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An Interview with Amy Tucker Carroll upon receiving an offer of representation.

08/15/2018

Amy Tucker Carroll (abcwritedesign on QT) has signed with agent Jess Dallow of Brower Literary & Management.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
My book is called "Charming Julia." It's a 90,000-word novel of contemporary women's fiction about the ill-fated friendship between two women and the daughter one woman gave birth to and the other woman is raising. I am fascinated by female friendships, how they work or, in this case, how they fall apart.
How long have you been writing?
I have always been a writer, although this is my first novel for adults. I am a freelance writer and graphic designer in my "other life."
How long have you been working on this book?
I've been writing this book for about 2 years, although it's been swimming in my head for a lot longer.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I don't think I ever wanted to give up, but I certainly got off-track more than once. Between my regular freelance work and my family, life got in the way and tripped me up. In order to stay focused, I asked a friend to be my "accountability partner." She checked in with me mid-week via email or text, sending me words of encouragement. Every Friday, I sent her the new material I had written. If I had nothing to send her, I had to explain why. I was no longer making excuses just to myself; I was accountable to her as well.
Is this your first book?
I co-wrote a middle-grade novel about 14 years ago called "Space Junk: The Future is Yesterday." We self-published it and sold the books in stores throughout the mid-Atlantic region (where I live) and on Amazon. It's still available there today.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I majored in professional writing at Carnegie Mellon University and have taken several creative writing and novel writing classes at the Writer's Center (in Bethesda, MD) as an adult.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I go to the library for three or four hours to write before lunch. I put on classical music and disappear into the story I'm telling. I was never productive at home and not usually focused in the afternoon. Strangely enough, I can edit anywhere.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I took the advice of several authors who I had read about or heard speaking and just wrote the whole story without editing at all. Once I was done with the draft, I spent more than three months editing the manuscript, going through the whole book three or four times. Once I had a handful of trusted readers give me feedback, I started the editing process again, which took another two months.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes. Initially, it was my husband, who is a careful reader and extremely honest and helpful with his feedback. I then gave the book to a group of well-read and thoughtful friends whom I knew I could trust to be honest without crushing me. They gave me incredible feedback as well, plus they told me they couldn't put it down. That gave me a second wind to go into the new round of edits.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I started with a rough outline and created index cards with the plot of each chapter. But once I got into the thick of it, I had to continually rework the outline and the chapter cards.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I started querying for "Charming Julia" during the third week of May. I received my first offer of representation on July 5th.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
I queried approximately 30 agents in all.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I used "contemporary fiction" and "women's fiction" as my initial filter. I read "Publisher's Lunch" and read about which agents had landed recent deals in my genre. I went to #MSWL on Twitter and looked for agents ISO a story like the one I tell in my book. I also read the acknowledgments in many of my favorite books to learn who those authors' agents were.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Yes. For almost all of the agents I chose to query, I had read about them through Query Tracker, Agent Query, Publisher's Marketplace, Twitter, their website or other online sources. I opened my queries with something about that agent to indicate I had done research and knew that my book might be of interest to him/her.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
There are two things that were helpful to me. First, I attended a pitch conference in December. Over the course of three days, I learned how to craft a pitch and how to sell my pitch face-to-face to agents and publishers. In fact, one of the publishers I met at the conference asked to see my manuscript, and my teacher advised me to use that request as a selling point in my pitch. (You can see how I did that in my pitch below.)

Second, I used the pitch I had written at the pitch conference for the first round of queries I sent. After several rejections, I took a hard look at the meat of my pitch and realized I wasn't selling the heart of my book the way I wanted to. I spent a day re-writing my pitch, sent out a new batch of queries and received four requests for the whole manuscript in three days, which led to offers of representation from two agents.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Dear ____________:

I recently attended a pitch conference in New York and was asked to submit my manuscript to an editor who came to hear our pitches. I am in search of representation before reaching out to the editor.

Charming Julia is a 90,000-word work of commercial women's fiction about the ill-fated friendship between Julia Marsh and Addie Carlson. Told in alternating chapters, Julia and Addie recount their story for Brooke, the daughter Julia gave birth to and Addie raised. Their two voices recall their personal, often divergent, memories of the same events. The book is comparable in style to Tess Callahan's April and Oliver and in subject to Julie Buntin's Marlena.

In the mid-1980s, a teenage Julia and her oft-divorced mother move to the bucolic New England town where Addie has always lived. After becoming fast friends, the girls move to New York post-graduation to start a life of adventure away from Julia's volatile mother and Addie's controlling parents. But Julia can't get her manipulative mother out of her head and soon begins a quest to ensnare Addie's successful older brother into a relationship. Outraged that Julia has schemed to trap her brother, Addie feels powerless to end their toxic friendship despite her growing animosity.

Once Brooke is born, Julia finds herself living with her husband and her mother who despise each other. With both a colicky baby and limited space in the home, tensions soar. During one of their most aggressive arguments, Julia's enraged mother strikes Julia's husband, killing him on impact. Fearing she will repeat her mother's mistakes, Julia leaves her baby in Addie's care and disappears. Addie returns to the small Massachusetts town where she grew up to raise Brooke as her own child, never revealing to the little girl their true relationship.

Fifteen years later, a teenage Brooke stumbles upon the secret Addie has been hiding and begins acting out in dangerous ways. Desperate to help her daughter, Addie goes in search of Julia in hopes of healing the one person both women love unconditionally.