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Success Story Interview - Krista Van Dolzer

An Interview with Krista Van Dolzer (KristaVanDolzer on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Kate Testerman 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?
Krista Van Dolzer:
THE REGENERATED MAN AND ME is an MG historical with a dash of science fiction. I was lying in bed one night, just on the verge of sleep, when a first line came to me: "Mama said it was plum foolishness to keep my cousin's dog tags like that, with his blood still stuck between the ridges of his name." I wondered what kind of story would start with that kind of line, and THE REGENERATED MAN was born.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Krista Van Dolzer:
Since I was eight. But I've only been writing with the intent to publish on the national market for the last four and a half years.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Krista Van Dolzer:
I started this book in February of last year, wrote 15,000 feverish words in a little more than a week, and set it on the back burner to work on some revisions for another manuscript. I came back to it in late July and finished the first draft in about a month, then spent another two or three months revising it.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Krista Van Dolzer:
A better question would be, "When didn't I feel like giving up?" :) This is the fourth manuscript I've queried, and after my third one received so many almosts, my nerves were basically shot. The rejections stung a lot more because I knew how close I was.

My critique partners were the ones who helped me stay on course. They believed in this manuscript in a way that I didn't always believe in it myself. I'd send them a blubbering e-mail with almost every full rejection, and they'd send me wonderful e-mails back with all kinds of encouragement and enthusiasm.
QT: Is this your first book?
Krista Van Dolzer:
Not even close. As I mentioned before, this is the fourth manuscript I've queried, but I believe I labeled it "Novel 7" in my files.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Krista Van Dolzer:
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Krista Van Dolzer:
Sleeping is my kids' superpower, so I do most of my writing while they're asleep, either in the afternoon or at night. I'm one of those writers who has to write a little every day, so you can almost always find me in front of the computer between the hours of two and four (and eight and ten).
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Krista Van Dolzer:
THE REGENERATED MAN came together pretty seamlessly for me (which isn't usual, by any means). I just went back and checked my files, and my fourth draft was the one I queried, but even this fourth draft still bears a close resemblance to the first.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Krista Van Dolzer:
Absolutely! As I mentioned before, their overwhelmingly positive response was one of the things that kept me going. One of them reported that she read the manuscript in one sitting, and another couldn't wait to recommend it to her agent (although that agent didn't end up offering).
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Krista Van Dolzer:
I didn't outline this one, although I outlined the two before it. I started out as an organic writer, tried my hand at outlining after my husband suggested it, and went back to writing organically just because it felt right (and the words were racing out of me). Now I just do whatever I feel like doing:) I see benefits to both.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Krista Van Dolzer:
I started querying this book in mid-November and received my first offer in mid-March (from the very first query I sent, actually), so for almost four months exactly. As I mentioned before, I queried three other manuscripts for varying amounts of time. The shortest amount was five months, the longest almost a year, but that was because I received several revision requests and took two months-long breaks from querying.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Krista Van Dolzer:
I sent 77 queries for this manuscript.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Krista Van Dolzer:
I've been around the block a few times, so at first, I focused on the agents who'd requested material from me in the past. After I exhausted those options, I looked for agents who represented MG--and preferably historical--fiction, who generally responded to all queries, and who I'd heard good things about. Actually, I used the "Agents with Similar Tastes" report here on QT a lot as well as Data Explorer, both of which are available to premium QT members and both of which I found invaluable. (How's that for a plug? :) )
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Krista Van Dolzer:
I did tailor most of my queries, usually by referencing an interview they'd done or a blog post they'd written.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Krista Van Dolzer:
Hang in there. You never know what's waiting just around the next bend. And do whatever you have to do not to compare yourself to others. I think that's one of the many reasons I didn't find an agent sooner--because I needed to learn that lesson. I found I could be a lot happier for others' successes--and a lot sadder at their rejections--if I didn't waste time comparing my journey to theirs.

Query Letter:

Twelve-year-old Ella Mae is a sensible girl. She eats her vegetables, especially asparagus, and only tunes in to watch that new show I Love Lucy if Dragnet isn’t on. So when her auntie Mildred starts spouting nonsense about deoxyribo-something-or-other and how some egghead scientist can regenerate her dead son from the blood on his old dog tags, Ella Mae doesn’t believe her. Or at least she doesn’t until a man steps out of that bio-pod and drips yellow-green slime on the floor.

Problem is, the man isn’t her cousin. He’s Japanese.

Ella Mae knows she should hate him, but she was just a baby when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor . Besides, she can’t bring herself to hate a man who can’t remember his own name. Her indifference even turns to friendliness after she teaches the man English and defends him from the reverend’s talk of H-E-double-toothpicks and abominations with a well-aimed wad of spit. But when the man’s memories resurface, memories about the war and what really happened on the day his blood splashed on her cousin’s dog tags, Ella Mae learns the hard way what it means to be human—and what it means to be a friend.