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An Interview with Gretchen McNeil upon receiving an offer of representation.

Gretchen McNeil (Blondchen on QT) has signed with agent Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, Ltd..

How long have you been writing?
About a year and a half.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
There were plenty of days where cranking out words was so painful I wanted to catapult my laptop into the Pacific. But the story itself was so exciting, I was desperate to finish it. That helped me write through the tough sections.
Is this your first book?
My second.
How long have you been working on this book?
Not long! Less than six months including the research phase.
Do you have any formal writing training?
None.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I took Stephen King's advice and tried to write every day, at least 1000 words. At about the halfway point of this novel, I went on hiatus from my job and decided I wanted to finish the novel before I had to go back, so I upped my daily quota and wrote the back half in just under a month.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I believe I did four drafts.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Absolutely! There were so many things I wasn't sure about with this book – plot, voice, pacing, dialect – and beta feedback was invaluable. I got some amazing insights that strengthened my novel, my characters, and sharpened the motivations and conflicts.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I don't think I could have gotten started without an outline. I had the first 10 chapters and the ending mapped out, and the re st developed as I went.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
For my first novel I sent 133 queries, garnering about two dozen requests over nine months, but no offers of representation. The second novel was the complete opposite. From first query to first offer of representation – one week. By the end of the second week I had four offers and let me tell you, I was not prepared for having to make that decision! It was like an instantaneous ulcer.
About how many query letters had you sent for this book?
I sent 32 queries over a period of 9 days. I had 12 query R's, 7 full requests, 3 partial requests and so far 10 no responses.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I used QT to research agents who rep YA and fantasy, making a short list of the first 10 I wanted to query, then the next 10 and so on. It was a combination of agents who had good sales, who accepted emails and who had a tendency to respond quickly.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I did when I queried my first novel, but not on this one.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Research is key. It felt a lot like the college application process, figuring out what agents wanted with=2 0their queries, but I think research pays off when you give an agent exactly what they are looking for. And then there's the query itself. We have so little time to hook an agent who sifts through hundreds of queries a week. It's got to be eye-catching but professional, and it needs to convey not only your plot, but the voice of what you're pitching. I went through several drafts, using an online writers forum for peer critiques, before I felt confident with it.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

I am seeking representation for my 74,000-word YA urban fantasy THE WITCH’S EYE, a standalone adventure with series potential that should appeal to fans of P.C. Cast, Charles de Lint and Holly Black. Even before her father’s suicide, Bronx teen Shay O’Muir was pretty sure her life sucked. She always knew her blind, deformed eye was a ticket to an ass-kicking, but it wasn’t until she fled her abusive foster family for her father’s hometown in Ireland that she discovered just how much trouble her eye could be.

When she arrives on the Emerald Isle, her eye’s double irises come to life, allowing her to navigate the Sidhe Otherworld, the realm of the (not so) mythological tribes of Ireland. For Shay, it’s one more layer of freakishness but to the Sidhe, her eye is their ticket to freedom. Only Shay can locate an ancient scroll detailing how the Sidhe can recapture the Upper Realm and wipe it clean of humanity. But increasingly bizarre attempts on Shay’s life—a rainstorm of rocks and a blood-thirsty hellcat, to say nothing of the twelve-eyed sea monster—indicate there might be another like her who can locate the scroll, and whoever or whatever it is wants Shay dead. From the megalithic tombs of Connacht to the perilous cliffs of the Aran Islands, it’s a race against time as Shay follows clues to the scroll’s location hoping to find and destroy it before its secrets fall into the wrong hands.

The completed manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.