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An Interview with Justina Ireland upon receiving an offer of representation.

Justina Ireland (justina on QT) has signed with agent Caren Johnson Estesen of .

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
It’s the story of a girl whose family is cursed by Death. It’s loosely based on the Grimm’s Fairy tale “Godfather Death”.
How long have you been writing?
Not long. I finished my first book last year, and this is my second. I also have about a dozen projects I began but never finished. My first book I trunked after getting several rejections on the full. It had some...issues. I just didn’t have the expertise to figure out what was wrong with it. I may go back and relook at it again later.
How long have you been working on this book?
It took me about six months from beginning to offer. I started the book in late April, finished in the middle of June, and revised until the beginning of July. I did another round of revisions in early August after getting a couple of rejections on full requests.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
There were lots of times I felt like giving up. I wondered if what I wrote was crap, and if it was even coherent. Reading the Success Stories here on Querytracker helped me keep going. I thought to myself “If they can do it, so can I.”
Do you have any formal writing training?
I Have a BA in History and am a few credits shy of a Master’s in History. History involves a lot of writing, so I had a pretty good background in getting words on paper and making sure everything flowed logically. What I didn’t have was the ability to inject any tension into my writing. There’s not exactly a lot of excitement in analysis of Progressive Era reforms. I learned how to inject tension by reading books on craft (writing craft, not witchcraft. Although that would also be cool).
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
No, I have a toddler at home and I work full time, so I cram my writing in whenever there’s a free moment.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Three times before I got an offer. Twice before querying, and once after an agent gave me a revise and resubmit.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
I have two critique groups I work with. They read sample chapters, but most of my betas flaked, so no one ever got to read the full story. Well, except my mom J. She, of course, loved it.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I shoot from the hip, like an old gunslinger. Only slower and without a gun. Now that I think about it, my writing style is nothing like a gunslinger, but more like disorganized ramblings without an outline. Hence, the revisions.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I queried this book for two months-ish before I got an offer. My last book I queried for around eight months before I finally trunked it, but I mostly did that because this book was ready to query.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
According to my stats about thirty-two letters. Out of those I had about a third result in either a partial or a full request.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
My book is YA (young adult) so I chose agents that repped YA and fantasy, since there is a slight fantastical element to the story. One of the agents who requested my full passed it on to another agent, and that’s who I eventually signed with.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I only tailored it to an agent if they had an open call on a blog or something. Mostly I just put their name in the “Dear So and So” line. I think too much personalization is kind of creepy.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Keep writing, but more importantly, read what’s already out there. If you haven’t read extensively in the genre you want to be published in it will show in your writing.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sure. Here it is in all its awesomeness:

Abby Singleton is a dandelion in a family of exotic flowers. Her older sister is a tennis star and her younger sister is an art prodigy. Abby’s talent? Running her big mouth. Even Abby’s parents seem strangely perfect. Dad is a tax lawyer who escaped from a life in the projects and Abby’s mother...well, Mom alternates her time between ripping souls out of the recently deceased and making the town’s best cookies.

Despite the flawless exterior Abby’s family is less than perfect. A curse placed upon them long ago turns them into Reapers (the Grim Reaper’s clean up crew) on their sixteenth birthdays. Problem is, Abby doesn’t have typical Reaper powers. Instead of taking souls she gives them back, raising people from the dead against Death’s wishes.

Angered, the Big D sends Abby to Pennsylvania, where the high percentage of old people ensures her powers will have less impact on his bottom line. Foisted upon her aunt’s dysfunctional family, Abby feels like even more of an outsider than she did in her own family. At home and at school Abby tries to fit in, but a reanimated frog and her sudden appearance at a fatal accident make her lab partner, über jock Austin Holt, suspicious. He further complicates Abby’s life by trying to find out what she’s hiding.

Abby wants nothing more than to return to her life of being invisible in her immediate family. All she has to do is survive the next year without pissing Death off even more or having her secret discovered by a nosy kid from school. Since Abby can’t seem to keep her mouth shut, that’s easier said than done.

BETWEEN HELL AND OHIO is a Young Adult novel complete at 63,000 words. The full manuscript is available upon request and should appeal to fans of Tonya Hurley (ghostgirl) and Maureen Johnson (Devilish).