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Success Story Interview - Melissa Tyndall

An Interview with Melissa Tyndall (honeybeehorror on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Ann Rose of The Tobias 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?
Melissa Tyndall:
This sapphic, young adult Southern mystery with avenging spirits was sparked by a line in the James Vincent McMorrow song “From the Woods.”
QT: How long have you been writing?
Melissa Tyndall:
Ever since my third-grade teacher, Debbie Anderson, tasked me with writing my own version of Kipling’s Just So Stories, I have been in love with writing. I’m 41 now, so it’s been a longtime dream.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Melissa Tyndall:
It took me a year to complete the first draft while caring for two children under 5, teaching college, and managing the education department. From outlining to being signed by an agent took nearly two years.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Melissa Tyndall:
Certainly, querying can feel like a roller coaster—the highs of a request and the lows of rejection 10 minutes later. It takes incredible tenacity, the right support system, and a way to maintain good mental health. For me, changing my career made the biggest impact. I was a professor for fifteen years, but once I transitioned into the corporate world, my evenings and weekends could be dedicated to the book rather than grading papers.
QT: Is this your first book?
Melissa Tyndall:
This is the second novel-length book I have written. The first one got a few fulls but it never really went anywhere. I also co-authored a non-fiction book before getting my agent called Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Hell’s Under New Management.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Melissa Tyndall:
I am a former journalist with an MFA in Creative Writing, but my focus in college was poetry. Though some skills apply to both genres, I had no formal training in writing a novel.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Melissa Tyndall:
I wish I had a more formal schedule, but I have to prioritize my full-time job for my family. However, when I do get the time to sit down and write, I focus on one particular scene at a time in separate Scrivener documents/cards to refrain from going back and editing what I wrote last time. And with this novel, I forced myself to write in chronological order.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Melissa Tyndall:
I queried my agent in June, and she passed initially with some advice for revising the opening. I took that advice and re-queried in November. After that, I got a full request, followed by an R&R. We’ve since done one more edit. I’m an underwriter, so I’ve added about 10k words during revisions.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Melissa Tyndall:
I did, and then I had them re-read other versions. (Thanks, Matt and Shannon!)
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Melissa Tyndall:
A little bit of both. I outline the main plot points/make a list of scenes, but just let the narrative details come to me when getting from point A to point B.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Melissa Tyndall:
I queried my first book from 2019-2020, then shelved it. I started querying my second book in Summer 2022, and was signed by January 2023.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Melissa Tyndall:
54, and I got 15 requests.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Melissa Tyndall:
I looked at a lot of MSWL pages. I studied what the agents said in their bios, what genres they wanted, comps, and what books and TV shows they loved. If I felt we aligned, I queried.

And I’m not just saying this because I’m talking to QT, but I subscribed, and that helped me see what other feedback people gave, their response times, and other details that helped inform my decisions. I also Googled agents to look for any red flags.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Melissa Tyndall:
I tailored the greeting and the first line to tell them why I had picked them. And if an agent mentioned their dog or cat’s name in a MSWL, I often wrote something like, “Because you like ___ and ____, I wanted to share my story about ____ with you and Cinnamon.”
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Melissa Tyndall:
I would give three pieces of advice.

One is you’re allowed to feel however you feel, which includes being happy for your successful friends and having your own joys and frustrations with the process. Find a trusted sounding board for the roller coaster ride, but keep going.

Second, if you can, rent a cabin or visit somewhere where you can be alone on your own writer’s retreat to escape from the noise/your usual responsibilities. Even if it’s for a day. Make it your birthday present.

Most importantly, do your research and listen to your gut. It is tempting to jump at the chance at any offer you get after waiting in the trenches for so long, but the first “yes” isn’t always the right yes, and some of my friends have found that out the hard way. You are looking for a partner at your dream job. Make sure you two connect, ask questions, talk to their other clients, etc. If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your instincts. And if they feel like “the one,” listen to that, too.

Query Letter:

Dear Ann,

First, I want to thank you. In June, you suggested that I re-query after making some adjustments to the timeline of my story, so I’d like to re-introduce you to my YA novel [REDACTED]— a sapphic Nancy Drew meets a Tennessee Sleepy Hollow.

Emma’s the kind of girl who likes punny pajamas, Audrey Hepburn, baking shows, and the Hallmark Channel. Her parents divorcing, moving in with her grandfather, and sleepwalking all over town are not part of the plan.

So, when Emma wakes up on a property haunted by nearly headless horsegirls tasked with reaping a local serial killer, she initially resists. But as more girls go missing, Emma and her true-crime-obsessed best friend must solve the case—especially when Emma’s sister Kaitlyn vanishes. However, solving the case may also lay the leader of the ghosts to rest just as Emma starts falling for her.

[REDACTED] is a 60,000-word standalone novel that has the potential to be a series. It will appeal to fans of the paranormal mysteries of Simone St. James, LGBT+ paranormal romances like Cemetery Boys, and the snarky friendship in Boo, Bitch. However, it will also interest readers who love the atmosphere, female camaraderie, and journey toward self-acceptance in novels like Sawkill Girls.

This novel is important to me as someone who moved to The South late in childhood and always felt “different” as a hapa, GAD sufferer, and member of the LGBTQ+ community. I also think it would be very marketable. I have received over a dozen agent requests, and during #dvpit, an editor with Hodderscape, Tasha Qureshi, expressed interest in seeing this manuscript once I have representation.

I have an MFA in Creative Writing and am a former award-winning investigative reporter. My poems have most recently appeared in peculiars magazine, Dark Marrow, and Vamp Cat Magazine. I am also a co-editor of a forthcoming non-fiction collection called Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Hell’s Under New Management with Lexington Books. I live in Nashville with my husband and our two toddlers, who I hope will prefer terrors to trucks and tiaras.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!


Melissa Tyndall