Success Story Interview - Callie Bateman

An Interview with Callie Bateman (castevenson on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Saffron Dodd of ASH Literary.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Callie Bateman:
Inspired by ancient Egyptian death mythology, DAUGHTERS OF ANUBIS is a YA fantasy that follows Zassa, a young girl who joins an Order of powerful, secretive women called the Daughters of Anubis. The Daughters are responsible for conducting sacred death rituals in which the hearts of the dead are weighed against a feather to determine the fate of their soul in the afterlife. When there is a surge of unexplained deaths in the city, Zassa uncovers a disturbing pattern among the victims- their hearts have been grotesquely mutilated from within. Zassa must race to uncover the truth behind the deaths and figure out exactly who she can trust…including herself.

Mythology-inspired books have always been my favorite to read, so I find myself drawn to that in my own writing!
QT: How long have you been writing?
Callie Bateman:
I wrote a LOT as a kid, and dreamed of one day becoming an author. I can’t remember exactly when I got started, but by the time I was 7 or 8 years old, I was writing constantly- mostly poems and short stories. My parents were super supportive and got me a laptop so I could write wherever I went. Sadly, I sort of fell off with writing after graduating college and becoming a nurse in a busy emergency department, which consumed a lot of my time and mental energy. But I rediscovered my passion last year after being inspired by my character in Dungeons & Dragons. What started out as a one-page backstory for the character ending up turning into a 350+ page novel with a planned series, and I haven’t stopped writing since!
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Callie Bateman:
I worked on DAUGHTERS for about 5 months.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Callie Bateman:
The query trenches are not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure! It was definitely discouraging to have rejections pile up, and there were times when I thought, “I’m ridiculous for even trying this, it’s obviously never going to happen.” But I told myself I had to stay determined and keep at it, and my very supportive husband and friends helped to keep my spirits up.
QT: Is this your first book?
Callie Bateman:
This is my second book- I wrote my first last year, a Dungeons & Dragons inspired high fantasy novel that was the first in a planned series. I queried it for a couple months, but stopped after an agent gave me the fantastic advice to focus my efforts on a standalone instead, since I’m a debut author. So I started writing DAUGHTERS, and now here I am!
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Callie Bateman:
I took a couple poetry classes in college, which I absolutely loved. Poetry will always be my first love, so I try to bring elements of it into my novels.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Callie Bateman:
Because of my work schedule, I can only write in the evenings or on the weekends, but I have a very particular set up for it: cozied up on the couch, a fire in the fireplace if it’s cold enough outside, candles lit, and smooth jazz playing in the background. I’m very much a muse writer, so I find this helps inspire me.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Callie Bateman:
I tend to edit as I go along, but I did probably 2-3 rounds of additional edits after getting some feedback from an indie publisher and my beta readers.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Callie Bateman:
Yes! Shout out to my husband Max and my best friends Sarah and Monica, who are my amazing beta readers! They all helped DAUGHTERS become the best version it could be and I’m so grateful for their support.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Callie Bateman:
I always tentatively know the beginning and the ending of my books, but I leave the middle up to the characters. The more I get to know them, the clearer the direction of the story becomes.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Callie Bateman:
I queried my first novel for a couple months before shelving it to write DAUGHTERS. I queried DAUGHTERS from June to November of this year.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Callie Bateman:
I queried around 65 agents.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Callie Bateman:
I went to Manuscript Wish List and used the keyword search to find agents in my genre who were interested in the elements and themes found in my book.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Callie Bateman:
I used a form query letter.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Callie Bateman:
Don’t ever give up! Keep refining your query and your craft, even as the rejections pile up, and just keep going. Finding an agent really isn’t a commentary on talent or skill, but rather timing, persistence, and a hefty dose of luck. Your perfect agent is out there- you just need to land on their desk!

Query Letter:

Dear (Agent),

I am excited to introduce DAUGHTERS OF ANUBIS, an 84,000-word fantasy novel for young adults with crossover potential. DAUGHTERS puts a magical spin on ancient Egyptian death mythology while taking readers through a dark and twisty murder mystery. DAUGHTERS will entice readers drawn to unreliable narrators and morally grey vengeance similar to Extasia, The Raven Tower, The Silent Patient, or Give the Dark My Love. If the main character had a theme song, it would definitely be Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do."

Witches. Oracles. Demons. Saints. With their strange ability to manipulate flesh, the Daughters of Anubis have been called many things. An ancient Order tasked by the kings of Egypt to conduct a sacred death ritual, Daughters weigh the hearts of the dead against a feather to determine if their souls will enter the afterlife...or be eternally devoured instead.

In the ancient city of Thonis, sixteen-year-old Zassa is just a humble servant of the Daughters, until a chance encounter reveals she shares their mysterious power. As she is initiated into the Order, the city is rocked by a slew of suspicious deaths that appear to implicate King Akhen, a controversial king regent who has refused to relinquish his throne. But when Zassa is assigned to weigh the hearts of the victims, she makes a disturbing discovery: the hearts have all been gruesomely mutilated from within. With bodies and tensions mounting inside the city, Zassa must uncover the truth behind the deaths and figure out who exactly she can trust...including herself.

A little about me: like so many others, I dreamed of becoming an author as I was growing up. After high school, I attended the University of Virginia and became a nurse in a busy emergency department. Though on the surface "author" and "nurse" may seem nothing alike, nursing gave me a deeper understanding of the immense and versatile power of words. Using them to bring comfort or understanding to people on the first, worst, or last days of their lives gave me a raw appreciation for the limitless influence they can have, and I let that unique perspective take root in every word that I write.

I am very thankful for your time and consideration of my story. I can provide the completed manuscript upon request.


Callie Bateman