Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Meet Hilary Wagner

Today, I have another author visiting my little blog.

Hilary Wagner

*Squeeeeeeee! With a parade of rats!*

Hilary is also the author of newly released NIGHTSHADE CITY.

You can learn more about it here. My suggestion.....buy the book and read it. Excellent. I seriously haven't read a book starring animals since CHARLOTTE'S WEB, THE SECRET OF NIMH, WATERSHIP DOWN, and THE LAST UNICORN. We don't need to speak of how long ago that was. This novel ranks right up there with the greats. Beautifully crafted and just a great read.

I'm facebook friends with Hilary and through YALITCHAT. And I'm part of Team Nightshade City. Also, can't forget twitter.

Hilary is talented enough to be represented by the wonderful Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Galt Literary Agency.

And once again, I've provided enough links to prove I am a stalker.

Let's meet Hilary Wagner....

Tell us a little about yourself...

Hmmm...where do I start? Well, I write middle grade and YA novels, usually with a creepy slant. My first book, NIGHTSHADE CITY, released in October. Book II releases October of next year, along with Nightshade City's paperback. I live in Chicago with my awesome and super cute husband, Eric, our two kids, Vincent and Nomi (also super cute) and an entirely too neurotic Italian Greyhound, Louie.

When did your passion for reading take root?

I was actually a reluctant reader. My mother told me in first grade that if I started reading she'd give me a prize for every book I read. Well, she had me at prize! A good bribe always works. Needless to say, she soon didn't need to give me anything to gobble up a book. ;)

What is the very first story you ever wrote?

Actually, NIGHTSHADE CITY. I was very, very fortunate to get my first manuscript published. I just knew if I was ever going to write anything it would be about rats. I also knew it was a big risk. I don't know exactly why rats had to be my first book, maybe because they're so misunderstood and I love their Halloween charm, but here I am today, rats and all! Oh, and when I was in 4th grade I wrote a PB about a mouse and ladybug...it landed me an A! I guess I've always been a rodent advocate!

When did you realize you had a knack for constructing beautiful worlds from your imagination?

Gosh, I still don't think I've realized that! I suppose I just write about somewhere I'd want to go, to explore, something entirely different than anything I've ever known. My worlds almost always end up being underground. Ever since I was little, I've always imagined living in a quaint little underground home, deep in the earth, so it only makes sense that I write about it!

Favorite genre you like to read?

My tastes run pretty eclectic. I love animal fantasy, clearly! I also love quirky books about witches and creatures and pretty much any weird character with a lot of baggage! Reminds me of myself, I guess!

What author provided the most inspiration for you?

I'm a big fan of Gregory Maguire. I read WICKED back in the 90's and, for some reason, the book just spoke to me. I think it's how he builds his characters. They are multi-layered, even the ones that aren't key to the story. For anyone who wants to develop their characters a little more, Maguire has a fantastic body of work for that.

Can you give us a teaser of NIGHTSHADE CITY?

Okay, here's a little about our villain, Billycan. Everyone seems to love to hate him! Who wouldn't
love a wicked albino rat that speaks in the third person? ;)

Billycan ambled down the corridor of Sector 337 leering broadly. His red eyes flashed against the flickering torch light, making the towering snow white rat appear more maniacal than usual. He swung his beloved billy club, as he raucously called for the High Ministry's weekly Stipend. "Billycan thinks you should be more generous to your Ministry. Don't try my patience, Billycan wants the Stipend paid now!"

Billycan served his Ministry well, holding the dual title of High Collector of Stipend and Commander of the Kill Army. He was dangerously clever and wicked to his core. His depravity and sadistic persecution of Catacomb rats were legendary.

Citizens claimed Billycan was possessed, supernatural even. The old ones told how he once drove a rat to stab himself, mesmerizing him with his eyes. The rat lived through the ordeal, claiming that Billycan's eyes glowed like galvanized rubies, two glass bulbs filled with a red vapory substance, commanding him to take his useless life.

What about KINGS OF TRILLIUM? When will it be released?

Well, we are changing the title, so still working on that. My editor thinks KINGS OF TRILLIUM might be better for the third book (and hopefully there'll be one!). Book II will be released in October of 2011. We are working on edits now!

First thing that pops into your mind time...

Favorite pie? Key Lime, baby!

Chocolate or vanilla? Both!

If you were on an island, who would you want to be stranded with? Hubbie and kids!

An embarrassing moment that happened to you? My first speaking engagement! I stammered like an idiot!

First thing you notice on a person? Eyes!

Favorite movie? Right now, Hot Tub Time Machine. Yes, I admit it! It was hysterical! My daughter (2 years old) and I love Lilo & Stitch. It's our favorite kid movie.

Best song ever? Buona Sera by Louis Prima

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

Did you write/query any other novels before NIGHTSHADE CITY?

NIGHTSHADE CITY was the one and only.

What sources did you use to perfect your manuscript?

Actually, none. I never used any writing books or critique groups. I rewrote the book twice. I know it sounds corny, but I just wrote from my gut and did the same with my editing. If a scene didn't feel right or the rhythm of the words didn't work for me, I reworked it.

When did you know...Okay, this is as good as it is going to get, I'm querying this baby?

I never knew for sure, but I hoped! You can only do so much before you want to stick a fork in your eye! Sometimes you just have to say it's done.

Apparently you wrote an excellent query, how many requests did you receive?

I received a lot of partial and full requests, but after all was said and done only one offer of representation, luckily it was with the agency on the tippy-top of my list! Nancy Gallt Agency has an amazing list of authors, many bestsellers!

What sources did you use to compose your list of choice agents?

Anything and everything! I was looking for an agent that not only represented my genre, but someone I would like! I think forging some kind of friendship with anyone you work closely with is very important. Luckily, I found that in Marietta Zacker. She's honest, smart and witty, understands all sides of the publishing industry and she makes me laugh. She also keeps me sane and checks in frequently via email and phone. Agent Query, Absolutewrite and Preditors & Editors were my top sources. I usually crossed referenced all three. It was really disturbing to find out that there were scam artists out there, portraying themselves as agents. I had no idea that you'd come across that in the literary world, but it's one of those things you don’t know until you know. There are a lot of horror stories out there. You have to be careful!

Can you tell us what happened after representation?

My agent didn't think the manuscript needed any editing before submitting, so it went out to editors about two weeks after I signed. The book was sold in less than two months. It was very exciting. It took me over a year to land an agent, so I expected another long road. I was so surprised when my agent called me with the news! We had another great house also interested in the book, but they wanted a lot of work done before making an offer, which I was totally willing to do, mind you! Then we got the offer from Holiday House and things just felt right!

What happens after a publisher agrees to take your book?

Julie Amper, my editor, called me right away and spoke about her thoughts on the book and how things would go with editing. She was extremely personable and had fantastic feedback on the manuscript that really helped make the book better. It was an extremely fluid process. Holiday House has been around since 1935 and they have their stuff down to a science!

I want to know, what did it feel like when your agent sold your book?

I don't know how to describe it. I think I was in shock. It took a few days to sink in that my book, MY BOOK, was going to be published. Then, once it sunk in, I freaked out! Called my entire family and got to listen to them freak out! The best call was to my husband moments after my agent called me. He was as surprised as me, but also said he wasn't surprised at all. He knew it would get published! Now that's a great husband!

Any other advice you'd like to share for us aspiring writers?

Gosh, keep trying, keep working, keep fighting and keep writing! I was rejected approximately 175 times. Just when I was at my wits end, I got THE CALL! I think as an aspiring writer you have to live by the phrase, "It only takes one yes!" I started to really believe that and things started to happen!

And there you have, right from another agented author.

Thank you so very much for visiting my little blog. I hope you can visit us again...and soon.

Thanks so much for having me! It's been a lot of fun and I'd love to come back anytime!


  1. Inspiring tale. I love rats too, and I have some in a piece I'm writing. I will check out the book, and good luck with it!

  2. Rats always get a bad rap, so thanks for helping to enhance their image, Hillary. Loved the interview, Ebyss.

  3. Thanks Catherine and CLee!! Ebyss thanks so much for having me on your blog today! It was great fun! RATS RULE!!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  4. Congrats on the publication! My first glance at the cover made me think of Brian Jacques's Redwall series. I always had a fondness for his critters, and I also have a fondness for "any weird character with lots of baggage!"

  5. congrats on the book, Hilary! Loved Secret of Nymh as a kid and your underground world sounds fantastic. You're a great inspiration!