Success Story Interview - Stephanie Diaz

An Interview with Stephanie Diaz (stephanieediaz on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Alison Fargis of Stonesong.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Stephanie Diaz:
My book, tentatively titled EXTRACTION, is a YA sci-fi about a girl named Clementine and her struggle to live in a world where the moon is poisonous and children are worthless. I was inspired--funny story--by a line in a manuscript I was critiquing for a friend. She mentioned a moon on the horizon, and for some crazy reason I pictured it way bigger than it was actually supposed to be. Then I wondered what the world would be like if the giant moon were poisonous.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Stephanie Diaz:
I've wanted to be a published author since kindergarten. I wrote my first "novel" by hand when I was 9 and gave it to my younger sister for a birthday present (she never actually read it). I wrote my first actual novel at 13.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Stephanie Diaz:
The idea for this book came in the summer of 2011. I sat down to write it for real that October and finished the first draft in late November. Revisions took another couple months.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Stephanie Diaz:
I'm 19, so on bad days, I've reminded myself that I'm still a young'un with plenty of years ahead of me.
QT: Is this your first book?
Stephanie Diaz:
Nope! I queried two other novels before this one and have two shorter books in journals stuffed into my closet.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Stephanie Diaz:
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Stephanie Diaz:
I wrote EXTRACTION whenever I could between(/during) college classes and work. Some days I set strict word count goals for myself, but that's about it.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Stephanie Diaz:
I'm terrible at keeping track. I don't really pause in between revision rounds. But if I had to guess, I'd say this book went through about a couple small revisions and three major ones--two following Revise and Resubmits during the querying stage.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Stephanie Diaz:
Indeed! A fair few.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Stephanie Diaz:
Half-and-half. I knew vaguely where it was headed, and at certain points I stopped and figured out exactly what would happen next, but I never outlined the whole thing.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Stephanie Diaz:
I sent out the first query January 9 and received my first offer May 9. So, exactly four months! But, I've been writing and querying other books on-and-off for six years.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Stephanie Diaz:
144. Part of the reason for this is because my query was initially terrible--and the manuscript also needed more work. Once both were perfected, I had an offer within a week. So, out of 144 queries, I received 26 requests for the full or partial, and 4 offers of representation.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Stephanie Diaz:
I did lots of research through blogs, QT, AgentQueryConnect, twitter--just about everywhere. Interests, sales history, and personality were important.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Stephanie Diaz:
Once or twice, but mostly not. Only if I saw something in a blog or elsewhere that stood out to me. (I referenced Arrested Development in a query to an agent who watches the show, for example. She requested a full 7 minutes later.)
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Stephanie Diaz:
Keep writing. It goes along with the whole "don't give up" thing, but the truth is, there is a moment when it's a good idea to give up--on a manuscript. Not on getting published. Try to be open to the possibility that one manuscript might not get you the attention you deserve, because another will. If I hadn't stopped querying an older manuscript last October to focus on EXTRACTION, I wouldn't have an agent today.

Query Letter:

Sixteen-year-old Clementine wants to grow old and live in a place where the moon is a beautiful, glowing orb in the sky instead of an acid-bleeding menace to the planet. So when she wins a shot at life far from the planet surface, she takes it willingly, even if it means leaving her best friend, Logan, behind.

In the planet core, which after centuries has been transformed into a steel-made place of inhabitance more like a space ship, Clementine lives, for the first time, without fear. Underground, there is no starvation, there are no crowbar-wielding security officials, and the moon is far enough away that no one speaks of it.

Then Clementine learns the planet leaders are going to murder Logan.

Now trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan. But the planet leaders don't want her running. They want her subdued.