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An Interview with Beth Hull upon receiving an offer of representation.

01/10/2015

Beth Hull (MissusBraidyhead on QT) has signed with agent Logan Garrison Savits of The Gernert Company.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
TALES OF SAND AND STARS is a YA fantasy set in the desert, about a girl who is a storyteller. She has to use her stories to figure out her past and right the wrongs in her world. Sort of like One Thousand and One Nights meets Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns.

I wanted to write something that transported me to another world. I was revising a historical at the time, and desperate to escape research and enter a place where I could make up ALL the things.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing my first novel in November 2006, but I toyed with short stories and poetry for years before that.
How long have you been working on this book?
I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo in 2013, and shared the next few months between revising this one and revising that pesky historical I mentioned above. Overall it took me about seven months from first draft to first query.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Even though I can’t imagine a world in which I’m not writing, there were a few times I felt like giving up on this book. Three separate agents rejected it because they already had clients working on fantasies with Middle Eastern-inspired settings. I guess it’s a thing now? But I’d never heard of a single one when I started writing mine, so I was incredibly discouraged by this. My patient critique partners talked me out of hurling my manuscript into the proverbial drawer on more than one occasion.

Ice cream also helped.
Is this your first book?
Nope, it’s my sixth.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Just a major in English. But I read every craft book I can find, I attend workshops and conferences, and I participated in a mentorship program organized by my regional SCBWI.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Yes. I write in the mornings when my kids are in school. After my youngest comes home, I write during his nap. Sometimes I squeeze writing time into the evenings after they go to bed.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I don’t really keep track, but probably three or four revisions.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes, and they are wonderful! Some of them read the book twice, and re-read significant chunks of it after I revised. Their insights were invaluable.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Pantsing a novel is way too stressful for me—I have to outline. The outlines often change significantly from what I’ve planned out, but I feel like I have to know where the story’s going before I begin.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I started querying in July, and received an R&R in October. At that point I stopped querying to focus on revisions. I sent the revised manuscript in December, and received the first offer a couple of weeks later. The second offer came in a few days after that.

I didn’t spend much time querying my first two novels, maybe two or three months at the most; I think a part of me knew that they were inherently flawed. My third novel got me my first agent, and I queried that one for about four months.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
A few of them were recommended by my former agent, and by agented friends. Some I chose because they’d requested material from me in the past. I also used QueryTracker to search for agents representing YA, and agents representing fantasy. Agents who represent more than one genre, and who had sales listed on Publisher’s Marketplace, got moved higher on my list.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
If I could make it sound natural, I did. Some agents I really did query because I loved a book or books they represented—in those cases, I said so. Other agents I queried because of recommendations from their clients, and again, those were easy to personalize. But if the personalization sounded awkward or forced, I left it off.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Most importantly: write a new book while you query. I drafted two unrelated fantasies while querying this book (VERY rough drafts). Writing them gave me hope and kept me sane.

Also: Don’t obsess over the query letter. Make it good, and send it to lots of people for feedback, but worry more about your manuscript and especially those first pages. Agents will forgive a slightly awkward query letter if the pages are stellar.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Of course!

After amicably parting ways with my agent, I’m seeking representation for a new manuscript that my former agent (who no longer represents young adult books) has not read. [personalization here, if applicable]

As a young girl, Nima was found wandering in the desert by the Tribe of Sand. Now at seventeen, she’s the storyteller for her adoptive tribe, weaving tales for their entertainment and yearning for the wholeness that, she believes, can only come from knowing the truth of her past.

When the sultan from the nearby Tribe of Stars demands that Nima be brought in as his new storyteller, she has no choice but to go. She plans to escape his dark, stifling palace, even though it means traveling back through a desert full of windhaunts—memory-stealing spirits that roam the dunes. The tribespeople speak of the Old Unity, a time when the Tribes of Sand and Stars were one, and as Nima grows closer to one of the sultan’s sons, she discovers more about the Old Unity, as well as secrets of her missing parents and an impending invasion of windhaunts. The only chance the tribes have of defeating the windhaunts is through working together. Nima must use her stories to discover—and create—the truths of her past and the shared history of her tribes in order to preserve her freedom, save her people from windhaunts, and reunite the Tribes of Sand and Stars.

TALES OF SAND AND STARS is an 89,000-word young adult fantasy reminiscent of One Thousand and One Nights that will appeal to fans of Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

[bio stuff here--a shortened version from my website, with some additions about the mentorship program I participated in.]