I've always kept notebooks—filled them with little notes, stories, and drawings. I didn't start taking myself seriously until my junior year of undergrad. I gave a few pages of a story I'd written to a professor, and he encouraged me to keep writing.
How long have you been working on this book?
It took me three years to write and revise HERE IN MY ROOM.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Revisions are the toughest, especially when you're trying to control tone and polish language, but listening to playlists of my favorite music and watching great movies kept me going creatively.
Is this your first book?
Yes. Here's to hoping the next time around won't take me three years.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I just graduated with my MFA a few weeks ago from Rosemont College.
Do you follow a writing 'routine' or schedule?
No, and I wish that I could. My writing very much depends on mood. I need to be in a good place to get any real progress done. Although an approaching deadline is certainly a motivator as well.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I revised using three drafts: a mechanical draft, a thread draft, and a language draft. The mechanical draft is the bare bones of your story. It's about having a beginning, middle, and an end. The thread draft is more plot—making sure things make sense. The language draft is the most detailed. I mostly rewrote word for word to try and control the tone throughout the book.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
The first draft was written without an outline, and it showed. The book was outlined many times after that.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I started querying this book in the middle of April and got the offer a month later.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
My plan was to send out 100 query letter, and if I got 100 rejections I'd kill the book. So I sent out my 100 letters and thankfully only got 30 rejections before getting the offer.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I only queried agents who represented YA. I also tried to just query agents who would seem like a good personality fit after reading their profiles.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Yes. The way I see it—I spent three years of my life writing this book, if I can't take the time to write a query specific to an agent, then I'm sending the message that this book isn't worth those three years.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Try your best to remember this whole thing is a business. Be polite, understanding, and most important of all—start working on something else! It helps create the emotional distance needed to not be so hurt by the rejections. Don't get me wrong, the rejections will still hurt (especially the personalized one), but just keep yourself busy and hopefully the offer will be waiting in your inbox when you least expect it.