Welcome to the all NEW QueryTracker. See what's changed.

Success Story Interview - Clay Harmon

An Interview with Clay Harmon (C_Harmon on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Joshua Bilmes of JABberwocky Literary Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Clay Harmon:
It's an epic fantasy set on a subterranean world, where the cities are built from sinkholes and the primary method of travel is through a vast underground network. What inspired me to write it was the video game TERRARIA, which really made exploring places beneath the earth feel like an adventure. I realized that a lot of stories taking place in that setting were in the horror genre, and I wanted to put my own spin on it.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Clay Harmon:
Started the first draft of my first manuscript in January of 2010. Before that, I wrote a lot of Star Wars fan-fiction.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Clay Harmon:
The world-building began in June of 2017, and the actual writing of the manuscript started several weeks after that. I think I finished the initial draft 6 or 7 months later, followed by a year and a half of editing, thinking my manuscript was done, and then editing some more when I realized I was being delusional. So about 2 years total.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Clay Harmon:
There were several weeks while I was waiting to hear back from Joshua (just before he offered) where I couldn't write a thing. For previous manuscripts I queried, I would find a new idea to fall in love with and work on that while I queried, but for some reason with this most recent manuscript, I couldn't summon the motivation to work on something new. I would just end up dwelling on my past failures and wonder if whatever I worked on was destined for the same fate. I was very scared I wouldn't be able to write again. I'm not sure where I'd be if Joshua hadn't offered representation. Looking back, it was definitely one of those "the night is darkest before the dawn" moments.
QT: Is this your first book?
Clay Harmon:
This is the fifth book I queried since I sent my first query for my first book in September of 2011.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Clay Harmon:
No. I just read and write a lot. My skill at writing increased much more quickly once I started reading a lot more a few years ago.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Clay Harmon:
The part of the routine that never changes involves morning trips to Starbucks on Saturdays and Sundays. The rest of the time, I find time in the evening or throughout the day, depending on the work load for my day job.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Clay Harmon:
I would guess-timate around 4 times? My second draft was much cleaner compared to previous manuscripts, which suffered from at least twice as many rewrites.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Clay Harmon:
Yes. I had 2 people read the whole thing, and a few more who read chunks of it.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Clay Harmon:
I have a hybrid method where I fill out 2 or 3 scene cards from Lisa Cron's STORY GENIUS, then proceed to write out those scenes. I'll use any inspiration I've found during writing to fill out the next 2 or 3 scene cards.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Clay Harmon:
I queried from April 2018 to February 2019, though I sent out very few queries after August of 2018, when I met Joshua at WorldCon. He and I worked on multiple drafts of my book before he offered representation, and he more or less had the exclusive during that time.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Clay Harmon:
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Clay Harmon:
Adult fantasy agents who had at least some sales history with larger presses. Attribute that to the dream of publishing with one of the Big 5.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Clay Harmon:
Go to conventions if you can afford it. My agent definitely gave my submission a closer consideration due to the time I spent with him at WorldCon. Also, read more. A lot of un-agented writers I meet don't read nearly as much as they should, and I think that's the most important resource for improving. Oh, and finally, read Lisa Cron's STORY GENIUS. It's brilliant.

Query Letter:

Dear Agent,

I'd like to offer my epic fantasy, SERF OF THE MOUNTAIN, up for consideration. [Personalization here for why I queried that particular agent].

Manservant Ig works as the city magnate’s most loyal attendant, but no one knows of the flesh magic that will kill him if he disobeys a single command. Nor of the throats he’s slit and the bodies he’s burned to stop the beginnings of a rebellion.

A master at navigating the winding tunnels and corridors of the underground city of Augustin, Ig works as the iron grip to Magnate Sorrelo’s rule. With each murder he is forced to commit though, the more Ig fantasizes about turning on his master—anything to end his enslavement and cure the conscience that is eating him alive. And as he comes to know those behind the growing rebellion—the magnate’s daughter, among them—only death awaits those he yearns to help. For the magnate will sacrifice anyone to maintain a hold on his rule. Family and friends included.

After riots erupt in the city streets, Ig must find a way to aid the newfound allies he is tasked with hunting down. He’ll also have to defy the one man he is powerless against, or bloody his hands executing anyone courageous enough to stand against him.

SERF OF THE MOUNTAIN is an epic fantasy complete at 130,000 words, taking place in a subterranean world inspired by the video game TERRARIA. [Writing Credentials Here].