Welcome to the all NEW QueryTracker. See what's changed.

Success Story Interview - EM Powell

An Interview with EM Powell (elainemp65 on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Joshua Getzler of HG Literary.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
EM Powell:
The title of my book is The Fifth Knight. It's historical fiction- a mainstream medieval suspense with romantic elements. It's centred on the brutal murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.
QT: How long have you been writing?
EM Powell:
I've been wriing for ten years, but only seriously for the last seven. (only!)
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
EM Powell:
It had its first incarnation by the end of 2009. I got three full requests and several partials for it, but the feedback told me it wasn't there yet.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
EM Powell:
Lots of times! Fortunately for me, I have a spouse who simply wouldn't let me. And I've had so much support from other writers. Many of them have been half a world away and I've never met them in person, but they kept me going with their generosity and enthusiasm. That includes the folks on QT who are always there with a consoling cyberhug. No-one understands the sting of rejection like another author.
QT: Is this your first book?
EM Powell:
My third.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
EM Powell:
I've done a few short courses online but otherwise, no.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
EM Powell:
On days when I'm not in the day job, I try and cram as many hours as possible. But old habits die hard- I'm a complete night owl and can work at my best in the early hours when the house is quiet.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
EM Powell:
I had done a number of drafts. Then the manuscript took first place in the mainstream category of the Daphne Contest 2011 (Romance Writers of America's Kiss of Death Mystery/Suspense Chapter). Michelle Vega (Berkley) was a final round judge and requested the full MS. As Berkley don't accept unagented submissions, this was a huge opportunity. So I sat down and took it apart, and rewrote the heck out of it. In all, I rewrote 30k out of 100k words.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
EM Powell:
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
EM Powell:
I've done both, but am now settled on outlining.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
EM Powell:
I started querying this book in earnest in January 2012.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
EM Powell:
I sent out 66. Out of those, I got 9 full requests in total and several partials. I received three offers of representation, Josh being one. The other two were Jill Marsal and Ann Collette. Jill and Ann were a pleasure to deal with and anyone would be so fortunate to have them as their representative. But for me, Josh was the best fit with regard to my work and potential markets.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
EM Powell:
Using QueryTracker and another market listings tool, I searched on genre and from there to each agency's website and author lists. The comments on QT were very, very helpful too. I'm also keeping active with QT as the blog is invaluable.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
EM Powell:
Only to make sure I had the name of the agent and their contact details correct.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
EM Powell:
Don't give up, simple as that. While you keep trying, you still have a chance. Soon as you stop, you don't.

Query Letter:

Dear Josh Getzler,

The Canterbury Witnesses (previous title, now The Fifth Knight) is a 100,000 word mainstream medieval suspense with romantic elements.

Canterbury Cathedral 1170: one of the most infamous episodes in medieval history. Archbishop Thomas Beckett is brutally murdered by a group of knights, not for his public conflict with King Henry II, but for the explosive secret he holds. The focus of the knights’ quest isn’t Becket. It is the capture of Sister Theodosia Bertrand, a young nun cloistered by Becket in the walls of the cathedral. She is only half the prize: they also seek her mother Amélie, a widowed vowess. Their leader, the vicious Sir Reginald Fitzurse, plans Theodosia’s torture and murder to get that information. He charges one of his knights, Sir Benedict Palmer, to carry out the task. Palmer, a jobbing mercenary already doubting the mission with Becket’s slaying, can’t bring himself to comply with the depraved order. Instead, he aids Theodosia’s escape. Their only chance to save their lives is to unlock Becket’s secret. With Amélie the key, they have to find her before the murdering Fitzurse does. But what could she know that would cause the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of Henry’s church, to be cut down in his own cathedral?

The Canterbury Witnesses took first place in the Mainstream Category of the Daphne Contest 2011 (Romance Writers of America Kiss of Death Mystery/Suspense Chapter). Final round judge Michelle Vega (Berkley/Penguin USA) has requested a full MS. Her comments were: 'The writing is well done and detailed and the plot moves quickly in The Canterbury Witnesses. Theodosia and Palmer are both intriguing and sympathetic characters. And the synopsis to a strong storyline, plot development and resolution.'

The MS has also achieved first place in the Colorado Romance Writers Heart of the Rockies Contest 2011 (Mainstream/Romantic Elements Category). It is a finalist in the RWA From the Heart Chapter Wallflower Contest 2011 (awaiting placement). It has received four other RWA final placements.

About me: born in the Republic of Ireland, I’m forty-six years old, married with a daughter. My degree in English Literature was the start of my passion for Old and Medieval English culture and history.

I have been writing for seven years and am a member of the Historical Novel Society. I am also a member of Romance Writers of America and their on-line From the Heart Chapter. I achieved PRO status in 2009. I have been accepted on the Romantic Novelists' Association's (UK) 2012 New Writers' Scheme. My previous MS, a medieval historical romance, achieved seven contest placements.

Thank you once again for your time and your consideration of my work. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours

Elaine M. Powell