Success Story Interview - Amber Mitchell

An Interview with Amber Mitchell (ajmitchell22 on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Nikki Terpilowski of Holloway Literary.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Amber Mitchell:
GARDEN OF THORNS is a YA Fantasy about a girl named Rose who escapes a burlesque dance troupe and joins a rebellion against the man who enslaved her.

I was actually editing another novel that I could tell wasn’t original enough when Rose’s voice popped into my head and it was so strong, I immediately opened up a new word document and started typing. Her voice was so natural and the ideas felt so fresh that I knew this was the story I needed to be writing.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Amber Mitchell:
I started seriously writing when I was 15 years old back in 2003. I didn’t start to pursue publishing until four years later. I’d written five novels before GARDEN and queried four including GARDEN.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Amber Mitchell:
It took me about a year to write and edit this book. It went through two drafts before I got comfortable enough to send it out to beta readers and dozens of edits after that based on beta and agent feedback.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Amber Mitchell:
I’ve tried to give up writing twice in my life. But every time, I always found a new idea that sparked my interest and I found that I just couldn’t keep my fingers away from the keyboard for that long.

The thing that I’ve realized about my writing is that it is an escape for me. Sometimes life is a disappointment and writing makes my life brighter, even on the days I get rejected. That’s really why I continue on. I don’t feel whole without it.

Also, success stories help. I LOVE reading success stories when I’m feeling low.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Amber Mitchell:
I know that I write better in the afternoon so I try to write then. But what I’ve found is more important for me is to have goals. I keep them simple. I have a 500 word a day goal which I know is low. It’s how I can convince myself to keep going because it’s only 500 words. Usually by the time I reach it, I have found my groove and can keep going. As long as I feel positive about accomplishing my goals, writing feels easier.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Amber Mitchell:
I’m pretty sure that I’ve lost count at this point. As I mentioned above, the book went through two major re-writes. Then based on beta and agent feedback, things have been edited in and out but each draft or line edit has made the book stronger.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Amber Mitchell:
I am a strict plotter. Not only do I love seeing the arc of a story before I write it, but I find that having everything plotted out robs me of the excuse not to write. When I wrote my first novel I did it without an outline and found that too often I would postpone writing because I didn’t know where it was going.

It doesn’t mean that things can’t change. Characters want what they want, even if I don’t know it at the time but I like to have a plan to refer back to.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Amber Mitchell:
I’ve been querying off and on for this novel for over a year. I stopped during the middle for several R&Rs so it took a while to find the right agent.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Amber Mitchell:
I sent out around 60 queries for GARDEN and entered two online contests.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Amber Mitchell:
I made sure to thoroughly research every agent I sent a query letter to by finding online interviews and seeing what types of authors they represent.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Amber Mitchell:
Yes, yes, YES. Even if it was just a general “I see you represent the genre I write in and thought you might enjoy my novel”, I always made sure to include something personal in my queries. If I could find specific quotes from interviews, that was even better. I did this with my last novel as well and got a much better request rate. ALWAYS tailor query letters.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Amber Mitchell:
I think the best advice I can give is to find a network of people that you can rely on. You need people to believe in you even when you can’t find the strength to believe in yourself. Whether it is your spouse, sibling, CP or an online writing community, find people who will support you.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Amber Mitchell:
I’d be happy to!

Query Letter:

Kidnapped from a life of royalty as a child, seventeen-year-old Rose knows how fragile life as a dancing Flower can be. Forced into The Garden, a burlesque troupe of slave girls, she has learned to see dangers everywhere when a wrong word could mean losing your tongue—or worse.

When The Garden is booked to perform for Emperor and her slave master kills a fellow dancer to keep Rose in check, she decides to break free. Her plan is simple: grab a hostage and run like hell. What she didn't count on was her hostage being the leader of a rebellion against the current ruler, and she definitely never dreamed she’d end up joining. But with her old slave master threatening to kill off a dancer a day until she returns and the kingdom looking to stamp out the rebels, Rose quickly realizes that nowhere is really safe, especially since she’s the unwilling heir to the throne.

Caught between the family she’s created for herself in the rebellion and the title she’s never wanted, Rose must decide whether her birthright is a crown of petals or a crown of thorns. Only then will she be able to rescue the other Flowers she abandoned, unite the war-torn kingdom and maybe even save herself.

GARDEN OF THORNS is a 91,000 word young adult fantasy in the vein of Jodi Meadows’ Incarnate and C.J. Redwine’s Defiance. A completed manuscript is available upon request.