Success Story Interview - Marcy Kate Connolly

An Interview with Marcy Kate Connolly (MarcyKate on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
MONSTROUS is a YA fantasy novel that’s Frankenstein meets the Brothers Grimm told from the viewpoint of the monster as a teenage girl.

My inspiration for it struck while I was trapped in gridlock traffic and late to meet friends one night last summer. I had nothing else to do but let my mind wander, and that’s when the first line (“I’ll never forget my first breath”) landed in my brain. I spent the rest of the rather long drive in to the city thinking about who would say that and why. Oddly enough, the first page I wrote that day hasn’t changed much.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
I’ve always dabbled with poetry and short stories, but I started writing novels and more seriously about 4 years ago.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
I started MONSTROUS at the end of August in 2011, so about 9 months or so until I started putting it out there in blog contests, then queries.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
I’ve certainly suffered from feeling like my writing will never get anywhere, but I’ve never seriously considered giving up. I write because I love it, because there are stories running through my brain and I need to let them out. I think the lowest point was when I finally decided I had to shelve the novel I queried before MONSTROUS. I love that book so much and I had very high hopes for it. When it didn’t pan out, I couldn’t help feeling like I was a failure. But at that same time, I knew that wasn’t the only book in me (indeed – it was the 5th book I’d written) and that I have an entire folder of ideas spilling over and waiting to be plotted into fruition. I’m very stubborn when I want something badly enough, so I don’t give up on things easily.
QT: Is this your first book?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
MONSTROUS is my 7th novel. 5 are complete, 2 others are in varying states of incompletion and disarray.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
Not really, but I’ve always been a voracious reader. When I was in elementary school, I’d sneak into my older brother’s room and steal his Shakespeare plays (He was an English major in college at the time). So I was reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream while most other kids were into the Babysitter’s Club (though I did read those, too :P).
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
Sort of, but I must confess I don’t always adhere to it. I have a half hour commute each way to work by train, so I try to write then as often as possible. I tend to devote Saturday afternoons to writing, too.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
Oh dear, I lost count after 12. I wrote MONSTROUS very fast for me (in about a month and a half) so the first draft was a complete and total mess. Along the way I cut a good 5K out of that draft, then added another 25K to flesh out the story to its current shape. Usually, I go through maybe half a dozen revisions before it’s ready, but it also usually takes me longer to get the first draft down.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
Definitely. I have a core critique group that I work with and then some close crit partners who I exchange the entire manuscript with in addition to that. Then I have a few others who I’ve met online and trust their opinions to catch any remaining hiccups once I’ve ironed out all the major kinks. They’re an invaluable part of the process!
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
I ADORE outlines. I love to sit in my writing cave and just plot. So. Much. Fun. I use Scrivener to write, too, so it helps me outline and jump around the manuscript when I actually get down to drafting.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
I actively queried MONSTROUS for about 6 weeks, maybe less. I queried 3 others before it, the first for about a year, the second for a few months, and then the third for another year. I’ve been querying almost non-stop for various books since the fall of 2009.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
I was actually terrified to query this project. The book I’d queried prior to this got lots of interest and requests, but could never seem to tip the scales from “I liked this” to “I love this!” I really thought that book was going to be The One, and I was afraid MONSTROUS would suffer the same fate. It took me several months (and a good shove from the Writers Voice Contest back in May) before I finally took the plunge. I queried in fits and starts and when I did send them out, I was in a Go Big or Go Home frame of mind, so I ended up querying only my A-list. In the past, I’ve queried a mix of agents to make sure the query actually worked first, so this was definitely a departure. I sent out about 20 queries and had a total of 18 requests, though a few of those were from blog contests. My query had a request rate of about 70% which was considerably better than the queries for my first few novels!
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
My criteria was: agents who repped YA fantasy & sci-fi, and either had demonstrated connections in the industry (if they were new) or had a good sales record. Also, I researched them a fair amount to see what clients said about them on blogs and twitter to get an idea of what they might be like to work with.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
I tried to whenever I could find something to tap into, particularly in regards to those with posted wish lists or lots of interviews. Showing how my book matched what they were looking for seemed to work fairly well.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Marcy Kate Connolly:
1. Keep writing. If you love it, don’t stop. No one can guarantee you success, but stopping is the only way to ensure failure.

2. If you get an offer of representation, don’t forget to nudge any outstanding queries in addition to partials/fulls. You queried them for a reason right? If I hadn’t done that, I might not have gotten the last two offers of representation and I’d have a very different agent!

Query Letter:

Most people remember their first crush, first kiss, and first day of school. Kymera remembers none of that.

But she will never forget her first breath.

When Father recreates her from the parts of her broken body, the wings of a raven, the tail of serpent, and a cat’s razor-sharp vision, he gives her life without memories or pain.

But not without a mission.

Kymera knows who murdered her. A wizard in the city of Bryre who is sacrificing the girls of the countryside one by one. He is monstrous and now Father has created a monster to stop him.

Kymera sneaks into Bryre each night, rescuing the captive girls and doing her best to avoid the city’s human inhabitants. Then one night she meets Ren, the king’s page boy, and her resolve weakens. Her nightly missions take on a dual purpose—save the other girls and steal a few moments with the boy who has yet to see her without her cloak.

As she lingers each night, Kymera begins to overhear things: a snide remark about Father, rumors of a hideous beast, and whisperings of a black market dealing solely in live, human goods. Ever since that first breath, she’s known exactly who she is, but now she is forced to ask who is the real monster here—the wizard, her father, or worse, herself?