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Success Story Interview - David Lomax

An Interview with David Lomax (DavidLomax on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates, Inc..


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
David Lomax:
Backward Glass is a young adult time-travel thriller. Its protagonist, Kenny Maxwell, a teenager in the nineteen seventies, finds a dead baby on the property of a home his family has just moved into. He also finds a note, clearly left decades before, mentioning his name and asking for help. Soon after, he meets another teenager, the mysterious Luka who comes from ten years into the future and introduces him to the mysteries of the backward glass, a mirror that picks one kid in each decade and allows them access to its time-traveling properties. Kenny, Luka and the mirror kids from both past and future become embroiled in the mystery of the dead baby, and soon find themselves hunted by Prince Harming, a neighborhood legend who kills children. This novel was inspired first of all by a gruesome news story. Back in 2007, a renovator in my home town of Toronto, found a mummified baby in the walls of an old house. My own son had just been born a few weeks before, and I could not stop thinking about the story, about what heartbreak had happened to put that baby there. I've always loved time-travel stories, specifically the ever-present problem of the immutability of events which have already happened. Before long, the character of Kenny had come to me, and as scared as he was, terrified of being stuck in the past, he wanted to save that baby. The story spent a long time banging about in my head, but by 2009, I had some of it on paper, and wanted to find an agent.
QT: How long have you been writing?
David Lomax:
I've been writing all my life. My first story, when I was six, was about a little dog who ran all over the house with muddy paws.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
David Lomax:
The idea came to me, as I said before, in 2007, but I didn't actually start writing it until a year later. I had a completed draft by 2010, then made a lot of revisions based on some excellent input from my agent, at which point she started shopping it around. When we got some interest in early 2012, I made a lot of revisions based on some excellent editorial input.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
David Lomax:
What has kept me going was the compulsion to write. I have a lot of ideas, and I feel the need to get them down. I also have an incredibly supportive wife who is my first and best reader – I need to keep her entertained.
QT: Is this your first book?
David Lomax:
Backward Glass may be, as publishers say, my debut novel, but it is far from my first. I have spent many years writing what Stephen King calls my “million words of crap,” which includes five-and-a-half unpublished novels, four-and-a-half of them probably completely unpublishable.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
David Lomax:
I attended the Clarion Science Fiction Workshop in 1998. It was, for me, a very important step in my development as a writer.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
David Lomax:
Since I am a high school teacher, most of my writing happens in the summer. As soon as my students are on summer vacation, I am hard at work on my second job. I usually write in the mornings. When I am working on a rough draft, I try to make two thousand words a day. I get to quit when I get to two thousand. Sometimes that's one in the afternoon. Sometimes it's nine at night.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
David Lomax:
I think the final draft, the one that my editor liked, was something like the eighth draft. There are maybe thirty or forty sentences in there that haven't changed in some way since the first draft.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
David Lomax:
As I said before, my wife is my first and best reader. Sometimes I read chapters to her as I write them. Nobody I know recommends this, but I find it a really good exercise.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
David Lomax:
I outlined kind of desperately. Backward Glass is a time-travel novel, and what I most wanted to do was write a story in which the integrity of causality was protected despite the existence of time travel. No grandfather paradoxes. At one point, I had a whiteboard outlining events in each of the eight decades my characters visit. In the end, much of that outline had to change, but it gave me most of the story beats that ended up in the final draft.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
David Lomax:
I queried for this book for about two months before I hooked an agent.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
David Lomax:
I sent out about sixty query letters. This was exhausting. Every night after we'd put the kids to bed, my wife would consult Query Tracker and suggest “just a couple” of letters. I'd say I was too tired, but she never gave up. In the end, it was probably the sixtieth letter that netted me my agent. It certainly wasn't any in the first forty.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
David Lomax:
I looked at whether they liked YA, time-travel, and speculative fiction. I preferred those who took email submissions, and eventually started going for younger agents, figuring they might be more interested in taking a chance on someone new.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
David Lomax:
If I could find details about the agent, I tailored my letter with slight amendments here and there. I also paid strict attention to how much and how they wanted the submission to look – I didn't want to annoy my potential agent my not reading properly.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
David Lomax:
I have two pieces of advice for writers seeking agents. First, make sure you're ready. Write, write, write, and revise, revise, revise. Often we feel we're ready, but even then there's a voice inside suggesting it needs more work. Second – keep trying. The agent you're querying right now may not be the right one, but that doesn't mean the right one isn't lurking ten or twenty steps further down the list, and if you don't get on with it, you'll never connect with the right person.