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Success Story Interview - Elly Ha

An Interview with Elly Ha (ellyha_eh on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Thao Le of Sandra Dijkstra 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?
Elly Ha:
I never thought to write a Korean-inspired fantasy until I watched a special episode of a Korean variety show called Infinite Challenge. They recruited Korean hip hop artists to write and perform songs that tell stories of Korean history, from the Japanese invasion all the way to the creation of the Korean alphabet. Learning the history of my heritage made me feel so viscerally, I had to write a book to convey those feelings to others. I eventually crafted it into an East Asian-inspired YA fantasy in which two princesses create a new alphabet to resist the empire.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Elly Ha:
Since elementary school, in fifth or sixth grade? That was probably nine or ten years ago.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Elly Ha:
Not long, actually! I conceived of it in December, finished writing it by March when #pitmad (a pitch contest) happened on Twitter.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Elly Ha:
So many times I felt that my passion wasn't enough to make me succeed. I did the only thing I could do and assured myself that my passion had to be enough, and I wrote another book.
QT: Is this your first book?
Elly Ha:
Nope! It is my fourth!
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Elly Ha:
None whatsoever. When I signed with Thao in April, I hadn't even declared my major in English. My program now is modern culture and literature.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Elly Ha:
Yes! Ideally, I write at night time, with a small lamp on in the corner, my earphones on my head, and instrumental music playing softly. Game, movie, and anime soundtracks are my favorites. I also try to write at least something every night.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Elly Ha:
I went through my standard of 3 rounds of edits before sending the manuscript out for #pitmad, but even then I had missed so many errors.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Elly Ha:
To be honest, no! I should have, but I wasn't active on Twitter to put out a call, and I didn't have any friends who read or wrote for fun.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Elly Ha:
I used to be able to pants a book, but this one desperately needed an outline. Especially since it was originally dual POV.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Elly Ha:
I hadn't queried this book before #pitmad. During #pitmad, I received an offer of rep within three weeks. A week afterwards, I signed with Thao. For my previous three books, I had been querying about a year and a half.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Elly Ha:
Upwards of 60 agents, most of them who requested it from #pitmad on Twitter.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Elly Ha:
They had to represent fantasy, or be interested in diverse reads. I also researched agents who represented the fantasy books I loved.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Elly Ha:
Absolutely! I would reference their manuscript wishlist descriptions, comp my book to their clients' books, and always always address them by name, not "Dear Agent."
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Elly Ha:
Research agents, make sure they represent your genre and type of project. But more importantly, research how to write a decent query letter. Make sure you nail the format and kind of content they want. There are so many resources online, and I'd highly recommend using them. And of course, be courteous!

Query Letter:

​After her mother is murdered by traitors to the kingdom, Princess Iseul of Kang Cor relinquishes her royal title to devote herself as Captain of the Royal Guard, vowing to protect her people from the kingdom's long-lasting enemies. Across the sea, soft-hearted and sheltered Saya ekes out an oppressed life beneath the despotism of her father, the Emperor of Ilboren.

The night Ilboren invades Kang Cor, Iseul and her retinue just barely survive the savage attack on their homeland. When her people are punished and killed for being unable to read the Empire's edicts written in Ilborenese characters, Iseul begins plotting revenge on the Empire. Fighting alone and hurt, however, leads her down a path only of senseless carnage and shame.

Saya, now the puppet queen of Kang Cor, comes face-to-face with the regime's brutality. Without an ounce of power to her name, she finds a way to defy her ruthless father: by creating an alphabet unique to the Corian people. Saya disguises herself as a noble-turned-slave, risking her life to spread the language for the people to use so they may read the laws and survive.

Their first meeting nearly ends in blood, but the two slave princesses soon unite as allies coordinating a silent rebellion. When the heavens bring them together as invader and avenger, however, a horrible twist has them both running for their lives from the Empire that wants them and their work burned from history.

[TITLE] is a dark YA epic fantasy complete at 110,000 words, appealing to fans of gritty but hope-filled fantasies like An Ember in the Ashes.