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Success Story Interview - Veronica Canfield

An Interview with Veronica Canfield (vcanfield on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Louise Fury of The Fury Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Veronica Canfield:
I have a trunk novel, which I still think has a lot of potential, but needs work. I knew it was time to move on and get published so I decided to try something light and commercial. While pondering what I should write next, I noticed a show on Discovery channel about some mean spirited ghosts causing problems and scaring people. I wondered why ghosts are never fun and snarky. I thought it would be so cool if I could see ghosts and they no big deal. It would be even cooler if I had one hanging around like some annoying, yet fascinating, best friend. That's when I realized I had the basis for a new book.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Veronica Canfield:
Pretty much since middle school, but only for fun. I didn't get serious about studying the craft and getting published until seven years ago.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Veronica Canfield:
I wrote A Girl's Guide in a ridiculously short amount of time-five weeks. However I teach and I had the summer off so I was able to devote 6-8 hours a day to writing. My husband and family were very supportive. They took care of their own needs and helped around the house. Once I had the draft, I spent about three months handing it over to betas and then revising and polishing.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Veronica Canfield:
No, never. I knew this book was decent and would eventually find an agent. I was often disappointed with the rejection of the query process, but it's all part of the game. If I gave up it would mean I never really had what it takes to get published in the first place. What helped me stay on course was being part of the forums on Querytracker (this place rocks!), being a member of Backspace and reading young adult novels. Some of the books were fantastic and some were not so fantastic. I knew I fell somewhere in between.
QT: Is this your first book?
Veronica Canfield:
No, it's my second. My trunk novel took me years to write because it was my practice novel and I just wrote when I felt like it. I would take up to six months off. I'm still very fond of that first novel and eventually I will dust it off, rework it and present it to my agent.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Veronica Canfield:
Not really-- just a creative writing class in college. However, I have been studying the craft by reading books and blogs, sharing ideas on forums and taking notes on things that work in books I read. I am also a voracious reader, which I believe helps you learn some of the craft even if you aren't doing it consciously. I still have sooo much to learn.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Veronica Canfield:
In the summer when I'm not teaching I try to write four to eight hours a day, but I don't really have a set schedule. If I force myself to write, the story and dialogue sound contrived. I usually have to be motivated with a great idea and then I don't want to be interrupted for anything.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Veronica Canfield:
Tons and tons. I usually re-read what I wrote the day before and edit as I go. Then my husband goes through it and we edit. My Betas go through it, more edits. Then I listen to the entire book using a great software program called Speaking Naturally. More edits. I might read through it two are three more times and do more edits. And finally my agent has some changes she wants made, which means more editing.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Veronica Canfield:
Yes, I had my husband and my best friend as betas. I also had some co-workers read the novel, but only for grammar and sentence structure. In the future, I plan on asking Querytracker members to trade MS. You really need an objective group of critique partners. I missed out on that with this MS.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Veronica Canfield:
I do some rough outlining, but everything usually changes. I do something most people think is bizarre, I don't write in sequence. When I get a great idea for a scene I just go with it. Then I have to piece chapters together. Usually I write the beginning and the end first and from there I fill in the blanks. So outlining does not always work well with this method.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Veronica Canfield:
I started at the beginning of September 2010 and received my offer towards the end of January 2011, so about 4 ½ months. But it seemed like forever. Louise actually had my query at the start of October and asked for the full the same day she received the query. She just had a lot on her plate and couldn't get to get to it until January. It went pretty quickly after that. Louise was actually the 12th person I queried. So if I had stopped with her, I still would have gotten an agent. Goes to show how strange the process can be.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Veronica Canfield:
Overall, 95 queries with 19 requests for fulls and partials. Some of the requests still haven't come back. My book is kind of quirky, so although I got a lot of "I like it" answers, it had to be an "I LOVE it" for an agent to take it on.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Veronica Canfield:
If they were legitimate and they represented the YA genre, they were on my list. I queried wide.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Veronica Canfield:
I tried to as much as I could. Usually I mentioned authors they represent or something said in an interview. But sometimes I couldn't find anything and I just sent the query with their name at the top. Of course I always started with Dear Mr. or Ms.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Veronica Canfield:
Send out ten queries and see if you get at least one nibble. If not, work on it some more and send out another ten. Once I had a strong query I would usually get one to two requests for every ten queries I sent out. Make your first chapter really strong with some tension. Put your protagonist in a situation or give them an issue that will cause the reader to sympathize with them. Not creating a connection between the reader and the main character was one of the reasons a number of agents passed on my MS. I had to go back and fix that. Become a paying member of QT. And I couldn't have done it without QT's database. Keeping track of all those queries by hand was a nightmare. Make sure to put QT to good use by faithfully tracking everything.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Veronica Canfield:
I'd love to.

Query Letter:

Dear Wonderful Agent,

Armed with a snarky attitude and a bag full of dollar store mirrors, seventeen-year-old Jenna Gray catches and relocates lost and troublesome ghosts. Ghost rescue does have its problems, such as getting stuck with a spirit named Edwin—a gender confused, eighteenth-century, English drama queen, with a penchant for cross-dressing. That's what happens when you bring home ghost strays…you get haunted by a diva.

Sure, being able to see ghosts is pretty cool, but the rumors about Jenna hanging with dead people aren't exactly giving her a popularity boost. Things start looking up when Colin Rees, an über hot transfer student, takes an interest in Jenna. She may be on her way to finding love.

Everything changes when high school girls are found murdered and Jenna's ghost friends begin disappearing. Jenna learns a group of Goth students dabbling in the occult has unwittingly unleashed a demon from hell. Now Jenna's abilities are drawing the demon to her and somehow Colin is connected to it all. With the help of her BFF Eva, and her self-proclaimed BGF (best ghost forever) Edwin, Jenna's determined to reveal the demon's identity, find a way to defeat it and prevent herself from becoming the next victim—all before her 11:00 pm curfew.

A GIRL'S GUIDE TO GHOSTS, BOYS AND OTHER WEIRD THINGS is complete at 67,000 words. My novel has a fun and quirky attitude setting it apart from the plethora of dark, paranormal, YA novels on the market.