Success Story Interview - Danielle L Jensen

An Interview with Danielle L Jensen (dljensen on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Tamar Rydzinski of Context 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?
Danielle L Jensen:
Stolen Songbird was somewhat inspired by a dream I had about a city covered by rubble, but mostly it came swimming out of my imagination.

Trolls are said to love gold. They are said to live underground and hate humans, perhaps even eat them. They are said to be evil. When Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and sold to the trolls, she finds out that there is truth in the rumours, but there is also so much more to trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus, the city she hadn’t even known existed under Forsaken Mountain: escape. But the trolls are inhumanly strong. And fast. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something strange happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall in love with the handsome, thoughtful troll prince that she has been bonded and married to. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll/part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter from Goshawk’s Hollow. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Danielle L Jensen:
I really liked writing stories when I was a kid, but it wasn’t the path I followed after high school. In 2006, a friend of mine suggested writing a novel, and I decided to give it a shot. I ended up loving writing so much that in 2009 I decided to go back to university and focus on writing.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Danielle L Jensen:
I started writing this particular novel in 2010, but I started and stopped working on it several times. In total, I think it took about eight months to come up with a first draft.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Danielle L Jensen:
Find me a writer who HASN’T felt like giving up! I was actually in an absolute pit of despair a few days before I got THE CALL from Tamar. One of those what am I doing? Why do I bother? I’m never going to succeed moments that I think are all too familiar for querying writers. What has helped me stay the course is the desire to spend my life doing something I love. I don’t want to look back on my life when I’m old and feel that I gave up on my dreams because of a few years of rejection. I would rather work harder doing something I love than have an easy ride doing something that bores me. Nothing worth having ever comes easy, right?
QT: Is this your first book?
Danielle L Jensen:
This is my forth book, but only the third to be queried.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Danielle L Jensen:
I have a Bachelor of Arts – English (Honours), but I didn’t take any of the creative writing courses. My focus was on 17th Century British literature, which was actually pretty helpful when it came to writing fantasy novels. My training has primarily been through writing and reading as much as I can.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Danielle L Jensen:
I try to write or edit every day, but sometimes life gets in the way.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Danielle L Jensen:
That is a tough question to answer, because I tend to edit as I go. I stopped writing this novel about halfway through and rewrote the beginning three times before I carried on. I am not a particularly fast writer when it comes to first drafts because I really think scenes through before I commit them to paper. So I am sort of a slow-poke, but by the time I finish a novel, it tends to be pretty clean. Of course I say that, but I did go through seven rounds of revisions with Tamar before it went out on submission.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Danielle L Jensen:
For this book, my parents have been my beta readers. My mom was a school librarian, so she is very familiar with the YA market, and my dad is a grammar whiz. I also enlisted the help of Kate Couresy of Teen Eyes Editing to get the opinion of someone who was actually in my target market.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Danielle L Jensen:
When I start writing a book, it is totally from the hip. Once I have about 10k words, I know whether the story has promise or not, and I stop writing then and think about where I want the story to go. I tend to store my outline in my head rather than on paper, but that to change when Stolen Songbird went on submission. Because it is the first in a trilogy, I had to provide outlines for the second and third books to interested editors, which was a major challenge for me.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Danielle L Jensen:
I sent out a few queries for this novel in August 2011, which were all form rejected. I worked on a few revisions during the fall, and then entered MSFV’s Baker’s Dozen contest. Tamar “won” my novel, which meant I got to send her my full manuscript. She got back to me very quickly, saying that she really liked it, but there were some changes she needed to see made before she could consider offering representation. I was swamped with finishing the last semester of my degree, so it actually took me about six-seven months to make all the changes. When they were finished, I sent her an email outlining what I had done and asking her if she wanted to take another look. She got back to me quite quickly saying that she did, and in August, I got THE CALL.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Danielle L Jensen:
Be adaptable. If you have sent out a dozen queries that have all been form rejected, try something different. Maybe try a new version of the query. Maybe enter a contest. Maybe attend a conference with pitch sessions. Just don’t get stuck trying the same thing over and over again. And no matter what, keep writing.