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An Interview with Ashley Elston upon receiving an offer of representation.

10/02/2011

Ashley Elston (abelston on QT) has signed with agent Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING is about a girl whose family is in the witness protection program. She’s sick of all the secrets and just wants out. I’ve always been intrigued with the legal system and the witness protection program especially. I thought - how bad would it suck if you had some fake name and identity while in high school? That’s such a hard time on its own.
How long have you been writing?
Forever. I know everyone says that. But only seriously for the last couple of years.
How long have you been working on this book?
I started the first draft in Feb 2011.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Sure, who doesn’t? I tried to keep it simple. First goal - just finish the story. Second goal – work on getting my query letter just right…
Is this your first book?
No, I have what I like to call my “practice manuscript”. It was a great lesson in writing and finishing what you start but it is safely tucked away in a drawer now.
Do you have any formal writing training?
No, none whatsoever.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Three kids, keeping the books for my husband’s landscaping business and a part time photographer – No. Some days I feel lucky my teeth got brushed!
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
2 full revisions after getting comments back from critique partners.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes. And they were invaluable.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
From the hip but I’m hoping to be more of a plotter for the next one. I think it may save tons of time on revisions if I stay on course a little better.
How long have you been querying for this book?  Other books?
I queried a ton on the “practice manuscript” with a handful of full requests.  

On my second manuscript, I sent out a batch of queries too early. I was still waiting on comments from my critique partner and jumped the gun. I got several full requests but they passed. The manuscript just wasn’t ready. So, I did my revisions then got a second look from another critique partner. More revisions. Then I started querying again. Total query time for the second manuscript – 3 1/2 months.

On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I really combed through Literary Rambles. It’s a great site. If I liked what I saw there – I usually put them on the list. The comments here are great too.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Not really. Just their name. I tried but it always felt forced.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
The best advice I can give is start writing your next book while you query. Even if it is just something to keep you going. It was really hard to put that first manuscript away and work on something else but it paid off in the end.
Would you be willing to share your query with us? 
Sure. My query letter was the same almost from the start, just a little tweak here and there.

Dear Ms. Davies,

The first placement sucked. The suits dropped us in some remote part of Ohio and expected us to fit right in. Found out real quick why you never hear anything interesting about Ohio.

The second placement was better. At least it was a decent city. Learned a hard lesson there. When the suits tell you not to use the Internet, you should listen.

The third placement was the longest and the hardest to leave. The suits yanked us from there minutes before my Homecoming date arrived. I still wonder how long he waited for me.

The fourth placement was the beginning of the end. I tried hard to fit in, but that led to making friends and then really awkward questions like, "What's wrong with your mom?"

The fifth placement only lasted a matter of weeks. Mom was drunk more than sober and my little sister moved into a catatonic state.

We’re in our sixth placement now. I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to pull it off, but I’m not running anymore. I’m done with Witness Protection. No matter what it takes.

THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING is a young adult contemporary novel complete at 76,000 words. The first five pages are included below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Ashley Elston

www.ashleyelston.blogspot.com