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An Interview with John Zeleznik upon receiving an offer of representation.

12/17/2011

John Zeleznik (john_zeleznik(d) on QT) has signed with agent Bob Mecoy of Bob Mecoy Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
"Winter’s Discord" is an epic fantasy novel. The hook that I sort of use is: After an attempt on his life, Ben Grange and his friends are thrown headlong into a conflict that they don’t entirely understand, leaving them alone to deal with issues of loyalty, friendship and responsibility in this A Song of Ice and Fire meets The Hills young adult epic fantasy.

"Winter’s Discord" was an attempt by me to write something like George RR Martin’s "A Game of Thrones" for a young adult audience.

How long have you been writing?
I can’t think of a time that I didn’t write.
How long have you been working on this book?
I started it in 2006 and actually wrote a sequel based on that draft that is complete rubbish. The book has been rewritten many times over including once for an agent who wanted it more streamlined (was my agent and left the agency for another job) and then for another agent that wanted the story bigger (that wound up passing on it).
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
That last rejection. After taking 2 and half months and adding 50,000 words and to be told (politely and professionally) that they weren’t as passionate as they thought about the project and it was one of the toughest “passes” they have ever made was devastating. I essentially shelved the project, just sending it out sporadically here and there.I actually called the query I sent to my agent a "Hail Mary" because that's what I thought of it.
Is this your first book?
It’s the first book I shopped. I have a few started projects on the hard drive and a mess of trunk novel that I wrote a few years back, so yes and no.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Just what I learned in school like everyone else. I took some Writing Fiction classes in college, but I can’t say that I use much of what I learned in those classes in my writing.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I wish. I’m a streaky writer. I go on stretches where I’m really, really productive and stretches where I’m not. There’s no rhyme or reason to it either. I try to write every day and write a writing plan every few weeks to get my plans together so I have a picture of what I’d like to accomplish. It doesn’t always work out that way.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Seven and a half times. The half was when I got about half way through a rewrite and went back to the beginning because what I’d done so far was bothering me.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes, I have 3-4 people I trust immensely with my work. Without them, Winter would not be the book it is today.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Outliner and planner with full right to deviate from said plans on a whim.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I started querying in the Spring 2008. It was a crap draft, a crap query and a crap synopsis. Nothing came of it. I wound up winning an elevator pitch contest online and wound up getting my first agent. The second go around started in late Winter 2010.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
250. Yup, 250. If you get anything from my story: DON’T EVER GIVE UP!!!!
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Interest in either fantasy or young adult. I think a lot of passes were based on the fact that I thought of the book as both and some agents didn’t, which is fine. I get the business.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
You MUST individualize every query. I’d try to gather as much information as I can on the agent and include it in the query.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
I’ll say it again because it bears repeating: NEVER GIVE UP.

Other things: Be humble. Get good betas. Be proud of being a writer. Have fun.

Would you be willing to share your query with us?

My name is John Zeleznik. I am writing you about “Winter’s Discord,” a YA fantasy where a group of young people thrown into a dangerous situation they do not understand and made to pay for the transgressions of their fathers and mothers. Inspired heavily by George RR Martin, I often refer to the book as a “YA Game of Thrones” with the same multiple point of view style. I think the book has potential in either the young adult or traditional fantasy market.

Fifteen-year-old Ben Grange is the third son of a powerful duke. He spends his days squiring for his father and his nights avoiding as much responsibility as is acceptable. He dreams of being a great hero like the ones he reads about but opportunities for greatness are few and far between under his father’s watchful eye. When an attempt is made on his life, a strange and powerful magic awakens within him, reflecting the dark omens plaguing the kingdom but saving his life and the men with him. Suddenly, Ben’s life seems less certain than it once had.

Sent to foster with his father’s best friend, the disgraced Bachelor Prince, Ben enters an even more dangerous world: the royal court. A world of balls, schemes and plots that Ben is unaccustomed to. Seduced by the promise of glory and struggling with the changing definition of right and wrong in the decadent capital, Ben aligns himself with a group of ne’er-do-well fops, dandies and thugs known as the Third Sons, alienating his closest friends with his smug and obnoxious behavior, leaving them to deal with the growing darkness around their friend.

While he struggles to control the power building within him, his friends are left alone to deal with questions of loyalty, friendship, responsibility and isolation. Ben realizes he has one last chance to make up for his mistakes: the Challenge Cup Tournament. There he will sacrifice the very prestige he craves to redeem himself in the eyes of those most important to him. But it may be too late. All they know and love may be coming to an end - because of Ben.