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Introducing a new writing tool from the maker of QueryTracker. Learn More...

Success Story Interview - Ramsey Hootman

An Interview with Ramsey Hootman (RamseyH on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Jim McCarthy of Dystel Goderich & Bourret LLC.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Ramsey Hootman:
I often get inspired by images I see, mistakenly think I see, or that just appear my head. In this case I had a picture pop into my mind of a guy in a long wool coat reclining on the deck of a cruise ship in the fog. This turned into a (not very good) short story. In the story, the man in the coat has been married for about a decade, but his wife doesn't appear in the narrative. Afterwards, I started wondering who his wife was and how on earth they had gotten together in the first place. Voila: Courting Greta.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Ramsey Hootman:
Pretty much forever, but I've been writing novels and trying to get them published for almost 15 years.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Ramsey Hootman:
Chronologically, from first draft to semi-final product, about ten years. But I wrote the first draft in college and didn't come back to it until years later - so in actual working time, about three years. It would have been much quicker, but I had a baby in the middle of the process.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Ramsey Hootman:
Everyone has times when they want to throw in the towel, and there were about three instances when I was in some serious writerly despair. A couple of months ago I actually announced to my writing friends that I WAS giving up, at least for a while. My husband, however, is the one who refuses to give up on me. Whenever I get too down on myself, he gives me a "pep talk" that other people would probably find pretty brutal... but it's just what I need.
QT: Is this your first book?
Ramsey Hootman:
Ah, no. It's either number three or five (?) depending on how you count drafts.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Ramsey Hootman:
I have a BA in English literature with an emphasis in creative writing. I got accepted into a very respected creative writing program for grad school, but I ran away to China instead. No, really.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Ramsey Hootman:
I have a toddler, so the whole concept of "schedule" is meaningless.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Ramsey Hootman:
This book went through two major rewrites and a ton of little edits.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Ramsey Hootman:
On the last draft, yes. They were invaluable.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Ramsey Hootman:
From the hip. But never again.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Ramsey Hootman:
Don't ask.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Ramsey Hootman:
Looking at my QueryTracker stats, I sent out 349 queries. Yeah.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Ramsey Hootman:
At first I was querying agents that represented romance, but it soon became clear that my book wasn't going to fit into the romance genre. So then I started looking at contemporary fiction, literary, and quirky.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Ramsey Hootman:
Oh, heck no.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Ramsey Hootman:
Regardless of how weird or different your novel is, if you send out 20 queries and get zero requests, you need to rewrite your query. Completely. My numbers are so horrific because I wasted a lot of time querying with letters that didn't work. When I finally came up with an awesome query, I got six requests for fulls almost immediately.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Ramsey Hootman:
This is my final query, the one that worked. The others sucked.

Query Letter:

This is not a romance.

Samuel is no alpha male, or even a beta. He's the cripple with crutches; the nerdy programmer every woman on the planet feels compelled to mother.

Greta is no beauty – not even on the inside. She's the bitter, sarcastic gym coach with two bad knees and no sense of humor. The teacher no kid would dare mock. At least not within hearing.

This is barely even a love story.

Samuel only asks Greta out to prove he's got the guts. When she accepts, he's out of his depth. All he knows is that he'll do whatever it takes to keep her as long as he can. Pretend he's got his class under control? Easy. Attend sporting events? Sure. Humiliate himself in front of six hundred teenagers? Uh... yeah. No problem.

Be vulnerable enough to admit why he ditched his programming career for teaching? Um, no. That would require honesty. And if there's one thing Samuel can't exist without, it's the lies he tells himself.

Courting Greta, complete at 116,000 words, is set in the California wine-country town of Healdsburg, where the mistakes you make as a teenager follow you to your grave. It is a book about what happens when two people who don't believe in romance give love half a chance. It is about sports and disability and, most of all, the freedom that comes with letting go of every single last scrap of pride.


Ramsey Hootman