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An Interview with Alythia Brown upon receiving an offer of representation.

09/07/2015

Alythia Brown (alythiabrown on QT) has signed with agent Moe Ferrara of BookEnds, LLC.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
HEARTBREAKER FOR HIRE had been sitting in my mind as a contemporary novel for a long time, but I couldn't quite muster the inspiration to begin writing. I don't really write contemporary. So other projects came first. Then, over Christmas break last year, I realized that the concept of a young woman who made a living by breaking hearts could easily work in a fantasy, old-world setting.

The inspiration came to me from... wait for it... a country song. The premise of the song was that the singer was going to enjoy watching her ex's philandering ways come back around to him. And I thought, 'Hey, people would pay good money for that. Someone could make a killing from being the heartbreaker...'

How long have you been writing?
Well, that's a tough question. I began stapling papers together when I was in kindergarten, using drawings to tell my stories before I could write words. There was no better feeling that filling every page--that was the beginning of my love for storytelling. But I suppose I became truly serious about writing for a living when I was nineteen. Ten years later, I finally found my agent, Moe Ferrara.
How long have you been working on this book?
I wrote in a frenzy and finished in about three months. I sent it through beta readers and began querying a month later. I've realized that taking years on a project doesn't work for me, personally. So I try to write that first draft as quickly as possible so it's all still fresh in my mind by the time I get to The End.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Oh, the answer for this is yes, yes, yes and absolutely not all wrapped up into one. Absolutely not, because I'd been working too hard for too long to simply quit. But also yes, yes, yes, because after ten years of rejections and silence I was beginning to wonder if I was never going to be good enough. I had fallen in absolute love with my manuscript and I kept thinking, 'If no one likes this, I'm not sure where to go from here. Maybe my instincts are wrong and I'm just a deluded wannabe writer...'

The thing that kept me on course this time around--and while I was at my darkest point as a writer--was participating in contests. I'd never done it before and it was a welcomed distraction. I met other writers and gained great feedback on my novel, which inspired another round of edits and made it even stronger. And, actually, I wouldn't have connected with Moe had I not taken the chance and participated in one particular contest! She was so new to the industry, that I'd already queried one of her colleagues and closed out the attempt a month before she began. I had mentally crossed BookEnds off my list. And then there she was, a perfect fit for me and interested in my submission on The Writers Voice three months after I began querying!

Is this your first book?
Nope. It's the fifth book I've written. The first two were terrible, but necessary. The third one published through an indie press. I finished the fourth one a month before writing HEARTBREAKER FOR HIRE and plan to review it with my agent once we have H4H in shape for submissions. We'll see!
Do you have any formal writing training?
Not really. I think? I became pregnant as a teen and my education (in the form of merits) ended thereafter. But, honestly, I've been obsessively ingesting information every night after putting kids to bed for ten years. I also learned a TON from the editor I worked with on my indie press novel. Between taking advantage of the information age and the gift of wisdom from people in the writing community and QT, I've found my way.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I try to write when my kids are at school or sleeping. Day-to-day writing schedules don't really work for me, but I'm better at meeting deadlines. Tell me when I need to finish and I'll get it done.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I'm still editing this book! But before I signed with my agent, I combed through the piece at least five (six?) times. It's all a blur now!
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Absolutely. I met them through QT and don't know what I'd do without them!
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Plotter, through and through. I've figured out a method that works for me and I'll never go back to aimless wandering. I spent years on the first two books because I had so much trouble seeing the bigger picture--the character arcs, the important hero's journey trail markers. They were all over the place. Part of the reason I was able to write HEARTBREAKER FOR HIRE so quickly was that I had a road map. (Plus, I was having a blast!)
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I began querying H4H in March and signed with Moe in July. But I've been querying on and off for ten years.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Almost 70.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
They had to rep fantasy, of course, and QT helped me filter the agents that didn't. From there, I examined age categories. Even though H4H is an adult novel, I plan to write fantasy for MG, YA, and Adult throughout my career and I didn't want to find myself locked into writing for one target market. It seemed like agents either worked with MG and YA, but not A. Or they took A and YA, but not MG. I was especially interested in Moe since she repped all of the above. I also checked out agents online to see what kind of vibe they gave off via social media. A sense of humor and kind demeanor always bumped them to the top of my query list.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Yes. I feel it's better to include at least one brief sentence about why you're contacting someone. For those agents who appreciate a greeting, they'll get one. For the ones who don't care, they'll skim over it anyway. Tailoring queries only takes one minute and I believe it's more professional. (i.e. 'Since you stated you would like to see more romantic fantasy in an interview on Kate's blog in May, I wanted to reach out and gauge your interest in my next project.')
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Three main things:
  1. Comparing yourself to other writers is a lose-lose situation. Even though I believed in my story, I didn't have a great request rate compared to other writers. I now know that it never mattered, but at the time, it made the process more difficult. Your path is your own.
  2. Dream agents will only break your heart. I got to the point where I was so set on one particular agent I no longer cared that I didn't really connect with her client's books or some of the things she said online. I was convinced I would end up working with her and it only ended in tears. Keep your mind open. Agents who seem great on paper may not enjoy your work the way you think they will. And offers can sometimes come in surprising packages.
  3. Everyone will tell you this process takes forever (which it does), but don't lose heart! You need to believe in that first book as much as you believe in your fifth, sixth, and so on. Even though your first book may turn into a practice/drawer novel, it's just as important as the rest. If you don't push forward as though a contract is right around the corner, you'll lose the momentum to reach for your dream.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sure!

Twenty-year-old Kaia Featherfoot is a professional heartbreaker. Turns out, there are plenty of scorned maidens eager to send ex-lovers a taste of their own medicine for a reasonable price.

She bounces from one kingdom to the next, charming the likes of philandering knights and barkeeps only to orchestrate traumatic breakups. (Her clients throw in bonuses for public humiliation.)

When she stumbles into the Kingdom of Zelthenway and places her ambiguous ad with the local sewing circle, she receives a reply from clients unlike any she’s had before: a group of men, led by the local innkeeper, Ronan Greenly. They want her to win the heart of the tyrant King Xorian—to lure him from the castle while the rebels search for the key to his undoing.

Enticed by the large sack of gold, Kaia gladly accepts the job only to realize it’s more than she can handle. The king isn’t some self-absorbed flirt like the men she’s played before. He’s a controlling and powerful man who’s becoming dangerously obsessed with her. And her secret romance with Ronan only makes the charade more difficult to pull off.

Should the king uncover the conspiracy brewing under his nose, the rebels are dead. Should he catch Kaia kissing Ronan behind his back, she’ll wish she were...

Racially diverse and complete at 70,000 words, HEARTBREAKER FOR HIRE is a stand-alone fantasy novel with series potential.

Alythia Brown