, I was much more like the studious Elizabeth than the crazy Jessica. Just sayin’

When did you realize you wanted to write?

Not until a few years ago. My daughters were probably 2 and 3 at the time and my husband said, “We should write children’s books. Anyone can do that.” *eye roll* He bought books on writing children’s books for dummies, I took the online writing class, and the rest is history. Poor guy now sits around watching TV at night while I click away on the keyboard. I don’t think he knew what he was suggesting…

Which author inspires you the most?

Hard question. Right now I’m fascinated with Shelena Shorts, who wrote THE PACE and THE BROKEN LAKE. She’s a high school teacher and went through a slump where she couldn’t find the type of book she wanted to read, so she wrote it. And the results are amazing. *YOU* should read her books.

Have you written any other novels before DESTINED?

No. DESTINED is my first baby, but it did take me two years and the beginning has changed more times than I can count. I’ve read so many author stories about how their first novel was crap and they’re glad no one will ever see it. I didn’t want to be like that – I wanted to keep reworking DESTINED until it wasn’t crap. You know?

Where did the idea for DESTINED come from?

I was a classics major in undergrad and read the myth of Cupid & Psyche then. I LOVED the story… sort of an ancient precursor to Beauty and the Beast (my fav Disney movie BTW). But I wanted to modernize it… make Psyche (now Sadie) self-sufficient, give her friends, really see her personality. (And it was so much fun going back and researching ancient Greek history & culture again for the book.)

What methods did you use to breathe life into your characters?

I really tried to put myself in Sadie’s position. I know everyone says not to make your characters a mini-me, but I found – for my first novel at least – that made it easier to give her flaws and irrational reactions and all those other fun personality quirks.

I also created a big bulletin board and tacked up pictures of real people who I thought looked like the characters. It was easier to write about the sister, Marilee’s, hateful pout when I could see her pretentious, snotty face sitting right in front of me.

Can you give us a teaser?

(Not sure which you want) Logline teaser:

When Sadie destroys the one relationship she can’t live without, she must journey alone through ancient Greece, and confront the goddess who wants her dead, if she wants to reclaim an immortal love.

Line from the book teaser (if you know this myth, you’ll be able to appreciate the romance here):

As if to answer my thoughts, he reached a satiny, smooth hand to my face and let his finger trail from my cheek down my jaw line. “Sadie, I’m not monster. I love you, and I will love you always.”

Quick but oh so satisfying:

Vanilla or Chocolate? Vanilla ice cream; chocolate everything else.

Cookies or Cupcakes? Cookies

Werewolves or Zombies? Werewolves

Sparkly vampires or traditional vampires? BOTH (I love me some vampires)

Orlando Bloom or Johnny Depp? Johnny Depp (but neither are as cute as RPatz or Pierce Brosnan – I love Brits who wear a suit well)

Coke or Pepsi? Coke

Since a lot of us are in the same boat as you...the query stage. We can all relate to this.

How many times did you revise your manuscript?

There’s no real way to measure this, since I revised as I wrote. Especially early on. Let’s face it, I needed a lot more work in the first half of the book as I was “learning” to write. As far as full, front to back edits though, I’d say I did at least five.

How many betas did you use?

Loads. I let everyone who wanted to read DESTINED have it in exchange for feedback. I think I had 5 junior betas (under 18) and 6 or so adult betas. More read it, but didn’t offer very critical feedback. I found making the junior beta’s fill out questionnaires got me far more substantive feedback (thanks to L.M. Preston for that tip).

I'm going to pipe in here and say that what an excellent idea it is to use beta readers from the market you are selling to.

What sources did you use to find readers?

SCBWI conferences, YALitChat, twitter, and friends’ kids. On twitter, I found a retired classics professor who gave me the most substantive feedback of anyone. She was particularly awesome. But I owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone who read for me.

Was there ever a scene you just absolutely loved, but the majority of your betas said it wasn't necessary?

Originally, DESTINED had a lot more mythology woven into. Too much. I ended up pulling a couple of the info-dump scenes and turning them into (hopefully) amusing "news" articles on my website. At least I got to use them somehow, right?

I did cut over 10,000 words in edits. It wasn’t a scene, but there were lots of places I needed to cut out narrative and telling. The manuscript got better as it got leaner.

Any recommendations for fellow writers?

Writing is thrilling and we all want to dive into a story head-first. But spend some time learning the skills (conferences, websites, blogs, etc.) and loving other authors’ work. The more I read, the better my own writing skills become.

What sources did you use to perfect your query letter?

MANY! It started with my online writing course, continued through an online class by CJ Redwine, read a TON online, and didn’t finally get it “right” until I sent it through the query kick around on YALitChat.

I'm not sure about most people, but I hate writing a synopsis. What's your feeling about them?

You mean the two-page document that exists only to torment me? Actually, I didn’t hate it that much. It took awhile, but condensing the story into 2 paragraphs for a query was harder for me than boiling it down to 2 pages. *Please don’t thrown stones*

Tell us a little about what you did to choose your favorite agents?

Originally, I found my top agent picks through twitter. Then I realized that not every amazing agent who reps YA will be a tweeting fool (although there are some WAY cool tweeting agents, for sure.) Again, I fell back to the internet (querytracker, etc.), agent insider on YALitChat and meeting agents at conferences.

How many queries have you sent out?

Can I plead the 5th? Let’s just say it’s been a “few.”

Have you gotten any requests?

I made the common rookie mistake of querying too early. My first round of queries (last fall) was a big waste. But thankfully, yes. At one point this spring, I think I had 5 fulls or partials out there. Sadly, while I have some lovely “refrigerator rejections,” I don’t yet have an agent. I took a query hiatus over the summer and expect to pick up again in the fall. Probably after another round of revisions. But right now I’m having too much fun writing another, completely unrelated, book!

Most of us can relate to that!!!!

Now I know this has happened to me. Did your dream agent reject your manuscript?

*sobs hysterically into a handkerchief* I actually had 2 dream agents and both passed. *wail* One said she’d like to read anything else I write though, so truly, I can’t complain.

Any other advice you'd like to share?

I just read it on someone else’s blog, and it’s so true: the only way to 100% guarantee that you WON’T get an agent or get published, is to give up. Look at Jay Asher (13 Reasons Why) -- it took him 10 years to write the novel that would eventually get his name in print. But he never gave up.

And there you have, right from an aspiring author just like me and maybe a few of you.

Thank you so very much for visiting my little blog, Jessie. I hope you'll let me interview you again when you snag an agent then again when your book hits the shelf.

Absolutely!! Thank you so much for being interested in me and my “pre-published” book (I love that Georgia McBride-ism). I hope to see your name on a book binding one day soon, too.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Interview with author Jessica Souders

Today, I am ever so pleased to invite Jessica Souders to my little blog. So everyone please welcome her by leaving comments below.

I met Jessica by joining her blog, and then participated in one of her Secret Agent contests. Once again, I highly encourage others to always join contests. Great way to meet peeps and to learn all about writing. In addition to having SA contests, Jessica also has query help available. She helped whip my query right into shape.

Her blog can be found here - Angels and Demons and Portals. Oh My!

Jessica is a newly discovered talent represented by Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. Both of her novels, MIRROR IMAGE and THE EXILED are currently being shopped around to publishers.

I was lucky enough to beta read (something else I recommend doing) THE EXILED, and I can certainly say she should have no problem selling them. Both books should be up on a shelf at your local bookstore soon.

Now to Jessica....

Please share a little about yourself.....

I hate this question. LOL. Everyone always wants me to talk about myself and I never know what to say. :D In a nutshell, I’m a nerd, a bibliophile, a mother, a wife, and a klutz. I’ve been a klutz my whole life, before Bella Swan made it cool. :D Seriously. I’ve been known to trip over invisible curbs only I can find.

When did you become aware of your love for books?

I’ve always loved books. I’m pretty sure I was born with a book in hand. But I’d say the turning point was when I joined this contest my middle school was doing where you had to read a certain number of books they’ve chosen and then you would answer questions based on those books. One particular book caught my interest from the first page and I couldn’t put it down. It took place on the Jersey shore and was about a girl whose family had bought into a bed and breakfast. I don’t really remember a whole lot more about it, but it had romance and a ghost. From that day forward, I was a bibliophile. My parents used to hide my books so I would do something other than read!

What was the deciding factor that made you finally decide to write a novel?

I used to write all the time when I was in school, and had plans on being a writer when I graduated college, but then life interfered and I put it off to the side. It wasn’t until I had a dream about my uncle—who’d passed away 5 years earlier—that I started writing again. He used to give me angels all the time and was always very supportive of me in everything I did. I basically wrote my very first, very horrible story for him. I’ve since fixed it and it morphed into THE EXILED, which still deals with my angels, but it’s very different from the original.

Did you write any other books before MIRROR IMAGE or THE EXILED?

Yes. I’ve written a total of 6 complete novels and have several WIPs I’ve put off to the side. Most of those manuscripts, though, will NEVER see the light of day. LOL. They’re crap. Seriously. I think of them as my training wheels..

What inspired to you write paranormal?

Well, the idea of angels came from my uncle, and then I fell in love with world building. Yes, I know I’m insane. I’ve written contemporary, but I loved how I could twist the world in a paranormal to the way I saw it. That there is this secret world filled with the creatures that go bump in the night that the average human has no idea about.

Did you base your characters on people you know?
Not intentionally, no. Some of my characters did end up having traits of people close to me. For instance, Patrick is similar to my husband. Except my husband is a southern redneck instead of an Irish heartbreaker with a great accent. :D

Can you give us a teaser of both books?

MIRROR IMAGE: Lily Baker is losing her mind. She could have sworn that a stranger rescued her when her car careened into the murky waters of a local lake. But no one saw him, and all Lily can remember is his emerald eyes. It's probably all from the concussion, or so the seventeen-year-old thinks until she gets home and finds the mysterious stranger waiting for her on the other side of her bedroom mirror. Has she gone insane? Lily doesn't know what to believe anymore. Is it madness or her destiny waiting on the other side of the glass?

THE EXILED: Brianna knows she’s half-angel, but she doesn’t know she’s been sent to Ireland for protection and training, or that falling in love with her guardian’s apprentice could mean his death and her damnation.

Quick but oh so satisfying:

Vanilla or Chocolate? Chocolate

Cookies or Cupcakes? Cookies, cupcakes are too messy.

Angels or Vampires? Angels, but I think a few sexy vampires have their place.

Johnny Depp or Hugh Jackman? Yes please!! <---Excellent answer!

Wine or Beer? Wine

Okay, now to what unpublished writers want to know....

How did you perfect your query letter?

Well, I guess the question really would be what didn’t I do? I wrote it and then sent it off to my beta readers, then gritted my teeth through critiques from, who TORE it to shreds. But they helped make it a TON better and then I sent it off.

How many agents did you query?


How many partial and/or full requests did you receive?

A lot? LOL. I don’t really remember. I think it was close to a 50% success rate, but of those that didn’t request, I didn’t usually get a form reject. I know one agent had something similar on her list, but invited me to requery if I hadn’t found an agent in a year. Another liked my premise, but didn’t think she had the contacts for a YA science fiction. And it’s SOO subjective!

What made you choose Ms. Fischer to query?

Intuition. Seriously. I was going through and their Bewares and Background Checks board, looking up agents I was thinking of querying. I got a little tingle when I saw her name, so I researched her and researched her. Then I went to her site and read up on their submission requirements. It was like being dunked in freezing water. They wanted a partial off the bat, snail mailed. I couldn’t send it. My printer didn’t work and I didn’t want to spend money on postage for a no response. But I just couldn’t get her off my mind. I finally begged my husband’s boss to let me print from their printer and bit the price of postage to send it off.

How did you know she was a perfect match?

We clicked. That sounds vague, but that’s all there was to it. She was more enthusiastic about my work, than I was. Before I signed, she gave me a list of edits she wanted made and then told me what she saw for my book. It was exactly what I wanted and the edits were exactly right and things I’d been planning for another edit before I did another round of querying.

You got an agent--now what?

Now I wait and write another story. I LOVE having an agent, because I get to write and she does all the hard work. While she’s submitting and taking notes from different editors (very similar to the agent querying process) I get to spend time working on my WIPs. I don’t have to spend time trying to find someone to love me. :D

Can you tell us a little more about the process?

There isn’t much more to tell. Natalie told me the edits she wanted would take about a month to complete (she was exactly right) and then I’d be on submission. I’ve been on sub for a while, but that’s pretty common and in the publishing world isn’t very long at all. If there is one thing I’ve learned during this whole process it’s that publishing has it’s own time period. LOL.

Any advice you'd like to share?

Learn patience. Seriously. Don’t rush anything. It’s not worth it. Take the time to research, EVERYTHING. And most of all, keep writing and having fun doing it.

And there you have, right from an agented author. A very talented one at that.

Thank you so very much for visiting my little blog, Jessica. Maybe you'll do us the honor again when your books hit the shelf. Let us know how exciting that is for you.

Okay.. Just to thank my followers....I'm giving away a Barnes and Noble gift card to one lucky person. All you have to do is leave a comment, and for an extra entry, tweet this. Be sure to leave your link for verification purposes.

Contest ends Sunday, August 15th.