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Success Story Interview - Jane Kindred

An Interview with Jane Kindred (bettyblue on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Sara Megibow of KT Literary.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Jane Kindred:
It's a mix of urban and epic fantasy, a kind of angelic version of ANASTASIA, with an underpinning of THE SNOW QUEEN. I've always been fascinated by the tragedy of the Romanovs, the last imperial family of Russia, murdered during the Bolshevik Revolution. The legend that grew up around Anastasia's possible survival captivated me, and even though I knew it was doubtful she'd survived, I wanted to give her that chance in a fictional reality, set in Heaven, with a fall to Earth. I've also always loved Hans Christian Andersen's THE SNOW QUEEN, and wanted to write a more grown-up version of it, where the heroine saves the hero. My angelic Anastasia does her best to save her childhood friend from a terrible enchantment while escaping a celestial revolution.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Jane Kindred:
If you promise not to do the math, the short answer is 32 years. I started writing novellas and novelettes when I was 12 and wrote them all through high school, but didn't finish my first full-length novel until I was 30.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Jane Kindred:
I began researching it in January of 2006 and wrote intermittently for about six months, and then let it languish for nearly three years. I finally decided to get serious about it in December of 2008, and completed the first draft in 10 weeks. I've probably spent a total of three or four months on revisions, though not all at once.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Jane Kindred:
Constantly. I don't handle rejection well, and each one was a little heartbreaking, convincing me a little more each time that it really wasn't ever going to happen for me. But not writing was more painful than rejection, so I didn't see any choice but to keep going. While I do write for myself, from whatever compulsion it is that drives a person to make up other worlds and other people and give them lives and heartaches of their own, it isn't quite the same when you can't share it with the world. What helped me stay on course was encouragement from other writers in the same boat, and from some who had gotten to the other side. I found the writing community on Twitter to be invaluable in that regard.
QT: Is this your first book?
Jane Kindred:
This is my third completed full-length novel.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Jane Kindred:
Yes, I have a degree in Creative Writing.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Jane Kindred:
I used to write when the muse took me, and sometimes that meant writing for several hours a day for weeks at a time, but there were many long gaps in between "inspired" bursts that I eventually decided were a lack of discipline rather than a lack of inspiration. After being stuck at around 20,000 words for three years, I finally set a goal to finish my novel in three months by writing 1,000 words a day, and finished it in 10 weeks. I now write every day if I can, and my goal is still 1,000 words a day, though I don't always meet it. I have no specific time of day set aside to write, just whatever free time I can fit in around my day job--which often means writing until 2:00 in the morning. (I don't get 1,000 words out very quickly, because I do a lot of stopping and working things through in my head.)
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Jane Kindred:
I queried initially on the fifth draft, then later reduced the wordcount for a sixth draft, thinking it might be getting rejected based on length. Finally, I did some extensive rewrites for my seventh and final draft based on the suggestions of the agent who ultimately offered me representation.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Jane Kindred:
I had a number of terrific beta readers who weren't writers, but read extensively in the genre and gave some great feedback. I didn't really have critique partners per se, but I did have a couple of writer friends read it as well.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Jane Kindred:
I'm definitely a "pantser." I need to experience the book as if I'm reading it rather than getting in my own way for the first draft. I did write an outline afterward, however, to organize what I wanted to change in revisions.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Jane Kindred:
For this book, one year, but I started querying on my first novel in 1999, and spent five years off and on querying on my second, with no success.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Jane Kindred:
Thirty-five. And I received thirty-five rejections. The offer came from a resubmission based on revisions the agent suggested early in the querying process with her initial rejection. I queried her in my first batch.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Jane Kindred:
I selected them based on whether they represented my genre and subgenre, and if they mentioned an affinity for something similar to what I was writing (or had represented something similar that I loved). With each batch of queries, I picked a few veteran agents and a few who were new to the business. I also had a few referrals, but none of those panned out.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Jane Kindred:
For most of them I did. I followed their blogs, read interviews they'd given, and followed them on Twitter to get a feel for what they were looking for, in addition to tracking their sales on Publisher's Marketplace. For those who had less visible Web presences or simply didn't mention enough specifics for me to personalize, I sent a more generic letter.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Jane Kindred:
Don't give up. Learn all you can about the business, because it IS a business, and constantly work to perfect your craft, but ultimately, I think it's sheer stubbornness, even when the odds seem ridiculous, that will see you through. Some people seem to just sail right into it on their first try, and when you see that, it can make you think you must not be good enough, or it would have happened for you. But you just have to get to one "yes," and if it takes you a little longer, that "yes" will be all the sweeter. And be very wary of people who give advice in absolute terms: "always do this, never do that." You'll hear so much contradictory advice about querying, it'll make your head explode if you try to reconcile it all. I heard some along the way that said if you aren't getting a 75% request rate, you're doing something wrong, and the person stating that "absolute truth" claimed to know this for certain, because that's what his query letter got. Well, good for him, but that kind of leap in logic is arrogant nonsense. I think the statistics on QueryTracker will bear that out. Nobody's journey is going to be the same.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Jane Kindred:
This was the final draft (number 17!), and not the version I initially queried with; it garnered 2 requests out of 2 queries, while the initial version got me 5 requests out of 20 queries, and there were a dozen versions in between that fell flat:

Query Letter:

Dear [Agent]:

[Personalized greeting]

Anazakia may be the next Queen of Heaven—if a pair of thieving demons can keep her alive.

Until her cousin slaughtered the supernal family, Anazakia's father ruled the Heavens, governing noble Host and Fallen peasants alike. Now Anazakia is the last grand duchess of the House of Arkhangel'sk, and all she wants is to stay alive. Heaven can go to hell.

Hunted by Seraph assassins, Anazakia flees Heaven with Fallen thieves who hide her in the world of Man, where the line between vice and virtue is soon blurred. With the unexpected passion of a fire demon to warm her through the Russian winter, Heaven seems a distant dream. But when she learns the truth behind the celestial coup, Anazakia will have to return to fight for the throne—even if it means saving the man who murdered everyone she loved.

The House of Arkhangel'sk, a complete, standalone urban fantasy of 104,000 words, is the first in a planned series. Inspired by Russia's tumultuous history and Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, it combines the conflicted heroine of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy with the endearing rogues of Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner series. My short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies from Cleis Press, Alyson Books, Circlet Press, and Dreams Unlimited.

Per your guidelines, I have included [exactly what the agent asked for, and nothing else]. I appreciate your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Jane Kindred