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An Interview with Laury A Egan upon receiving an offer of representation.

05/07/2016

Laury A Egan (laury5 on QT) has signed with agent Philip Spitzer of Philip G. Spitzer Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
A Bittersweet Tale is a psychological suspense novel constructed around a mystery whose truths unfold from several angles; a rough-cut puzzle that defies perfect assembly. (55,000 words.) One morning, I woke with a name buzzing around in my mind: Jango Jacks. I sat down at the computer, typed the name, and suddenly I could see and hear him, knew his history and what would happen. One of the easiest tales I've ever written, though I did rewrite quite a bit.
How long have you been writing?
I began writing poetry at age seven, completed my first novel at age 13, and composed short stories in high school. I veered into book design for many years, then returned to writing fiction 23 years ago.
How long have you been working on this book?
About 1.5 years, though it's hard to tell since I worked on it in stages. It was a short story first, published by Short Story America and then included in my collection, Fog and Other Stories. I picked it up several years later, thinking to make it into a novella, but it became a novel instead.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
No, not for this novel. The "voice" of the narrator was a fine guide, though I've never met a man like Jango Jacks.
Is this your first book?
No. My first novel, a psychological suspense, Jenny Kidd, was published by Vagabondage Press. My second, The Outcast Oracle, and my collection, Fog and Other Stories, were issued by Humanist Press. Three volumes of poetry have been published by FootHills: The Sea & Beyond, Snow, Shadows, a Stranger, and Beneath the Lion's Paw.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Not really, though I worked as a book designer for Princeton University Press and later as a freelancer for 20 university presses--so I picked up a great deal of editorial knowledge over the years as well as understanding about publishing.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I usually work 7 days a week, beginning in the morning until about 5:30 pm. Some of this may include editing, polishing, or promotion.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Probably did 25-30 drafts, some of it very fine line editing. At the agent's suggestion, I've just written two alternative endings.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Sometimes. For this title, I did pay a professional reader to review the big picture (not the line editing), and the short story was commented upon by the editor of Short Story America.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I never outline. This book was a complicated mystery which I revised after my professional reader suggested a few structural changes. I try to let the writing flow organically. I like to be surprised (part of the enjoyment) and hope the reader will feel the same way.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Submissions were made since December 2014, but the novel was revised when the first batch wasn't successful. So the process wasn't continuous. For other books, I average between 75-125 queries over a year. When I've given up, I've turned to small publishers, which is much easier than finding an experienced literary agent.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
97 query letters.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I used QueryTracker for most of my research--such a helpful, brilliant tool! Searched for agents interested in psychological suspense with a literary sensibility, preferring NY agents, though I also queried others in the Northeast.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I tailored the beginning of the letters when I could find a specific reason to do so, either from their biographies or from their comments about work they liked. Sometimes, I read articles in writing magazines that tipped me toward a particular agent.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
1) Use Query Tracker (Premium)--a fantastic tool. For me, with 5 novels under submission at the same time, this was a huge help. 2) Personalize your letter as much as possible. Agents are sick of getting generic queries. 3) Don't be lazy. Sending out a handful of subs won't cut it. 4) Polish your work so it's as close to perfect as possible, especially the first pages. Mistakes, sloppy stylistic writing, poor grammar and punctuation will sink your query fast.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

A Bittersweet Tale is a psychological suspense novel constructed around a mystery whose truths unfold from several angles; a rough-cut puzzle that defies perfect assembly.

The deck has always been stacked against you. Then an attractive woman promises love, respect, employment, and a home. Wouldn’t you be hooked? Jango Jacks is.

Jango is a fifty-three-year-old Korean War vet, balladeer, and sweet-natured fellow who left kith and kin in Kentucky decades ago. On a hot August day in 1984, he lands in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, pockets empty, hungry, and in need of a job. After answering an advertisement for a farmhand, he is hired by a recent widow, Audrey Dalton, and is immediately charmed by her; surprisingly, Audrey also seems entranced and prepares him a candlelit dinner, which turns into an evening of love. Jango considers ending his tumbleweed ways and settling down after decades of roaming. The next morning, however, Audrey confesses that she killed her husband, George, in self-defense. Jango sympathizes until he realizes he’s being set up for the murder and that Audrey has another lover in the wings, Shef, who may be George’s real killer. Or is he? And is Shef her only lover? With the best intentions, Jango attempts to solve the mysteries swirling around Audrey until he fathoms that he is no longer just the fall guy. He is now the target.

A Bittersweet Tale begins as a romance reminiscent of The Bridges of Madison County but then spirals into a psychological study of a good man struggling with past demons, who, when he finally understands he is worthy of love and is willing to make a commitment, loses the woman, yet gains wisdom and newfound hope.

A story of authenticity versus artifice, the novel illustrates the old saw, “looks are deceiving,” as police, clergy, and society exhibit prejudiced behavior toward Jango based solely on his appearance, whereas those who are well-heeled are able to hide immoral personalities behind pretty façades, sometimes using religion as a shield to disguise hypocrisy and pathology.

“What a story! A plot that twists and turns in ways I never expected or even suspected. Characters so complex you really wish you could meet them in person. And superb writing that brings A Bittersweet Tale to life.”—Dr. Helga Schier, former Executive Editor, Random House

I would be delighted to send you the complete manuscript (56,145 words) or sample chapters.