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An Interview with Kate Warner upon receiving an offer of representation.

11/09/2018

Kate Warner (kaperton on QT) has signed with agent Hannah Mann of Writers House.

How long have you been writing?
I made an attempt to write a book about twenty years ago, but lost confidence that I would ever finish it, and gave up on writing altogether until 6 years ago. I've been writing seriously since then.
How long have you been working on this book?
I think it's been about four years
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I don't think I ever seriously considered giving up. As I said, I gave up on writing twenty years ago, but when the desire to write a book came back to me, it was unstoppable. It was this feeling that I had to write, no matter what. I definitely got discouraged (devastated might be a more accurate word) after the first agent who requested my full manuscript rejected it, but there was no question of giving up.

What helped me stay on course was hiring a life coach. That may sound extreme, but I knew I couldn't finish it without someone keeping me on track. I've been seeing her about twice a month for 2 years.

Is this your first book?
It's the first one I've completed, yes.
Do you have any formal writing training?
No. I was an English major in college, so I wrote a lot of essays, but that's about it!
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I try to wake up early to write for an hour every morning, but I'm not very good about that. I get my best writing done when I can take a day off work to devote to it, or go to Panera or the library for a few hours on the weekend. It's tough to squeeze it in between working full time and having a young child, but if I don't write for a day or two, I'm not very fun to be around.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Oh, so many. It's been through so many revisions, I wouldn't even know how to quantify them.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
No one who read the whole thing, but I did hire a professional editor. She helped me immensely. When I gave her the draft, it was way too long for a young adult romance - 117,000 words. With her invaluable help, I was able to get it down to 94,000.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
This might be a good time to mention that I have ADHD, so my writing process was a mess. I just wrote the scenes I felt like writing in whatever order I felt like writing them--a process I DON'T recommend, by the way. For my second book, which I've started, I'm attempting to come up with an outline. The problem is, I don't know what my characters are going to do until they do it! So I still haven't figured out the best way for me to go about this yet.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
The time between sending my first query and getting Hannah's offer was four months.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Thirteen. After ten query letters, and the rejection of my manuscript by the only agent who had asked for it, I took another look at my query and realized my story lacked a "hook." So I edited my manuscript--again--to give the characters a back story that ended up pulling everything together and made the story more compelling. With a revised query and manuscript, I sent out 3 more query letters, and got 2 requests for fulls within 24 hours.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I'd look at all the agents in an agency and pick the one that sounded like they'd like my book the most. A lot of times it was a gut feeling about a particular agent.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Yes! Each query I made felt like tailoring a resume. Usually I would change the first sentence ("Since you said on _____ that you're interested in ___..."), which doesn't sound like a big deal, but I'd agonize over the wording for hours. And if they had certain criteria, of course I'd follow that--unless they said something like, "Your pitch should be one paragraph long." I can't give my pitch in one paragraph!
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
A good query letter is everything. If your query is bad, it doesn't matter how many you send out. Post it on the QueryTracker forum and let people rip it to shreds. I posted mine here and the feedback was so helpful.

If you learn from the feedback that your whole plot needs work, don't be afraid to revise. The goal is to make your manuscript the best it can be.

Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Here is the one I sent to Hannah.

Dear Ms. Mann,

Since you said you liked "realistic and witty YA," I hope my YA romance, HOW TO BE THE BIG SPOON, will appeal to you.

Sixteen-year-old Jamie is sick of hearing how lucky he is to be gay. His best friend Riley has written dozens of stories starring Jamie and Parker, the only boy Jamie has ever kissed. It's not that Jamie isn't grateful for the imaginary world Riley created for him, a world he escaped to during his father's illness. It's just that Parker moved away two years ago, and finding a real-life boyfriend seems impossible.

Because unlike in Riley's stories, their rural Virginia high school isn't teeming with out queer guys, and Jamie knows he's not what anyone is looking for anyway: he's not tall enough, white enough, and definitely not masculine enough.

When Parker returns to town and into Jamie's life, Jamie thinks his dreams are finally coming true...until Parker says he's straight.

Life would be so much easier if Jamie were a girl. He could embrace his femininity. Take harp lessons. Be Parker's girlfriend. Jamie's offhand joke to Riley that they should switch bodies inspires Riley to write her magnum opus: a body swap story starring the two of them. In Riley's story, Jamie gets to try out an alternate life, where he can have everything he wants, but in real life, nothing is easy. Jamie has to learn how to grieve his father, keep himself from falling in love with Parker, and figure out what it means to be a man.

And when he starts taking harp lessons, Jamie is confused by his feelings for his irritating teacher Angus, with his emoji addiction and five thousand followers on social media. Aside from already being a brilliant musician at age seventeen, Angus is everything Jamie has tried not to be—even if, when Jamie is with Angus, he feels like he doesn't have to try at all.

HOW TO BE THE BIG SPOON is a 97,000-word young adult romance that will appeal to fans of Openly Straight and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. It has been reviewed by a professional editor. Although fictional, the story is inspired by my own quest to understand my gender identity. A former ______________, I now work at a ______________ in a position better suited for an introvert.

Please find the first ten pages below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Kate Warner