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Success Story Interview - Beth Cato

An Interview with Beth Cato (ladybesu on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Rebecca Strauss of DeFiore and Company.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Beth Cato:
Sure! My novel is an urban fantasy about a goody-two-shoes superpowered healer. Her skill vanishes overnight, and she discovers she's been an unwilling test subject in a government program along with a bunch of serial killers. The inspiration came to me in a dream just over three years ago.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Beth Cato:
I was making my own books from age four, but I've been seriously working on novels and short stories for about five years now.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Beth Cato:
Too long! I started on my first draft for NaNoWriMo in 2008.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Beth Cato:
Yes. Last summer I had a reader inform me, quite politely, that my book sucked. She was right. I had already been working on the book for a year and a half, but I needed to make it work. I had to know I tried. I cried for a day, felt sorry for myself, then broke out the index cards to reform my plot.
QT: Is this your first book?
Beth Cato:
No. I have two previous novels that are trunked.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Beth Cato:
Yes. My son is in kindergarten now, so I write/edit like crazy while he's in school! I'm trying not to think about summer break.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Beth Cato:
The 8th draft is the one that worked. After being told my book sucked, I set about combining NORMAL with the sequel I had started during the previous NaNoWriMo.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Beth Cato:
Yes! I'm a participant of The Online Writing Workshop ( I have a great circle of friends on there. It's a wonderful place for critiquing scifi/fantasy short stories and chapters.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Beth Cato:
I always write with a chapter outline and a time line of events, but I'm very flexible.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Beth Cato:
I started querying in late January. My snail mail query for Rebecca Strauss was among the first I sent out.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Beth Cato:
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Beth Cato:
I looked for agents with an interest in urban fantasy.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Beth Cato:
Sometimes I would mention where I saw the agent listed--like on Guide to Literary Agents--but I had a good response to my plain query, too.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Beth Cato:
Keep the faith. I had a personalized rejection on a partial a few weeks ago that left me feeling down. They described my book as "rough." I stopped sending queries for a few weeks because I wasn't sure if she was right, or what I could do. Then I ended up having two agent offers, and both said my book was smooth and required minimal edits. This whole process is subjective. Don't be like me and "what if" yourself into paralysis. Unless you see a negative trend in your feedback, keep sending those queries!

Query Letter:

I'm seeking representation for my novel NORMAL, an urban fantasy complete at 100,000 words.

In the Guild's pantheon of superpowers, Celeste Reed stands out as one of the best healers in the country. At least, until the morning she awakens and finds her lifelong talent gone. As a workaholic with a six-month backlog of terminally ill patients, she wants her power back pronto. She'll even endure the government-run Guild's torturous laboratories if it means she can heal again.

When her ability returns all screwed-up, she's determined to make do and resume work. Then Celeste discovers that the Guild triggered her power loss begin with, involving her in a test program that neutralized superpowered convicts. Even worse, a mysterious terrorist is intentionally undoing the Guild's safeguards and causing test subjects' abilities to reawaken in very nasty ways. Phoenix holds several newly-released prisoners who present perfect targets. Lives on the line, in Celeste's city? Nope. Not on her watch.

Now Celeste must babysit some gruesome convicts, cope with her healing powers on the fritz, and figure out why the Guild made her their favorite guinea pig. If she's lucky, she can unravel the Guild's machinations before the body count soars. But if Celeste was lucky, she wouldn't be in this mess to begin with.

I'm an associate member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and an active participant on The Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. My stories have been published in The Pedestal Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and the MOUNTAIN MAGIC anthology from Woodland Press. I received a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2009. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Beth Cato