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An Interview with Diana Renn upon receiving an offer of representation.

Diana Renn (diana89 on QT) has signed with agent Kirby Kim of Janklow & Nesbit Associates.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
The Frame Game is a YA novel about a teenage manga enthusiast who helps to uncover an international art heist. I was inspired to write about a girl traveling in Japan when I attended a summer festival outside of Kyoto and saw a tall, somewhat gawky Caucasian girl wearing a summer kimono and combat boots. "What's her story?" I wondered. This is it.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was six. I was one of those kids who wrote and illustrated little books, invented sequels to favorite chapter books, that kind of thing. I can't remember a time when I wasn’t writing.
How long have you been working on this book?
Off and on since 2004. It started out as an adult novel, went nowhere, and started coming to life when I made the big decision to switch to YA in 2006.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I've had ups and downs with this project, but felt most like giving up when I realized, after many revisions, I still needed to cut 20,000 words and it felt absolutely impossible. My amazing writing group and an editor I hired were a great source of support to help me through this final push.
Is this your first book?
It's my third novel. The other two are in a drawer; I never polished them to the point of shopping them around. Now I truly understand the immense work of revision.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I was an English major in college and have an M.A. in English. I languished in a PhD program in English for many years but never finished my dissertation. I think I knew at heart I was not a scholar or critic. I finally took some writing classes / workshops in 2001-2. Most of my creative writing training has come from reading widely and carefully, and writing a lot.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I typically work 4-6 hours a day, depending on what projects I'm juggling (I am also a freelance writer / editor in educational publishing). I am a "binge" writer at heart and can work 8-10 hours if I'm lucky enough to have that stretch of time. Early mornings are best for me, before the day intrudes. The most important part of my routine is at least looking at a writing project every day, to stay in it, and sustain some momentum and excitement. It's very hard to pick up again after a missed day.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I lost count! I have a whole closet full of drafts stacked up, a real fire hazard. I tend to work in fifty page chunks, then go back and edit, then push forward again. I also started the book over from page one and did a complete rewrite at least three times.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes; in addition to my group I have a select crew of trusted readers. I also found some young adults to read the novel as I was getting ready to query agents. Their feedback was extremely useful, and confirmed for me that I’d done the right thing by making this a YA book.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I started out with no outline at all, and ended up getting lost, stalled, and discouraged. I ended up picking up a few great characters along the way, but overall this was a very time-consuming process. Once I realized I was writing a mystery, I realized I had to have some kind of outline. I ended up with a rough plan for the whole book, and then I'd more carefully outline two or three chapters at a time before writing them. Having smaller road maps and a sense of my end point really helped. My mini-outlines aren't linear at all; they start out with goals for the chapter or scene and end up being almost brainstorming exercises and lists of options or "what-if?" scenarios. I think of outlining as problem-solving more than plotting.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
This is the only book I’ve queried. I queried for a year, but in two waves. The first wave was Spring/Summer 2009. I had a lot of interest and requests for fulls / partials, so I knew my query and opening pages were good. But I got hints that length / complexity were issues. That’s when I realized I needed one more big revision. I hunkered down for a few months and worked on it some more. Things happened more quickly when I started the second wave of queries earlier this year.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
They had to represent YA, of course, and ideally had sold at least one YA title. Interest in mystery and graphic novels were also plusses, since my book is a mystery and it has the potential to incorporate graphic novel-style art. I read lots of agent interviews and profiles. If agents were interested in multicultural stories and/or international settings, you can be sure they went onto my list.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
As much as possible, yes. I started by querying agents who represented books similar to mine in terms of theme, style, or characters. I’m also in the habit of keeping a list of novels I love and checking to see who represents them. That's how I found my current agent – I read a YA novel that absolutely blew me away (Ten Mile River, by Paul Griffin), and I checked to see who represented it. I also read agent interviews and profiles, and queried people interested in multicultural / international fiction, and referenced their profiles or interviews when I could. But if there wasn’t a strong connection, I didn’t force it.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
  1. Get feedback on your query before you sent it out. Also get feedback on the early pages of your manuscript: the first 5, 10, 30, and 50 pages. Do they really represent your whole book?
  2. Wait until you are SURE your manuscript is as polished as it can be before you send a partial or full. Then wait one more day and check it again!
  3. We spend so much time querying that we often fail to consider what might happen next! Envision yourself eventually getting a call from an interested agent. Prepare questions to ask. Does this person share your vision for the book and how it might enter the marketplace? Be sure this is a good fit for you -- not just for this particular book, but for your future projects / career plans.