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An Interview with Catherine Schaff-Stump upon receiving an offer of representation.

06/15/2016

Catherine Schaff-Stump (cathschaffstump on QT) has signed with agent Mary C. Moore of Kimberley Cameron & Associates.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
The book I found representation for was The Vessel of Ra. It is a historical fantasy about demon-binding sisters fighting for control over their family in 1837 Venice and England. I love books like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, so I decided to write a book like that. A writing mentor calls it Shirley Jackson writes Jane Austen.
How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first novel when I was 14. We won't talk about that novel. I have been actively seeking representation and taking my writing seriously since 2007.
How long have you been working on this book?
I began this book in 2014 and finished it in spring, 2015. Of course, there will be edits!
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Of course there were times I wanted to give up. I think that's pretty common for writers, because we get a lot of rejection. I would remind myself often that I was writing to tell characters' stories and to enjoy my writing. I already have a day job, so I wanted writing to be an expression of my creativity that I could share with others. When I felt like no one was paying attention, I reminded myself that I was writing for myself, to make myself happier. I also have an incredible network of support: other writers, readers, family and friends who always reminded me that nothing was as bleak as I thought it was.
Is this your first book?
No, and I think that's important. You're going to write some bad novels as you learn how to write novels. This is my 8th novel.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I have a year of writing workshops at the MA level. Then I changed my major to something more employable!
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I am a professor with a fairly flexible schedule. I block out my entire week and chart my writing time during that week. Usually I go to a coffee shop to write. Home can be very distracting for me. If I work somewhere else, it feels like I'm going to work. I am trying to average 2000 words a day at this point. Some days it's more, some days less.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
This book went through 5 rewrites.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes. I have writer readers and reader readers. Both kinds of readers give me very different feedback.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Both. I usually start with an outline and go along until a character surprises me. Then I regroup with a new outline. Lather, rinse, repeat.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I have been querying for this book for a little under a year. I have been querying a variety of novels and short fiction since 2007.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
I sent out around 50 queries before this happened.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
The agent had to represent the genre of the current book. Also, I looked for agents that represent YA and MG as well as fantasy, as I write books in those areas.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
If I have met the agent, I will mention it. If I have read in Writer's Digest that I know they are looking for clients, I will mention it. If I know one of their clients, I might congratulate them on the book that I read and liked.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
It's going to take a while. Don't take no or silence personally. Be persistent. Honestly, it might not happen, but it can't happen if you quit. And remember, the story is the thing.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

While traveling in Venice in 1837, Lucy Klaereon, in order to save her family’s honor and her immortal soul, decides to commit suicide by drowning herself in the Grand Canal. Unfortunately for Lucy, she is rescued. Her rescuers believe they can separate her from the demon Ra, whom she is destined to fight because of an ancient family pact. What Lucy does not know is that her rescuers have their own agenda.

On the horizon is Octavia, Lucy’s older sister, who has been trained since birth to kill Lucy when Lucy loses her battle with Ra. At the ritual to free Ra, the two sisters clash with surprising results. Octavia is possessed by Ra and Lucy is determined to free her sister and keep Ra from reshaping the world in his image.

There is one small problem. Lucy has been murdered. However, she’s not about to let a small detail like that keep her from correcting her mistakes.

The Vessel of Ra is a 76,100-word historical fantasy, similar to the Glamourist histories of Mary Robinette Kowal, Aliette de Bodard's House of Shattered Wings, and Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Dark in tone, The Vessel of Ra contains Gothic and horror elements.

My most recent publications are "Mountains of Green" in The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk, and "Cookies" in Mosaics 2: A Collection of Independent Women. "One in Four Adults" will soon be posted at Drabblecast. My novel Hulk Hercules: Professional Wrestler is available from Cats Curious Press.

I am an associate member of SFWA, and am an alumna of both the Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox workshops.Also, I am a co-host of the Unreliable Narrators podcast.

As you requested, I'm attaching a one-page synopsis and the first 50 pages.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.