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An Interview with Ian Thomas Healy upon receiving an offer of representation.

02/13/2012

Ian Thomas Healy (ianthealy on QT) has signed with agent Carly Watters of P.S. Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
The book is a reimagining of the story told in the movies Yojimbo, Last Man Standing, and For A Fistful of Dollars, but set in a high school with two rival bands competing for the skills of a lone guitarist.
How long have you been writing?
All my life, but seriously writing since 2004.
How long have you been working on this book?
I wrote The Guitarist over the summer of 2011 and started querying it in the Fall. Call it three months to write, two to revise.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I never feel like giving up. If I can't sell a project to an agent or publisher, I always have the option to self-publish, which I've exercised several times with my backlist.
Is this your first book?
No. More like my 15th. But it is my first mainstream (non SF/F) novel.
Do you have any formal writing training?
No. It's all been learning on the job for me.
Do you follow a writing 'routine' or schedule?
I generally have multiple open projects in the pipeline. I will work on writing the first draft of one during the day when I have free moments, work on completing a first draft of a project nearly finished in the evening, or revise a project either in preparation for self-publishing or querying/submissions.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Twice. Once after feedback from the beta readers and once after signing with my agent (who only had very minor revision requests).
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes. They're invaluable allies. Everybody should have a couple.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I normally write more from the hip, but this one I outlined because I wanted to more or less follow the same plot points of the movies upon which the novel is based.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I spent three months querying The Guitarist. That's generally about how long I spend querying any book. As fast as I produce material, I don't want to have a huge backlog of queries.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
54.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I queried those who represented Young Adult and mainstream, who accept electronic submissions, and have websites. After filtering that much, I cut out the agencies that for various reasons I didn't want to work with (and sometimes a bad website is enough for me to mark an agent as Disregarded. Take note, web designers!). I always visit agents' websites and read up on them, their submission guidelines, and about the agents themselves, because sometimes the agent selected by QueryTracker isn't actually the best one to submit a given project to. Do your homework!
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
No, I use the same query for each agent. Call it a form query if you want.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Write. Revise. Revise again. Listen to your beta readers. Read agency blogs. Research how to write query letters (hint: rhetorical questions are never a good place to start). Be humble. Learn to say "next" when a rejection comes in. Don't dwell on a form rejection (at all!), and don't revise your book just because you got a couple of form rejections. Stand by your work. Don't stop writing while you're querying. Always be working on the next project. Learn what makes a good agent different than a bad agent, and realize it's okay to say no if the agent making the offer is not right for you (a mistake I made with a former agent). If you're offered representation, read your agency agreement carefully before you sign it. It's okay to celebrate your success, but temper it with maturity and responsibility. Lift with your legs, not your back. Drink plenty of fluids. The internet is a valuable tool. So is social networking. Zynga games are not. Exercise your body and your mind will follow. It's okay to play, so long as you remember that you need to make time to work. If you love writing, it will never be work. And finally, agents are human, in spite of what you may have heard. Don't bad-mouth them publicly. Don't argue a rejection. And smile a lot. It helps.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

High school reporter Sherri "Bax" Baxter is content being an outsider, with a reputation as a nosy busybody among the students of Jericho High. Instead of friendships, she focuses on objective journalistic integrity, because it will get her out of the dead-end Texas oil town and into a prestigious journalism school, and she's pretty sure she's found her big story. A new girl, Molly, has come to town with a mysterious sideways grin, a bolero hat, a well-loved guitar case, and the musical talent of legendary blues man Stevie Ray Vaughan. Two of the school's rival rock groups need her for the upcoming Battle of the Bands, but Molly has a plan to cherry-pick the best musicians out of each band to form her own super group. Both bands engage in an increasingly dangerous rivalry ranging from theft and vandalism to assault and kidnapping. Who better to tag along with Molly and get every juicy tidbit than the intrepid school snoop? She might even make a few friends along the way.

THE GUITARIST is a 68,000-word contemporary Young Adult novel and a retelling of the story common to the films Yojimbo, For a Fistful of Dollars, and Last Man Standing. It is targeted at high-school-aged readers and older.

I am a formerly-agented author. My superhero novel JUST CAUSE was just released from small press New Babel Books (www.newbabelbooks.com) in December of 2011. One of the books in that series placed in the Top 100 semifinalists in the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. I have published a portion of my backlist in ebook format with positive results. I'm also the creator of the long-running webcomic (since 2006), The Adventures of the S-Team.

I am very excited about the potential for The Guitarist and would like to share it with you. Thanks in advance for your time and consideration!