Success Story Interview - Marcia Hoehne

An Interview with Marcia Hoehne (smjekw on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Peter Knapp of Park & Fine Literary and Media.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Marcia Hoehne:
It’s a MG mystery in 3 POVs about a girl who, when she reacts to her discovery that her mother stole their house, unwittingly lures a murderer out of hiding. The idea started with a newspaper article about legally stealing real estate through adverse possession. When I read it, I knew I had to use that idea somehow.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Marcia Hoehne:
Since I was 8. I have actually published other books, mostly MG novels and mostly in the ‘90s.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Marcia Hoehne:
I spent about 2 years total on this book or slightly under that. Probably 6-8 months in about 2005, and then a steady 15 months from January of 2012 through April of this year.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Marcia Hoehne:
I’ve felt like giving up without ever actually being able to. I’ve been through slumps where months passed without my doing much writing. But I love books and stories too much to give up, and I have a stubborn, gut-level knowledge that I can do this.
QT: Is this your first book?
Marcia Hoehne:
No. I’ve actually published 9 books before. I have several duds that have been filed away. And I queried one other MG novel for basically the entire year of 2012 and had to retire it.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Marcia Hoehne:
No. My degree is in math and business. Over time, I studied tons of craft books on my own and went to conferences and workshops whenever possible.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Marcia Hoehne:
Pretty much. I like to write in larger blocks of time, and I also teach for The Institute of Children’s Literature, so I like to alternate days of teaching and writing. I will also often write on at least one of the weekend days.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Marcia Hoehne:
I edit a lot as I write the first draft, so the edits on some sections are literally uncountable. But once I finished the first draft, which was then in pretty good shape, I did a revision on my own, then sent it to beta readers, and then revised again according to those comments. So three times if you count the draft and two revisions, but there’s so much revision represented within the draft.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Marcia Hoehne:
Yes, I was blessed to have SEVEN wonderful people read the book and give me feedback.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Marcia Hoehne:
A combination. I used to be a complete pantser, but I now work out the major plot points in my book and then pants my way from point to point. I get my best ideas while I’m actually writing, so I’ll never be a total outliner. I really like Larry Brooks’s approach to story structure in his book STORY ENGINEERING.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Marcia Hoehne:
I only queried this book for 6 weeks. But I queried the previous novel for a year.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Marcia Hoehne:
12. But I sent 85 for the previous book.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Marcia Hoehne:
I queried agents who liked but didn’t love my prior book, who had invited me to send more material, and I especially concentrated on those who were looking for MG mystery and had similar general taste in books. I also wanted an editorial agent, and one who would guide my career rather than go book-by-book. I was carefully searching for a great *match* and I’m so pleased that I found it!
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Marcia Hoehne:
Yes. As I said, I was looking for a good match, so I pointed out how my book satisfied their wish list, books we both loved, interesting comments they’d made in interviews or blog posts — whatever applied.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Marcia Hoehne:
Don’t query before you’re ready — but don’t quit too soon, either. And especially this: The RIGHT agent is well worth the wait!
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Marcia Hoehne:
Here it is, with some personals redacted and generalizations added to show the pattern.

Query Letter:

Dear Agent:

Twelve-year-old Candy’s summer should be filled with friends and fun—not chores, problems …and murder! But when the messiest boy in her grade, Rory Twichell, starts babbling about a murder that happened two years ago in the woods near her home, Candy’s school break takes a turn for the strange. She’s not scared, though. After all, the murder was solved, and two people are in prison. No, Candy is more worried about the awkward man her mom is dating, her mom’s health, papers that describe how to take over real estate through adverse possession—and the realization that her mom never bought their large country home at all: she stole it.

Seeing her chance to move back to town where her friends are, Candy joins forces with her ultra-smart friend Eleanor to find the home’s previous owner, Caleb Walker. At least, she can make sure this fatherly, fun-loving man gets his property back. At best, if her suspicion that he and her mom loved each other is correct, maybe he’ll return and get the wimpy guy out of the picture. What Candy doesn’t see is that Eleanor may not be a friend, has her own reasons for wanting Caleb Walker found, and that Caleb’s sudden departure two years ago might have everything to do with that supposedly-solved murder.

Before Candy knows it, mysterious diggings in the woods, a suspicious fire, a break-in, and the appearance of cryptic clues have her, Rory, and Eleanor scrambling to find a third killer. Only when Caleb Walker arrives at her door does Candy face that he is her prime suspect, and that not only home, but safety, may be at stake.

Told in three POVs, interspersed with occasional short chapters of omniscient viewpoint, WHAT HAPPENED IN WALKER’S WOODS is a MG contemporary mystery complete at 59,000 words. PERSONALIZATION HERE.

I have previously published eight MG novels in the commercial CBA markets. I’m also the author of a YA biography of the poet Anne Bradstreet, published by an educational press. I’m a PAL member of SCBWI, an instructor for The Institute of Children’s Literature, and a moderator for Verla Kay’s Blueboards.

Per your guidelines, SAMPLE MATERIAL is/are pasted below. The manuscript has not been submitted to publishers. This is a simultaneous query. Thank you for your consideration.