Success Story Interview - Jaimie Engle

An Interview with Jaimie Engle (jaimiengle on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Pam Pho of Steven Literary.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Jaimie Engle:
Certainly! The manuscript is titled DREADLANDS and is the story of a Norse boy who must lead his sister across Viking era Labrador, Canada before the next full moon releases the ferine-arctic wolves that shift into human form-from hiding, only somehow the creatures have escaped the Dreadlands and are hunting them. It’s a MG fantasy adventure.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Jaimie Engle:
I have been writing since I was seven. I won first place in the state for a poem in the second grade and knew one day I would be an author.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Jaimie Engle:
I spent 6 months on DREADLANDS. I wrote 1,000 words a day 5 days a week, took a month off for the manuscript to simmer, and began a 2 month editing process before turning it over to my beta readers.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Jaimie Engle:
Most definitely!! I actually was ready to give up on writing altogether and go get a job at a drugstore. A couple things kept me on course: taking a few days off to feel sorry for myself; working on a short story that I could craft, polish, and publish immediately; and reminding myself that the ones who made it never gave up. That is my mantra. If I give up, I’m guaranteed NOT to publish a book. I didn’t like those odds.
QT: Is this your first book?
Jaimie Engle:
No. My first book is a middle grade fantasy adventure titled CLIFTON CHASE AND THE ARROW OF LIGHT. It’s about a boy who finds a magical arrow that transports him to 1485 England on a medieval adventure. It’s really about learning to trust the powers that be, and to find the strength inside to do the right thing.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Jaimie Engle:
Besides the weekly grocery list, no. I attend Society of Children Book Writer’s & Illustrators (SCBWI) conferences annually and read at least 60 books a year on the craft and by other middle grade authors.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Jaimie Engle:
I try to write regularly, be it a micro, a short story, a blog post, etc. When I’m working on a novel, I make it my goal to hit that 1,000 word mark at least 5 days a week, and when I’m editing, I make sure I’m working on a new writing project simultaneously. And I NEVER re-read any more than the previous day’s last pages until I pen “The End.” Otherwise, the critic inside me won’t let me finish the book.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Jaimie Engle:
From start to finish, I’d say around 7 drafts. My first read is simply to check the story as a whole, make a list of characters, time stamp scenes, and mark any lure or world building that must remain consistent throughout the story. The subsequent drafts work in layers to perfect the word choice, the theme, foreshadow events, and line edit. But for my final edit, I always, yes ALWAYS, read the book out loud, chapter by chapter and record it to play back. When I can go through the chapter without anything sounding off, I consider that my final revision and deem it my best possible writing for my readers. I usually go through each chapter at least 7 times during this edit.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Jaimie Engle:
Yes. Some are students in my target age group, some are published authors, and some are my writing friends. All are encouraged to be BRUTALLY HONEST!! If I wanted compliments on my work, I’d have asked my mom to read it.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Jaimie Engle:
I do not outline in the traditional way. I generally have an idea of where the story is headed or the theme or the final scene in which I plot toward as I write. I let the characters take on a life of their own. I allow the setting to grow as an organic being within the plot. I write for myself first, so I like to be surprised when I re-read what I wrote the day before. I figure if I don’t see it coming, then I can be sure the reader won’t either.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Jaimie Engle:
I began querying this book on November 25th, 2012. On February 1st, I queried an agent from one of those “Agent Wishlist” posts on Twitter. She excitedly requested a full the next day, and offered me representation on March 4th, almost a month after I first queried her.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Jaimie Engle:
I sent out 40 total.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Jaimie Engle:
I researched each agent to see who might be a good match. If I found someone interesting, I checked out their story on the water cooler and read as many interviews I could on other people’s blogs, writer’s digest, and their publisher’s marketplace page.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Jaimie Engle:
If I met the agent at a conference, I mentioned that of course, which was the case for three of my queries. But otherwise, if I read something interesting in their bio that we had in common, I mentioned it. For example, my agent mentioned one of her favorite books is Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby. He is my favorite author, and he critiqued the first 10 pages of DREADLANDS at a June 2012 SCBWI Conference and loved the story. Of course, I name-dropped and mentioned the experience in my query letter. And it worked!!
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Jaimie Engle:
Use the lists on querytracker to submit concisely. Find a few agents who are known to provide personal responses and test the waters with them first. You’ll soon discover what does and doesn’t work with your query. Be patient. Have someone else objectively review your query. And don’t give up…I queried 150 agents with my first book and ended up not signing with any of them. This time, I queried 40, had 4 full manuscript requests, and found my agent, the amazing Pam Van Hylckama Vleig of Foreword Literary.

Query Letter:

When a Viking boy and his sister are hunted by the ferine, arctic wolves cursed to the Dreadlands, they must reach the city by the sea within one moon cycle, before a sorceress captures them, seals a spell with their blood, and returns the realm to Darkness.

With a grandmother who is unnatural, an anxious mother, and a missing father, Arud’s family tree is rooted in secrets. The harvest moon approaches, a single night when the ferine’s binds to the Dreadlands are broken, freeing them to hunt. But when one appears beneath Arud’s window, his mother rushes him off, urging him to take care of his sister whose sickness grows worse. After meeting a beautiful girl with questionable motives, Arud discovers a prophecy in which the blood of a human and ferine hybrid would shift all power to the Sorceress Edda and her wild pack of hunters. But when Arud learns his sister is the hybrid in this prophecy, his world is shaken as family deceptions unravel. Now the stakes are raised, and getting safely to the city in the sea becomes more than a quest. It becomes survival.

My short stories and poems are published online and in print by Writer’s Digest, The Bulletin by the SCBWI, and a children's piece appearing in Clubhouse Jr. this summer. My YA sci-fi novella, The Regime, received honorable mentions in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writer’s of the Future contest, and my piece The Heist was awarded second place in the 2012 Space Coast Writer's Guild's short story competition. I am a PAL member of the SCBWI.

DREADLANDS is a 76,000 YA speculative fiction manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.