Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interview with Lena Coakley, author of WITCHLANDERS!!

So guys, please give a great applause to Lena Coakley since her book, WITHCLANDERS, hits the shelves today! I had the pleasure of reading an ARC, and I just LOVED it! That's why I asked her if she wanted to do an interview on my blog, and omg, she said, YES!! :D 

Lena was born in Milford, Connecticut and grew up on Long Island. In high school, creative writing was the only class she ever failed (nothing was ever good enough to hand in!), but, undeterred, she went on to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She got interested in young adult literature when she moved to Toronto, Canada, and began working for CANSCAIP, the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers, where she eventually became the Administrative Director.  She is now a full-time writer living in Toronto.  Witchlanders is her debut novel.

Now, a little bit about her book, which by the way got a starred review from Kirkus!

High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.
It’s all a fake.
At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?
But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—
Are about him.
If you liked the synopsis, click on the picture to go to Amazon and buy the book! ;)


1) Could you tell us a bit of how you wrote WITCHLANDERS? (Like, did you outline first? How long did you take? How many drafts? etc.)

When I started WITCHLANDERS, I didn’t know as much about plot as I do now, so I wasn’t terribly successful at making outlines. I tried, but mostly I wrote the first draft by feeling my way along, scene by scene.  That’s the long route, I can tell you!  I outlined again at the beginning of every major revision, and every time I think I understood more about drama, about what makes a story.  WITCHLANDERS was where I learned to write.  No matter how many writing books you read, there is nothing like actually writing a novel to teach you how it’s done. 

I’m afraid to actually count how many drafts are on my computer, but I honestly think it is probably close to a hundred.  There are certainly enough cut scenes to make two other books.  That’s not an exaggeration.  I’m a big believer in cutting deep when revising.  In fact, I think the difference between a good writer who is published and a good writer who is not published is often the willingness to be ruthless during the revision process.

I'm not surprised. I mean, when I read WITCHLANDERS, I could tell all the dedication you had put into it :)
2) How many novels have you written?

In my experience, authors often have one to three “trunk novels,” novels that they wrote before their first published book, but that are now languishing in a trunk because they didn’t really work.  (I have it on good authority that one of my favorite authors, Kelley Armstrong, has a dystopian trunk novel hidden away somewhere.  I would PAY to see that!)

If a published author doesn’t have trunk novels, it means that their first novel probably took at least six years because, while they didn’t really know what they were doing, they just couldn’t give up on that first project.  I’m in that category.  WITCHLANDERS was the first novel I completed, but it took me ten years to finish.

I honestly don’t think that one method is better than the other.  In fact, sometimes putting a novel aside and starting another one is absolutely the thing to do.  Aspiring authors can get very burned out revising and revising that first project.  It’s devastating to come to terms with the fact that, after all that work, it might not be the book that is going to get them published, but sometimes it just isn’t.  Of course, if anyone had told me that with WITCHLANDERS I wouldn’t have listened.  I was a dog with a bone!  So any aspiring authors reading this will have to decide if they want to do what I say or do what I did!

That's an inspiring answer!
3) Was it with WITCHLANDERS that you landed your agent?

Yes.  Landing my agent, Steven Malk of Writers House, was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.  He did two years of exclusive revisions with me on WITCHLANDERS before offering me a contract.  I am still in awe of his patience.  That first-time-authors-don’t-know-what-they’re-doing thing?  He totally got that.  I was literally making progress by writing a scene and throwing it out, writing a scene and throwing it out.  I was afraid he’d retire or forget who I was before I finished! I have wonderful beta readers, but his critiques took the book to a whole new level. 

4) How long did it take to get the book deal since you started writing seriously?

It depends on what you mean by writing seriously.  Writing WITCHLANDERS wasn’t just where I learned to write, it was where I learned to be a writer.  Ten years ago when this book began, I had a lot of trouble getting to my desk—I had a lot of resistance.  It must have taken me at least three years to figure out how to have the discipline to be productive.  I’m going to say ten years, but learning to write seriously was a gradual process.

I'm so glad you never gave up! 
Now a couple of questions just for fun.
- Guilty pleasure? (That has nothing to do with books.)

Oh, I adore going out to lunch, and I do it far too often.  I don’t need to go with friends, either; I’m perfectly happy to sit in a restaurant by myself. Ummm.  I’m actually doing it right now as I right this!

- Can you tell us something fun about you that we probably don't know?

When I was in High School, I sang in a backup choir for Barry Manilo.  I even got to sing at Radio City Music Hall!
That's lovely!

Thanks so much!! I'm really excited about this interview! <3

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Monica!!!

PS: I'll post the winners (from the contest with agent Vickie Motter) this week.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Agent-Judged Contest with Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management!

THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. Thanks for participating! 

The day of the contest with Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management is here, you guys!!!!

Time to post your pitches and your first page. GOOD LUCK.

Before posting, though, please read the rules carefully:

1) The contest will close as soon as 50 people enter.

2) Post your one-sentence pitch and your first page (250 words or less!!) on the comment section of this post. 

3) The contest is for finished YA and adult fiction novels (fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, dystopian, and post-apocalyptic). Please note that Ms. Motter doesn’t represent MG!!

4) This is only for unagented writers.

5) Since I’m doing this to help, you don’t need to be a follower, but I’d love it if you are. And I’d love it if you’d also follow me on Twitter.  And follow Vickie Motter too, of course!

What should you post below?

-Your Name
-Title of your book
-Word-count of your manuscript
-The one-sentence pitch
- Your first page (250 words). No more than 250, and please don’t stop mid sentence.
-Your email

If you’re a bit lost: I’m pasting a few links so you can read more about writing short pitches.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Interview with Agent Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management AND Contest Announcement!!

Hey guys, I’ve got great news. I’m going to be hosting another agent-judged contest next Monday with Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management!!! A big applause for her, please, since she’s so awesome. Have you been following her blog, Navigating the Slush Pile? Well, she has this amazing series, her “Wednesday Reads,” in where she reviews a book and says if she would represent it or not. I think it’s a great way to see if she would be a good fit for you. For a full bio of her, go here.

To gear up for the upcoming contest, and so that you can get to know her better, today I’m bringing you guys an interview with Vickie. I hope you enjoy!
(More information about the contest below the interview.)

1) How and why did you decide to become a literary agent?

I started with Andrea Hurst as an intern right out of college and immediately fell in love with the business. Being a literary agent just felt natural to me. I love working behind the scenes and promoting authors, working with them to develop their craft and plot, getting to know their characters every bit as well as they do. Like I said, it was a natural choice, and I love every minute of it.

2) So, from your blog we know you represent:

YA: fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, contemporary, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and steam punk.
Adult: fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, dystopian, and post-apocalyptic.
Adult Non-fiction: cookbooks with a strong platform, humorous memoirs, healthy living, narrative, and current events.
But among those fiction genres, would you rather represent a commercial book like Twilight or a more literary one, like The Book Thief—or both?

Now that is just a mean question. Twilight vs The Book Thief? Okay, if I had to choose one of those, I'd choose The Book Thief (based on the book alone, not sales obviously). But I understand your question. Do I normally gravitate towards more commercial or literary books? Commercial. I love a good fast paced read. I'm definitely of the generation of instant gratification. But I do enjoy a little emotional manipulation in my novels as well.

3) We also know you’re an editorial agent. What part of the editorial process with your clients do you like the most? And are you the hand-holding type of agent, or your clients are “big kids,” now and don't need your hand?

Of course all my clients are "big kids"! But I enjoy holding their hands anyways. Odd way to phrase it. But really, I enjoy interacting with my clients. If they have questions about any aspect of the business, I'm happy to enlighten them (you'll notice I do the same thing on my blog). I love the entire editorial process. I mentioned above I love getting to know a story as well as the creator knows it. I really just love being part of the process--being allowed to be part of the process. It's a huge reward to me.

I can imagine that--being part of the process! It makes me want to be a literary agent myself, lol. 
4) Can you tell us why writers would be thrilled to have you as their agent?

You're really asking me to toot my own horn here, aren't you? [Ha, I guess I am!!] Well, I'm a newer agent, and as such I love working with debut authors. We get to go through this journey together, build our respective careers together. I have tons of passion for my job, for this business (can you tell yet?) and I channel that right into working for my writers and promoting them to editors (other writers, people on the street who really don't even want to hear about it, etc).

Oh and I must add, though it's not directly related to the question, that when I sign a new client, when they give me their "Yes! I'll work with you!" I do my own happy dance. You think you're excited to sign with an agent? I'm as equally excited to have found you and get to work with you.

Awesome! I think we’d all like to see you happy dancing! ;)
5) When you’re submitting a manuscript to editors, do you get nervous, too?

Oh you bet. But it's more of an excited nervousness. I press "send" and think, "Oh, you're gonna love this and fall at my feet in appreciation that I've sent it to you." Have I mentioned that I'm my writers' biggest fans?

6) Where do you hope to be in five years from now?

I hope to still be with Andrea Hurst, living in the Northwest, with a small (manageable) flock of writers who have all seen the best seller list. But don't we all? Really, in five years, I just want to still be in this business working with writers I love and seeing them get to where they want to be in their careers.

7) Anything else you’d like to say? Maybe a tip for the upcoming contest on Love YA?

My best piece of advice, any time you're pitching (queries, contests, conferences), remember that the agent is just a person, a reader, and we're looking for something to love. That said, a specific tip, keep your one sentence pitch short and snappy. Don't try to shove too much into one sentence. If you get to the heart of your story and convey a little of why we'll love it (the voice, maybe), you've done your job.

Excellent advice, I must say!

And now the 4Fs.  (Fast Five For Fun!)

Guilty pleasure?   (That has nothing to do with books??)
Running through sprinklers.

Some random and funny fact about you that we probably don’t know? 
I'm one of four kids, somewhere in the middle, the only one with bad eyesight, a penchant for books, played a musical instrument in school, and thinks baseball is a silly sport (though I enjoy playing it).

Professional food spiller or spick-and-span lady?
Food spiller for sure. I had a special cup when I was a kid that is *almost* impossible to knock over.

(I'm a food spiller too! *high 5*)
If you could go anywhere, where would you go? (Psst, you can say you’d like to visit me in Chile... kidding! ;D)

The Bahamas with my Dad on his sailboat. (slash sail to Chile!!!) I'd lay out on the deck with a book and work on my tan. Ah the simple pleasures in life. If I had to choose anywhere else, I'd love to visit some old castles in Europe, hopefully some haunted ones.

What's the one possession you couldn't live without?

A large and well stocked kitchen.

Thank you so much for doing this interview on Love YA! 

And, guys, here's more interesting info about Vickie Motter!

The best way to query VM (Link): By e-mail, vickie@andreahurst.com. Send a query letter, with "Query" somewhere in the subject line. More information can be found at andreahurst.com and my blog, navigatingtheslushpile.blogspot.com.
Sample Pages: Yes. 5 pasted below the query.

She Tweets, too. She’s really nice! This is the link for you to follow her on Twitter!

And here, you have a nice interview with Vickie on Guide to Literary Agents Blog.
There’s also this other interview, in where she talks about querying, among other things, on Mother Write Repeat.

And last, but definitely not least, I encourage you to check her Agency’s Blog, in where they have an exciting line up of interviews, authors, editors, agents!

Now, about the contest.

1) It will open at 10:00 a.m. EST, on the 22th, and it will close as soon as 50 people enter the contest. (Don’t post your pitches under this post.)

2) Polish your one-sentence pitch and your first page (250 words). There will be two winners. One winner for the best first page and another winner for the best pitch. The prices will be a query critique and a 5pg critique. And if Ms. Motter likes other pitches or pages, she will request partials.

3) The contest will be for finished YA and adult fiction novels (fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, dystopian, and post-apocalyptic). Please note that Ms. Motter doesn’t represent MG!!

4) This is only for unagented writers only.

5) Since I’m doing this to help, you don’t need to be a follower, but I’d love it if you are. And I’d love it if you’d follow me on Twitter too ;)

6) Please, spread the word. I’m not going to haunt you if you don’t, but it’d make me REALLY happy if lots of people had the chance to enter.

What should you post next week?

-Your Name
-Title of your book
-Word-count of your manuscript
-The one-sentence pitch
-Your first page (250 words). No more than 250, and please don’t stop mid sentence.
-Your email

If you’re a bit lost: I’m pasting a few links so you can read more about writing short pitches.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tour of Secrets!!

Hey Guys! Did you know that my friend, Heather McCorkle, is releasing her first novel, The Secret Of SpruceKnoll, this month? To celebrate the book's birthday she's doing a blog tour and contest followed by a live chat on YA Bound  August 30th with a separate giveaway. The blog tour ends August 31st. 

I'll tell you what you can win at the end of this post (YES, there are amazing prices!!).
But first, Heather will answer one personal question so that we can get to know her better!  

What is a secret hobby of yours that most of us don't know about?

Okay but you have to promise not to tell anyone. Wait, you’re telling everyone aren't you?! LOL! Okay, okay. I love martial arts, have since I was a kid. I'm a second degree (dan) black belt in Tae-kwon-do. Tournaments is one of my favorite things to participate in, though I don't get to do them much anymore since I moved away from civilization. 
I'm the middle one in this picture, yep, the one with the goofy grin. :)

(Isn't that awesome! I'm bummed that we only have one picture of Heather like that and we don't have a video of her breaking a board or something. LOL.)

And if you haven't heard about The Secret Of SpruceKnoll, here's the blurb and the OMG-AMAZING cover!! 

It's hard enough being a teenager under normal circumstances; imagine being orphaned, sent to live with an unfamiliar aunt-and learning that there really is magic in the world. Following the tragic death of her parents, Eren Donovan moves to Spruce Knoll to live with her aunt. Little does Eren know the entire town of Spruce Knoll is filled with so-called "channelers"-a magical group of people who immigrated to the small Colorado town when they were driven out of their own lands.

Channelers are tied to the fate of the world. As the world slowly dies, so do they-and they alone have the power to stop the destruction of Earth. Now, Eren learns she not only lives among them, but she is one. When she meets local boy Aiden, his charming tricks show her being a channeler isn't all bad; in fact, it's kind of cool. But is it Aiden's abilities or Aiden's looks that Eren finds so fascinating?

As Eren and Aiden's relationship blooms, so too does a mystery in Spruce Knoll. The town holds many secrets-and many enemies. It soon becomes apparent that the untimely death of Eren's parents was no accident and that her life might be in danger, too. Only time will tell if young, inexperienced Eren has the power to protect the people she has come to love.
Okay, now the prices:

1st place: 
*$50 gift certificate to B&N (or the Book Depository if you're over seas). 
*Autographed copy of The Secret Of Spruce Knoll 
*Special swag bag

2nd place: 
*Swag bag filled with:

*Autographed copy of The Secret Of Spruce Knoll 
*Spoiled by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

*Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan 
*Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick 
*A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young 

3rd place: 
*Autographed copy of The Secret Of Spruce Knoll 
*Swag bag

The Rules: You can earn extra points, but if you don’t want to, you don't have to. You can just be a follower of Heather's Odyssey and leave a comment on her post saying you'd like to enter to win. But if you want extra points/entries here's how you can get them:

+1 for being a follower of Heather's Odyssey and commenting (+1 for each blog participating in the giveaway that you follow and comment on. Winners must follow Heather's Odyssey but aren't required to follow each blog participating, you just get more points if you do!).
+2 for adding The Secret Of Spruce Knoll to your To-Read shelf on Goodreads or Shelfari.
+3 for tweeting or posting on Facebook about the giveaway.
+4 for Blogging about The Secret Of Spruce Knoll giveaway.
+5 for placing a link on the sidebar of your blog about the giveaway.