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An Interview with Emily A Duncan upon receiving an offer of representation.

09/07/2017

Emily A Duncan (glitzandshadows 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?
SOMETHING DARK AND HOLY is a YA high fantasy about two kingdoms locked in a holy war. It follows Nadia, a girl who can speak to the gods who is forced to team up with a renegade heretic blood mage and the heir of the enemy kingdom in a desperate effort to assassinate the enemy king and end the war.

It was inspired by Russian and Polish folklore, the two kingdoms are loosely based on those countries. I fell in love with the underlying thread in Slavic folklore that monsters could be lurking around any corner and that presence is obvious in SD+H. I wanted to write a book that deals with faith and doubt flavored heavily with magic and monsters.

How long have you been writing?
For as long as I can remember, but I didn't start really putting together coherent stories until I was twelve. And by coherent stories I do mean Star Wars fanfiction.
How long have you been working on this book?
The seed of it was planted in 2012, but I had half a dozen false starts on it before I finally sat down and wrote a full draft in 2015. I revised it for a year before querying it.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
The first book I queried landed me with nothing but rejection letters, which was hard because I'd spent a good third of my life writing and rewriting that book. Giving up was never a thought that occurred to me but every time I got a rejection letter for SD+H it was hard to keep myself from panicking that maybe the book I'd written was too dark and too weird and no one would want it.
Is this your first book?
It's my third book! However, one of those three books I spent a good twelve years writing and rewriting so maybe it counts for many books.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I took a single creative writing class in college, but aside from that, no!
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I try to write a few thousand words every evening after work. Life has a tendency to get in the way but I'm vicious about protecting my writing time.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I went through six drafts before querying, received an R+R from my agent, then revised twice more after signing.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
I had so many! Beta readers are vital for my writing process because I need someone to point out my plethora of consistency errors and keep me on track.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I can't outline! If I outline I inevitably become bored with the story, and none of my characters ever do what I want them to do anyway. So everything just happens as I write it and I figure out how to make it coherent in revision.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I queried this book for 2 months. My first book I queried for 10 months and racked up a tidy pile of rejection letters before shelving it .
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
22.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I actually took the agent list that I made for my first book and refined it down to agents who I knew represented authors with similar aesthetics to mine. I dug around through twitter feeds and interviews and MSWL calls and chose agents who appeared to be looking for the kind of books that I write. I also looked for agents who repped both YA and adult fantasy.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I didn't do any extra tailoring outside of the agent's name, unless I was fulfilling a MSWL call which, incidentally, was only for my agent.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
The moment to know when to shelve a book and move onto the next one is hard but my advice is to remain open to the idea of always writing the next book. Sometimes writers latch onto the ‘book of the heart' and can't see the things about it that aren't working, but moving on and trying something new can be the key to opening doors in your journey.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Dear [Agent]

When Nadezhda Lapteva talks to the gods, they talk back—granting her divine magic. Heretics lay waste to her country in a holy war, inching closer to her monastery every day. Only her power can match the enemy's blood magic. But her magic is not enough to fend off the blood mage prince, Serefin, and she flees into the mountains, her monastery in flames behind her.

Joining with a group of refugees as they plot vengeance on the enemy king, Nadia initially clashes with a blood mage among them who fled from a monstrous cult. Soon she finds herself drawn to Malachiasz despite his power and her gods' dire warnings. Her magic is subject to the gods' approval and befriending the blood mage could prove disastrous.

Serefin Meleski fears his father no longer finds him useful, and the king wouldn't be the first to do away with an unruly heir. He plots to kill his father before his father kills him, all in the midst of a national ceremony.

Nadia and Malachiasz infiltrate the ceremony to get close to the king, but someone is harvesting blood mages for a dark purpose, endangering their plot. For Nadia this could mean discovery; for Serefin, it could mean death. Nadia must decide whether she trusts the prince—her country's enemy—or the boy with monstrous powers who may ignite something worse than the war they're trying to end.

SOMETHING DARK AND HOLY is a YA high fantasy told from dual perspectives inspired by Russian and Polish folklore. Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy meets DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor, it is complete at 102k words and stands on its own with sequel potential.