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Success Story Interview - Wendy Qualls

An Interview with Wendy Qualls (wendymarlowe on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Moe Ferrara of BookEnds, LLC.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Wendy Qualls:
It's a M/M contemporary romance set in Georgia, between a professor at a conservative college who has to stay in the closet to keep his job and a long-ago crush who takes a temp job doing computer consulting at the college. I live in the south, where there are some pretty polarized views about LGBTQ issues, and I loved the idea of setting a M/M love story against that backdrop.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Wendy Qualls:
Probably around eight years, give or take.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Wendy Qualls:
I started it in January of 2015 and finished the first draft in early April. I started my queries at the end of May.
QT: Is this your first book?
Wendy Qualls:
It's the third I've completed. My first was a M/F contemporary romance, which was a learning experience but is never going to see the light of day (with good reason). My second was a historical steampunk which was a lot of fun to write but by the time I finished it, nobody was buying steampunk novels anymore.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Wendy Qualls:
I have a psychology and a music degree and I've always been pretty good at grammar, but no. I was a librarian, then I wrote for a company that produces grammar and ESL workbooks, then decided writing romance would be a lot more fun!
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Wendy Qualls:
I sneak as many writing hours in during the day as I can, but I've got a toddler at home and she often makes it hard to get in a good mindset to write. My critique partner and I both try to sit down after the kids are in bed and do sprints together five or six nights a week - for me, that's usually 9 PM - midnight or so.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Wendy Qualls:
I generally write pretty "clean," so I think after I finished my first draft I did one edit on my own and one taking beta reader/critique partner comments into account and it was pretty much ready to go. I did end up doing more edits in between when I first sent a partial to my now-agent and when we sold the book, though.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Wendy Qualls:
Yes, beta readers are essential! My critique partner has several M/M books out and has been a fantastic help, but I also had some friends from the fanfiction world beta read for me too. I think it's helpful to get perspectives from both authors and non-authors - they tend to notice completely different things about the story.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Wendy Qualls:
Oh, outline all the way. I'm the writer who ends up with a twenty-five page outline before I even start chapter one. I feel like my previous books (and writing a ton of fanfiction) has helped me figure out how much plot fits in how many words, which helps a lot with the pacing. From there it's just a question of sorting out beats, motivation, character development, etc. And, you know, actually *writing* the thing.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Wendy Qualls:
I sent out the bulk of my queries in May/June/July of 2015. Moe requested a partial in June, an "if you can make your hero more macho I'd love to read the whole thing" in July, and a R&R in August. I signed with her in October. My previous book still had rejections trickling in a year after I first queried.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Wendy Qualls:
Sixty-seven. Eleven of those turned into requests.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Wendy Qualls:
Primarily based on who might be a good champion of M/M romances. Querytracker doesn't offer a way to subdivide "romance" automatically, so it took a lot of searching agent websites to figure out who enthusiastically welcomed LGBTQ submissions versus who didn't mind them versus who really wasn't the right person for those books. I was lucky - the supreme court decision in favor of gay marriage came out right in the middle of when I was querying, so lots of people (including agents) were tweeting about it. Made it a lot easier to research!
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Wendy Qualls:
Most of them, yes. I read the agency website carefully, looked up blog interviews (if I could find any), followed each agent I queried on Twitter, and checked to see if they'd specifically included M/M romance in a #MSWL in the past. If I could find something that let me personalize the query, I did.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Wendy Qualls:
First off, do your research! It's tempting to just make up a form query and blast it out to everyone, but each query is the potential start to a lifelong business relationship. That demands respect. There's nothing wrong with querying agents you're not 100% sure are right for you yet, but find out what you can and work from there. Also, make sure your book (and query and synopsis) really are ready. Finished, polished, beta-read, polished again, and double- and triple-checked for typos and confusing wording. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Wendy Qualls:

Query Letter:

As long as Paul Dunham stays in the closet, he’s golden: he’s nearly made tenure at his small conservative college, he’s finally gotten away from his controlling ex-boyfriend, and he can focus on just trying to make the best of his lonely bachelor-geek lifestyle.

Then a chance reunion with the gorgeous Brandon Mercer turns into a surprisingly hot more-than-one-night-stand, and things all go to hell. Paul discovers his ex has been stalking him and now has photographic proof that Paul and Brandon have become more than friends – proof he’s threatening to use to out Paul to his conservative family and his homophobic boss. Brandon’s offer to “show him what he’s been missing” also seems to have turned into something distinctly relationship-like, which Paul can’t afford to even dream about. When Paul’s ex finally follows through with his threat, Brandon is the only defense Paul has against his life falling completely apart. Fortunately, Brandon seems to be willing to stick around for the long haul and – with luck – to help make their own happily ever after.

WORTH WAITING FOR stands alone as a single title, but can also be the first book in my planned “Gay and Geeky” series of similarly-themed romances. I am a member of RWA and this book finaled in [an RWA chapter contest]. I can be reached at [email, Twitter, and phone].