Success Story Interview - Andrea Towers

An Interview with Andrea Towers (andibeth82 on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Sheyla Knigge of High Line Literary Collective.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Andrea Towers:
My book is a middle grade original graphic novel (script only, I'm no artist!) about a young Jewish teen obsessed with witches — who ends up discovering that she's secretly a witch herself! At the same time, she's also discovering that she likes other girls, which is what makes her powers appear in the first place. When she finds out that witches and Judaism don't exactly mix, things become even more complicated.

I was inspired by my own Jewish heritage and its fascinating mythology, which I weave into the book in the form of dybbuks (a "demon" in Jewish lore). Also, as someone who came out as bisexual in her mid 30's, I wanted to explore what discovering your queerness looked like for younger kids in this day and age. When I started researching for this book, I was surprised to find there weren't many stories that dealt with being both queer and Jewish — especially for young readers. It fueled my need for feeling like this book had to exist.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Andrea Towers:
For as long as I can remember. One of my most vivid memories is being in 4th grade and getting our stories printed and bound so they looked like real books, complete with covers and dedications. I would make so many because I had so many stories in my head! When I got older, I started to get really into TV shows and movies and consequently discovered the world of fanfiction. I began to write stories for my favorite characters and still write fanfic today.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Andrea Towers:
To be honest, the idea of a queer witch book has been in the back of my mind in some form since 2019. But the specific idea for this book first came to me in late 2021, when my husband and I were on an anniversary vacation at Disney World during the Halloween season. I finished my first draft in early 2022 and went into the querying trenches that March.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Andrea Towers:
There definitely was. I was previously agented from 2017-2021, and my experience towards the end of that relationship wasn't the greatest. I ended up being thrown back into the query trenches kind of unexpectedly. When I began to create new stories, I wasn't getting any interest and it felt so demoralizing to feel like I wasn't "good enough" anymore. But I kept remembering the times people had praised my stories and told me how much they loved my writing — that combined with the fact I knew and could just see that the stories in my head deserved to be out there, knowing they could find the audience if just one person gave them a chance, is what helped me keep going.
QT: Is this your first book?
Andrea Towers:
Nope! My debut book GEEK GIRLS DON'T CRY: REAL-LIFE LESSONS FROM FEMALE FICTIONAL CHARACTERS was published in 2019. It's a nonfiction manifesto spotlighting female characters in pop culture and what we can learn from their different journeys and struggles. I am also the author of the middle grade series GAMER GIRLS which debuted in 2023. Three books are currently out, with a fourth on the way next year. The series is about a group of friends who help each other achieve their streaming goals while navigating their own teenage lives — think The Baby-Sitters Club, but with video games!
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Andrea Towers:
I joke that I have a Masters in Fanfiction Writing from AO3 but aside from an English degree and a few creative writing courses in college, I don't have any formal training.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Andrea Towers:
I try to make a schedule for myself because I thrive on lists and organization. But as a mom of two with a full-time day job, I've had to give up the idea of keeping to a stringent schedule. I now just write whenever I can find the time. My "routine" is usually to make sure I carve out some time every day, but it ends up being mostly weekends.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Andrea Towers:
I had one major revision that involved seriously shifting the story after I wrote the first draft and then one other edit to help tighten it up. But the version of the book I originally queried in 2022 is very different from the one I'm getting ready to put on sub now!
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Andrea Towers:
I had one friend (who happened to be an editor) read my book — she's responsible for some of the changes that I definitely believe helped me land an agent and will be credited as such in my acknowledgements! — and one of my closest friends always helps me refine and edit my synopsis for any book I write. But I tend to keep my writing pretty close to the vest in general.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Andrea Towers:
Generally, I write from the hip — I'm a pantser and kind of embarrassingly bad about making outlines. (I'm trying to get better at that for future projects!) Since this was a graphic novel, though, I did have to outline a little more than I normally would to make sure my script worked for the artist and to make sure I could hit all the major beats in each chapter without overwhelming the reader.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Andrea Towers:
When I got agented the first time around (2015-2016), I was exceptionally lucky to query and sign with the one agent that I knew was interested in my specific project. So I never really understood how "the trenches" worked until I had to go back into them years later. I sent my first round of queries for this book in early 2022 and I got a few partial requests, but mostly passes and no offers. I put it in the drawer and decided to query a new adult book instead. When that also failed to get any bites, I started another adult book and started querying again in 2023. While I was querying that particular project, Sheyla popped up on my Twitter feed saying she was looking for a book that sounded similar to my OGN. I decided to send it out again, especially since it had undergone a significant story revision since I first queried it. So I was actually querying for two different books at once when I got my offer!

In total — between this book and the two others over 2.5ish years — I queried a total of 105 agents.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Andrea Towers:
For this particular book, I sent about 35. The pool of agents who rep graphic novels tends to be smaller, so I tried to search as thoroughly as possible.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Andrea Towers:
As I mentioned above, since this was a graphic novel, I had to select agents who specifically represented that. I also had to make sure they would be interested in script only books, as some agents prefer author/illustrators for graphic novels. But I also looked into whether they represented (or at least were interested in) queer stories in general, since that was a big part of this book and I knew it would continue to be a big aspect of what I wrote in the future. I also knew I wanted to genre hop despite having a background in both nonfiction and middle grade, so I made sure they repped YA and adult projects. I have a few graphic novelist friends, so when I was making my list of agents I made sure to include their agents too.

I also looked on Twitter and in the acknowledgements of books I read to find agents — I would read their MSWL and if something aligned, I would add them to my list.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Andrea Towers:
Mostly, yes! I would mention what they specifically were looking for in their MSWL that fit with my book and if I knew some of their books/authors, I would mention that as well.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Andrea Towers:
Don't give up! I know that's so easy to say from "the other side" and that the cliche saying is "it only takes one yes" but it's true. My agent is so enthusiastically in love with this story and it makes me 100% believe that there is a story for everyone somewhere. The querying process is long and hard, and the wait period can be even longer and harder. But good things come to those who wait. Don't get down on yourself if it takes awhile. And most importantly, keep a few trusted friends or family around who will allow you to vent, cry, or whine without judging you. The outlet of having a safe place to share your emotions is priceless and so helpful.

Also, take risks! Put yourself out there! Make as many connections as possible with agents and other never know what will happen. When I saw Sheyla posting about wanting witchy stories, I asked her if she would be interested in looking at script-only graphic novels even though there were things on her MSWL I wasn't sure I'd be a match for. She said yes and the rest is history!

Query Letter:

Since your MSWL profile mentions you're interested in graphic novels and stories about witches, I thought you might be interested in JEWITCH, a middle grade original graphic novel that combines the endearing coming-of-age spirit of Pixar's TURNING RED with the hilarious hijinks of Sophie Escabasse's WITCHES OF BROOKLYN series.

Jewish. Queer. The daughter of divorced parents. Nothing about Scarlett Harris' life feels particularly normal, but she's about to have a whole new reason to feel like an outcast — because as it turns out, Scarlett is a witch.

While most witches who are born with powers inherit them when they become a certain age, Scarlett's powers appear when she sets her teacher's hair on fire — and right after she realizes she might like Alina, the new girl in town. That's enough to throw any twelve-year-old into turmoil but when Scarlett, who has dreamt her whole life about being a witch, learns that practicing witches aren't exactly favored in her religion, she begins to doubt everything about the person she is and the person she's always wanted to be.

When a traditional black cat shows up in Scarlett's room one day, things get more complicated, especially once the cat claims she's Scarlett's dead mom appearing in the form of a dybbuk (a mythical "demon" in Jewish lore). Scarlett is wary of her mom's arrival but upon learning that a dybbuk is the soul of a dead person who inhabits something living to accomplish unfinished business, she decides to let her stay around — though she still refuses to accept any help.

But no matter how much Scarlett tries to handle her issues on her own, there's still the problem of spilling Alina's lunch on the floor when she sees her. And the fact that when she thinks too hard about her favorite KPop girl band, she causes blackouts in her house. And with her dad's annual Halloween party just around the corner, anything can happen...

As Scarlett's emotions become more unpredictable, her powers become more unwieldy — and more dangerous. Torn between the pressure to be the "perfect daughter" and the urge to embrace her true feelings, she becomes faced with a choice: keep hiding from her authentic self to make everyone happy or embrace the scary chaos of growing up...and coming out.

Because after all, coming out can be a real witch.

I am a queer Jewish writer and journalist who was previously represented by [REDACTED] at [REDACTED] for five years. My debut nonfiction book GEEK GIRLS DON'T CRY: REAL-LIFE LESSONS FROM FICTIONAL FEMALE CHARACTERS received a starred review from Booklist and I am the author of the ongoing middle grade series GAMER GIRLS from Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Thank you so much for taking the time to consider this project.