Success Story Interview - Rj Valldeperas

An Interview with Rj Valldeperas (RJVall on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Melanie Figueroa of Root Literary.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Rj Valldeperas:
It’s an Inca Inspired YA Fantasy. I recently found out that I’m of South American indigenous descent and wanted to learn more about my culture and people’s history. While doing research, I came across the Maiden of Llullaillaco, a perfectly preserved child mummy found on a mountaintop in the Andes Mountains. After reading her story, I couldn’t help but think: what if she had magic? And so was born Nina, the main character of The Will of the People.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Rj Valldeperas:
I’ve been writing since I can remember. Songs and poetry, mostly when I was an angsty teenager, and then I wrote my first full length novel in 2012 after having my first child.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Rj Valldeperas:
I started researching at the end of 2021 and then wrote the majority of it in June of 2022.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Rj Valldeperas:
Yes, absolutely. It felt like a pipe dream, but my family and friends encouraged me to keep going. I’m also very stubborn and when I put my mind to something, I usually see it through.
QT: Is this your first book?
Rj Valldeperas:
It is not the first that I’ve written but it is the first I seriously queried with.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Rj Valldeperas:
Nope! I’m an avid reader of both fiction and nonfiction (I love to research) and have spent a lot of time learning about plots and beats, language, cadence, personalities (enneagram obsessed), all of which was incredibly helpful when writing a novel.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Rj Valldeperas:
I am a huge fan of writing sprints. Set a timer for 20 minutes and put my phone away. I try to do that at least 4 times a day.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Rj Valldeperas:
The Will of the People went through two smaller revisions and two larger rewrites.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Rj Valldeperas:
I had one friend read the very first draft, but otherwise, no beta readers! I definitely think it would have helped a lot, but I had no idea what I was doing at first!
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Rj Valldeperas:
I’m a pantser. I did no outlining at first. It wasn’t until I had to do the first larger revision (after a lot of feedback about the pacing) that I used Save the Cat to go backwards and outline.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Rj Valldeperas:
This is the only book I queried. I sent my first query letter in June 2022 and received the offer in March 2023.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Rj Valldeperas:
I sent a total of 160 queries.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Rj Valldeperas:
That they represented YA Fantasy, and they weren’t known to have any major red flags. I was not picky.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Rj Valldeperas:
I did not. Most of my queries were exactly the same to every single agent. There were a few times when I changed up the comps or added certain details to the end (like editor interest, or a requery) but otherwise, it was copy/paste.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Rj Valldeperas:
Query far and wide. Make sure your word count is within the expected range for your genre and that your query is strong. Don’t take criticism personally, and if more than one person/agent gives the same feedback, use it.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Rj Valldeperas:
Here’s my query!

Query Letter:

Dear [agent],
I hope you’ll consider THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE (90k words) an Inca-inspired YA Fantasy that will appeal to fans of the sweeping journey in Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson, the accessible world-building in The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni, and the diversity and magical realism of This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi.

In the Amaru empire, it is an honor to be chosen as an Aclla, girls that train to become priestesses, servants or wives to conquered nobles. Four years ago, seventeen-year-old Nina volunteered to take her sickly sister’s place, but she did so with the sole purpose of defying her fate and eventually escaping. She doesn’t anticipate the betrayal of a friend that sets her farther from her purpose than she’s ever been, or the salvation that arrives in the form of a soldier with a letter announcing her betrothal to the emperor.

Nina reluctantly embarks on a journey to the capital, where she will meet the emperor who stole his throne and rules with an iron fist behind golden walls. Only if she can survive the terrible creatures that lurk in the mountainous forests, and the hidden magic that runs through her veins, and another betrayal that might shatter what little hope she has left.

As the magic that gives her power over her enemies becomes the very thing that shackles her to the gods she has sworn to defy, Nina learns that the price of power is the freedom she desperately craves, and she must decide if she is willing to become the villain they all fear to keep it.

I’m a Peruvian/Venezuelan writer living in South Florida with my husband and children. This book was inspired by the Maiden of Llullaillaco, a girl who was sacrificed in the name of her gods. I couldn’t help but imagine a different story for her, one in which she has the power to change her fate and destroy her enemies.