Introducing a new writing tool from the maker of QueryTracker.
Learn More...
Introducing a new writing tool from the maker of QueryTracker. Learn More...

Success Story Interview - Victoria Carbol

An Interview with Victoria Carbol (vcarbol on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Margaret Danko of High Line Literary Collective.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Victoria Carbol:
This manuscript is a YA contemporary fantasy retelling of Beowulf! I've always loved medieval literature, but, as a queer woman, I have rarely (if ever) been able to see myself in those epic stories. This manuscript grew out of that longing!
QT: How long have you been writing?
Victoria Carbol:
More or less since I was a wee child, though with intention perhaps for ten years or so.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Victoria Carbol:
I started this book when I did NanoWrimo for the first time in 2019!
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Victoria Carbol:
Definitely. As I mentioned, I wrote most of the first draft during NanoWrimo in 2019. I then spent 2020 editing the book. Towards the end of the year I finished, but still felt the manuscript was missing something. The problem was, I didn't know what! On a whim, I did #PitDark just to test the waters with agents and (to my delight) received a "like" from Margaret Danko. Because I felt the book wasn't ready and had no ideas for how to fix it, I expected her to reject me, and was prepared to shelve the book. But instead I got an R&R! Margaret identified everything I couldn't put words to, all the doubts I had about the manuscript. Excited again, I decided to try my hand at her edits instead of giving up. A well-timed email if there ever was one!
QT: Is this your first book?
Victoria Carbol:
This is the third manuscript I've written and second I've queried!
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Victoria Carbol:
Outside if a couple of creative writing classes in high school, no!
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Victoria Carbol:
Yes and no! I'm also a musician, so I tend to alternate between the two artistic endeavours. If I'm putting out a song, I don't work on fiction at all. But if I'm actively drafting or editing a manuscript, I do try to write an hour a day until that draft is done.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Victoria Carbol:
This book went through three drafts before I first queried it. Then once I got my R&R, it went through another complete re-write before I submitted it for the second time.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Victoria Carbol:
I did! I have a couple of good pals who love to write and/or read. They give me great support and insight when I'm first ready to share my stories.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Victoria Carbol:
I definitely outlined! The first manuscript I ever finished I wrote from the hip, and it was such a chaotic disaster that I couldn't face the mountain that would have been editing it. That was the moment I realized I was an outliner. Now I tend to do an overview outline to get started, then a more detailed chapter-by-chapter one before I dive into the writing.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Victoria Carbol:
As I mentioned, I first queried this book in the fall of 2020, though I only queried two agents because I felt it wasn't truly ready. When Margaret responded with an R&R, I spent 8 months revising. Then I queried in earnest in the fall of 2021.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Victoria Carbol:
I believe it was 26 to be exact!
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Victoria Carbol:
I decided whom to query based on two factors: whether they had mentioned they were actively looking for a book like mine, and whether they were editorial. I love writing but feel I have a lot of growing to do, so it was important to me to sign with someone who was willing to invest the time to help me learn.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Victoria Carbol:
I did! I have a strong theme of family/identity, and also a significant romantic arc. I would emphasize one over the other depending on what the agent was looking for. I also occasionally switched up my comps on that basis.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Victoria Carbol:
Research agents thoroughly! The first time I queried a manuscript, I queried anyone who represented my genre. I didn't bother to research further to find out if they specifically wanted my kind of book. (For example, YA fantasy is a very broad genre, and just because an agent represents it doesn't mean they are necessarily looking for your exact style of fantasy!) This meant I received a lot of rejections I didn't need to get, which is hard on the heart! This time around I was much more discriminating with my list and faired much better with my request rate!
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Victoria Carbol:
Here's a sample, with all personalization removed! (So keep in mind I would tailor this to the agent I was querying.)

Query Letter:

Dear [agent],

[TITLE] is an #ownvoices YA contemporary fantasy novel complete at 100,000 words. A genderbent retelling of BEOWULF, it combines the sapphic pining of Kalynn Bayron's CINDERELLA IS DEAD with the interplay between mythology and modern life in CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas.

Seventeen-year-old foster kid Freya Larson just wants a family. So when her eighteenth birthday rolls around, she jumps at an invitation to move to Coln St Aldwyns, a tiny English village home to more sheep than people and cousins she hasn't seen in a decade. There's just one problem: Freya sees ghosts, and a particularly haunting red-eyed one seems to have followed her there.

Desperate not to blow her chance at picket-fence happiness, Freya starts a rampage of normalcy: trying out for rugby, scarfing bacon with her cousins, and ignoring her personal phantom. That is, until her new English teacher suddenly transforms into a barghest, a monster with the body of a wolf and snout of a pig. About to be brutally devoured, the red-eyed ghost materializes to save Freya's life and offer a proposition: she will protect Freya and her entire family, if Freya helps her in return. Not a ghost at all, but rather a very real fire-wielding witch called Asheni, the rescuer believes Freya is the Wakeful Sleeper, someone with the ability to see into the past—all because of some stupid birthmark. Asheni is on a quest to find an ancient sword, and she wants Freya to learn the truth behind the sticky death of its original owner to help her claim it. One strange hallucination of a medieval battle and a barghest attack later, Freya takes the deal.

Now, Freya must master her newfound ability and uncover the mysterious history of the notorious blade. But those who control the barghests are after the sword too, and the more Freya sees about the relationship between the sword's original owner and Asheni, the less certain she is that she can trust the witch. (Even if she is frustratingly beautiful.) With lives and loyalties on the line, Freya finds herself torn between love and duty, as all this digging around in the past might mean destroying her and her newfound family's future.

My debut novel, [TITLE] is my queer feminist reimagining of the literature I fell in love with during my degree in medieval history. When not writing, I can be found creating bookish content for my YouTube channel, "Inquillery", which has a platform of over 24,000 subscribers.

Thank you very much for your time!