Success Story Interview - Layne Fargo

An Interview with Layne Fargo (LayneF on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Sharon Pelletier of Dystel Goderich & Bourret LLC.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Layne Fargo:
TEMPER is a feminist psychological thriller set in Chicago's indie theater scene, about two ambitious women in a twisted power struggle with an abusive director. It was originally inspired by real events at a theater company in Chicago, but once I started doing some research, I found WAY too many other examples of this kind of manipulation and abuse of power, in the arts industry and elsewhere.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Layne Fargo:
I've been writing since I was a kid (storybooks about animals, then nerdy fanfiction) but I didn't start trying to write a novel in earnest until 2012, when I did NaNoWriMo for the first time.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Layne Fargo:
I started it in July 2016 and worked on it for a little over a year before being chosen as a 2017 Pitch Wars mentee.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Layne Fargo:
I've given up on projects before (I almost gave up on this one, more than once) but honestly I've never considered giving up on writing. I got over 100 rejections on my first manuscript, but it just motivated me to improve my skills and keep going - especially whenever agents took the time to send personalized rejections! I still treasure those emails to this day.
QT: Is this your first book?
Layne Fargo:
TEMPER is my second completed manuscript, but I've got quite a few partially-done projects sitting around on my hard drive (don't we all?).
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Layne Fargo:
Nope! I have two graduate degrees but neither is for writing. My writing education has been through craft books and reading the work of people more talented than me.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Layne Fargo:
I've tried, but so far nothing has stuck long-term. I just write whenever I have the time.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Layne Fargo:
I'd been through a couple of drafts before Pitch Wars, then I revised with my PW mentor, revised again with my agent, and now I'm working on revisions for my editor.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Layne Fargo:
No, my Pitch Wars mentor was actually the first person besides me to read the book. (Note: I do not recommend this approach, beta feedback is extremely valuable. I just ran out of time before the Pitch Wars submission window!)
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Layne Fargo:
I do outline, but things always end up changing a lot as I write and revise. I have a whole shelf of craft books, but when I'm working out plot structure nothing beats Save The Cat.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Layne Fargo:
For this book, Pitch Wars sped up the process, so I only spent a few weeks querying. For my first book, I queried off and on for well over a year before shelving it.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Layne Fargo:
I queried around 20 agents in addition to the agents who requested materials from me in Pitch Wars.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Layne Fargo:
My ideal agent was someone at a reputable agency with a few years of experience - so not a total newbie, but still early enough in her career that her client list would be relatively small. I was also looking for a fellow feminist, someone who would consider my "unlikable" female characters a selling point rather than a problem to be solved. Sharon is all that and more, and she'd actually been a dream agent of mine for years. I queried her the minute I could after Pitch Wars, and I was beyond thrilled when she requested the full and then offered rep!
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Layne Fargo:
Only if I had something legitimate to add. When I queried Sharon, I referenced an #MSWL tweet of hers that matched my book.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Layne Fargo:
Don't give up, but also be selective about who you query. You might have to write multiple manuscripts before landing an agent, but it's better to put a project away and write something new than to settle for someone who isn't going to be the best possible advocate for your work.

Query Letter:

Like every other actress in Chicago, Kira Rascher is well aware of the rumors about Malcolm Mercer. But for the career-making chance to be the leading lady in his theater company's next world premiere, she's willing to put up with pretty much anything, including Mal's Machiavellian bullshit.

Once rehearsals get underway, though, she realizes nothing could have prepared her for working with Mal. There's no mind game he won't play to provoke the performance he wants, and whenever Kira thinks she's winning, he changes the rules. He's manipulative, mercurial, infuriating—and also the most thrilling scene partner she's ever shared a stage with.

Soon Kira's caught up in Mal's offstage drama, too, including his twisted relationship with the theater's co-founder, Joanna, who sees Kira as a threat to everything she and Mal have built. The closer they get to opening night, the further Kira sinks into character, and the more out of control she feels around Mal. When their staged violence begins to draw real blood, Kira starts to wonder if the thing she should fear most isn't what Mal might do to her, but what she's capable of doing to him.