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An Interview with Cristin Bruggeman upon receiving an offer of representation.

01/31/2016

Cristin Bruggeman (C_Bruggeman on QT) has signed with agent Thao Le of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
It is an historical fantasy set in the Persian Empire. The idea came when I was researching another book and learned about the Magi, the priestly tribe of Ancient Persia. I wanted to create a unique magic system, and I loved the lush opulence of the Achaemenid Empire. I also wanted to write something optimistic, and Cyrus the Great was an amazing king whose reign marked a time of unparalleled equality for women and minorities. My main character is a teenage girl who, in real life, went on to become the lieutenant general over Darius I's armies. My manuscript explores the making of a woman who was the foremost military leader of her time.
How long have you been writing?
Always. Storybooks in crayon when I was a kid. Notebooks filled with depressing poetry as a teen. I wrote my first novel by hand when I was fifteen, but I've since lost the notebook (which is probably best for everyone).
How long have you been working on this book?
It took me about two years, though I had a baby in that time so at least nine months were lost to sleep deprivation.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Not landing an agent for the first novel I queried was a big blow, especially as I'd spent seven years researching and writing it (it was an historical epic). When you've invested so much in a project, it's painful to move on, but only at first. Once I started writing A MERCHANT OF SECRETS, I regained a sense of joy in my creative life. I knew if I could write a second novel, I could write a third. And a fourth. I knew eventually I would get my foot in the door.
Is this your first book?
It's the second book I queried.
Do you have any formal writing training?
No.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I have four kids, so finding time to write is always a challenge. Sometimes I get up before them and write for an hour or two, other times I stay up late. My husband is incredibly supportive, so he tries to give me a few hours at a coffee shop once or twice a week.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I originally queried my 3rd draft, and Thao offered me an R&R. She signed me with my 4th draft. (And now I've written a 5th.)
Did you have beta readers for your book?
I did. They're the best. Every writer needs objective feedback on their work; we can only improve if someone points out our blind spots.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
A mix of both. I prefer to outline, but I just couldn't work out the ending until I wrote my way to it.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I queried for about 3 months before receiving the R&R.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
35
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I looked for agents who represented YA fantasy, then read interviews to get a sense of whether or not I thought we could work well together. I also queried a mix of big name agents and newer agents who have good mentors. Typically, my requests came from the latter.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Only if I had something specific to say.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Keep writing. Start something new, and let your creativity fuel you. It's easier to swallow a rejection when you've just written a great scene or felt a character come alive on the page.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

I noticed in your #MSWL that you would love to find a fantasy in the vein of SHADOW AND BONE but set in the Middle East. Perhaps I can interest you in my Persian fantasy, A MERCHANT OF SECRETS.

In Cyrus the Great's Persian Empire, the Magi are the priestly tribe, a people whose eyes have been touched by God. Though sixteen-year-old Artunis hails from a prominent Magian family, she cannot read the stars, nor perceive the cause of a man's illness. Even her blind cousin can discern the intentions of a man's heart, but Artunis is shamefully unblessed.

On her sixteenth name day, Artunis resolves to join the Persian army before her stepmother can marry her off. But now that she's come of age, she begins to manifest multiple gifts of sight--an unprecedented blessing, but not enough to convince her father she has the courage to become a warrior.

When Artunis's father vanishes amid rumors of treason, she teams up with her blind cousin and a disgraced soldier who needs Artunis's father to prove his innocence. In the Persian capital, they discover her father's disappearance is part of a plot to kill Cyrus the Great. She and her friends must find her father, expose the conspiracy, and stay alive as they battle both the dark creatures of Avestan legend and the unknown traitor who wants Artunis dead.