Success Story Interview - Michelle Krys

An Interview with Michelle Krys (Ramona_Dark on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Adriann Ranta Zurhellen of Folio Literary Management.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Michelle Krys:
In THE WITCH HUNTER’S BIBLE, a YA urban fantasy, snarky high school cheerleader Indigo Blackwood is forced into a centuries-old battle between witches and sorcerers, only to uncover the first of many dark truths about her life. Also, you’ll like it.

I was inspired to write my book by my sister, who is also a writer. One day she told me about an adult historical novel she wanted to write, which she planned on calling THE WITCH HUNTER’S BIBLE. I couldn’t believe how much I loved the title (and her premise), and actively encouraged her to write that book NOW! But, in the end she decided to write another book instead and was kind enough to offer the beloved title to me, should I ever want to use it. My response? Um, hell yes! I’m going to write a book around that title right now. And I did. Fun fact: my editor wants to change the title.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Michelle Krys:
I haven’t been writing for overly long, actually. I’d always wanted to write, but had been too intimidated to try. Who was I to write a book? I didn’t have any formal writing training, nor did I know the first thing about where to start. It was only when on maternity leave with my son two years ago that I finally decided to give it a try, and I’m so glad I did! I couldn’t enjoy writing more.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Michelle Krys:
It took about four months to write this book and complete a first round of edits. I put it away and returned to it at a later date and then spent another few weeks editing it again, but basically I’d say 4-5 months. I wrote a book before this one that I queried and was unsuccessful with—that one took a year to write and edit.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Michelle Krys:
Just one time? Being a writer sometimes feels like a form of self-torture. It can be so, so fun, and so, so rewarding, but also challenging, and difficult, and stressful, and…you get the point. I just reminded myself that anything worth doing required practice, that you didn't just pick up a guitar and play like Jimmy Hendrix, and that writing was what I wanted t do. And then I just Didn’t Quit, even when it was so tempting to take up watching TV as a hobby instead. It also helped to have amazingly supportive family and friends, and a critique partner who would flog me if I thought of quitting.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Michelle Krys:
As I have a full-time non-writing job as well as a two-year-old son, I have to be really careful with my spare time to make room for writing. Basically, I write whenever my son is asleep and do NOTHING ELSE.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Michelle Krys:
I have a critique partner, who also happens to be an agented author—she’s amazing and completely invaluable. My sister, the aforementioned author, is also amazing and invaluable. She’s read every word I’ve every wrote, EVER, and basically plots my book with me. I’d be a much suckier writer without these two.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Michelle Krys:
I’d say I’m midway between a plotter and a pantser. I like to know the general idea of how the book is going to play out before I start, as well as what kind of characters I’d like to populate the book with, but there are a lot of ‘then something amazing happens’ in my outlines. Before I start a chapter, though, I like to know exactly what I’m going to do first. I usually write up a little paragraph synopsis (nothing fancy), as a guide, and have it visible at the bottom of my word document as I write. It helps me to stay on track and remember the goal of the chapter.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Michelle Krys:
In my head I remember sending out about 50 queries for THE WITCH HUNTER’S BIBLE, however checking my handy dandy QueryTracker page informs me that I sent 94 queries—out of those there were 9 full requests, 62 rejections, and the rest non-responses. Eek! Those numbers are ugly! So you see, the whole ‘it only takes one’ thing really applies.

As previously mentioned, I did query my first book, but not as widely. I sent maybe 30 queries and got one partial request, which was later rejected.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Michelle Krys:
I chose the agents I queried based on intense internet stalking. Firstly, I googled my favorite YA authors and added their agents to my list. This list was expanded upon using—for those of you who don’t know, it’s a huge database of literary agents, as well as other things.

From there, I researched each agent’s personal website, twitter, blog, Querytracker profile (especially the comments section!), and Casey McCormick’s Literary Rambles blog, which features an immensely helpful database of YA and MG agents, along with every bit of information available on the internet about them. This is also where I discovered many agents to add to my query list.

This additional research was really important. Firstly, it allowed me to eliminate agents who were a) closed to submissions b) no longer accepting manuscripts in my genre c) otherwise seemed to be a poor fit for me and my writing. No use rejecting myself, right? Secondly, this research gave me very valuable information that I was able to use to personalize my query letters. Agent A likes edgy, quirky humor? Great, I’ll add to that to my opener. Something along the lines of, ‘I am seeking representation for THE WITCH HUNTER’S BIBLE, a YA urban fantasy, complete at 81,000 words. Because you’re interested in edgy, quirky humor, I thought we might be a good fit.

I did try to personalize as many query letters as possible, though it wasn’t always easy.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Michelle Krys:
I know from personal experience how beyond tempting it is to jump right into querying as soon as the last word is typed, or even to ‘test the waters’ before the book is complete. Don’t do that!

My advice is to take your time. Edit and edit and edit that manuscript until it’s in the BEST shape possible, and when you’re done doing that, still don’t query yet. Put your manuscript away for a while (a few weeks, if you can stand it), before giving it a final read through—it's likely that time away from your book will open your eyes to problems you weren’t able to see before because you were too close. When you’re done with all that, still don’t query. Have a fresh pair of eyes look it over (if you’re lucky/cunning enough to lure more than one pair, even better).

Same advice goes for the query letter. You only get one chance to intrigue an agent and make them want to read more. You’re not doing yourself any favors by rushing the process along, as hard as it may be to wait at times. Just hink of it as practice for the incredibly slow world of publishing.