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An Interview with Barbara Longley upon receiving an offer of representation.

01/11/2012

Barbara Longley (barblongley on QT) has signed with agent Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
FAR FROM PERFECT is a contemporary, small-town romance with military elements. A lot of genre fiction portrays veterans as super heroic, tough special operations or security for hire types. The reality facing most of our veterans returning to civilian life is quite different. Many face PTSD, TBI or other disabilities, depression, unemployment, chemical dependency...I wanted to write a story portraying a veteran in a more realistic light, but I also wanted to give my hero his happily-ever-after.
How long have you been writing?
Since I could hold a pencil, but I've been writing with the serious intent of being published for six years. My debut novel HEART OF THE DRUID LAIRD was released through Carina Press in September. At that time, I didn't have an agent and submitted directly to Harlequin's digital first line.
How long have you been working on this book?
It generally takes me a year to write a book. I'm working on speeding up the process.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Nope. Giving up is not in my vocabulary. Besides, I couldn't give up writing. I think it's a genetically imprinted imperative in my DNA. Or something like that. I get edgy when I'm not writing.
Is this your first book?
No. FAR FROM PERFECT is the fourth full-length novel I've written. The first one was really bad. I recently deleted it from my hard drive!
Do you have any formal writing training?
I've been to a lot of workshops and classes, but formal writing training? No. I have a masters in education, and had to write a bunch of papers while in college. Does that count?
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Yes. Weekends from 6:00AM until about 1:00PM is writing time. That's when I lay down the "new stuff." Weekday evenings is for tweaking, layering, editing and revising—if my brain is still working. I work full-time.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
My process is a little...odd. I don't move on until a chapter is as perfect as I can get it. I write a chapter, submit it to my critique partner, we go over it, I revise, have her check it again, tweak and then move on to the next chapter. I plot pretty heavily, so any plot issues have been gone over with CP until I'm sure it's where I want it to be before I start writing. Once I'm done with the book, I'm done until the industry professionals tell me what needs to be done to make it better.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
I do have beta readers. I love them. They're the best marketability test you can give a book.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I've learned from experience that if I don't plot/outline, I get to a certain point and stall out. Things go smoother and faster for me when I plot.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I've queried for all of my books, even the really bad first one, since the first really bad one was completed. I started querying FAR FROM PERFECT about two weeks ago. I got a few requests for partials, then Nalini requested the full last week, read it over the weekend, and emailed me that she'd like to chat. We chatted yesterday, Jan. 9th, and I now have representation. It happened really fast. My head is still spinning, but in a good way.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
I believe thirteen or so. I'd have to go into your marvelous database and see, but I think that's about it.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
First, I check to see if they represent the kind of work I do. I used your links to research the agents, see what they were looking for and how they prefer to be queried. I did my homework. That's a biggie. I've heard a lot about various agents at workshops and conferences, so I had my wish list. Nalini was on the list. This is not the first time I've queried Spencerhill. She remembered one of my previous submissions. I didn't mention that this was my fourth query to them. :0) One of the things I like about Nalini is that she represents all sub-genres of romance. Since I write paranormal and contemporary, that appealed to me. I might try a steampunk or historical romance at some point. I like that she doesn't limit her tastes to one sub-genre.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Other than the personal greeting and maybe a reminder that we've met before, or that they judged my ms. in a contest, no.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
#1 - continue to improve your craft. Work with critique partners who are equally driven and writing on a regular basis. Do everything you can to improve your skill, and then query. Go to workshops and conferences. Network, enter contests and be receptive to feedback.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
I'd be happy to share my query letter. Here it is:

I am currently published through Carina Press, and I am seeking representation for current and future works of romance fiction. FAR FROM PERFECT is a contemporary, small-town romance with military elements complete at 88,000 words.

Shortly after nineteen-year-old Ceejay Lovejoy discovered she was pregnant, her boyfriend stole the money she’d saved for nursing school and took off to places unknown—with her car. Abandoned by her drug addicted mother when she was three, and with no knowledge of who her father is, Ceejay wonders what it is about her that makes leaving so easy. All she wants is a fresh start for herself and her daughter as far from the small town of Perfect, Indiana as she can possibly get. Only in a place where no one knows her history can she reinvent herself and build a new life.

Noah Langford barely survived the roadside bombing in Iraq that took his leg and left him badly burned on his left side. He’s released from the VA hospital just in time for his stepbrother’s funeral—another blow to his fractured soul. Visions of the dead haunt his dreams, while flashbacks and anxiety steal his days. He’s lost all direction in his life and can’t remember why he went to war. While going through his stepbrother’s belongings, Noah finds an envelope containing money and a letter written to Ceejay. He has a new mission: Find Ceejay Lovejoy and his stepbrother’s child. A grandchild would go a long way toward healing his stepmother’s broken heart. Once he meets Ceejay and her daughter, he doesn’t want to jeopardize his chance to get to know them. Ceejay is a puzzle he’s determined to solve, so he keeps his connection with his stepbrother to himself.

Noah and Ceejay are drawn to each other, and a fragile bond begins to form—until Noah’s stepmother arrives uninvited, and Noah’s connection with the man who broke Ceejay’s heart is revealed. She wants nothing to do with Noah or his family. Determined to end the cycle of abandonment in Ceejay’s life, Noah remains steadfast, hoping he can rebuild the trust between them. Tragedy strikes, setting off a chain of events that challenges the young couple to their limits. Ceejay and Noah truly want to find their way back to each other, but with his stepbrother in their past, can they have a future?

FAR FROM PERFECT is the first book in a planned series. My debut novel, HEART OF THE DRUID LAIRD was released through Carina Press in September, 2011. I write paranormal and contemporary romance. Thank you for considering FAR FROM PERFECT.

Barbara Longley

www.barbaralongley.com

http://herebemagic.blogspot.com

http://twitter.com/barbaralongley