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Success Story Interview - Rebecca Thorne

An Interview with Rebecca Thorne (fornwalt on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Kaitlyn Katsoupis of Belcastro Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Rebecca Thorne:
My novel is called HARBINGER. It's about a girl named Kyra who loses her leg in a dragon attack, and then sets her sights on joining the Huntresses—warriors with solar-powered wings and a taste for dragon blood. She's desperate to regain her mobility with their wings, but must overcome bullying, intense physical training, and doubts of her own self-worth before she can earn them.

I'm a flight attendant, and was inspired to write about Kyra because of a little girl I had on the plane who'd lost a leg. She was so feisty and determined, and I was in awe of her. I wanted to present a character that reminded teenagers it is possible to overcome intense setbacks and achieve your dreams!
QT: How long have you been writing?
Rebecca Thorne:
I've been writing since I was 11 years old, so over 15 years. At first it was purely for my own personal happiness... although I always secretly wanted to be a professional author. Three years ago, I decided that I'd never become a published author if I didn't try, so I threw every waking minute into that goal!
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Rebecca Thorne:
I spent about 6 weeks actually writing the book. I plotted it out in April 2016, tried a few (bad) versions in July 2016, and then took a couple months off. In November 2016, during National Novel Writing Month, I put my nose to the grindstone and wrote what became my real first draft. It was a MG back then, and I spent the next four months querying a truly bad version of that MG. DON'T QUERY BEFORE YOU'RE READY, my god. >.>

I changed HARBINGER from MG to YA in April, then by some miracle secured a winning spot in the #RevPit contest. My editor was also disabled, and helped me get my book in real, fighting shape. I queried again in June, and secured my agent in July 2017!
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Rebecca Thorne:
Not really... I've written 12 full-length books, so by this point it's a pretty clinical process. I don't believe in writers block—to me, that just means "procrastination" and "laziness." (Not saying it doesn't exist for others! Just that for me, it's a cop-out.) And I spent years going through a "start and stop" period of writing, where I had about 30 half-finished novels. So now when I decide I'm going to write something, I just DO it.
QT: Is this your first book?
Rebecca Thorne:
Noooo. I spent my high school and college years writing whatever suited my fancy. Then, when I set my sights on publishing, it was easy to sacrifice some of the inspiration for something that will sell. I'm going to make this a career, so if I wait for the writing mood, I'd never finish anything. XD
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Rebecca Thorne:
Nope. I mean, I took one creative writing class in college, it but was a joke. All of my writing knowledge comes from reference books (check out Jeff Gerke's "First 50 Pages". Omg, amazing), writers conferences, and online platforms like Twitter and AgentQuery. And, of course, the millions of words I've already written, coupled with the multitude of YA books I read in my spare time!!

You don't need a fancy degree. You just need an unwavering desire to succeed, no matter how long it takes.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Rebecca Thorne:
I can write 70,000 words in a month. During those days, absolutely. I get up early, head to the local coffee shop with a few of my writer friends, and get to it. Then I break for dinner, and go back to writing from 7pm to midnight or so. Every day I'm off work, that's my routine. When I'm at work, I steal snatches of writing time.

And then I take a few months off, where I might not write at all. And that's okay too!
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Rebecca Thorne:
Um... three times. Once for the MG à YA revision, once for the #RevPit revision, and once for Kaitlyn's R&R. But honestly, I'd say 60% of my book is still from the first draft. That's the best part of plotting your novels; you don't have to scrap nearly as much as you'd anticipate.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Rebecca Thorne:
Actually, not really. I usually have a multitude of people reading it, and then I treat them to dinner while they tell me everything that sucks about the book. But HARBINGER was kind of under the radar. I knew it was special, so I kept it close to my chest for a lot of that time.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Rebecca Thorne:
I'm a plantser. By that, I mean I used to be a panster, but got tired of rewriting books from scratch. So I adopted plotting mentalities. I tend to outline major scenes: the 25%, 50%, 75%, 85% plot events. Then I fill in whatever details I've been thinking about to that point. Then I pants the rest of it.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Rebecca Thorne:
I sent out my first query back in December 2016, after interest in a Twitter pitch contest. The book was NOT ready to query, but after getting my first ever full request in January 2017, I panicked and queried about 40 more agents. Nothing came of those requests, and I had to find all new agents to query with the YA version in June. It was annoying. XD

Overall, though, I've queried 3 books in 3 years. That said, I didn't get a full request until HARBINGER.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Rebecca Thorne:
Get ready to cringe. I sent out 123 queries between the MG and the YA version of this book. Yikes, right? But once I finished my last round of edits, I knew I would either get an agent, or abandon the novel to my hard drive and start something new. So querying became a free-for-all around June.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Rebecca Thorne:
Despite the high number of queries sent, all of them were reputable agents! I checked their sales on Publishers Marketplace, and their agencies on AbsoluteWrite. I was so, so excited when Kaitlyn got in contact with me, though; Corvisiero Literary was one of my top choices, based on how they conducted themselves on Twitter. All of their agents seemed really easy to have a conversation with, and willing to answer questions! (And this is so, so true even after signing with them. Never once did I feel they were hiding information from me, even during contract discussions. They've been extremely upfront and helpful from the start!)
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Rebecca Thorne:
Kind of. I definitely sent out individual emails addressed to every particular agent. If they were one I'd had my eye on, I'd write a one sentence blurb about why I chose them. But mostly, I kept my query pretty generic. Didn't stop me from getting over 20 full requests!
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Rebecca Thorne:
PERSISTENCE IS KEY. Oh my god, I can't stress this enough. I was very excited to get an agent, but honestly, I would have kept writing and querying new novels until the end of time, if that's what it took. My motto is that you can't give 110% for years and NOT get somewhere. Learn about the industry, talk to agents on Twitter, check out #MSWL to see what's hot right now, and write to sell. Because ultimately, publishing is a business. You can write a masterpiece, but if the agents don't see a market for it, they'll pass. They have to pass, because otherwise they can't pay their mortgage! So don't take rejections personally. Just keep smiling and be persistent. You'll come out a winner eventually!
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Rebecca Thorne:

Query Letter:

Kyra Mavros was thirteen years old when she "lost her foot," which is a polite way of saying that a dragon ripped it off and swallowed it whole.

Two years later, she's sick and tired of the pitying glances. Determined to regain her mobility and protect others from a similar fate, Kyra sets her sights on joining the Huntresses: deadly warriors equipped with solar-powered wings and a taste for dragon blood. After all, you don't need both feet to fly...or hunt.

When another dragon devastates her hometown of Pythila, Kyra ignores the safety brochures that insist humans without wings should avoid the leathery beasts at all costs. She leaps into the fight and, with her quick wit and a little luck, sends the dragons packing. Impressed, the Huntresses whisk her to the floating city of Harbinger, where young nestlings must survive a grueling year of boot camp to earn their wings. But not everyone thinks Kyra deserves to be there, and they aren't above sabotage to get her expelled. Eventually, even Kyra begins to question whether or not she could repeat the victory in her hometown.

To make matters worse, the dragon from Pythila has nursed its wounds and is back for revenge. When the beast kidnaps her brother, Kyra must rise above her classmates' prejudice—and her own self-doubts—to rescue him...even if it means sacrificing her wings in the process.

HARBINGER is a young adult fantasy complete at 90,000 words, and has series potential. It was the recent winner of the #RevPit contest on Twitter, and has been professionally edited for an online showcase. My editor is also disabled, and has performed a thorough sensitivity read on the manuscript.

I am an associate member of SCBWI. I have also participated in National Novel Writing Month for nine consecutive years.

Thank you for your time and consideration.