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An Interview with Kristal Shaff upon receiving an offer of representation.

Kristal Shaff (Kristal on QT) has signed with agent Katie Menick of .

How long have you been writing?
I have been writing for about 2 1/2 years (right when I started this novel).
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I don’t think I ever thought about giving up. I’m too stubborn for that. However, there were times where I had questioned why I was putting myself through it, especially during the stress of finding a literary agent.
Is this your first book?
How long have you been working on this book?
It took me two years to complete.
Do you have any formal writing training?
No. But I’ve spent most of my life loving to read. And I am also a very creative person by nature. It was only a matter of time before I linked my creativity and my love of books together.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
In the writing of this particular book, I’d stick a movie in for my kids and I’d have that time. I would make myself sit down every day, even if I wasn’t in the mood. Once I pushed through my own resistance, it would flow.
How many times did you re-write/edit your novel?
I completed probably around eight drafts. Going from the first to the second was the hardest. My first draft came in at a whopping 195k, and by the time I finished my last draft, it ended at around 120k.
Did you have beta readers for your novel?
There was my husband, of course, who always was helpful and an annoyance at the same time. He is a trove of information, and he would frequently set me to the right path of realism. I also had one online friend who was with me the whole time, and read through my novel after my second draft. I had several others who read through it at the end.
Did you outline your novel, or do you write from the hip?
I have a general idea of where I want it to go: beginning, ending, primary plot points. Then I write and fill in the gaps. So I guess it was a combination of both.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I started the query process at the end of December 2007, so it took me almost six months.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Initially, I selected agents of my favorite authors. Then I relied a lot on the QT database to select my agents.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I did at first. But as my list progressed, I knew less about the agents as some keep a low profile. However, I did change portions of the query to match the agency’s submission guidelines.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Do your homework. Read books on writing. Research how to write a good query letter. Read agent blogs to see what they are looking for.

Hone your craft. Network with online critique groups, and be open to criticism. But even when you are open, be true to yourself as a writer and your voice. Don’t be too abrupt in finishing your book. Make your first 5 pages, and then first 3 chapters shine. They will be the most important.

Be patient. When you are ready to submit to agents, be patient. I flew off six queries that ended up having a spelling error on them. Go slowly with your submissions. Do 5 or so at a time, then wait for a response, filling in your empty slots as they trickle in. Turn your query over to the QT forum to rip to shreds. And only then, send it off. And if you don’t get good responses from your query, redo it. I truly believe that a good query letter (most of the time) needs lots of eyes to see it from many viewpoints. It is easy for YOU to understand your story, but others need to do so as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for that help.

Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Um, yes… However, I warn you, I believe my book was sold on my pages rather than my query letter. Query letter writing was/is not my strong suit. I probably had 5 different versions, with little response. My agent had asked for 3 chapters with the query. So I will share the query I sent to her, though it was more than likely my pages that attracted her attention.

Dear Ms. Menick,

My novel, THE EMISSARY, is a superhero story set in a medieval fantasy realm. The land is bestowed with six rare, superhuman abilities called Shay powers: Strength, Empathy, Precision, Healing, Perception, and Speed.

Nolan, a scribe, prepares for the Tournament of Awakening, an annual trial which brings forth dormant Shay powers. But when a deserter to the king's army is captured and senses Nolan's hidden power of Perception, his monotonous, yet secure, world comes undone. Knowing that all Shay users are required to join the king's elite army, Nolan fears that his traitorous actions will be exposed. But instead of proclaiming his secret, the prisoner befriends him, pleads for his help, and also enlightens him to the gradual disappearance of the land's beloved Shays. At first, they suspect the ageless and Shay empowered king is responsible. But when the first of six Shay stones is discovered, the real source is revealed. And the solution, which the stones bring to light, does not only restore their abilities, but transforms Nolan far beyond what any of them had imagined.

Completed at 120,000 words, I believe THE EMISSARY will appeal to readers of Brandon Sanderson, Kristen Britain, and Jim Butcher (specifically his Codex Alera series), as well as those who are fond of NBC's television show Heroes.

Thank you for your consideration. I have included the first 3 chapters, and hope I can share the remainder of the completed manuscript with you.


Kristal Shaff