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Success Story Interview - Peter McLean

An Interview with Peter McLean (PeteMC on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Jennie Goloboy of Donald Maass 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?
Peter McLean:
The book is an adult secondary world fantasy novel set roughly in a version of the early Tudor period. It’s a mixture of my two favourite genres, fantasy and crime fiction, and follows a gangster returning from war to rebuild his criminal empire. I’m inspired by gangster classics such as The Godfather and Peaky Blinders, and the more modern, grimdark style fantasy of Scott Lynch and Mark Lawrence.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Peter McLean:
In total probably about thirty years now, since I was in highschool, but I’ve only really been taking it seriously for the last five or so.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Peter McLean:
This one took me about nine months to write.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Peter McLean:
Yes absolutely – the first novel I ever wrote got all the way to a full request with a big New York agent, who ultimately passed on it. After that I couldn’t get anyone else to even read the thing, which was rather disheartening at the time. Eventually I realised that book just wasn’t good enough (it wasn’t), so I wrote another one, and another one, until I hit the one that was good enough to get me published.
QT: Is this your first book?
Peter McLean:
No, I have two novels (Drake and Dominion) already in print from Angry Robot Books and a third (Damnation) due for release in May 2017. I got published with Angry Robot through their 2015 Open Door submissions window and have remained unagented until now – this will be the first book I’ve worked with an agent on.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Peter McLean:
None whatsoever – I learned by doing.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Peter McLean:
No, I’m really not that organised! I’ll have days when I write nothing at all, and days when I’ll hit 8000 words and suddenly realise it’s 3am and I hadn’t noticed.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Peter McLean:
I draft fairly clean so I don’t re-write as such, but I usually have three or four editing passes on a book before it goes anywhere.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Peter McLean:
Yes, I’ve had the same two beta readers for all my published books and I wouldn’t be without them. A good beta is invaluable, in my opinion.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Peter McLean:
This one I wrote from an outline. I used to be a “seat of the pants” writer but not anymore.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Peter McLean:
Very little time – a couple of months, if that. I was very lucky that my agent, Jennie Goloboy at Red Sofa Literary, had already read and enjoyed my published books and we had spoken on Twitter a few times so I think I jumped the query queue!
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Peter McLean:
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Peter McLean:
Well I already knew I wanted to work with Jennie based on our previous exchanges, and also because she represents some of my fellow Angry Robot authors who have become my friends. The other two queries were to another agent I had spoken to previously, and one who I don’t know personally but who I greatly respect, and who also represents someone I know.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Peter McLean:
Certainly to Jennie and the other agent I had previously spoken to, just to remind them who I was really.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Peter McLean:
Don’t give up, and treasure any agent feedback you receive. Also it’s well worth joining the forums at where there is a whole board dedicated to the art of crafting the query letter.