Success Story Interview - Aislinn Macnamara

An Interview with Aislinn Macnamara (Aislinn on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Sara Megibow of KT Literary.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Aislinn Macnamara:
My book is a Regency romance entitled A TALE OF TWO SISTERS. It features the eponymous pair of sisters, both of whom are resisting offers of marriage for their own reasons. One of the sisters has a long-standing crush on a man, but that man decides to offer for the other sister, who, of course turns him down because she doesn't want to betray her sibling. And neither one of them ends up with this man. He's the villain of the piece. I got the idea from reading another romance last year, where I took a situation and began asking, "What if?" And somewhere along the line, I realized I was retelling SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, only with more love scenes.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Aislinn Macnamara:
All told, about ten years, but only three years with the goal of publication in mind. I wrote fanfiction for several years before trying my hand at originals.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Aislinn Macnamara:
I started the draft in about February of last year, and it kind of wrote itself in about three months. I let it sit for a while, and then spent the next several months polishing and adding.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Aislinn Macnamara:
Oh yes, I almost gave up last summer, when I received what I thought of as a major wake-up call in the form of a detailed rejection on another manuscript. I told myself I wasn't ready for prime time yet. But I belong to a circle of writing friends, and we all support each other. They let me have my pity party for about five minutes, before giving me the smack I deserved and telling me to get back on the horse.
QT: Is this your first book?
Aislinn Macnamara:
No, it's my fifth completed manuscript (and by complete, I mean it exists in at least draft form).
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Aislinn Macnamara:
No. I'm not one of those people who has been writing ever since the tender age of four. When I was in high school, I steered clear of anything that looked vaguely like creative writing. I didn't realize I could write until I tried my hand at fanfiction and didn't get a bunch of reviews telling me to take it down immediately. So I suppose you could say I learned by trial and error.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Aislinn Macnamara:
I'm a naturally undisciplined person, so I stay far away from the computer when I'm drafting. I write long-hand in a notebook and then type my draft into Word (and I usually do a little basic polishing and expansion in the process). I make an effort to write at least a hundred words a day. It doesn't sound like much, but once you get those first hundred words out, you usually keep going a bit longer.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Aislinn Macnamara:
I wrote a draft, I let it sit for a bit and did revisions and polishing.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Aislinn Macnamara:
I have several critque partners, from a group of friends I've known since my days of writing fanfiction, to a specialized critique group of historical romance writers, to a one-on-one critique partner. They all give me great feedback, and they all notice different things that need fixing. In addition, I won a critique from a published author for this manuscript. She really put me through the mill, but I came out the better for it. I don't think I would ever have landed an agent without her.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Aislinn Macnamara:
I'm a definite pantser. Usually I get a kernel of an idea, and maybe see ahead to a major turning point or two, but how I get to those turning points is never clear. Experience has taught me my characters are in the driver's seat. If I don't have them do what they want, they have this annoying habit of picking up their toys, going home and pouting until I come around.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Aislinn Macnamara:
I started querying this book in February 2011, maybe, but I only set out a few letters and didn't get a whole lot of interest. But on March 25th, I found out I'd finaled in the Golden Heart contest (for those non-RWA authors, the Golden Heart is the biggest romance writing contest for non-published authors). Once I stopped Snoopy dancing and came out of the clouds, I queried my A-list.

I have queried two other manuscripts. I got no interest on the first (just as well--it wasn't a very good book), and some on the second. But that second one needs a complete rewrite.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Aislinn Macnamara:
All told, about 12. I also had two agents query me as a result of the contest final, but I didn't ultimately sign with either.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Aislinn Macnamara:
Reputation was tops on the list. Also they had to represent my genre (historical romance). That's a given, but I see so many agents complain on blog about queries that aren't even for a genre they represent. I also followed several of their blogs or followed them on Twitter to give me an idea what they were looking for.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Aislinn Macnamara:
To an extent. If I'd heard them speak at a conference, I mentioned it. If I read their blog or followed them on Twitter, I tried to mention something like that. If I could say I enjoyed the work of an author they already representented, I mentioned it.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Aislinn Macnamara:
Don't give up. Keep at it. Keep querying. Keep working to improve. If you don't put yourself out there, you will never see any results.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Aislinn Macnamara:
I can share, but as queries go, it's not really that wonderful. To be honest, I think the contest final opened more doors than my query.

Query Letter:

Your agency represents such historical romance authors as and . You also represent my fellow 2011 Golden Heart finalist . I am seeking representation for my 80,000-word complete Regency romance A TALE OF TWO SISTERS.

Scarred by her governess' suicide, debutante Julia St. Claire must marry to save her family from financial ruin, so she seeks to guard her heart in a civilized, sensible union. When such an arrangement is offered by the man of her sister's dreams, Julia must either betray her sister or risk giving her heart to childhood friend, Benedict Revelstoke. But Benedict, a second son, fears he has destroyed her trust by revealing his love for her--until she turns up at his townhouse with a scandalous proposal.

An active member of the Hearts Through History chapter of the RWA and editor of the Seduced by History newsletter, I hold a BA in French literature. This manuscript is a finalist in the Regency category of this year's Golden Heart contest. The complete manuscript is available at your request. I may be contacted by email at or by cell phone at . Thank you for your time and consideration.