Success Story Interview - RM Romero

An Interview with RM Romero (rmr051 on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
RM Romero:
THE DOLLMAKER OF KRAKOW is a Middle Grade historical fantasy that follows Karolina, a living doll who flees from her homeland after it is invaded by a horde of evil rats. She is given a body in the human world by the Dollmaker, a Polish toymaker who is haunted by his days as a soldier. With Karolina’s encouragement, he begins to rejoin the world and befriends a Jewish violinist and his daughter. When the Germans invade Krakow however, Karolina and the Dollmaker become determined to save their chosen family--even as they fall under the scrutiny of an SS officer who may possess the same magical abilities as the Dollmaker himself.

I never could have written this book if I hadn’t visited Poland when I was in college. I ended up falling in love with the beautiful city of Krakow and what I saw at Auschwitz haunted me for many years afterwards. The catalyst for the book was a short scene I write in which a doll comes to life and speaks to her creator. I was intrigued by the characters and since I needed to write a book for my MFA thesis, I felt compelled to see it through to the end.
QT: How long have you been writing?
RM Romero:
Since I was ten or eleven. I’ve always wanted to be a published author, but I only became serious about it four years ago.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
RM Romero:
I wrote the first draft for NaNoWriMo 2014, then spent about nine months revising it before I started to query agents.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
RM Romero:
Oh, yes. After the first thirty rejections, I was afraid that no one would “get” my work. I had written a book that didn’t fall neatly into any one genre and was fairly dark for MG. While all but one of the agents who requested the full manuscript said that while they had enjoyed my novel, they felt they couldn’t sell it.

It’s hard to be rejected. We all love our books so much and want them to speak to others as well. But I kept reminding myself as I went through the process that I love to write. Even if no one took an interest in DOLLMAKER, I had plenty of other stories I wanted to tell. I wrote another book while I was querying too, which helped to distract me (and stopped me from constantly refreshing my email!).
QT: Is this your first book?
RM Romero:
I wrote about five novels before DOLLMAKER, but it was the first book I queried to agents.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
RM Romero:
I do; I have an MFA in Creative Writing. But I know plenty of writers who have been very successful and don’t have MFAs. It all depends on what is right for you!
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
RM Romero:
I try to write at least 2000 words a day, although when I sit down at my computer varies quite a bit!
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
RM Romero:
I’m going to guess between five and six. I did one major rewrite on my own, two with my agent (an R&R and another revision after I’d signed with her), and I made significant changes with my U.S. and U.K. editors after the book had sold.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
RM Romero:
As much as I wish I could outline, it steals the joy out of writing for me. I just can’t get excited about a story if I already know exactly what happens; I keep writing to find out where it will end up!
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
RM Romero:
About six months. I started querying in October 2015 and signed with my agent, Jenny, in March 2016.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
RM Romero:
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
RM Romero:
I read old interviews with agents to see what they were looking for in terms of clients and followed #MSWL on Twitter. I also looked at who an agent’s current clients were (did they write books that I had enjoyed? Were their books like mine?) to determine if they might be a good fit.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
RM Romero:
If an agent gives you an R&R and any of their suggestions resonate with you, go ahead and do it. My agent signed me after I did an R&R and as difficult as it was to overhaul the book, it really paid off. And even if an agent decides to pass, your book will still be stronger thanks to their advice. Don’t give up! You never know the book that is going to change your life...
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
RM Romero:

Query Letter:

Dear Magical Agent,

After Karolina’s home, the Land of the Dolls, is conquered by vicious rats who destroy her people, her soul is sent to the human city of Krakow, Poland by a kindly wind god. There, Karolina is given a new body by a veteran of World War I and toyshop owner known as the Dollmaker. With Karolina’s help, the Dollmaker is able to put aside his memories of the horror of war and reveals the secret of his magic to a Jewish girl named Rena Trzmiel and her father, Jozef.

As Poland’s darkest hour approaches in 1939, the mythical creatures and legends of the countryside arrive in Krakow with the hope of assisting its people in their fight against the invading German forces. Karolina and the Dollmaker realize that they too must use their magic to save their friends from the terrors of the Nazi regime. But to assist others is to put their own lives in jeopardy—and danger that becomes even more apparent when Karolina and the Dollmaker meet a German magician who seeks to either control the Dollmaker’s magic or destroy it completely.

A fusion of fairy tales, rich Slavic folklore, and history in the tradition of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and Jane Yolen’s “Briar Rose”, THE DOLLMAKER OF KRAKOW introduces Middle Grade readers to the Holocaust and the struggles of Nazi-occupied Poland in way they can connect to and stresses the importance of creativity and love in times of great pain.