An Interview with Kate Rothwell
(A QueryTracker Success Story)
Kate Rothwell recently signed with agent Ellen Pepus of The Ellen Pepus Literary Agency. Congratulations Kate, and thank you for agreeing to our little interview.
QueryTracker: How long have you been writing?
Kate Rothwell: Fiction--about seven years nearly full time. (I have kids at home.)
QT: Is this your first book?
KR: Nope. In 2004 I had two books published by Kensington, one's out of print but both are still listed at Amazon. I published those as Kate Rothwell. Since then I've had a few books and novellas published at Samhain and Ellora's Cave and two novellas at Simon and Schuster (through EC) under the name of Summer Devon.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
KR: The one Ellen liked--about two months. (Also after I signed with Ellen another agent expressed interest) I tend to write three chapters/fifty pages and a synopsis and see how that flies. I sold my first book on a partial so I know it works for me. I know I can work under deadline, too. Actually, after years of working for magazines and papers, that's how I work best. I also have about five finished manuscripts. In fact, I just sold one a couple of days ago to Samhain. Ellen liked it but didn't think it would be an fast sell to NYC.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
KR: I have a degree in communications from Hood College. I wrote non-fiction (articles, brochures etc) for years. Most of my on-the-job fiction writing training comes from reading, going to writer's meetings and being part of crit groups. I used to be a literary fiction sort of a writer and had a couple of short stories out in serious fiction magazines (like the Monocacy Valley Review). Now I write romance.
QT: Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
KR: I was extremely disciplined for years but not in the last year or so. It's been a downer, not selling to New York after the high of my first two books. I do try to get at least five pages a day written.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your novel?
KR: I tend to write fast and then go back and fill in the gaps. I let it sit for a while if I can and then do some more layering and editing.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your novel?
KR: I used to belong to crit groups, but these days I just have a couple of people. My favorite beta reader is now an editor and she doesn't have time for people who aren't her Official Writers (and because we're friends I can't be one of hers), the biddy. I often bug Teresa Bodwell and Bonnie Dee to look at my work.
QT: Did you outline your novel, or do you write from the hip?
KR: I'm a combo seat of the pants and planner. Not too much planning or I get bored but I do write a synopsis before I write the book--I hadn't always done that.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
KR: I was with an agent for a couple of years and though I'd recommend her to anyone, it was time for us to part ways. No, it really was a mutual decision. (For once I wasn't fired!) That was in October and I started the serious hunt in December. I think I got about 40 rejections. A lot of those were from agents asked to see more than one story. I got versions of the note about "like your voice, but not that story". So I'd trot out another partial. And another. And another. I think I showed Kristin Nelson about seven before one of us said "Jeez, enough all ready." Probably she did.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
KR: I wanted someone who wasn't brand new and I wanted someone who knows about my genre. Other than that? Ummmmmmmmmmm....errrrrr. I wanted someone who wanted me. It's a small world and the gossip is pretty easy to find. Ellen is new, but she has worked for another agency so she does know what to expect.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
KR: A few agents rep friends of mine and I'd mention the friend. Other than that, no, not really. I did pay attention to what the agent actually liked! Your site is great for that.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
KR: Do multiple submissions but don't try to hide the fact that you're querying other agents. If you have to wait for a single answer at a time . . . drip. . . drip. . .oy, it's horrible! And if you finish one manuscript, start thenext. Don't pin all your hopes on one book or one agent.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
KR: It's fairly worthless because it's very specific to what I've done as a writer. But here's the basic idea:
QT: Here is your chance to plug your book. Tell us a little about it.
KR: The one Ellen initially liked isn't the one she decided to start sending out. One of the books I was trying to sell to agents is the one Samhain just bought. So, okay...I'll cheat and plug that one. It's a book I think of as "Space Aliens Invade--Again." It's a Summer Devon title and I think it'll be out this year. The actual title is Taken Unaware. It's not as cheesy as it sounds. (Maybe I need to work on the plugging part of the job? Seriously--no matter where you end up selling, small press or huge, promo is absolutely vital and the minute you do sell a book it's important to get a [gack] plan.) You can find out about my books at my outdated website http://www.katerothwell.com and my not-as-outdated blog http://katerothwell.blogspot.com
QT: Thank you Kate, and we all wish you luck with this and your many other books.