Success Story Interview - Salinee Goldenberg

An Interview with Salinee Goldenberg (gosalgo on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Sam Farkas of Jill Grinberg Literary Management.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Salinee Goldenberg:
I've never seen any Thai inspired fantasy, and the culture and folklore is so rich that it was an obvious move. I'd previously written a crappy but fun short story about a demon hunter, so I brought him into the world, and let my imagination run wild.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Salinee Goldenberg:
One of those, "ever since I could remember" kids. But I didn't start writing with the intention to get published until around 2016, when my bestie suggested it. It had never actually occurred to me that traditional publishing was something I could achieve!
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Salinee Goldenberg:
This was a 2020 Nanowrimo project. I was going through some major personal shit (weren't we all?) and the story took hold of me, partially because I was inspired and held accountable by my writers group, and partially as a means of escape from reality. I finished it in early 2021, and ran it through a few beta readers while I worked on other projects. Made some revisions, but didn't start querying until (2022.) I took a break, and then received an offer from Angry Robot from their Open the Doors open submission period. From there I was able to secure an agent. Being able to keep track of the many submissions definitely helped
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Salinee Goldenberg:
Several times. But I'm stubborn and wouldn't have stopped, even if my eulogy was the only thing I would ever publish. Something always pushed me back on the path. One huge boost of confidence was receiving a scholarship from the Writing Excuses Retreat and cruise, which I could have never afforded, and was a wonderful experience.
QT: Is this your first book?
Salinee Goldenberg:
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Salinee Goldenberg:
Nope, aside from some creative writing electives in college, I guess.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Salinee Goldenberg:
I have to write first thing in the morning. Before anything. Sometimes I'll make a cup of tea but that's about it. Once the day starts, my head gets too cluttered with pesky real life crap. If I'm working on a novel I commit to 1k-2k a day. I'm a slow writer so sometimes that takes a few hours, and a lot of times I draft on paper and then type up later.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Salinee Goldenberg:
It hasn't significantly changed too much since the first draft, as far as plot points and character work, adding more imagery and that sort of thing. The biggest change was converting the narration from 1st POV into 3rd, but that didn't take long.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Salinee Goldenberg:
Yes, I had my alpha reader bestie, a writing group friend, an English and history major, the bassist from one of my bands, and a reader who loves fantasy but wasn't otherwise a writer. I think it's important to get takes from those who aren't looking through the craft lens constantly.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Salinee Goldenberg:
After the exploratory first few chapters, I wrote a very sparse Save the Cat outline, and then completely ignored it.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Salinee Goldenberg:
I tried querying three previous novels, all of which I love and think still have potential, but need a bit more work if not rewrites.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Salinee Goldenberg:
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Salinee Goldenberg:
I made sure to research their agent sites and MSWL, and tried to target ones that matched. Later on, towards the end, I did a lot of research on publishers marketplace, which was a very good investment as I could made it even easier.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Salinee Goldenberg:
I'd pick two or three things that stuck out to me on their MSWL, or even a book or TV show they said they liked. Sometimes it was as simple as "your interest in fantasy and underrepresented cultures."
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Salinee Goldenberg:
Don't give up. But sometimes give up and write something else. It's probably 80% luck that you find the right agent at the right time in the right mood to want to see your novel. Gotta keep spinning the wheel until you hit it.

Query Letter:

THE LAST PHI HUNTER is an #ownvoices adult dark fantasy complete at 100k, set in a Thai-inspired world, with elements of horror and a romantic subplot. For fans of THE WITCHER, TRAIL OF LIGHTNING and PRINCESS MONONOKE, THE LAST PHI HUNTER draws on Thai folklore, aspects of Buddhism, and the effects of modernization on rural lands. I’m querying you for your interest in underrepresented mythology and Southeast Asian fantasy.

Ex, the youngest and most ambitious member of the Phi Hunters Order, travels the haunted countryside stalking and slaying the ghosts and demons of Suyoram Kingdom. While he takes great pride in his mystical trade, collecting dwindling bounties and peddling butchered spirit organs lacks the glory he craves. Ex believes the only way to win the respect of his guild is to hunt down a legendary demon—one that eluded even his masters, and hasn’t been seen for decades.

In a run-down provincial village, Ex gets ripped off by another stingy client, and is on the wrong end of a one-sided bar fight when Arinya, a charming muay-boran boxing champion, saves him from a brutal ass-kicking, despite being nine months pregnant. In return, she asks for his escort through the dangerous, spirit-filled forest, where ghosts salivate over the scent of the unborn.

When they’re attacked by agents of the crown, Arinya confesses that she’s the prized consort of the crown-prince, and the new queen seeks to eliminate all possible usurpers. Feeling responsible for Arinya and her unborn child’s safety, Ex vows to help her return home. But as more of the consort’s secrets emerge and the elusive demon calls, he must face the dangers from both men and monsters, or lose not only the respect of his guild, but the guild entirely, along with the woman he’s trying not to fall in love with.