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Success Story Interview - Jennifer Lane

An Interview with Jennifer Lane (jennylane on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Katie Shea Boutillier of Donald Maass 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?
Jennifer Lane:
GLASS HANDS is a contemporary YA novel about revenge amongst classical musicians. It's a thriller with romantic elements that I pitched as "Heathers" meets "Mozart in the Jungle", but to me, it's about how the damaged can seek each other out and fall into something toxic together.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Jennifer Lane:
I've been a playwright for about 12 years, and though I studied short fiction in college, I didn't get serious about writing novels until 4 years ago. GLASS HANDS is my second novel.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Jennifer Lane:
Since April of 2016. I wrote the first draft at a magical residency in Italy, and revised it with an amazing mentor as part of the Author Mentor Match program. It's been an incredible process.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Jennifer Lane:
I do, yes -- I received my MFA in Dramatic Writing.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Jennifer Lane:
I try to write first thing in the morning, 5 days a week. I see it as prioritizing my passion projects before anything else gets my attention, and I'm fortunate that my teaching and freelancing schedule allows me the flexibility to do it.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Jennifer Lane:
I completely rewrote the book twice and did countless other smaller revisions in between.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Jennifer Lane:
Yes, a number of them! I would be completely and utterly lost without my beta readers and critique partners.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Jennifer Lane:
I am definitely an outliner, which is funny because I never outline plays. But with books: yes. I outline, and then I re-outline between each draft.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Jennifer Lane:
I began querying this book in May, so about seven months. Here's the breakdown: 54 Queries; Positive Replies = 20; Negative Replies = 34. Of those 20 positive replies, I received 2 R&Rs, and then 4 offers of representation.

My first book, I sent out 56 queries in batches over the course of about 9 months before shelving it. Of those 56 queries, I got 12 positive replies, but after a while querying it, I realized it wasn't ready and decided to work on something new instead. I'm glad I did.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Jennifer Lane:
I was seeking an encouraging, hands-on editorial agent who repped both YA and Adult fiction. And most importantly, I was seeking someone who shared my vision for the book. I absolutely found all of that in Katie! She was one of the agents who gave me an R&R and the pages I produced based on her notes are some of the best work I've ever done.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Jennifer Lane:
Focus on the things you can control: refining your craft, seeking out mentorship opportunities, reading everything you can get your hands on. It's easy to get discouraged, but the best thing you can do is to turn every rejection into another query sent, another page written, another book read.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Jennifer Lane:
Absolutely! I have omitted the bio and paragraphs that I tweaked for each individual letter, but here is the pitch I used:

Query Letter:

Julia, a 17-year-old piano prodigy, is out for revenge. After her classmates at a cutthroat music school projected naked videos of her during a performance, she creates a masterful symphony of vengeance from which none of them will be spared.

If Julia is the composer, Milo is her maestro. He dabbles at every instrument but excels at none, and he’s magnetically drawn to Julia’s devotion to the piano. He’ll do whatever it takes to help her -- and to keep the secret of why he switched schools for senior year. Together, they plot and punish Julia’s enemies: They destroy a car, poison shampoo, and get Julia’s rivals kicked out of a music competition that all but guarantees entry to a conservatory.

Now, at the National Federation of Music’s annual competition, one classmate lies dying in a hotel room. Julia claims it happened one way, but Milo has a different story. One is lying. Both are guilty.

Heathers meets Mozart in the Jungle in GLASS HANDS, a contemporary YA novel complete at 82,000 words. The story is told in alternating POV chapters, interspersed with epistolary elements like news reports, Facebook posts, tweets, chat logs, and interview transcripts.