Success Story Interview - Naomi Hughes

An Interview with Naomi Hughes (NaomiL on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Louise Fury of The Fury Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Naomi Hughes:
THE SHADOWED FLAME is a young adult fantasy about a snarky male Unicorn Rider. I started writing it as a short story, but it quickly developed into a book. I thought of the base idea (a guy who rides unicorns) by brainstorming things that weren't currently being done in YA fantasy--I wanted to do something completely different, something offbeat and new.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Naomi Hughes:
I've been writing in various formats my entire life (short stories, journalism, poetry, etc.), but started writing books with the intent to get published about six months before Louise offered to represent me.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Naomi Hughes:
I worked on THE SHADOWED FLAME for four months before I landed my agent.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Naomi Hughes:
Yes! Or at least, I felt like taking a break and reassessing, if not outright quitting. The revised first draft of THE SHADOWED FLAME was entered in the Pitch Wars contest, and I was very discouraged at the (accurate) feedback I received: it wasn't ready. I'd been throwing my entire life into this book for the last few months, and it was a hard thing to hear. But I decided I loved it too much to not give it the best shot I could, so I started from scratch and rewrote. Thank God I did; when I was a few chapters into my rewrite during the agent round of the contest, Louise loved my pitch and rewritten first page and requested the full. If all I'd had to give her was the old draft, it no doubt would've been a form reject. As it was, she graciously agreed to wait a few weeks for me to finish my rewrite. When I sent it, she read it overnight and offered the next day.
QT: Is this your first book?
Naomi Hughes:
Nope. I wrote several for-fun books in junior high and high school, and then one "serious" manuscript (written with the intent to be published) before writing THE SHADOWED FLAME.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Naomi Hughes:
Not really. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communication, which involved some writing-for-media courses. That was mostly for journalism, though, which is a very different style.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Naomi Hughes:
I did while I was writing THE SHADOWED FLAME. During the first draft, I was still in the honeymoon phase of writing, so I pretty much wrote and revised during any free time I had (on average, maybe 4-6 hours a day). During my rewrite, I paced myself more and wrote a chapter a day (about 2,500 words). Now that I'm not on a specific project, I don't follow any set routine, but I probably will once I start a new book.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Naomi Hughes:
During the initial first draft, I revised as I went. After I finished the entire draft I spent about two months editing. Then I scrapped everything and started over with a complete rewrite, and only had to do very minor revisions with that before I sent it to Louise.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Naomi Hughes:
YES. Beta readers are VITAL. I had a ton of readers for the first few chapters of my first draft, because I'd joined an online writing group. Then I had two family members, one beta reader, and one Pitch Wars mentor who read the whole thing. For my second draft, I had about five or six experienced critiqued partners with whom I exchanged beta reads.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Naomi Hughes:
I started the first draft from the hip and kept a loose outline of where I expected the story to go (it changed drastically as I went). For the second draft, I did a detailed scene-by-scene outline before I started writing, although I did make minor changes to many scenes as I wrote.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Naomi Hughes:
I (stupidly) started querying THE SHADOWED FLAME as soon as I'd finished the initial draft. So all in all, I queried it for a total of three months, though I stopped querying during the month I was doing my rewrite. I had one other manuscript (my first attempt at writing for publication) that I queried before this, and I had that one out for about three months before I realized just how awful it was.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Naomi Hughes:
About 40.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Naomi Hughes:
Whether they represented my genre and whether I thought we would work well together (based on their personalities as reflected by their blogs, social media presences, etc).
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Naomi Hughes:
Usually I would include a short one-sentence explanation for why I chose them, if there was a specific reason. For example, "I chose to query you because your wishlist includes x."
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Naomi Hughes:
Don't focus too much on landing one of your "dream agents" based on their client list or their personalities. The best agent for you is someone who loves your book and can sell it well.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Naomi Hughes:
I actually landed Louise with a pitch and the first page of my manuscript, but I included my query letter when I sent her the full. Here it is:

Query Letter:

Jackson’s job has its ups and downs. Sure, the seventeen-year-old gets to slay man-eating monsters every day, and yes, he does train with the best warriors in the kingdom. But he’s also required to stay a virgin forever—even though he’s in love with his beautiful partner, Moira.

Sometimes it’s tough being the only male Unicorn Rider.

Jackson’s life gets even more complicated when he overhears a dangerous unicorn secret. There’s an ex-Rider hunting him and Moira, searching for a world-killing weapon called the Shadowed Flame. When Jackson tries to pry more information from his mare, she stonewalls him, fearing for his safety. Even worse, he soon suspects that the other unicorns may have a hidden agenda. It’s up to him to ferret out their secrets, stop the ex-Rider, and protect the girl he loves but can never have.

THE SHADOWED FLAME, a completed young adult fantasy of 63,000 words, will appeal to fans of Rick Riordan’s HEROES OF OLYMPUS series and Hilari Bell’s THE LAST KNIGHT. I appreciate your time and consideration.