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An Interview with Jennifer S Brown upon receiving an offer of representation.


Jennifer S Brown (jbrown68 on QT) has signed with agent Laney Becker of Massie & McQuilkin Literary Agents.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Ah, and here is where it gets tricky, for the book for which I found representation is not the book my agent sold. The novel that attracted my agent was CONTINUITY, which is the story of a young woman searching for her birth parents who turn out to be from an Orthodox Jewish community. However, my agent was unable to sell this novel to a publisher. She is an amazing agent, though, and when that didn’t sell, I asked her, “What do I do now?” she responded, “You write another novel.” She was kind enough not to say “duh,” though I would have deserved it. The next novel I wrote, MODERN GIRLS, is the story of unwanted pregnancy during the Great Depression. The novel was inspired by a bit of family history my father related, and it sent me off in a tailspin of research that resulted in my historical novel. MODERN GIRLS became my debut novel.
How long have you been writing?
Forever is probably not a great answer. I will say that I received my MFA in fiction in 1996 and my debut novel published in 2016. I went into my MFA program after writing on my own for many, many years. So we’ll call it “a lifetime.”
How long have you been working on this book?
About four years.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I had at times felt like giving up on publishing, but never on writing. Writing is too much of an emotional outlet for me to ever quit. But publishing? When the rejections were coming in, I thought for a while that I might just write for myself.
Is this your first book?
Not even close! I have three manuscripts that have never seen the light of day. CONTINUITY was the first novel polished enough to send out.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I have an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I’m a morning writer. If I’m on a roll, I can occasionally write in the evening, but those are the times when my family pulls me in other directions.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Egads, at least four. I first wrote it in third person, but that didn’t work, so I completely rewrote it in first person. But I love revising so I re-write endlessly until my writing group yanks the manuscript from my hands and tells me it’s time to stop.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Many. I belong to an amazing writing group who helped along the way. Then I asked other readers I respected to go over it. My father was a fabulous resource, as while he wasn’t alive in 1935, he knew enough about the period to help me with the historical aspects.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I start by writing from the hip, but as I go, and I can see a shape, I create an outline from which to continue.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
It was the previous (unpublished) book that I queried and it took three months, which I understand is fairly short.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
I know exactly how many I sent out! I keep a spreadsheet for all submissions. I sent out twenty-two queries.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Research! I looked in the acknowledgments of all the books I liked to see who represented the authors. Once I had some page requests, I then used the QueryTracker similarities feature to find other agents who might like my book.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Absolutely! I mentioned the books they represented that I enjoyed and why the agent might also be interested in my book. If, in my research, I found other commonalities, I mentioned it (we’re from the same town; we went to the same college; we like the same movies).
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Really talk to the agents who offer you representation and to insure your philosophies are in sync. Make sure you find an agent who wants to represent your career, not a single book. And if that first book doesn’t sell, get your butt back in the chair and work on the next book!
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

My query represents the novel that didn’t sell to publishers, but since it landed me my amazing agent, I’m happy to share:

For movie script supervisor Lisa Friedman, continuity and flow are the fundamental laws of life. In her movies, lipstick stains don’t disappear and reappear on coffee cups. Windows that have been shattered can’t later show up intact. Making sure A leads to B is the job hyper-organized Lisa was born to do—which makes the sixteen days that are missing from her own life all the more agonizing.

Sixteen days. What could have happened in sixteen days to make her birth parents decide to give her up? A search answers little: All she discovers is that both her parents were killed in a car crash years ago.

Lisa tries not to obsess, throwing herself into her work, traveling to locations around the world. Her boyfriend, a blockbuster movie director, is pressuring her to take their eight-year on-again off-again relationship to the next level, but how can she have a family of her own when she doesn’t know why her original family rejected her? She knows her adopted family—her real family—back home in Miami loves her and wants her, but Lisa can’t rid herself of that longing to know what happened in those first sixteen days. She finds herself visiting the grave of her birth parents every year around the anniversary of their death.

Until one visit changes everything. One visit where she meets a man—an Orthodox Jewish man—who demands to know why she is visiting his parents' grave. Lisa follows him into his small Orthodox Jewish community where the rules she’s lived by no longer apply: Her dresses are too short, her behavior immodest, her eating habits unkosher. Lisa must learn to adapt to age-old traditions as she gets to know a grandfather who is eager for the granddaughter he lost and a hostile older brother who wishes Lisa had never existed. Lisa will do whatever it takes as she begins to piece together who her parents were and what, exactly, happened in those sixteen days.

[My bio]

Attached, as a Word doc, is the first chapter of Continuity. I would be delighted to send you the completed manuscript (which is 84,000 words). Thank you for considering my novel.