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Success Story Interview - Cheyanne Young

An Interview with Cheyanne Young (cey519 on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Kim Lionetti of BookEnds, LLC.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Cheyanne Young:
The book is currently titled SASHA CADE'S DEATHWISH, and it's a Young Adult novel about a girl dealing with the death of her best friend and the scavenger hunt of secrets she left behind. I knew I wanted to write a story about teen best friends, but killing one of them off was my daughter's idea. :)
QT: How long have you been writing?
Cheyanne Young:
I started writing seriously in 2007, but didn't have a real book finished until 2009. And man, was that draft awful.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Cheyanne Young:
It took me 30 days to write SASHA CADE'S DEATHWISH, and about two weeks to edit it. I've learned a lot in my years of writing, so now I'm a quick drafter.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Cheyanne Young:
Not really. When I have bad days, I just allow them to be bad days. Sometimes it's okay to quit for that day, and then pick up again in the morning. I always feel better in the morning!
QT: Is this your first book?
Cheyanne Young:
Nope! I've written several, and had a trilogy published with Alloy Entertainment earlier this year. My second traditional book, BREAKUP SUPPORT GROUP found a home with a small publisher and is releasing this fall. This is my first time with an agent, though, and I'm very excited for it.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Cheyanne Young:
Not at all. I have a degree in engineering, but my writing knowledge comes from my love of reading books.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Cheyanne Young:
Sort of. I work better in the mornings, so I spend the first 3-4 hours of my day working on my book. It's very rarely that you'll find me writing late at night because my brain tends to shut down in the late hours. Also, I consume a scary amount of coffee, which is about the only routine I refuse to break.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Cheyanne Young:
Just once all together, but I take the time to plot out the book beforehand, and then I edit each chapter after I write it.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Cheyanne Young:
I had my 2 closest betas read it, and I always value their input. One of them reads each chapter as I write it, and the other reads it when it's a finished draft.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Cheyanne Young:
Outline! The only way I can write a book in 30 days is to outline the heck out of it first!
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Cheyanne Young:
I queried this book for one week. I had 3 offers within that week, and after I'd chosen my agent, I still got a few more requests. I was not this lucky with the first 5 books I queried, so it was all a big whirlwind of awesome. I had expected tons of rejection, because that's what I was used to.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Cheyanne Young:
I sent out 20 total and 3 offers, with many more requests to read the book. I got two more requests after I had already gotten an agent!
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Cheyanne Young:
I've been researching agents since 2009, so I've already had a few of my favorite agents saved up to query. I did a lot of searching through the #MSWL tag on Twitter to find agents who liked my kind of book,and I read lots of blogs and Twitter feeds so I could be sure I was submitting to someone who was likely to like my book. In the end, a fellow writer friend talked so great about her agent, that I knew I wanted to add her to my query list, and she ended up becoming MY agent, too!
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Cheyanne Young:
Yes, where I could. If they had a specific #MSWL tweet that pertained to my book, I'd mention it, or if their blog posts or tweets ever referenced anything that suited my book. Otherwise, I just kept it polite and friendly and didn't try sucking up by forcing a personalization when I didn't have one.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Cheyanne Young:
Stick with it. If you had told me in 2009 that it would take me seven years to get an agent, I might have quit. But the truth is, the time will pass anyway, so you might as well keep working hard and improving your craft until you write the book that lands you an agent.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Cheyanne Young:
Of course! Here it is:

Query Letter:

I am seeking representation for SASHA CADE’S DEATHWISH, a YA romance complete at 75,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Jay Asher’s THIRTEEN REASONS WHY and Cecelia Ahern’s PS, I LOVE YOU. I am the author of CITY OF LEGENDS, published by Alloy Entertainment (2/2016) and the forthcoming BREAKUP SUPPORT GROUP from Swoon Romance (11/2016), as well as a member of SCBWI.

Raquel Clearwater just buried her best friend. The funeral went exactly as she and Sasha planned—the glitter painted coffin being lowered to the ground, covered in wildflowers. The two best friends had a year to plan this event, starting with the day Sasha’s lymphoma diagnoses became terminal.

Raquel knows she’ll never see Sasha’s stunning blue eyes again. Then she runs into a mysterious but attractive guy standing near Sasha’s grave. Elijah has those same eyes, and a letter from Sasha telling him to find Raquel. Months ago, Sasha went against her adopted parents’ wishes and tried to find her birth parents. What she found instead was an older brother, Elijah, who had aged out of the system after eighteen years of never being adopted.

Sasha wanted her brother to know all about her, but she didn’t want him to meet the girl dying of cancer. So with her last few months on earth, she set up an elaborate scavenger hunt all over the state, taking Elijah on ten adventures that helped shape who she was as a person. There are memories, experiences, heart ache—hidden in each location. All of them reveal a piece of who Sasha was before the cancer took her. Some are secrets that even Raquel didn’t know.

The plan will be laid out fully as the scavenger hunt goes on. But Sasha’s first, most important wish? Raquel must join him every step of the way. And if it means they happen to fall in love, well good. That’s exactly how Sasha planned it.