Success Story Interview - Melinda Williams

An Interview with Melinda Williams (lovinlife83 on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Laura Bradford of Bradford 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?
Melinda Williams:
ADRENALINE JUNKIES is about an elite secret society of teens who do crazy things to push themselves and test their strengths. I think what really inspired me to write it was that it's about a girl who would do things I would NEVER do. I read the UGLIES series a couple years ago and loved how crazy and adventurous the characters were and how I would love to be more like that. (But I never will be.) Ha! I know I've found something when the ideas just start flowing faster than I can write them down.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Melinda Williams:
I've always obsessed over words and the beautiful ways people could put them together. When I was young the first thing I would do when I bought a cd was check if it had the lyrics included. I HAD to know the words! My 8th grade teacher pushed me to try to get a short story published in a national Jr. High newspaper, which I did. I used to dream about writing novels, but never felt I was qualified. It wasn't until a couple years ago, I realized I didn't have to be "qualified" to write a novel, so I wrote one for fun. I hadn't done any research and didn't even know paranormal romance was a genre, let alone an over-saturated one. Finally, I started googling. (This is when I found QT!!!) Through the research and querying process I realized I'd learned a lot from this book, but it probably wasn't going to get published. After several batches of queries with few bites--and a new idea I became obsessed with--I abandoned it and moved on, taking what I'd learned with me.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Melinda Williams:
I thought about it a lot before actually starting to write things down. Mainly because I'd just had a baby, I was still trying to query REMAINDERS, and I knew my husband would think I was crazy if I started a new one. But I almost turned inside out holding myself back and finally gave in and started the first draft in the summer of 2011. I had that first draft done in about a month. Revising, and editing took a few more months, and I called it done around Thanksgiving. So I sent some queries. But, I'd jumped too fast and while I was ecstatic to see I had a great request rate, I continued to tweak and obsess over the manuscript. I didn't send out the material along with some more queries until after Christmas, right before New Years.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Melinda Williams:
I definitely experienced some lows, but I discovered writing was my fuel, and there was nothing that could make me stop. I always think how lucky I am to have found what it is I love so much (other than my family, of course). Although there were times of frustration and heartbreak, I kept my head up and stayed positive, enjoying each step and every feeling (even the bad ones). I loved the querying process because it was so exciting, even when it was form after form. I just loved being "out there".
QT: Is this your first book?
Melinda Williams:
Nope. REMAINDERS was first. ADRENALINE JUNKIES is my second.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Melinda Williams:
Nothing more than one creative writing class I took while I got my degree. I feel like I learned most of what I know from my fabulous fellow QT members in the forums, researching on the internet (blogs, twitter, contests...), and reading other YA books. The first time I posted my work here in the forums the other members tore it pieces. I learned a lot!
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Melinda Williams:
Pretty much everyday when the baby is sleeping. I typically write very late at night. Much of my novel was written after midnight.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Melinda Williams:
Two extensive times. Then tweaks and polishing, well, constantly. And now again for my superhero agent, Laura. Like I really do think she has literary super powers. :)
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Melinda Williams:
I had a couple family members read it. Mainly just for fun, so they didn't offer a ton of advice. I DO NOT recommend this though. The manuscript would be much stronger right now if I'd found some crit partners. I was way too overprotective of this manuscript, and things happened so fast I still haven't had the chance to let most of my family/friends read it. Although, I did win several contests where I received critiques from authors and other publishing professionals that helped my beginning. And of course the amazing help of QTers on my first five.

And a big THANK YOU!! to the fab Genn Albin for offering to critique my first chapter right before I sent my subs out. She's always willing to help me. Love that girl!
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Melinda Williams:
I am definitely an outliner. I love to write messy ideas in a notebook while I can't be at the computer. In fact, I started writing ideas for ADREANLINE JUNKIES while I was jotting ideas for another novel. I didn't know if these ideas floating around in my head would actually go anywhere, so I started writing them on the last page of the notebook I was already using. Anyway, things came so fast, I just kept writing ideas, going through the notebook backwards. I never got a new notebook and all my outlining for this book were written from last page forward. Completely backwards! Weird, I know.

Anyway, then when I'm able to type I know what I'm doing. Of course, things come and change as I write, but I feel like I save myself some time during the revising period by spending time outlining and contemplating things while I'm not actually typing.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Melinda Williams:
I started querying my first book about a year ago, but stopped after only a few months. I'd only sent a couple batches of queries for this book with about a 60% request rate and had just started sending the requested material days before my first offer came in.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Melinda Williams:
Once I realized I was getting a lot of requests from my first batch, I thought I should keep it slow. But some of my lovely QT friends said I should just keep going. So I sent another bunch out. Probably around 30 total, some of which are still trickling in responses. My first offering agent requested the full ms the day she received the query (Friday) and offered on Monday afternoon. I'd sent more queries over the long holiday weekend (New Years) so she was about query #20.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Melinda Williams:
I mostly queried agents I could find info on and thought would be into YA romantic suspense. If I followed them on twitter or had a blog I'd been following, that helped me connect with them a ton. But some I found in the Literary Rambles blog spotlights or QT, of course. :) Couldn't have figured this all out without QT! Everyone go get a premium membership. It's worth it, trust me.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Melinda Williams:
Almost every single one. There may have been a couple times when I couldn't honestly find enough research to say something genuine.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Melinda Williams:
Enjoy the process. Have fun. Learn from rejection. Develop a thick skin and a thin skull. Keep going. Keep writing. READ!!! Find queries that work, whether they're here in the success stories or winning query contests, and learn what it is that makes them stand out and shine. Also, don't be afraid to write another book and put the other aside if it's not working. Learn from your mistakes and become a stronger writer. Don't be afraid!
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Melinda Williams:
Yes!! This is really scary (and exciting) for me because I've never shared it anywhere. As opposed to my REMAINDERS query, which I posted on the forums and obsessed over for months, this one came to be really quickly and just seemed to work. Here goes...

Query Letter:

No drinking. No drugs. No hooking up. Clean body. Clear head.

That’s what Simone hears at her first Adrenaline Junkie meeting. On top of that, good grades, too. Say what? Simone and the other recruits don’t think that sounds like much fun.

But they’re wrong. The fun is just beginning.

Adrenaline Junkies, properly named Chargers, is an elite, secret society that meets in a hidden cavern under the locker rooms, and only the strongest are invited to join during their sophomore year. With Simone’s tendencies to stress over straightened refrigerator magnets and alphabetized bathroom creams, it’s no jaw-drop she barely makes it in after punching head cheerleader, snob extraordinaire, in the nose during their last halftime show. Which she so deserved, btw.

Simone should be looking for the fastest escape, which just happens to be a human-sized drain in the wall leading toward the Columbia River. She definitely shouldn’t be crazy-head enough to wanna stay.

But she does.

There are three groups, and Simone wants the highest. When the Assessment period begins, Simone repeatedly puts herself in danger while pushing her strength, survival skills, and determination to their limits. Not to mention, adrenaline is totally addicting. Almost as much as the Lead, Treston. But she’s a fool because Treston is rude, unforgiving, and most likely wishing she’d never been invited to join.

Simone's got until Spring Break to release the grips of her social “Placement” and a parasitic jock so she can prove herself worthy, get her rank up, and grow stronger—mind and body. But Adrenaline Junkies is so much bigger than she first realized, and once you’re in, you’re in. She’s got the brand burned under her collarbone to prove it.

Now staying alive? That will be a whole other feat.