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An Interview with Elana Johnson upon receiving an offer of representation.

Elana Johnson (ElanaJ on QT) has signed with agent Michelle Andelman of .

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?

CONTROL ISSUES is about a teenage girl who struggles against becoming what she hates the most—a Thinker. I sat down to write CI because I wondered what it would be like to live in a brainwashing society. And it was all downhill from there.
How long have you been writing?
Two years.
How long have you been working on this book?
Well, I wrote CI in 17 days back in April, 2008. It went through little changes here and there over the summer. I did a major overhaul in order to enter it in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest in February 2009. Another edit before querying started in April.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Dude, I’ve wallowed in the pool of writing funk with the best of them. I’ve wanted to quit more times than I can count. Why didn’t I? An incredibly supportive online community of writers. And the fact that I promised myself I’d try to make it in the publishing industry for five years. And clearly, my five years were not up yet.
Is this your first book?
No. My third.
Do you have any formal writing training?
That would be a no.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I write whenever I can. Between bites of food. Late at night. During my lunch hour. So no, not really a schedule. I used to be all Nazi and write every single day no matter what. I don’t do that so much anymore. I write when I need to get the story out of my head.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
At least six before I started querying. Two revisions were done as requested by agents. And I’m currently doing a round for my agent.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Absolutely! (Thanks Christine, Suzy, Mary, Heather, Carolyn, Michelle, Cole, Lisa, Laura, Stacy, Ali, and Jenn!)
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Oh, I just sit down and go for it. I am made of outline fail.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I queried my first novel for about 8 months. Didn’t get any takers. I queried this novel for 7 months. Endured two rounds of agent-requested revisions without the promise of an offer. And finally found the industry believer who gets my book—and me.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Dude, too many to count. Well, okay, QT counted them for me, but it’s embarrassing. Let’s just say a lot. More than 150. Less than 200. Pick a number.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I researched them until I knew their cat’s names and where they took their last vacation. (No, seriously, read below.) Anyone who was looking for YA with an edge in the voice grabbed my attention. And got a query letter in their inbox.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I did. I researched like crazy. Publisher’s Marketplace. Agent Query. Client websites. Client blogs (a great place for agents to do interviews). Conference schedules (they often list the books the agent has worked on). Literary agency websites. In the end, I most often used a quote from either the agency website or a blog interview as my lead-in sentence. If I couldn’t find anything, I simply said I thought they’d be interested.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
  1. Perfect the query letter.
  2. Work hard.
  3. Don’t give up.
  4. Finish strong.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
I used different versions. Sometimes shorter and sometimes longer. Sometimes I compared it to THE GIVER and sometimes to UGLIES. But here’s the one I sent to Ms. Andelman, who later offered representation:

I believe you would be interested in my young adult novel, CONTROL ISSUES.

In a world where Thinkers brainwash the population and Rules are not meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces.

After committing her eighth crime (walking in the park after dark with a boy, gasp!), Vi is taken to the Green, a group of Thinkers who control the Goodgrounds. She’s found unrehabilitatable (yeah, she doesn’t think it’s a word either) and exiled to the Badlands—until she demonstrates her brainwashing abilities. That earns her a one-way trip to appear before the Association of Directors.

Yeah, right. Like that’s gonna happen. She busts out of prison with sexy Bad boy Jag Barque, who also has no intention of fulfilling his lame sentence.

Dodging Greenies and hovercopters, dealing with absent-father issues, and coming to terms with feelings for an ex-boyfriend—and Jag as a possible new one—leave Vi little time for much else. Which is too damn bad, because she’s more important than she realizes. When secrets about her “dead” sister and not-so-missing father hit the fan, Vi must make a choice: control or be controlled.

A dystopian novel for young adults, CONTROL ISSUES is complete at 83,000 words. Fans of Michael Grant’s GONE and Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES will enjoy similar elements, and a strong teen voice.

I am an elementary school teacher by day and a contributing author to the QueryTracker blog by night. If you would like to consider CONTROL ISSUES, I’d be happy to forward the complete manuscript to you. I have included the first ten pages of the manuscript in the body of this email.

Thank you for your time,

Elana Johnson