Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write
My book is a MG Historical SciFi set in 1961 about a
group of kids recruited by President Kennedy to fight Communism. I was
inspired by a documentary about the history of superheroes (a personal
passion of mine). In that documentary, Stan Lee talked about how involved
comic books were with politics during World War II, but how uninvolved they
were during the 60s. That got my brain cranking and eventually this story
How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first "book" when I was nine, but you can't really count
that. I wrote short stories all through middle and high school, though none
of them went any farther than my friends and family. I got my very first
rejection letter (which my wife has framed) in 2002, and I think that's when
my writing career really began.
How long have you been working on this book?
The inspiration and research began in 2002, and I wrote a terrible
first draft in '07. I pitched the concept to a comic book company in '08,
got horribly rejected, and abandoned the whole thing until this summer,
2011. That's when I completely reinvented it and wrote the draft that
eventually caught Marietta's attention.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to
stay on course?
Oh yeah, way too many times. Rejection letters are painful, as are
unfriendly critiques. If it hadn't been for my wife constantly believing in
me and encouraging me, I would have abandoned it all to become a flautist.
(And I hate the flute.)
Is this your first book?
No, but it is the first one to garner any offers of representation. I
wrote a fantasy that got some nibbles, but the agents all agreed that it
needed more work before it was ready. Plus, they felt like it was a little
juvenile. Turns out, juvenile is what I do best.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I took a creative writing class in college. Other than that, no.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I'm a husband and father of three, so if I don't schedule my writing
time, it won't happen. Generally, I've learned how to write while watching
TV, eating dinner, or playing board games (that takes the most
concentration). I don't give myself daily word count limits, though. There's
only so much stress I can handle.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
More times than I can count. Once I finally landed on the current
concept, I had three major revisions BEFORE Marietta ever read it. After,
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes indeed. I had four incredible beta readers who saved my butt on
some serious problems. I wouldn't have been able to make it without them.
What's funny is, they each have a different perspective on writing, and that
helped out so much. One was an MFA student who examined the characters,
voice, and plot points intensely. The second examined the themes more than
anything else and helped me bring clarity. The third was a professional
editor and did line edits, which were oh so important. I'd recommend trying
to get different perspectives in your beta readers.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I outlined like crazy, but I gave myself room to improvise while I was
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I was querying for this one for about two months or so. Other books,
between six months to a year.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
According to my handy-dandy QueryTracker.net profile, I queried 30
agents with this project.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
They had to represent MG.
They had to have a web presence. (I know, it's weird, but I felt like it was important)
They had to have done something comparable to my book, whether it was scifi, historical, or just a boy
They had to have verifiable sales.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Before I answer this, let me be clear. My query sucked, totally. I got
rejections left and right. I caught Marietta's eye at WriteOnCon, and then
used QueryTracker to find out all about her. And she offered in spite of my
terrible query letter. So, no, I didn't tailor the query to the specific
agent. Tailored crap is still crap.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Remember to treat it like you're seeking an investor in a small
business. It is very possible to get an investor for an amazing business
with a crappy pitch, but it is impossible to get an investor for a crappy
business no matter how good your pitch is. So, make sure your book doesn't
suck. Focus on that before you even think about querying agents. You'll be
glad you did.