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An Interview with Kimberlee Turley upon receiving an offer of representation.

03/11/2012

Kimberlee Turley (clutzattack on QT) has signed with agent Kathleen Ortiz of New Leaf Literary & Media.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
NOTE TO SELF is a gaslamp fantasy novel where a seventeen-year-old girl finds threatening notes in her circus costume and thinks she’s being haunted by the ghost of the magician’s last assistant. She doesn’t realize she’s the one writing the notes to warn herself: she’s next.

In December 2009, I was shopping at Target and fell in love with a pair of late 19th century inspired boots and knew my next novel was going to have bustles and corsets. I love gaslamp fantasy/steampunk because it lets me mix historical and speculative fiction together.

How long have you been writing?
I completed my first 60,000 word “children’s” novel when I was in the eighth grade. After that I dabbled in fanfiction. I started writing with a serious goal of becoming a career author when I was nineteen.
How long have you been working on this book?
Three years. (Eighteen months writing the first draft, and another six revising, then a year querying.)
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
When I queried Kathleen with this, it was in my last round of querying. I told myself if an agent didn’t offer representation I would put the novel aside and turn my focus to helping my husband achieve his dream of opening a self-serve frozen yogurt shop.

My goal has always been to write the best story I could. Getting an agent or finding a publisher is a nice social acknowledgment of that achievement, but it’s only one way to define success. My husband loves frozen yogurt, but his real goal is to be his own boss.

I write for the love of story telling---and to keep the voices out of my head.

Is this your first book?
I have shelved one book before this, and written a few other things that will never see the light of a glowing computer screen ever again.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I think beta reading should count. I noticed that the greatest improvement to my writing occurred when I started critiquing other people’s work. When something didn’t work and I had to give a name to it, the struggle to explain gave me a better understanding of the mechanics of a story. I then tried to avoid the same pitfalls.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I’ve burned dinner a few times because I’ve been trying to write and cook at the same time. I squeeze it into every opportunity I can get. I start by drafting the scene/scenes on lined paper (which I always have on me) and then I arrange it in a binder based on chronological order. When I find time to get my laptop out, usually on the weekend, I flesh out my paper notes.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
My current draft is labeled 7.2 . However, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve combed through it from start to finish. It’s at least over 86, and I edit a lot while I write.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
A few, with two in particular I couldn’t have survived this process without. Their support and daily emails keep me from going crazy during the period of an otherwise empty inbox. It’s been a treat reading their novels and getting their feedback on anything and everything under the sun.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Definitely from the hip. I had a good idea of how the story would start, the resolution that would mark the end, and a few elements I wanted to incorporate. If my outline process were a piece of architecture, it would be the Winchester Mystery House. Thankfully, I’ve always been able to bring order to the chaos during revisions.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I got my welcome letter from Kathleen Ortiz of NCLA almost thirteen months from the date I posted my first query for NOTE TO SELF in the QT forums. I did take the summer off and spent some time letting the novel sit between revisions.

I spent just over a year querying my first novel and have put it aside with plans to rewrite it as MG.

On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I have a complex algorithm I used which can be found in the following QT forum thread: http://querytracker.net/forum/index.php?topic=9003.msg119148#msg119148
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I try to, and I shamefully didn’t personalize my query to Kathleen Ortiz even though she was on my *10-Pink-Heart* agent list. I think I was too intimidated to write how amazing I thought she was in case she’d mistake me for a psycho stalker. (Sort of guilty)

When I do personalize I might comment on a book they recommended on their blog that I read and loved, or if I read an interview about them I’ll mention the source and the particular fact about the agent that resonated with me most.

What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
I am a huge advocate of participating in online blog contests and pitch contests. Agents that participate in these contests are more likely to provide helpful feedback than if queried through the slush pile.

Also, avoid querying agents who attend conferences in the summer. They are always swamped and will give less attention to reading than other seasons of the year.

Would you be willing to share your query with us?

When eighteen-year-old Gracie Heart gets caught stealing a ride on a circus train, she expects to get in trouble. Instead, she is given a job as the magician's assistant. Jack, the circus’s magician and knife thrower, is charismatic and genteel, but his aim isn’t perfect…hence the position opening.

After each performance, Gracie finds threatening notes hidden in her costume. At first she thinks she’s being haunted by the ghost of the last assistant, but Gracie soon realizes she’s the one writing the notes to warn herself: she’s next.

Each time Gracie steps inside the magician’s vanishing closet, she is transported from the late nineteenth century to Laputa, a futuristic world of gemstone-powered technology. While there, she discovers the last assistant’s death might not have been an accident, and that the computer keeping the world in existence needs “heartstones” to keep the time compression fields from collapsing. Every living person has a heartstone and Gracie’s is highly desired by Laputa’s dubious ruler. The problem is, each time Gracie steps back through the closet, she forgets everything.

Gracie suspects Jack and his identical twin know something about her reoccurring déjà vu and the cryptic notes, but she’s not sure which brother she can confide in. She has several reasons not to trust either, and even more cause to believe one of them holds the answer she needs to save herself from insanity. Unfortunately, there seems no definite way to tell them apart.

A second death on the circus lot makes one thing clear: if Gracie can’t figure out the mystery of the notes, her next venue might be the afterlife.