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An Interview with Drew Williams upon receiving an offer of representation.


Drew Williams (DWilliams2446 on QT) has signed with agent Chris Kepner of The Kepner Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
The book is entitled 'The Stars Now Unclaimed'; it's a space-opera science fiction novel about a universe thrown into chaos by an apocalyptic event, the detonation of a weapon that has thrown the levels of technology in the galaxy into flux. On one world, the inhabitants might have access to starships and nanotechnology and all that fancy science fiction stuff; on the next world over, the people might be relying on horse-drawn plows and medieval agricultural techniques just to feed themselves. It was inspired by the (possibly apocryphal) story about the making of the atomic bomb: I've always heard that several scientists in the Manhattan Project had projected a not-statistically-impossible scenario where the first nuclear bomb detonated would cause a chain reaction that would cause the entire atmosphere of the planet to combust, killing all life on earth. They detonated the bomb anyway (obviously). The question then becomes: why? What could possibly be worth such a risk? From there, I took the notion of a 'chain reaction' spreading across the galaxy, from planet to planet, wreaking havoc as it went, leaving each world different in ways both huge and subtle - a massive playground for my characters to play in. With the universe in place, I asked myself what sort of characters would prowl that universe, and of course, went back around to the original question: who would set such a bomb off, knowing the risks it might pose? What might they be trying to achieve that would be worth the risk?
How long have you been writing?
I'd say there are two separate answers to that, which I'm sure is true for most writers: I've been writing for as long as I can remember, telling stories is just something I've always done. I've been writing with an eye towards publication, however, for slightly over two years now.
How long have you been working on this book?
The rough draft took me around three months to finish, and then I took another three months to polish and edit the novel until it was as good as I could make it on my own (as I'm writing this, I'm waiting to hear back from my editor about what changes she would suggest, and I couldn't be more excited to get someone else's view on how it can be improved. Always more work to be done!)
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Honestly, this is the most boring answer possible, but it comes down to a question you ask below: routine. Routine, routine, routine. Just keep working, and even if I had to come back later and erase all that work, at least I'd achieved something - I'd made mistakes I could learn from, if nothing else.
Is this your first book?
It will be my first published novel; it is nowhere near the first manuscript I've finished!
Do you have any formal writing training?
None whatsoever!
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
First thing in the morning, every single day; no time off for good behavior. Roughly 1,500 words a day, which, thankfully, also doubles as my rough chapter length. Any less than that, and I don't feel like I've settled into a rhythm; any more than that, and I start to feel like I'm stretching the chapter too thin across too many pages.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I don't know that I ever did a single complete, top-to-bottom rewrite, but the entire time I was working on it I was constantly tweaking things here or there, changing things for clarity or felicity or simply because I'd introduced information later on that I needed to work back into an earlier section. On top of that, I'd say I did at least half a dozen full editing passes, start to finish, but again, I was also 'micro' editing the entire time.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yep! Two of my most trusted friends in the world, Sara Glassman and Daniel Barnacastle, gave me absolutely stellar feedback, positive and negative. Without them, it would be an entirely different novel than it is today.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I very much write from the hip, though the further I get into any given manuscript, the more I know 'what's coming next', so to speak; if I don't know roughly where a story is going to end when I'm more than halfway through it, I start to get a little nervous!
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Ages. No, seriously, like I said, I started writing with an eye towards publication roughly two years ago; I finished my first manuscript roughly four months after that, so I've been querying for at least a year and a half. Once I developed a bit of a 'library' of manuscripts to query with, I started cycling them in and out - sending out a dozen queries for one, then back-burning that manuscript whilst I awaited responses and shuffling another to the front of the line. For The Stars Now Unclaimed, I probably sent a solid fifty queries before I received a positive response from Chris; I had two full manuscript requests - but ultimately rejections - before that point.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Whether or not they seemed like they might be interested!
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Given how lucky I feel to be in this position, it would feel disingenuous to say the least for me to pretend I have some 'special' knowledge or advice to share, but the thing that I feel like ultimately led to my success more than anything else, was this: Just. Keep. Writing. Once you've finished your first manuscript - and I mean rough draft, not even full edit - start another. Have something else to focus your energy on rather than just waiting for your queries to bear fruit. If nothing else, it helps alleviate the familiar crushing despair that comes with every rejection! You can just keep telling yourself 'well, no one likes this one, but the one I'm working on now? That one's awesome!'
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
My basic query letter follows (it was usually tweaked at least a little for each agency I queried)

I have recently completed work on a science fiction novel that will carry readers to the far edges of a distant universe, a place entirely unlike our own corner of the galaxy, yet filled with the same eternal constants - love, hate, need, fear - as our own world. Filled with action, suspense, romance, and a touch of humor to keep everything grounded, 'The Stars Now Unclaimed' has everything the modern science fiction reader could want out of a space opera. I'd love for you to take a look, if any of that sounds interesting to you.

The novel begins in a galaxy that has recently undergone a cataclysmic change - where once technology allowed the various species that populate the solar systems to spread out across the stars, now, for reasons none understand, some worlds have been stripped back to pre-spaceflight constants, while others retain every advantage the higher levels of scientific progress can offer this. This change is called 'the pulse', and why it happened - who caused it, and why - is at the center of the story.

The narrative is focused on Jane, a former soldier and mercenary now serving a secretive cabal called 'The Justified', who seek out gifted children on far-flung worlds, children they believe can avert a second coming of the pulse. On one such search, she finds Esa, a young woman granted abilities far outstripping scientific understanding. Together, they must escape the apocalyptic confines of Esa's feudal world, and make for the stars and for the sanctum of the Justified, so that Esa may learn the truth about her past, and her future.

The Justified, however, are not the only ones who would seek to put Esa's gifts to use. Also on their trail are the Pax, a fascist collection of zealots who remain untouched by the pulse, and see that as proof that they are the rightful rulers of the galaxy. Together with a handful of comrades from Jane's past - and a mysterious sentient machine called only 'the Preacher' - Jane and Esa must fight their way past the Pax, through a galaxy full of dangerous conflicts, remnants of ancient technology, and other hidden dangers. When they do manage to reach the Justified, however, their adventure is just beginning, for the Pax have followed, and the conflict over Esa, and the other gifted children like her, will take them to the very brink of war and beyond, as well as making them question everything they thought they knew about the universe, and each other.

If you're interested in seeing more, please let me know. I am currently unpublished, but have fifteen years experience working in a bookstore, with ten of those years as the adult book buyer, so I know my way around the sales side of the publishing industry. I've included three sample chapters of my work in the body of the email if you're interested; the word count is 118,170.

Thank your your time and attention,