An Interview with Kaitlyn Schulz
(A QueryTracker Success Story)
August 20, 2011
Kaitlyn Schulz (berryblue100 on QT) has recently signed with agent Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency. Kaitlyn, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Congratulations and good luck.
Kaitlyn Schulz: Sure thing! SKINWALKERS is my third book, an adult paranormal romance. The two previous books I wrote, which didn't secure me representation, were the first two novels of a YA urban fantasy series. After I wrote the first two books of that series, I queried the first one until I practically had rejections coming out my ears. Since the novels didn't stand alone, I couldn't do anything with the second book until the first one was picked up and it felt pointless to continue with the series when I knew it wasn't going to get me representation. When I finally decided to shelf the YA series, I decided to try my hand at writing paranormal romance. I read paranormal romance just as much as I read YA and urban fantasy and I'd also been told my voice was stronger in 3rd person point of view (romance is usually in 3rd person, and my YA books were in 1st), so it seemed like a good plan of action.
Once I'd decided the genre, I knew I had to find an interesting twist on an old paranormal myth in order for the book to stand out, so I started researching. That's when I stumbled across information on skinwalkers. It seemed unique, so then I started plotting out the book and creating characters. The rest is history =)
QT: How long have you been writing?
KS: That's a trick question haha. I've been writing seriously since I graduated high school in 2008. Yes, you read that right, I am THAT young lol. I finished my first book at the end of that year. But the idea for that first book actually came from a short story I wrote in 2001, when I was only 11, so I've been interested in writing for a long time.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
KS: I've been working on SKINWALKERS since August of this past year, 2010. It's been almost exactly one year since I started writing it. This novel took significantly longer than my first two. My first two took about 7 months a piece, so 14 months total. SKINWALKERS gave me a lot more difficulties. I had bouts of writer's block and lots of frustrations with it, but it's been well worth it.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you
KS: Definitely. I couldn't even count how many times I felt like giving up. I received, literally, hundreds of rejections on my first book. Even once the rejections had started to pile up and I started to have a bit thicker skin, once in a while, a rejection would still send me plummeting into a self-pity party. It's so easy and so tempting to want to give up. My difficulty was that I kept hearing over and over that agents 'liked my book, but didn't fall in love with it' and that with the current market they 'had to fall in love' before they agreed to represent something. From those responses and the repeated personalized rejections I was receiving (those are golden, they're a good sign that you're almost there), I knew that I was SO close. The difficulty in that was that no one could tell me what was wrong. My writing was strong, but I just hadn't struck gold yet. That's the worst feeling—not knowing the solution to a problem which stands in the way of your dream. I just kept going and listening to the small voice inside me that knew there is something worthy of publication in my novels. That's why Nicole gushing over how much she loved SKINWALKERS was better than a dream come true.
QT: Is this your first book?
KS: No, SKINWALKERS is my third book. My first was a YA urban fantasy titled, DEMON REINCARNATE.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
KS: Yes. I have a B.A in English with a minor in Creative Writing—I just graduated from Stetson University in May. I'm currently about to start my first semester of graduate school at Spalding University, where I'll be working toward a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. I hope to teach creative writing at a college level one day, while writing my own novels of course. ;-)
QT: Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
KS: Absolutely not lol. I'm a pantster, so I write by the seat of my pants. I usually have a vague outline of where the book is going, but I don't know the details, so the inspiration comes in bursts. I usually try to write, at the bare minimum, a sentence or two a day even if I'm not feeling the inspiration. Writing even that little bit keeps things fresh in my mind. When I'm working on a project very intently, on average I write about 4,000-5,000 words a week—not always the greatest words, and a lot of those get cut in edits, but still a couple thousand. When the inspiration is really flowing, I can do up to 10,000 words a week at times.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
KS: SKINWALKERS didn't go through as many edits as my previous books before I started submitting it to agents. It went through about three rounds of small revisions before I started submitting, but I was much more conscious about editing as I wrote for SKINWALKERS, as where my other books I wrote with a bit more wild abandon. But SKINWALKERS is going through more revisions with Nicole, so it's still in the editing process.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
KS: Yes, I have multiple critique partners who have looked over SKINWALKERS. I had one critique partner who read through the whole book as I wrote it, while others only read bits and pieces that I sent them when I needed editing advice. I would never send out a book to an agent unless I'd had other writers read it first.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
KS: As I mentioned before, definitely from the hip.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
KS: I haven't been querying this book very long. I started sending out queries in mid-July.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
KS: I sent out a total of 30 queries, which is pretty much a drop in the bucket when it comes to querying agents. Out of those 30 queries, I received 10 requests for more material, 12 query rejections, and 8 no responses. Out of those 10 submissions I sent, I received 4 requests for more pages and 2 rejections before the offers started coming in.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
KS: Do everything in your power to master your craft. Read books, take online workshops, attend conferences, join professional writing groups like RWA, read agent blogs, study the current market, and most importantly, don't give up. No matter how many rejection you get along the way, it can happen.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
KS: Of course! Here is the query I used for SKINWALKERS =)