Chris Rylander recently signed with agent Steven Malk of Writers House and has sold a two book deal to Simon & Schuster. Congratulations Chris, and thank you for agreeing to our little interview.
Query Tracker: How long have you been writing?
Chris Rylander: Since about June 2006. I was at work, feeling bored with my job, and decided to finally attempt a novel. It was something I always wanted to do, but it was one of those things where I always said, "Eh, maybe some other time." I eventually realized that if I didn't just do it, "some other time" would turn into "never."
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you
to stay on course?
CR: Not really. I knew there'd be a lot of rejection. I was prepared for it and ready to keep going no matter what.
QT: Is this your first book?
CR: No, I wrote two other books before this one.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
CR: I started it in March 2007. Then I finished it and worked on revisions with my agent until October 2007.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
CR: None whatsoever.
QT: Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
CR: Not really. I do almost all of my writing on lunch breaks while at my day job.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
CR: I did two major revisions with my agent. So, two.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
CR: I do not outline. I just start with a single idea (usually the first sentence) and go from there. But as I progress through the story, I'll start to make more and more little notes to myself that sort of turn into an outline.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
CR: For this book, I only sent out three queries, none of which went to my agent, oddly enough. What happened was, I sent him a query for my first novel, which was a humorous adult book. He called me that same day and said that he loved my query and thought my "voice" would work really well for young adult or middle grade and would I be willing to try that. I'd always wanted to try writing Children's books, so I said sure. I then wrote a YA novel and sent it to him. A few months later he sent me a very kind, encouraging rejection for that book (and rightly so, looking back, that book had some issues.) But in that rejection he also said he'd really love to see anything else I might be working on. So I sent him the first two chapters of THE FOURTH STALL; revisions and eventual representation followed thereafter.
I did however query pretty widely for the adult novel and my first YA novel. I recieved many nice and encouraging rejections along with many form rejections, but in the end they were all still rejections.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
CR: The one essential criteria for me was that they accepted email queries. I didn't send one snail mail query during my entire search. Beyond that, I just tried to make sure that they accepted unsolicited queries and that they represtented the genre of the book.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
CR: Other than the obvious getting their name right, I did try when possible. I wouldn't stalk them to the point where I could include in the query the fact that I like their furniture. But if they had a blog or something, I might comment about how much I enjoy their blog. But I would never try to force it. I woudl say that most of my queries did not include much agent specific content.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
CR: Be persistant and query widely. I mean, definitely do your research, but if you're ever in doubt just send the query. I mean, the only query I ever sent my agent was for a genre he didn't really represent. I just got lucky that he liked my writing enough to give me some guidance.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
CR: Yes. Again, this is not the query for the book I sold, but it is the query with which I hooked my agent's interest.
I would like to invite you to consider representing my novel, The Disappearance of Abe Lincoln: And the Misadventures of a Guy With a Mustache and a Chick With an Eye Patch.
I adore ninjas, bunnies, and zombies " So it is sad that none of these are in my novel. It does, however, contain a kidnapping and a road trip. Those are fun too, especially if the kidnapping is of Abe Lincoln. Unfortunately, former president Abraham Lincoln is dead, so the kidnapping is of a different Abe Lincoln.
Abe Lincoln is an experienced ninja for hire with a murky past and noble connections" oh wait"there aren"t any ninjas in this novel. This Abe Lincoln is actually an eccentric, 25-year old, 10th grade history teacher in a small Midwestern town. He has grown accustomed to his famous moniker and is a magnificent educator and student favorite. One night, a guy with a mustache and a chick with an eye patch kidnap Abe. They stuff him into the trunk of their white Ford Taurus and drive north, across the border, into the remote areas of Manitoba. Along the way they meet a bizarre cavalcade of strange characters, including a well-groomed, three-legged wolf who happens to be a packrat, a mannequin dressed up like a fisherman, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer with a penchant for juice, palindromes, and candy necklaces, a family of traveling evangelicals, and a fugitive Elvis look-alike who may or may not be the real Elvis. When the kidnappers relay the ransom demands to Abe"s family, they are met with reluctance. The negotiating goes on for six months. All whilst Abe becomes infatuated with his abductors and begins to hope he is never rescued.
I have shown my novel to some respected authors and have received the following great reviews:
Brett Easton Ellis: "Get the hell away from me!"
John Updike: "Who are you, and why are you following me around?"
Stephen King: "I"m calling the cops."
Dr. Seuss: "I do not like you sir. No, I do not like you now or then, I do not like you any when. I do not like you here or there, no I do not like you anywhere."
I thank you kindly for taking the time to read my letter, and would be quite pleased to have you represent me. If you would you like to read part of my novel please contact me at xxxxxxxx or xxxxxxx.
Thanks again for your consideration.
QT: Thank you Chris. That has got to be the most interesting query letter I have ever read. Best of luck with THE FOURTH STALL and other books to come.