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An Interview with Krista Van Dolzer upon receiving an offer of representation.

01/21/2016

Krista Van Dolzer (KristaVanDolzer on QT) has signed with agent Brent Taylor of Triada US Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
It's a loose retelling of Esther based around a summer camp. In a nutshell, my main character sets out for an art camp and accidentally winds up at a math camp, where she becomes embroiled in a (murder?) mystery. I like doing biblical retellings in contemporary settings (see DON'T VOTE FOR ME below), so this concept seemed like the next logical step.
How long have you been writing?
Technically, since I was eight. Practically, since 2007, after my first child was born. That was when I really buckled down and set out to write a book that could be published nationally.
How long have you been working on this book?
I probably spent nine or ten months working on this manuscript: two months to write the first two drafts and another seven or eight to fix the problems I created:) Based on reader feedback, I ended up reworking significant portions of the manuscript, so it underwent at least one major revision.
Is this your first book?
No, I've actually published two other novels for middle grade readers, THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2015) and DON'T VOTE FOR ME (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2015). And of course, I've written many, many more.
Do you have any formal writing training?
No, I studied Mathematics Education and Economics in college.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I like to say I'm a stay-at-home mom by day and a children's author by bedtime, so I typically write in the afternoons and evenings, when my kids are sleeping.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Absolutely! Every writer needs someone--or a few someones--who will help her get out of her own head and see things from a fresh perspective.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I've tried both, and at the moment, I prefer writing from the hip. I have to get the first draft out while I'm still in love with the concept, or I might give up on the whole thing.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I sent my first batch of queries on the first Saturday in January and had my first offer by the following Tuesday, but that is nowhere near my norm. DON'T SOLVE THIS PUZZLE is the fifth manuscript I've queried, so I've had a lot of time to fail--uh, learn. The first three manuscripts I queried didn't receive any offers of representation, and the fourth, which went on to sell as THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING, received two after four months.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Twenty-two.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Because I've had an agent, I had a better idea of what I was looking for this time around. I certainly wanted an agent who had the contacts to sell books, but I prioritized agents who were closer to the beginning of their careers. There's something to be said for knowledge and experience, but there's also something to be said for energy and enthusiasm.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I've tailored the queries I've written for other manuscripts, but because I had more to say in the housekeeping paragraphs of this query, I opted to focus on the manuscript and let the story speak for itself.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
The only quality that all published authors share is perseverance. Keep banging your head against that brick wall, and sooner or later (usually later), it will tumble to the ground. (Not that I discourage so-called quitting. People change, and dreams change, too. THERE IS NO SHAME IN CHOOSING A NEW PATH.)
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sure, here it is:

Twelve-year-old Esther Lambert can't wait to get to Camp Vermeer, the most prestigious art camp on this side of the Louvre. The workshops are named after famous artists, the cabins are works of art themselves, and the director called Esther’s portfolio “a mixed-media sensation.” But Camp Vermeer will have to wait after her stepdad drives up the wrong mountain and slides their truck into a boulder. Now they’re stuck at a math camp until he can find a way to fix it.

Esther tries to make new friends, but the other campers think she's brainless. Determined to prove them wrong, she tackles the Problem of the Camp, an impossible brain-teaser that's supposed to take all week. When she solves it in a single day (using diagrams, no less), the other campers happily assimilate her into their circle—and a would-be killer sets her in his sights.

At first, she ignores the cryptic note she finds tacked to her least favorite boulder. She even tells herself the clues that keep popping up around the lodge can't possibly be real. But when a fellow camper disappears, followed closely by her stepdad, Esther vows to solve the puzzle. She may not know who to trust, but she knows she can trust herself.

If she doesn't wind up dead.