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An Interview with JL Delavega upon receiving an offer of representation.

08/25/2020

JL Delavega (Ninjenaiya on QT) has signed with agent Matthew Belford of The Tobias 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 title is SMOKE AND OTHER STORMS, and it is scheduled for publication by City Owl Press in 2022. It's a fantasy set in a lawless, desert society about a family of women who smuggle goods with their train, tell fortunes, and rob prospectors. Their latest target is an explorer hunting for a lost fortune in crystal. The land that far west is poisonous, but progress is coming, and the family buisness needs expanding.

I wanted to write something with an Indiana Jones, Laura Croft vibe, but from the perspective of the villain. What motivates them besides greed? What actually makes them the bad guy? Is it true? Those were the questions that got me started. I also really love the desert.

How long have you been writing?
Since before I could actually write. I used to tell stories to my mom and she'd write them down for me. I got serious about it around fifth grade. I wrote some pretty epic mystery stories. One was set in a place called The Poodle Palace...yeah. Weird beginnings, you can still rise.
How long have you been working on this book?
Three years. About eight months to world build and complete a first draft. Another two years to edit, edit again, submit, and edit more. Then get an agent and EDIT! Never say this is the last time and you're done editing. You're not.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Insanity. No, actually, spite. There were many, many days I felt like my writing was going nowhere. Every time I got frustrated I'd tell myself giving up would be worse than being rejected by agents. At least I was trying. I'd get a book published even if it was the last thing I ever did.
Is this your first book?
No, and I'm not counting the kid stories. I wrote a four book sci-fi series before this. They were a necessary evil.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Not really. I've randomly taken creative writing courses, some in elementary school, some at college level, and one writer's conference. I'm an introvert, that's why I like writing.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I'm a night owl, so I use writing as my excuse to stay up late. I get my best work done then because everyone else is asleep and not bothering me. I have a playlist for each book to help put me in the world. I also listen to soundtracks that fit my book's genre. I've definitely listened to the Westworld scores over a hundred times.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes, I had around five, as well as some excellent critique partners.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I like to start with almost nothing planned and see where I end up. It's like being on the adventure with the characters. Sequels do require more outlining, though, since the plot is now established.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
This book about a year and four months. That other sci-fi series...I'm not a quitter.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
35
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Honestly, one of the main things I looked at was their social media. If they never posted about books or their clients, I was less interested in them. Other than that I wanted someone who understood the characters and the story I was trying to tell. That was more important to me than a name or sales stats.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Edit. I heard this advice too, but as much as you may want to, don't start querying the first draft of your book. Maybe not even the second. And be patient. It's not unusual for an agent to take a month (or more) to respond to your query or manuscript request. Querying is a long con.