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An Interview with Michelle E Reed upon receiving an offer of representation.


Michelle E Reed (Michelle_in_WI on QT) has signed with agent Zabe Ellor of Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
I wrote a multi-POV contemporary YA called FINDING OUR WAY TO AFTER, and it's the story of two best friends trying to rebuild their lives and their friendship after one is accidentally shot by the other's dad. Gun culture is a huge part of American life, so this sort of situation seemed inevitable. We hear about gun violence every day, but don't seem to take the time to consider the aftermath, which is what inspired me to write this story.
How long have you been writing?
I have stories I wrote as a young child that my parents have kept all these years later, so I would say I've been writing my whole life. But I've been writing seriously, with the intent of finding an audience other than just myself, for about ten years.
How long have you been working on this book?
I started writing the first draft in July 2018, so just over a year ago. Before I started that first draft, I spent several months writing freehand in a notebook in order to figure out each character's unique voice, which was especially important for a multi-POV story. I sent the polished draft out to beta readers in late-November, and did another round of revisions and a final polish, based on feedback before I queried.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Oh, definitely! You hear it all the time, but it's really true that the people who succeed are the ones who don't quit. Writing is a lonely endeavor so much of the time, and querying is really tough. Rejection stings, especially when you've worked so hard, and it can seem like you're never going to find someone who loves your story like you do. There were so many times when I almost quit, but I would go back to why I started writing in the first place. If you don't believe in yourself, it's hard to get anyone else to. A lot of authors I admire and follow keep saying "It only takes one yes" and that's absolutely true. So I focused on finding my one yes.
Is this your first book?
I have a YA fantasy series that was previously published through a small press, but I subsequently got the rights to the series back. FINDING OUR WAY TO AFTER is the fifth book I've written.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I do not. I've relied heavily on finding great critique partners, reading A LOT, and always working to level-up my writing.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I work as a property manager by day, and have a husband and son, so my schedule can be hit or miss. I write whenever I can, and try to make time every day for writing, even if it's just twenty minutes here or an hour there. I do try to find as much time as I can, and I'm fortunate to have a writing room in our home where I can work without (much) distraction.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I did a first draft and then two rounds of revisions before I sent it to my trusted beta readers, and then one rewrite/polish before sending out queries.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes. They are absolutely a must!
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I'm a "pantser" all the way. I have a rough idea of where I want the story to go, but I don't outline.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I began querying in January, and received Zabe's offer of representation on July 19th during "The Call," so about six and a half months total. The book previous to this I queried for almost a year before withdrawing it and focusing on querying FINDING OUR WAY TO AFTER.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Per QueryTracker, 64.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I made sure to query the agents who had made full and partial requests on my previous manuscript, but more than anything, I curated a list very carefully, based on genre, reputation, and I relied heavily on MSWL. I read every interview I could find. Another thing I did was send my first batch of queries to fast-responding agents. That way I knew I'd get a good idea pretty quickly as to whether or not my query was working.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Yes, whenever possible. I spent hours researching agents. HOURS. I would read every interview I could find, scour their MSWL and Twitter, and always try to reference an interview I'd read, an MSWL item that matched, or any other connection I could make that would let them know I wasn't just carelessly querying everyone out there.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Do your research. For example, don't send your YA horror to an agent who is only seeking picture books and non fiction. Don't query before you're ready. You only get one chance with an agent, so if you query them before your letter and your pages are polished to a shine, you've wasted your shot. Read the entire Query Shark archives. As hard as it is, be patient. Most importantly, don't give up! It really does take just one yes!
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Dear [AGENT],


Lucy Singer has just been shot by her best friend's dad.

Lucy is sixteen and has dedicated her life to preparing for a career as a comic book illustrator. The damage to her arm means she'll never draw again.

Alicia, her best friend, is devastated by the shooting, but how can she not stand up for her dad? After all, he was the “good guy with a gun” trying to stop the Dairee Mart robbery. He didn't mean to shoot Lucy.

From school to the media, everyone is choosing sides. Problem is, nobody's choosing Alicia, and she can't share her deepest secret with the one person she needs to tell the most. She's in love for the first time in her life—with Lucy's sister—but can't possibly tell Lucy about it now.

Lucy has plenty of her own problems. Obviously. She can't draw, her mom's cashiering job isn't going to cover the massive expense of almost bleeding to death, and she has no idea if she can ever forgive Alicia's dad for pulling the trigger. The new senior at their school, who happens to be exactly Lucy's type, might be just who she needs. A talented photographer who understands loss, Chance has finally landed the perfect foster care placement after a lifetime of failures and abuse. But he has a huge secret that could destroy the life he's building, and the girl he's falling for.

An 81,000 word contemporary YA, FINDING OUR WAY TO AFTER is told in alternating first person points of view that dive deep into the fallout of American gun culture. It will appeal to fans of The Radius of Us and I Have Lost My Way.


Thank you for your time and consideration.