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An Interview with Karen Duvall upon receiving an offer of representation.

Karen Duvall (KarenDuvall on QT) has signed with agent Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein of McIntosh & Otis, Inc..

How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first novel about 15 years ago, but I've been writing since I was a little kid.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Absolutely. But I never gave up completely. I'd take long breaks between projects. What helped me stay on course was the inability to stop writing. I had the bug and it wouldn't go away.
Is this your first book?
The manuscript that got me this agent is actually my fifth book. I've had two books published with two different small presses, but I'm setting my sights higher now and knew I'd need a good agent to help me reach my goal.
How long have you been working on this book?
Hard to say because I scrapped the first version when I got about 150 pages in. I loved the characters and the world I'd created, but the plot wasn't working. So I kept the characters and the world, and started a whole new book beginning from page one. The final version took me 4 months to complete. I typed "the end" on December 31st of 2007.
Do you have any formal writing training?
No. I have a degree in graphic design and that's what I do for a living.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I endeavored to write 750 to 1000 words every day. It was the best way for me to stay immersed in the story. If I stayed away from it for too long, I'd lose my momentum and would have to reread several chapters back to re-engage myself, and that wasted valuable writing time.
How many times did you re-write/edit your novel?
I polished as I went along. But once I was finished with the first draft, I ended up going through it for final tweaks about four times.
Did you have beta readers for your novel?
I had critique partners, but no beta readers. I'd feed my crit pals a chapter at a time a couple of times a month, but they never made it through the whole book before I got my agent. So the last half of the manuscript never got critiqued. That's not something I'd advise others to do, though.
Did you outline your novel, or do you write from the hip?
I do a combination of the two. I write a very rough synopsis before starting the book and it ends up being about five pages long. I know my beginning and my end, but that's all. I do, however, spend a lot of time getting to know my characters before I begin. I do character interviews and completely flesh them out before I set a single word on the page. The plot develops as I write the story.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I started querying agents on this book at the end of January 2008. So it took me about 4 months to get an agent. Previous books were unrepresented when I sold them to the small presses that published them.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
My criteria was actually pretty thin. The agent had to rep my genre, of course (urban fantasy), and not be red-flagged by Preditors and Editors. And I wanted them to have a few fiction sales so I'd know they had the contacts. I avoided agents whom I'd heard stories about that made me think I couldn't work well with them. Horror stories are everywhere. I'm thankful for agent blogs that show an agent's true colors, which aren't always so rosy.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I tried to, but it wasn't possible for all of them. Many agents, like the one who offered me representation, keep low profiles.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Research as many agents as possible. Polish your query letter within an inch of its life. And make sure your book is the best it can be before sending it out. I knew my query was working when I received several requests for partials of my manuscript, and seven full requests. So work as hard on your query as you did on the book itself. It really pays off.
Here is your chance to plug your book. Tell us a little about it.
Sure! It's an 80,000 word urban fantasy and here's the pitch I used in my query letter:

Half angel and half human, Chalice knows that inheriting powers from your parents has its drawbacks. It's the reason she's abducted by a sorcerer, then taken to Chicago, where she's forced to use her supernatural senses to steal cursed objects for her kidnapper.

As much as Chalice would like to tell her magical master to go to hell, it won't do her any good. She's branded with a gargoyle's curse and it takes a lick from the creature's tongue every three days to keep her from changing into the bat-winged devil of her nightmares. The only way to break the curse is to kill the gargoyle. Problem is, gargoyles are supposed to be immortal. Her fallen angel father gives her the secret for killing the beast, but freedom won't come without cost. Everything has its price, and for Chalice, the currency is death.