Success Story Interview - Melodie Wright

An Interview with Melodie Wright (rewrighter on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy 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?
Melodie Wright:
Saving Andromeda is a YA mystery based on a true story of a murder that happened in Nova Scotia. I've written numerous short stories about it since I was a teenager but didn't write the first draft until last summer.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Melodie Wright:
Since middle school.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Melodie Wright:
I wrote the first draft in six weeks last summer, did my revisions from Aug.-Oct. and will continue to revise now before we go on submission.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Melodie Wright:
I did give up on fiction writing after my first agent ten years ago failed to sell my book. When 9/11 hit, the book was being considered by two publishers. When the economy tanked, one publisher went out of business, the other sold and didn't pick up our option. I concentrated on earning a living writing nonfiction and honing my craft that way. Then when print media crashed - is still crashing - and I changed careers to teaching, I found I couldn't walk away completely. Being a writer is who I am, for better or worse. Since I couldn't stop, I decided to give fiction another go.
QT: Is this your first book?
Melodie Wright:
Gosh, no. It's probably my sixth or seventh finished MS. Most of them will stay in the morgue. :)
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Melodie Wright:
I was a journalist for many years and had a writing coach at one time, also did freelance writing, so yes.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Melodie Wright:
I'm lucky enough to teach in the afternoons and write in the mornings.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Melodie Wright:
Before querying, probably 6-7 times. But I fully expect to continue editing for another month or so before we go out on sub.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Melodie Wright:
Yes - many. The harshest were the best for me. I really thrive on constructive criticism.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Melodie Wright:
I don't do formal outlining but think each chapter over, usually the previous night, before sitting down. I also like to jot ideas down at the end of chapters for the next chapter - I call them my hooks - so I know where I'm going.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Melodie Wright:
I started querying for this MS in mid-October. Last year I queried a YA fantasy for three months before shelving it. Looking back on my poor response, I realize now it was a combination of an overcrowded market for my concept, and ignorance of how to write an effective query letter. (I never posted that query letter on QT for feedback. BIG mistake.) However, even if I'd had an excellent query, my concept still wasn't unique enough to stand out.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Melodie Wright:
25...although I didn't query Tricia. One of her co-agents saw my query letter on the QT forum and asked me to submit.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Melodie Wright:
I checked Literary Rambles religiously and only queried agents who specifically said they wanted YA mystery either on their LR profile or on their agency web site. I also looked over their client list and tried to read excerpts of books to get a feel for what kind of writing those agents favored.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Melodie Wright:
Most of the time. I generally started by mentioning I'd read some of their clients' books and hoped SA would be a fit.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Melodie Wright:
Study the market before you finish your MS. Make sure it's a unique concept before putting more effort into it. Write your query letter before you finish so you know if the story is hooky enough. Then polish it at the same time you're revising your MS. DO post your query letter on message boards wherever you can, enter contests, etc. You never know who'll be reading.

Query Letter:

On the day Emma Hudson graduates from high school, a mysterious note leads to three shocking revelations: Emma was adopted. Her biological father is internationally famous rocker, Michael Stryker. And her birth mother is convicted killer Andromeda Bain, who begins to send Emma a lifetime's worth of letters from prison.

Emma ditches her summer job to meet her parents and track down her roots. As she travels from her home in southeast Alaska to California and Nova Scotia, Emma discovers a family tree loaded with unknown relatives, hidden relationships and simmering feuds. Andromeda's letters reveal her passionate romance with Michael and suggest she gave a false murder confession nineteen years ago. The hunt to discover who Andromeda was really protecting clashes with a killer determined to let the truth die with Emma, in SAVING ANDROMEDA, a YA mystery based on a true story.