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Success Story Interview - Corinne Duyvis

An Interview with Corinne Duyvis (CorinneDuyvis on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy 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?
Corinne Duyvis:
OTHERBOUND is a YA fantasy novel about Nolan Santiago, a boy from our world who's spent ten years involuntarily witnessing the life of a servant girl from another world every time he blinks--and what happens when he finally learns to communicate with her. Oh, and a tiny detail? It'll be out in from Amulet Books in 2014.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Corinne Duyvis:
I've dabbled in fandom since 2004, but did not seriously start on novels until 2008.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Corinne Duyvis:
After spending several months brainstorming on and off, I started writing the first draft in September 2011. That took me a month. I started querying agents in April, got an offer from Amulet Books in September, had two agent offers the next day, and signed with Ammi-Joan a couple of days after that. So, about a year from the first words to the happy bouncing.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Corinne Duyvis:
Yes, actually--this entire summer was exceptionally tough for me. What helped me stay on course was a) knowing I'd get there if I just kept trying, b) excitement over future novels, and c) my friends, who uniformly went, "Uhhh, how about no" when I mentioned giving up.
QT: Is this your first book?
Corinne Duyvis:
No, it's my sixth. It's the second book I've edited and queried, though.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Corinne Duyvis:
I attended the Clarion West workshop in the summer of 2011, but nothing aside from that.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Corinne Duyvis:
I am the most organized person you will meet in terms of obsessiveness and keeping track of things. Unfortunately, that level of organization does not extend to my ability to keep a schedule. I pretty much flail about until a book shows up on my computer.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Corinne Duyvis:
I never rewrote the entire book from scratch, but OTHERBOUND underwent a lot of editing. Many scenes in the first half were completely overhauled version to version. I think I had about four or five major drafts, but I could be wrong.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Corinne Duyvis:
Absolutely. Different ones from version to version--only one person was brave enough to read the book twice (thanks, N!). The book would not be half of what it is now without their insightful comments.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Corinne Duyvis:
I outline, often obsessively, and adjust that outline with every draft. Scrivener is a godsend for this kind of thing. I would marry the corkboard if I could.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Corinne Duyvis:
I sent my first ever query in February of 2010, for a different book. OTHERBOUND's first query went out in April of 2012.

I went back to look at the e-mail timestamps the other day, and as it turns out, the agent I ended up signing with was the absolute first agent I queried for this book. It would've saved me a lot of heart-ache if I'd known that in advance!
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Corinne Duyvis:
Enough that I'm kind of embarrassed about it.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Corinne Duyvis:
Solid previous sales, experience with YA fantasy, and positive words floating around Internetland.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Corinne Duyvis:
If I had something specific to mention, I'd add anything from one to three lines about how I thought OTHERBOUND might be a good fit for them. If I couldn't find anything on their website or in interviews, though, I just sent the standard letter. Better that than stretching it and coming across as desperate.

I'd also mention if the agent had read my previous novel, or if we'd had other interactions.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Corinne Duyvis:
Mentally shelve the book you're querying as soon as possible, and focus on your next book. When you have that excitement to keep you going, rejections are a lot easier to take.

This is partially why I struggled so much during this summer; because of revisions and vacation, I didn't have a shiny new project to keep me enthused.