Success Story Interview - Christina Farley

An Interview with Christina Farley (cfarley on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Jeff Ourvan of Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, LLC.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Christina Farley:
My book is about a Korean-American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself.

They always say write what you know. Well, after living and teaching at an international school in Korea and hearing the difficulties that my students had adjusting to life in Korea, that became my first stepping stone to writing this book. In fact, every place my main character visited was a place I visited, too. So in many ways, it’s full of all my memories of my time in Korea. But, I love writing paranormal stuff so I couldn’t resist incorporating Korean mythology into the story.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Christina Farley:
Five years
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Christina Farley:
It took me two months to write the first draft and the rest of the year to revise it!
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Christina Farley:
Yes and no. This book got the interest of a couple of agents in Authoress’ Secret Agent contest. So that’s when I knew I was onto something. I also had a lot of full requests. But I had to write two revisions to get to the end and sometimes I didn’t know if I had it in me to take the story to the next level. But my critique partners are amazing and they wouldn’t let me give up on it.
QT: Is this your first book?
Christina Farley:
No! This is actually my 5th book I wrote. But it’s the first book where I pushed myself and learned how to revise properly. So I guess you could say it took me five years to learn how to revise!
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Christina Farley:
No. Five and a half years ago, I decided to work on my bucket list and writing a book was on it. But then I realized I loved writing so much that I started doing it for fun. When I finally got serious about writing, I realized I needed more direction because I had no clue what I was doing. That’s when I took Jill Santopolo’s YA class through MediaBistro. That class changed the way I wrote. And it was Jill, the Writing Goddess, who helped me find my ‘voice’.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Christina Farley:
With kids and a full time job, it’s hard to find time. So I write any second I can snatch. For set times, it’s from 5-6 am and then again at night after the kids are in bed and I finish my school work. It’s all a juggling act. And lots of caffeine and chocolate.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Christina Farley:
5 million. Or at least something close to that. Actually, I did three big revisions on my own. After the Secret Agent contest, I did another major revision that took me about 6 months. And then ANOTHER revision after getting more agent feedback. It really was through the help of a number of agents who gave me personal feedback that made this book become what it is today.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Christina Farley:
Absolutely. I have a critique group and three beta readers who read the whole project. I call them the Brilliant Ones because they are.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Christina Farley:
Yes! I’m a believer in outlining. That said, outlining only goes so far and imagination seems to always take over my book. I like outlines to keep me on track and they help me get over the humps.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Christina Farley:
This book took me almost a year to query. It all started when I entered the Secret Agent contest and the book wasn’t ready (even though at the time I thought it was- LOL). One of those agents told me she loved the story, but it needed a revision. I agreed with her, sat down and did a major revision where I basically tore the book apart. Then we moved from Korea back to the States and life was just crazy for a while. I didn’t really start querying again until spring of 2011.

At that time, I got three editorial letters from agents who liked the story but felt it needed more work. Interestingly, they were all saying the same thing! So I took their advice and dug deeper.

I finished that revision in late May and sent the story back out. About that same time was when I read a blog interview with Jeff Ourvan. He had just become an agent and I remember reading his bio and thinking he was the perfect agent for me. So I quickly emailed him (and resisted the urge to tell him he was the ONE!). He asked for the full a week later and then offered representation two weeks after that. I notified those who had my book and six of them read the book over the weekend. But after chatting with Jeff on Monday, I knew not one of them would even come close to being the right agent for me.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Christina Farley:
The ones that I had heard good things about or I really liked their bio.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Christina Farley:
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Christina Farley:
It’s hard. No, sometimes it feels painfully impossible. When you think you can’t write any better, when you think you’re not good enough, that’s when your close.

And don’t settle. Wait for the perfect agent.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Christina Farley:
Love to! But please know I hate writing queries. I can’t even remember how many times I worked on this one to get it right. In the end, this query got me 20 full requests.

Query Letter:

The success of Jeff Stone’s Five Ancestors series demonstrates the appeal of martial arts stories with readers. It’s time now for a girl to sidekick her way into that market―a Korean American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself.

In my 76,000―word YA Asian paranormal, GILDED, sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa’s dad uproots her from her home in L.A. for his new job in Seoul. Jae thought her biggest problem would be trying to fit in with her classmates and dealing with her dismissive grandfather. But she was wrong. A Korean demi-god, Haemosu, has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she’s next. Jae trains with a Korean master, confident her taekwondo will be enough to fight Haemosu. But she’s wrong again. Desperate, Jae delves into the ancient arts of metamorphism and uses her growing power in the Spirit World. Even still, it isn’t enough.

And then there’s Marc. Irresistible, charming, and mysterious, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae’s heart. But Marc has a secret of his own―one that could help destroy Haemosu. As Jae grows closer to him, she must decide if she can trust him and if putting his life in jeopardy is worth the risk.

Jae thought she knew all the answers. It turns out that she's been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she's always been looking for. GILDED combines the Asian magic of SILVER PHEONIX by Cindy Pon and the multicultural flair of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins. The combination of culture clash and girl power offers a refreshing take on the paranormal novel.

Living in Korea for the last eight years has given me insight into Korean culture and history. My writing credits include publications in various magazines including FACES, Highlights, Boys’ Quest, Fun for Kidz, and Hopscotch. I am a member of the SCBWI and my work has placed in the Southwest Writers and the Cassell Network of Writers contests.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Christina Farley