Success Story Interview - Gail Kellner

An Interview with Gail Kellner (karatemom on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Mary Cummings of Great River Literary.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Gail Kellner:
It's called Werewolf Park, and it's about a family who runs a werewolf sanctuary. The werewolves escape and the tourists get the idea this is part of the fun. First one to catch a werewolf wins!
QT: How long have you been writing?
Gail Kellner:
Mostly my entire life, but more seriously, i.e. with the goal of getting published, about 8-9 years.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Gail Kellner:
I want to say I wrote the first draft in about five months. Then I tinkered with it until I found an agent.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Gail Kellner:
All the time. Querying is very discouraging, it's mostly rejections. I had been querying almost a year exactly when I found my agent. I guess I kept querying because I'm really stubborn, and my writer's group helped, too.
QT: Is this your first book?
Gail Kellner:
No, I have a YA book under contract to a small publisher (shout out to Divertir!), which will hopefully be out sometime…soon. Publishing is SO slow.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Gail Kellner:
Not really. I've always wanted to be a writer, but I was afraid I could never make a living at it, so in college I decided to major in something more practical. So I picked theater. Then I realized that was stupid and I switched to psychology.

I have read a lot of books on writing. And I read all the time and always have.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Gail Kellner:
Kind of. I'm also a freelance content writer (think blogs about insurance and marketing) so I do that in the morning. Then I have lunch and a nap, then in the afternoon I work on fiction. Sometimes I have too much content writing to do, so I put off fiction until the weekend.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Gail Kellner:
I think just twice? One major rewrite, and then I tinkered with it until I found an agent.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Gail Kellner:
My writer's group read and critiqued individual chapters, and I did have a few beta readers.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Gail Kellner:
I totally wrote from the hip. I just think "What is the most likely thing to happen next?" And off I go. The only trouble with that is that sometimes you have to rearrange and rewrite everything. I always mean to outline, but somehow I never get around to it.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Gail Kellner:
I sent out my first query on October 22, 2019 and I received an offer of representation on October 23, 2020.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Gail Kellner:
According to my records, 92 but I might have missed a few because every once in a while I got a rejection from someone I couldn't remember having queried.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Gail Kellner:
I read #MSWL on Twitter and tried to reference things the agent wanted, or things we have in common. But quite a few of them I basically sent at random. Actually, I wasn't even going to send Mary a query because she's not on Twitter and she doesn't often respond to queries.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Gail Kellner:
Like I said above (were you not paying attention?) I tried, but a lot of the time there really wasn't anything I could think of to personalize it with, in which case I just sent a form query.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Gail Kellner:
Never give up, but don't keep sending the same query if it's not working. Revise and resend. Read the QueryShark and pay attention to what she (Janet Reid) says. And read books on writing. And just read a lot, anything, just read.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Gail Kellner:

Query Letter:

Dear (Agent)

The first rule of running a werewolf sanctuary: make sure they're locked in at night.

When twelve-year old Dart's parents leave for a family emergency, Dart has to step up and make sure everything at the sanctuary is secure. The first tour bus will be arriving shortly, since tonight is a full moon.

Dart's neighbor, Regan, pest extraordinaire and a girl, distracts Dart as he's alarming the barn. Who just hands someone a snake? Especially when that someone is securing a werewolf barn? Later, when he finds the barn doors standing open, Dart realizes that all six werewolves have high-tailed it for the woods.

The first tour bus arrives and somehow the tourists get the idea that the werewolf sanctuary is a new and improved version of Pokemon Go. They all run into the woods, determined to catch themselves a werewolf.

Not only are the tourists in danger, but this mishap will give the city councilman, Mr. Bateman, the votes he needs to get the werewolf sanctuary shut down forever. Dart can't let his parents down. With Regan's help, the girl who got him into this mess in the first place, he must return all the werewolves to the barn before a tourist gets killed or his parents get home and ground him forever.

This is my first middle-grade novel, but I have a YA novel, My Summer Job in Hell, under contract to a publisher (Divertir). I am also a member of SCBWI and have a writer's group through them.

I live in Massachusetts with my two young adult sons who are on the autism spectrum, and my husband, who says he is not on the spectrum. We do not now, nor do we anticipate, ever running a werewolf sanctuary. I am the person who goes upstairs to read at parties. Werewolf Land is 38,350 words. I hope you like it.

Gail Kellner