An Interview with Elizabeth May
(A QueryTracker Success Story)
August 25, 2011
Elizabeth May (elizabethmay on QT) has recently signed with agent Russell Galen of Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency, Inc. Elizabeth, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Congratulations and good luck.
Elizabeth May: THE FALCONER takes place in 1844 Edinburgh and is about a young noblewoman who secretly hunts and kills faeries.
The idea came to me when I was originally framing my university dissertation on Scottish folktales. Though I ultimately chose another topic, part of my reading included stories about faeries. Scottish lore paints them in a way that's horrifying and sinister, where even "good" faeries shouldn't be wholly trusted.
A lot of the texts I used were from the 19th century. At the time, I was working on another manuscript, but I thought: wouldn't it be interesting to write about a girl in this era who hunts faeries? And wouldn't it be more complicated if she were the daughter of a titled gentleman, and therefore more restricted by her social status?
QT: How long have you been writing?
EM: I've written short stories since I could put words to paper. I penned my first full-length novel when I was twelve. It was really awful (and I knew that at the time), but I enjoyed the process so much that I pushed it aside and wrote another and another . . .
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
EM: A year.
QT: Is this your first book?
EM: No, definitely not. THE FALCONER is the 10th manuscript I've written and the 2nd manuscript I've queried.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
EM: I took some classes at university. The expository writing classes were truly the most helpful for me. When I learned how to construct and focus an argument, I applied the same rules to plot and world-building. Fiction requires some internal logic to drive the story, so I used an expository writing outline when I came up with the story arc.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
EM: After the initial rough draft, I rewrote the entire novel from scratch (maybe 5% of the original text made it to the rewritten draft). Then, I rewrote the entire manuscript again (this time about 50% made it in). After the last rewrite was complete, I went through about 5 or 6 rounds of editing. The first chapter, though, was rewritten in full about 6 times.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
EM: Yes, several. They are an amazing help! At least two of them helped me work through several drafts of that first chapter.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book?
EM: I queried this book for exactly 13 days before I got the first offer.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
EM: I sent out 15 queries — and heard back from all agents but 3. From those, I had 8 full requests and multiple offers. So the week before I made my decision was very hectic indeed.