Success Story Interview - Chris Moore

An Interview with Chris Moore (Chrislmoore on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Kelly Bergh of Lucinda Literary.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Chris Moore:
The book is about guilt. It draws on both personal experience and psychological research to reveal the role that guilt plays in our lives. As a career academic psychologist I have always had an interest in the topic. I want to show how guilt cane an important emotion in the way we manage out social relationships.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Chris Moore:
I have been writing for an academic audience for 40 years. This is my first foray into trade publishing.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Chris Moore:
About 3 years now.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Chris Moore:
I never felt like giving up although I did feel at times that I should stick to academic publishing, especially when the rejections to my queries started rolling in.
QT: Is this your first book?
Chris Moore:
I have written one other book for a more academic audience.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Chris Moore:
I completed an MFA in Creative Nonfiction last year to help with the transition from academic publishing to trade publishing.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Chris Moore:
No. I write when I am ready and when I have done enough research to have something to say.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Chris Moore:
Rewriting is a constant. The book is not finished as the intention is to sell on proposal.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Chris Moore:
I have friends read parts of the book but no-one has read it all.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Chris Moore:
I had an outline of the topics I wanted to cover and worked through them.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Chris Moore:
I have been actively querying (although not constantly) for about a year.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Chris Moore:
Six prior to using QT, then a block of about 12 using QT, one of which worked out.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Chris Moore:
Interest in Psychology; interest in working with academic authors.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Chris Moore:
Yes a bit although there were generic parts to the query. I always include at least one sentence that shows I have researched their interests or personal background.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Chris Moore:
Just keep at it. There are a lot of potential agents out there and they have varied interests. The rich one will come along.

Query Letter:

Do you feel a twinge of guilt when you’ve invited a proposal from an author and then it sits in your inbox, languishing longer than it should? I have been a professor of Psychology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, for over 35 years and I still feel guilty when I have to mark down a student’s work. Everyone, barring perhaps a few with extreme personality disorders such as narcissism or psychopathy, has felt guilt. It is never pleasant and for some it can lead to significant personal distress. I am writing a popular psychology book, tentatively titled Guilt: A natural and personal history, that will explain this experience, reveal the important role it plays in our lives, and point to how to move beyond it. The manuscript, which is close to completion, will be approximately 90,000 words.

Guilt presents a counterintuitive explanation that will allow readers to think of their guilt in a new way. I show that rather than thinking of guilt as an outcome of doing something wrong, we need to recast guilt as an emotional signal that we have damaged a relationship. As such, guilt can be a healthy reaction. Guilt signals to us that we have harmed a relationship and that we should attempt to repair that harm. But guilt can sometimes arise inappropriately and in such cases, we need to examine our personal responsibility and let go of guilt if possible. Drawing on a deep personal experience of guilt in a variety of forms (I grew up Catholic, I was convicted of a criminal offence and spent time in jail as a young adult, I spent 5 years in therapy dealing with unconscious guilt), I use personal stories to illustrate this approach to guilt and explore it in different contexts, such as family life, challenges to mental health, and religion. I also explain the psychological basis of guilt by delving into its emotional nature, its development in childhood, and its roots in animal conflict resolution.

As an academic psychologist, I’ve enjoyed a long and successful career researching, writing, and teaching on the nature of social relationships with a focus on how they develop through childhood. After many years of writing for other academics like myself I am making the transition to writing for a more general audience. To help with this transition, last year I completed the MFA in Creative Nonfiction at the University of King’s College in Halifax. Psychology has a natural general appeal in that we are all in some sense ‘commonsense psychologists’ (the subject of my first book). My overall goal is to help people understand the way their minds work and perhaps help to navigate the complexities and challenges of being human. There are no recent books on guilt outside the self-help genre. But as a general interest book on Psychology, it will compare to titles such as Eva Holland’s Nerve and Paul Bloom’s Against Empathy.

I am querying you because of your experience working with academics and scientists. Of course, I understand that this project may not fit with your interests or the balance of your list (don’t feel guilty!). But if you would like to see more, I have a full proposal prepared and I can send it along with two complete chapters.