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Success Story Interview - Melody Thio

An Interview with Melody Thio (newclear on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Melissa Jeglinski of The Knight Agency, Inc..


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Melody Thio:
My book is about a Chinese-Indonesian fangirl aspiring to be a K-drama screenwriter who gets trapped in a K-drama world filled with all its cliches. She has to upend every trope and find a happily ever after among the many love interests to find her way back home.

The idea came from watching endless K-dramas and wondering what would happen if the MC was a fan like me who recognized all these cliche tropes and knew how to get around them. What would happen to the narrative?
QT: How long have you been writing?
Melody Thio:
Since elementary school maybe? But I started writing more seriously in 2014, and wrote my first book (with the aim to get it published) in 2018.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Melody Thio:
I started writing this in 2021 while querying my first book. It went through seven revisions, including a MAJOR one, before I started querying in late October 2022.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Melody Thio:
YES! There were so many times when I was ready to move on with my next book. But seeing my friends and moots hype this story up and saying they want to read it made me believe there was an audience for this. So I kept going, hoping there’d be an agent who’d believe in my story.
QT: Is this your first book?
Melody Thio:
It’s my second book that has been revised to be query ready. (But if you want to count my novel-length fanfics, this would technically be book number 15.)
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Melody Thio:
No… I did lots of reading and writing to practice my craft.
Oh, but I did take a “Narrative Storytelling” class during college if that counts! It was my favorite class, even though I studied to be an art director.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Melody Thio:
I don’t have the privilege to set a routine. If my toddler is asleep, I’ll write. Usually, that means I only get 1-2 hours a day to write.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Melody Thio:
YES, and they’re my lifeline! Everytime I finish a revision, I’d think: “Wow, my book is good! I think it’s ready to query!” My betas would always point out a lot of things I didn’t notice. They helped me polish this book to be the best version it could be before querying.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Melody Thio:
I’m a plantser, but this is my only book where I barely had anything planned. I was surprised by my own plot twist. But the more I revised, the more detailed my outline became.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Melody Thio:
I started querying this book in late October 2022 and got the offer early May 2023. I queried my first book for 4 months before shelving it.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Melody Thio:
98! I wanted to make it a perfect 100, but other agents were closed to submissions.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Melody Thio:
I looked for agents who watch K-dramas, but also included agents who rep romcoms.
(I also looked at the agency website and made sure they had pretty book covers. Sorry, I’m a graphic designer at heart.)
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Melody Thio:
No. Since I’m an overwriter, I was scared I’d end up writing a whole essay on why I chose to query them.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Melody Thio:
Don’t compare your journey to others.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Melody Thio:
Yes! This query has gone through a LOT of revisions and I received help from a lot of people. So if you think this is good, I owe it to them.

Query Letter:

TRAPPED IN A K-DRAMA is an 86,000-word adult genre-bending rom-com. It draws metafictional elements from Isn't It Romantic, plays with the tropes in a similar way as Maurene Goo’s I Believe in a Thing Called Love, and is written in the humorous voice of Jesse Q Sutanto’s Dial A for Aunties.

To pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a K-drama screenwriter, 22-year-old Chinese-Indonesian Jang Yoona enters a contest to get her script adapted into a K-drama. But when she ends up a finalist, a citywide blackout sends her world into a strange turn—her parents are missing, her best friend doesn’t recognize her, and loan sharks are demanding she pay a debt she never knew existed.

After experiencing some classic K-drama tropes herself, Yoona realizes she’s no longer in her own world, but a parallel K-drama world. Desperate to return, Yoona must find her happily-ever-after with one of the potential male leads. Shamelessly, Yoona targets the rich heir of a conglomerate family, who by K-drama standards is always attracted to the poor girl. Sure, he comes with an antagonistic fiancée and an evil-monster-in-law ready to kimchi slap her, but Yoona initiates a plan filled with popular cliches to have him fall for her and hopefully pay off her debt.

However, every attempt to outsmart the drama world ends with unpredictable plot twists even Yoona, the K-drama expert, didn’t see coming, including her heart having a will of its own. As she begins to care for every character—instead of seeing them for the typical K-drama stereotypes they represent—Yoona must rethink what her happily ever after truly entails. Returning to her own world means leaving her newfound family and the man she has grown to love behind, but staying means sacrificing the chance at realizing her screenwriting dream and her loved ones forever.