Success Story Interview - Kelly Duran

An Interview with Kelly Duran (ByKellyDuran 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?
Kelly Duran:
CAN'T TAKE IT BACK is a contemporary women's fiction novel that focuses on four female friends all facing a crossroads in their lives. It is about the strength of female friendships and how important that specific kind of support and encouragement is for women. The inspiration really came from my everyday life and the number of situations I found myself in where the support of my friends was absolutely critical in getting me through it.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Kelly Duran:
I have always been a writer. From the time I learned to print I was writing stories but when I got married and had kids I could never seem to find the time. In 2015 I decided to do NaNoWriMo with my oldest daughter and that relit the writing fire in me. I've been writing consistently since.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Kelly Duran:
I started CAN'T TAKE IT BACK with NaNoWriMo in 2017 and finished it on New Years Eve 2018. I had set a goal to finish it in 2018 and finished with just a few hours to spare. Then I spent several months editing it with my critique partner before actively querying.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Kelly Duran:
My biggest challenge has always been myself. When I first started writing regularly I felt tremendous guilt about the time it took me away from my family. I had to consistently remind myself that taking time for me was good for everyone. I still have to remind myself but it's getting easier.
QT: Is this your first book?
Kelly Duran:
I have one other completed manuscript that was the book I had to finish. It needs a LOT of work but it's my first so one day I may come back to it.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Kelly Duran:
Not really. I've taken a few writing classes but that's it.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Kelly Duran:
I'm all over the place with my writing schedule. When I'm actively working on a book I try to write every day but there is no routine. I tend to write more at night - after the kids are in bed - but early mornings are starting to happen a little more often.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Kelly Duran:
The version I started querying with was labeled Version 11 in my files. Felt like version 197 really. I did several revisions/re-writes as I went and then went through a major edit with my CP before I started querying. I'm now working on more revisions with my editor.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Kelly Duran:
I have a few trusted friends and family members that I give my MS to first. They read it and give me general feedback - things they like and don't like, etc. After that, I work with my critique partner on more significant developmental and line edits.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Kelly Duran:
I am a total pantser. This book started as one scene in my mind, which then expanded to the main characters and a VERY general outline in my head. As I wrote the book it changed a lot. One of the main plotlines got dumped as did one main character.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Kelly Duran:
I queried for 4 1/2 months with CAN'T TAKE IT BACK. With my first completed MS, I sent out very few queries and only to agents I met at conferences. I had one request and three rejections and based on the feedback I decided the MS really wasn't ready so I pulled it and focused instead on writing my next book. I'm so glad I did that.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Kelly Duran:
I submitted to 54 agents in several waves. My results were 8 Requests, 28 Rejections, 18 no responses.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Kelly Duran:
I did a lot of research on social media to start and then used QueryTracker to narrow down my top choices. I looked at genre first then used twitter to help me get a feel for their personality and if we would be a good match that way. Then I organized all of my choices into four separate groups and queried my dream agents first.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Kelly Duran:
At first, I didn't, and it showed. I got a lot of rejections right out of the gate. Then I started personalizing and saw a lot more success. I used MSWL on twitter as one source of info and also looked at other books the agent represented and ways mine was similar. I also researched all the top agency websites and went through each agent's bio to find details that showed we would be a good fit.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Kelly Duran:
Make sure you know what kind of agent you want to work with and prioritize your query list based on that. This is a relationship that will hopefully last for your entire career it's not a decision you should take lightly.

Be patient. This process takes time and most writers will deal with a lot of rejection and heartache before a request or offer of rep. Rejection is hard but it's part of the process and just putting yourself out there is a huge accomplishment.

Keep writing. Write your next book while you are querying. Stay focused on your craft.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Kelly Duran:
I'm excited to share my query for CAN'T TAKE IT BACK, a contemporary women's fiction novel complete at 92,000 words.

Query Letter:

CAN'T TAKE IT BACK tells the story of four women, connected through blood or friendship, each facing a crossroads in their lives. Three are facing different threats to their marriages—infidelity, apathy, and an unconventional request—while the one eternal single girl must decide if joining the ranks of motherhood is the right step for her.

With each other for support, these women make tough choices that impact not just themselves but everyone else around them. In the middle of it all, a young woman is determined to make one of their husbands her next conquest...with deadly consequences.

Told through multiple POVs over the course of the kindergarten school year, CAN'T TAKE IT BACK is, at its heart, a story about the evolution of love and the power of friendship. It combines the intrigue and small-town drama of BIG LITTLE LIES with the intersecting storytelling style of LOVE, ACTUALLY.