Success Story Interview - Elvir Belardi

An Interview with Elvir Belardi (ElvirBelardi on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Bethany Weaver of Weaver 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?
Elvir Belardi:
I’d love to! The book I found representation for is a LGBTQ+ horror pitched as THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE meets CRIMSON PEAK, called BLOOD MANOR. I was inspired to portray a healing story through the lens of horror, which closely mirrored my own personal experiences in life. Ghosts are a powerful symbolic way to describe mental health for me. Here’s the elevator pitch: After being discharged from a psychiatric hospital, eighteen-year-old Griffyn Red is forced to spend the summer at his grandparents’ cabin and survive the vengeful ghosts that haunt the town by banishing the dead from returning with his new found family.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Elvir Belardi:
As long as I can remember! As a child, I would create handwritten books with terribly drawn covers. When I turned 15, I started ambitiously writing and pursuing literary representation. It’s been 9 years since then and I finally have my incredible literary agent Bethany Weaver. We’re also on sub!
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Elvir Belardi:
I started drafting this book during the summer of 2022 in Martha’s Vineyard. And what a polar opposite experience it was to write about murder and ghosts amid summer beachgoers and ice cream! It was a point in my life where I finally felt ready to explore the deep themes of healing and mental health representation. Some books require you to reach a certain point in your life to write them! BLOOD MANOR poured out of my mind like a broken dam that summer.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Elvir Belardi:
YES. Oh God, yes. I faced so much rejection over the years, but I always pushed onward with a new project, because I believe being a writer is my calling. It’s important to understand that your feelings are valid, especially in this industry, but growth requires pain. A few things helped me stay on course: meeting agents at conferences to learn that they’re real people LOL, working with beta readers, and writing in multiple genres. By the time I got my offer, most agents knew me and I had multiple offers of rep with 13 requests for BLOOD MANOR. Reaching that point took years of honing my skill and not rushing the process.
QT: Is this your first book?
Elvir Belardi:
I wish!! It would’ve saved SO much time. BLOOD MANOR is actually my sixth book. I wrote high fantasy before switching gears to do horror! (I’ve seen from multiple agents that fantasy is harder to get representation for compared to other genres.) Tip: if you’re not seeing results in any area of your life, change things up!!
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Elvir Belardi:
Yes and no! I’ve taken professional writing classes over the years very loosely, but also did workshop consultations and R&Rs with agents that have positively impacted my skill.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Elvir Belardi:
I draft at least 2 manuscripts every year! I don’t follow a rigid schedule, but I try to abide by 600 words on a busy day and 1.5K on a normal day. Usually by the last act of the book, I write about 10K words a week!
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Elvir Belardi:
A LOT. I’ve lost count! I did a few edits on my own before my beta readers tore it apart. I then launched into professional agent/editor critiques before querying. After all those edits were done, my agent had her edit notes as well! And I’m 100% certain my editor will have edits as well!
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Elvir Belardi:
Many! I love the site CritiqueMatch, which is where I found my beta readers.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Elvir Belardi:
I outline extensively! I do at least 3 heavy outlines before writing any book. I’m a very extensive outliner! I do 3 outlines for each new book: one is a broad concept with just ideas and such, the second is like a synopsis, but longer (detailing everything that happens) and the third is a chapter-by-chapter breakdown that is very long with everything from plot to characters to dialogue.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Elvir Belardi:
Roughly 7 years! For BLOOD MANOR specifically, I queried for about 5 months before signing with my agent!
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Elvir Belardi:
Horror is a niche genre among agents compared to romance and fantasy, so I sent around 30 queries! One of those ended up being an R&R!!
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Elvir Belardi:
I used the Manuscript Academy database, #mswl, and the query manager database to narrow down my search! I also sent my queries backwards from least-favorite agent to dream agent so I could utilize any feedback as I went!
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Elvir Belardi:
YES!! This is very important! Every single query I sent out was tailored to each agent. I’d either include that they were specially interested in a similar book that matched mine or if we already had a connection from social media or a conference!! Personalizing the letter does WONDERS.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Elvir Belardi:
Perseverance always triumphs! If you’re doing the right things, you will reach your goal eventually. An agent from CAA literary agency actually told me that recently at the Book Festival at Barnes & Noble Union Square & Agent Kaitlyn Katsoupis at Belcastro Agency told me this, too!!
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Elvir Belardi:
I love transparency, so yes! Here it is with a personalization to the agent who got it:

Query Letter:

Dear [Agent],

I noticed you are seeking underrepresented voices and diverse works. You requested another manuscript of mine in the past. Since you enjoyed Anya's Ghost, I thought you might enjoy my 90,000-word LGBTQ+ Horror, BLOOD MANOR.

Ghosts are real. That much Griffyn has come to know, but no one will believe him.

After being discharged from a psychiatric hospital, eighteen-year-old Griffyn is forced to spend the summer at his grandparents’ cabin and survive the vengeful ghosts that haunt the town. The last thing he expects is to be haunted by Ryder Lynn, a ghost who murdered his family with an axe fifty years ago. To make matters worse, a carnival comes to the mountain town in Maine and Griffyn crosses paths with Sadie, a fanfiction-writing girl and part-time ghost hunter. She’s investigating the haunted manor, Lynn Hall, locally known as “Blood Manor” after the gruesome murders that took place there by Ryder Lynn.

When Sadie offers Griffyn a place in her friend group of ghost hunters to figure out why the spirits of the murdered Lynn family have returned for vengeance, he takes her up since it means spending his summer avoiding his own mental issues. Avoiding his toxic grandparents who want him dead for being gay, Griffyn takes a desperate leap of faith and trusts his new friends, quickly falling head over heels for Sadie’s friend, Ethan, who is just as interested in him. But when the heir of Blood Manor returns to collect his inheritance and estate, people start ending up dead in town. Griffyn and his friends must work against the heir’s secret plan to bring back the dead by banishing the ghosts before all hell breaks loose.

I believe this story will appeal to fans of Gallant by V. E. Schwab, The Haunting of Hill House or Crimson Peak. I am a BookTok Influencer on TikTok with over 30K followers. (@elvirreads) I work with the big publishing houses in NYC and I have an BA in Business from Pace University. Thank you for your interest. Stay well.

Warm regards,
Elvir Belardi