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An Interview with Feliza David upon receiving an offer of representation.

Feliza David (MustacheVillain on QT) has signed with agent Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Sure. "Sealed with a Wish" is a YA urban fantasy, though I've always thought of it as more of a romantic comedy. It's sort of a John-Hughes-meets-I-Dream-of-Jeannie scenario. At the time, I knew I wanted my next project to be light and breezy and high-concept, and I've always loved the idea of getting three wishes. Then I thought, "Sounds great for the wisher, but that must suck for the genie." And the rest of the story (which is told from the genie's POV) kind of flowed from there.
How long have you been writing?
Umm... I remember writing a really terrible mystery "novel" when I was about eleven, and I continued to dabble in writing from then on. However, I didn't begin to write seriously for publication until about two years ago.
How long have you been working on this book?
About eight months from conception to the final draft. That, of course, wasn't the FINAL final draft, but you know what I mean.

I started outlining and world-building while working on edits for another novel, which was awesome for me. Usually, I get really antsy and I want to start writing NOW NOW NOW. But being busy with the other edits forced me to take more time to prepare for this novel. When I was finally (finally!) finished with the previous novel's edits, then it took me three months to write the first draft of "Sealed with a Wish," then another two months for a few rounds of edits.

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Actually, there were lots of times that I wanted to give up. It's hard NOT to get in a darker place sometimes, with all the rejection and stress. Even if you've got a thick skin, there's only so much you can hear about how "subjective" publishing is before you start to get a little desperate.

In my more sensible moments, I would try to boil it down to this: no matter what, I was going to keep writing books. It' s just... my thing. I mean, I had been writing for years prior to seeking publication and I had been pretty happy that way. So, since I figured I'd still be writing, I might as well try to get published at the same time, right? Even if it didn't work out with one book, I could always try again with the next one--and, for me, there always has been a next one.

Do you have any formal writing training?
Nope, though I'm always on the hunt for new writing resources. I kind of live and die by "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers." I'd really love to be in an actual, put-your-butt-in-the-desk writing workshop someday, though. It's definitely on my bucket list.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Yes, but I'm really, really lucky. Since I run my own small business, my schedule is pretty flexible. These days, I spend most of the morning on writing, then spend the afternoon and early evening on my day job. It's a lot like the writing schedule I had before working from home, but flip-flopped.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Four-and-a-half. Now that I read that, the process sounds scarier than it really was.

I like to do several rounds of edits focusing on specific elements. That way, I don't get overwhelmed. First, I had to re-write most of the first act to be a little punchier and a lot more cohesive.

Second, I did an edit for story structure--as in, are things occurring at the right times? are major plot points getting enough foreshadowing?

The third round was more focused on dialogue, characterization, and making sure the prose was coherent and tight. The fourth round was mostly about looking at things on a scene-by-scene level. Did the scenes flow well? Did each scene have its own beginning, middle, and end? After that, I gave the manuscript one last read-through (the "half" round).

For me, the key is to break things off into manageable chunks.

Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes! I'm lucky to have an awesome writing buddy who gives spot-on criticism while somehow managing to be incredibly sweet and complimentary. And, of course, I share everything with my husband, who has a great ear for dialogue and a knack for sniffing out clunky characterization. He's my official Teenage Boy Expert.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
A little of both. I guess I'm like a lot of writers that way. Since I had to work out what the rules for my version of a genie would be, that needed some fairly comprehensive outlining. As far as the plot, I planned out the main plot points, but not necessarily the scenes that lead up to them.

I did do some character development stuff, which was new to me. It was very basic--the bulk of it was a little mini-biography written in the character's voice and some small facts about their families and habits that were nice to know (even if most of it didn't end up in the final draft). Mostly, it was just an exercise to help me figure out each character's motivation.

How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
For "Sealed with a Wish," I started querying in late April and signed with Sarah LaPolla in early August. All told, it was about three-and-a-half months. For the first book I queried (now a trunk novel), I gathered rejections for about two months before throwing in the towel. I could have kept querying that project, but I wanted to focus on edits for "Sealed with a Wish," instead.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
According to my QueryTracker page (which was totally indispensable, by the way!) I sent out a total of 22 queries.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
First, I wanted someone who was enthusiastic about YA. Not every agent I queried keeps a blog or does interviews, so in that case, I checked Publishers Marketplace to see if their sales reflected a focus on YA. I also wanted someone who was interested in high-concept fiction or urban fantasy. Again, either blogs or Publishers Marketplace helped me get a sense of this. As always, the Absolute Write forums were great for getting opinions from other writers. And any mention that an agent wanted something "funny" or "quirky" automatically put them on my list, as long as they listed YA as an area of interest.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
I'm going to share an Ally Carter quote that kept me going. In a blog post, she said, "Getting an agent is actually a surprisingly straightforward process once you have the right book (note that this is the hard part) and have researched who will be the best fit." (You can see the rest of the post here: http://www.allycarter.com/blog/how-get-literary-agent).

I think our focus should always be on writing the best fracking book possible. I didn't submit to agents until I knew that "Sealed with a Wish" was as good as I could get it. When the inevitable rejections came in, I didn't beat myself up too much because I knew, deep down, that it really WAS a subjective decision. My last book didn't get me an agent because it wasn't the RIGHT book--as in, it didn't accurately reflect my voice, nor was the plot tight enough. But with "Sealed with a Wish," I felt totally comfortable standing behind it.

So, yeah. Write a book. Re-write it. Lather, rinse, repeat. Then query when you think it's as good as it's going to get (at least, without agently or editorial advice). Even when you do get rejected, you'll be less likely to fall into a hopeless funk since you're certain that your book is worthwhile.

And hey, there's always the next book, right?

Would you be willing to share your query with us?
I would love to. Forgive me if there are some awkward parts. There's a spoiler or two in there that I probably shouldn't reveal.

Dear Ms. Awesome:

I would love to work with you, and I hope you’ll be interested in my YA novel, SEALED WITH A WISH, in which “I Dream of Jeannie” meets John Hughes.

When snarky, sixteen-year-old Layla misplaces her favorite ring, she’s got bigger problems than a lost accessory. Layla is half-genie and must grant three wishes to whoever possesses the magical ring to which she is bound. After Sean, a popular classmate, accidentally gets a hold of the ring, Layla has no choice but to conjure up whatever comes after, “I wish...”

Layla just wants to get this over with, but after Sean’s first wish leads to a night in jail and a confiscated sports car, Sean hesitates to wish again, afraid of wasting his remaining chances. As the two spend more time together, they form an unexpected friendship, one that gets even more complicated when Layla develops feelings for her so-called master.

When (spoiler spoiler spoiler), Layla faces an insurmountable problem: (spoiler spoiler spoiler).

SEALED WITH A WISH is complete at around 53,000 words. I would be delighted to send the full manuscript at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Your New Favorite Client