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An Interview with Heather Rebel upon receiving an offer of representation.


Heather Rebel (HeatherRebel on QT) has signed with agent Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson Associates.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
My book's a YA sci-fi. I'm horrible at summing up 82k words! What inspired me to write it, though, was all the vampire-love-fest books on the market. I grew up with Buffy and reading Anne Rice. I wanted a vampire book where they were the bad guys again.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing poetry in middle school and moved up to short stories after a personal tragedy back in August, 2005. After I read Twilight, I couldn't find anything I wanted to read. So I decided to write a book I'd want to read (that wasn't this book, that one needs a lot of fixing, but it was a great learning experience.)
How long have you been working on this book?
Since January, 2010. I finished it in March, 2011, but spoke with an editor of a small publishing house and she recommended a great plot change and it took me through July rewriting the second half of my book.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Never. This story wouldn't let me. If I got sidetracked with life or reading, the story would keep me up at night writing itself. If I wanted sleep, I had to write!
Is this your first book?
No. My first one is over 114k and has everything wrong with it! I'm planning on going back and rewriting it. I began putting it through a critique group while I was still writing this one. Now that I know a lot of the dos and don'ts, I'll be able to write it better.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Only a creative writing class in college.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
No, I wish I did. Right now, as I'm going back through it with my agent, I'm forcing myself to be more on tract and dedicated. I have it written, I have an agent, and now I want it published--but I don't want that to take another six months or year.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I rewrote it once, kind of rewriting a bit right now with my agent. I've lost count of the times I went through and edited it. Not enough, though. I still find typos and missing punctuation.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Oh, yes. Several. Coworkers, friends, even friends' teenagers. I wanted to make sure what I was doing worked. And have medical stuff in there I wanted to ensure didn't go too deep and was easily understood.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Wrote from the hip. I would have pulled my hair out if I'd gone by an outline. My book didn't go anywhere close to where I had anticipated it to. It's a growing, almost living, thing that changes on its own, writes itself, almost.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I started querying this book the end of July, 2011. My first book I queried for a few months until I continued to receive rejections. That's when I joined a critique group. Agents don't give you feedback, just say "no, thank you" and I needed to understand what was going wrong.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Over 70.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I used QT to find agents who represent YA then went to each individual site and looked at every agent to see whose description fit my book best. Even if I wasn't certain if the agent would like what I wrote, I still tried. For the record, Judith's description fit my book almost perfectly.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Keep going. I don't know how many times my critique partner told me how subjective the field is. I was getting so frustrated, not understanding why these agents didn't fall in love with my story and characters like I had. She told me I didn't want an agent who grudgingly took on my story, I wanted one who was on fire for it and excited about it. I definitely have that and she was worth waiting for. Worth all the frustration, doubts, impatience. She loves my story and is so excited about it and has offered great suggestions--I'm very blessed.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sure, here it is:

Dear Agent,

I’m hoping to interest you in my speculative fiction YA, Immunity, complete at 82,000 words:

Sixteen-year-old Kylie lives with her parents in a desert compound, one of the few human compounds left in what used to be called North America. As a scientist in training, she assists her parents in their methodical attempts to find a cure for a rampant virus, a virus that had been around for centuries but scientifically dismissed as folklore—until eighty years ago, when the Ticks, or vampires, took down the world, one power grid at a time.

As scientists like Kylie and her parents searched for the solution, nature did some counter-balancing of its own, in the form of a recessive gene which causes enhanced human abilities—also known as the Chosen, which Kylie certainly is not. As a Norm, her fight against the Ticks is restricted to the laboratory.

For better resources and higher security, Kylie moves with her family and her future mate, Charlie, to the Jericho compound. But before the immunization is complete, the Ticks become brazen in their attempts to penetrate Jericho, and tragedy strikes. Grieving and desperate, Kylie does the unthinkable—she injects herself with the untested immunization.

Initially she attributes her increased speed, strength and Chosen-like healing time to delusion and grief. By the time she realizes these side effects to the antivirus could change the way their whole war is waged, Kylie is captured by the Ticks. And so begins the real test for the immunization…

I am a member of SCBWI and Emerald Coast Writers Association. My short story, “Knock on the Door”, was published in the Valencia Community College literary magazine. I’ve been a nurse for seven years, always having loved how immunizations and genetics work, particularly, how viruses are incurable—or are they?

Ms. Agent, I’d love to send you a sample of Immunity. May I?

Thanks in advance for your consideration,

Heather Rebel