Success Story Interview - Jonathan David Kranz

An Interview with Jonathan David Kranz (JonKranz on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Marcy Posner of Folio Literary Management.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Jonathan David Kranz:
Our Brothers at the Bottom of the Bottom of the Sea (tentative title) is set in a Jersey beach town where three teens rocked by private griefs, public graffiti and a hidden journal dare to bond together, even if it means exposing secrets that will tear their town apart.

It was inspired by a conversation with a young man (14) about his experiences growing up in a shore town. His older brother had put in double-hours working for an amusement park on the boardwalk. But when he got his paycheck, it was half what he had expected. When pressed, the boss said, tough s@#$, times are hard and he didn't have the money to pay the overtime the brother had earned.

Although this anecdote doesn't appear in the novel, it did get me thinking: what would it be like to grow up in a town where one man (the park owner) could wield so much power with impunity? What would happen if some kids rebelled?
QT: How long have you been writing?
Jonathan David Kranz:
I got my MFA back in 1995, but dropped fiction to concentrate on my copywriting career. I hadn't written a word of fiction for 13 years when I started the novel.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Jonathan David Kranz:
Since August of 2009.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Jonathan David Kranz:
Felt like giving up? Almost every day. But I made a promise to myself to see it through, hell or high water.
QT: Is this your first book?
Jonathan David Kranz:
It's my first novel, but not my first book. That would be Writing Copy for Dummies.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Jonathan David Kranz:
An MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Lots of bruises from the college of hard knocks.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Jonathan David Kranz:
Yes! I get up at 6 in the morning, get a cup of coffee, and write as freely as I can for two hours. Then I eat breakfast and go to my day job.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Jonathan David Kranz:
At least four, probably five times.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Jonathan David Kranz:
No. I prefer to fly solo.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Jonathan David Kranz:
It's more an iterative thing: I write my way in, then lay out a rough plan based on the possibilities. I follow the plan until I get stuck, then I re-assess the situation and try another approach: lather, rinse, repeat.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Jonathan David Kranz:
I queried for about two years total, with a long break of a year or so midway in which I made dramatic revisions.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Jonathan David Kranz:
I think about 140. Lots and lots of queries. I would send them out in batches of 10 at a time.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Jonathan David Kranz:
First, I searched under YA and Literary (Boolean), then expanded my net to all YA. The agent I eventually landed, Marcy Posner, actually came from the first group of those in both categories.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Jonathan David Kranz:
One of the great things about QueryTracker is that it supplements the agent descriptions with other web resources, including interviews, if available. I would check these, looking for insights into agent interests, passions, peeves, etc. If I found something applicable, I would weave it into the opening sentence of the query.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Jonathan David Kranz:
Don't rush your MS. I sent mine out before it was really fully baked. Fortunately, I got feedback that helped me get it right (after more than a year of work), and that new-and-improved MS won a great agent's heart. But man, I really pushed my luck -- I wouldn't do that again.

Query Letter:

In a Jersey shore town that prides itself as, "America's #1 Family Resort," the discovery of a late brother¹s hidden journal unites fourteen-year-old Ethan Waters with Rachel Leary, a high school graduate emotionally paralyzed after her own younger brother¹s death, in a quest for justice that will lead to the most powerful person in Sea Town.

Our Brothers at the Bottom of the Bottom of the Sea follows Rachel¹s journey from isolation to engagement, cynicism to commitment. Once forced out of her shell by a police inquiry, her path crosses with Ethan ­ who has tagged the Boardwalk with a cryptic graffiti message, ³Don¹t Fall² ­ and Leonard Washington Washington [not a typo], an African American amusement park attendant who¹s set up to take the blame for Rachel¹s brother¹s death. Ethan¹s discovery of his brother Jason¹s journal sheds new light on the circumstances behind both brothers¹ deaths; the journal¹s unfolding love story, involving the daughter of the owner of Sea Town¹s amusement parks, complicates the three friends¹ understanding of the facts and of the futures that lay ahead for them. There is one slender chance for exposing the truth,
but it means Rachel has to make hard choices about who to trust, who to betray ­ and who, at heart, she really is.

I have an MFA from Emerson College and am the author of Writing Copy for Dummies. My short stories have appeared in a variety of journals including The Missouri Review and Green Mountains Review. I have broadcasted six of my essays on National Public Radio¹s All Things Considered. Author Wally Lamb nominated my story, Emo¹s Garden, for a Pushcart Prize.