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An Interview with Julie C Dao upon receiving an offer of representation.


Julie C Dao (H0bbit0n on QT) has signed with agent Tamar Rydzinski of Context Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
ELEGY is a YA speculative/Gothic suspense novel set at an international performing arts school in France. It was inspired by The Phantom of the Opera and by my experiences as a school musician. I wanted to write a ghost story that involved rival violinists who would kill for the spotlight.
How long have you been writing?
Like most writers, I grew up doodling and journaling from a very early age. I wrote my first "novel" when I was 9. But I didn't seriously start to consider writing for publication until I was about 22.
How long have you been working on this book?
I got the idea in late 2012 and spent all of 2013 writing and revising it. In 2014, I continued revising and entering the manuscript into online contests, one of which got me my agent.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Absolutely. I had actually "given up" the month before my agent offered. I knew I could never truly give up on writing, but I was ready to take a long break from trying to get published. I had been striving for seven years in vain and was tired and frustrated by the lack of offers despite all the interest I received.
Is this your first book?
Definitely not! I've written four other books since I started trying for publication.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I do not. Although a degree in writing can help, I don't at all believe that it's required the way passion and perseverance are.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Not a strict schedule, no. I have a full-time job so my writing time naturally falls on the weekends, but other than that, I don't stick to a particular routine.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I've been through 5-6 rounds of edits already, some lighter than others. And I fully anticipate to go through as many more as are needed!
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes. I owe its vast improvement to them! I have several critique partners and commissioned several new beta readers for the latest round of edits.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I cannot write without an outline. I'm a huge plotter! Even when I revise, I revise with an outline. It helps me get an idea of which direction I'm heading in and helps me stay organized, but allows me the freedom to veer off track if a character or plot point calls for it.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I started querying in late 2013. I landed my agent in February 2015. So a little over a year, I believe. I only queried one other book before ELEGY and did so sporadically for a couple of years.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Including contests, I sent out a total of 65 query letters. I got 28 full requests and 9 partial requests, in addition to 2 revise-and-resubmits.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
My high request rate is partly due to the exhaustive research I did on each agent. I made sure that they were looking for what I wrote, first of all, and that they were still interested in this genre/category. I also read as many interviews as possible on each person to find out whether they would be a good match for me in terms of personality and work style.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Yes, I did. I made sure to personalize each and every single query letter based on an interview I'd read, or a tweet I'd seen, or a blog post they'd written. I wanted to make sure the agent knew I was choosing him or her for a reason, and that I had done my research properly and wasn't firing out letters at random.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
I know everyone says this, but don't give up. Take a break, maybe, but don't give up. You never know how close you truly are, and you never know if the day after you give up is the day you've been waiting for. Do your research, be professional, and build, build, build a network of writer friends. The support and encouragement from my writer friends kept me going on the bleakest days.