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An Interview with Andrew Kozma upon receiving an offer of representation.


Andrew Kozma (thedrellum on QT) has signed with agent Lana Popovic of Chalberg & Sussman.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it
PERSEPHONE is a YA science fiction novel that deals with a spaceship sent to explore a planet-sized object in the solar system that recently, and inexplicably, appeared. What inspired me to write it? It was an old idea of mine (see below), but I think the reason I focused on this rather than another idea is that I wanted to try and write a hard SF novel. Also, William Golding's Lord of the Flies. The original idea was essentially Lord of the Flies IN SPACE (though I must admit, it really isn't that any longer).
How long have you been writing?
Since I was fourteen. So, about twenty-two years.
How long have you been working on this book?
About eight months. This manuscript was a NaNoWriMo novel, although the idea had been germinating in my brain since high school, and I'd made several false starts into the novel over the years.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
There's some point in both the writing process and the querying process where I always feel like giving up. As opposed to when I queried my last novel -- when I lost faith in my manuscript after a few months of querying -- I decided that I would push forward with this manuscript until I'd exhausted all the agents who I might want to represent me. With each novel I queried, I found agents who were interested enough in my work that they wanted to see any future novel I wrote. I figured that even if I didn't get an agent with the current novel, I would at least possibly get a few more agents on my side for future queries.
Is this your first book?
This is the fourth complete novel that I've written. I had a book of poems published in 2007, but that wasn't necessarily helpful in getting interest in my novel.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I have an MFA and a PhD., both focused on poetry.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
When I was younger, I was a night writer (without the Hasselhoff or the cool car). Over the last five or so years I've moved more and more into being a morning writer. Every day I get up, go to my local coffee shop, and try and write. Mostly, it's a matter of pressure. If I get my writing done, then I feel like I can do anything else the rest of the day and not feel guilty about it.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Three major revisions, and perhaps one or two lighter edits.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
My first beta reader, whose main job is convincing me that the manuscript is worthwhile enough to finish, is my girlfriend. But my nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty beta readers are my three (sometimes four) fellow writers in my novel workshop. We all like speculative fiction, and we all like YA, and we share similar sensibilities (though we don't really write the same). The most important aspect is that we don't let each other get away with anything. After all, we already know we love each other's writing, so the focus of each workshop is what we can do to make what we've written better.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Hip all the way.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I've been querying this book since mid-February, so just about exactly six months from first query to offer of representation. I sent my first query for my first novel in January of 2009 and have been querying every since (with about a year-long break between querying different novels).
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
The two criteria that were most important to me were established presence (either on their own or due to the agency they were a part of) and the breadth of genres they represented (I was targeting YA, but I write both adult and YA speculative fiction).
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Not really. In terms of tailoring, I made sure to read up on them before I submitted to see what their specific preferences were re: queries, but other than that I treated each query as a business letter.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Don't give up, and don't settle. Once your query is perfected to your satisfaction, send it to those agents you really, really want. If you go through all the agents you would be happy to have represent you, don't start querying those you are unsure about. Instead, write another novel, then hit those top choices again.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Dear Ms. Popovic,

At the age of six, Maxwell MacLeod was taken from her family and put on the spaceship Santa Maria with twenty-nine other children, never to see her parents again. Instead, she and the other children were raised by the Teachers to be the perfect astronauts, the first true space explorers. Their mission: to explore Persephone, a planet-sized object that recently appeared at the very edge of the solar system.

But by the time she is fifteen, Max has learned that a cloistered world is the perfect breeding ground for deceit. A student has been murdered and, as a result, the Teachers have split into factions, each convinced the other does not want the mission to succeed. Years ago, Maxwell wrecked her one true friendship with a boy named Luke and she has no one she can trust except for her Teacher Ms. Farkas. Now a sinister group called the Shadows – who might be students or teachers or both – has given Max a choice. She must spy on her beloved Teacher’s research or suffer at their hands.

My young adult novel PERSEPHONE is a 67K word work of science-fiction.

I received my Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the University of Houston and my MFA from the University of Florida. I have published a book of poems, City of Regret (Zone 3 Press), as well as stories in magazines such as Daily Science Fiction, Stupefying Stories, and Bound Off.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,

Andrew Kozma