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An Interview with Michelle Painchaud upon receiving an offer of representation.


Michelle Painchaud (ex_machina on QT) has signed with agent Jessica Faust of BookEnds, LLC.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
PRETENDING TO BE ERICA is a YA contemporary set in Las Vegas. It follows a girl, Violet, raised as a conman by her adoptive conman father. She pretends to be a missing girl to steal a priceless painting from the grieving family, but falls in love with the missing girl’s world. Part of the idea was hatched when I watched an episode of In Plain Sight - a girl pretended to be a missing child to leech off the mother’s wealth. Right after, I watched Ocean’s Eleven and knew I had to set it in Vegas. It just spiraled from there.
How long have you been writing?
I told stories to my fellow Brownie Girl Scouts in the car at five. And then paper came into the picture and everyone was doomed.
How long have you been working on this book?
I started writing PRETENDING TO BE ERICA on March 2nd, 2012. I did one revision based on feedback and was finished April 1st.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I wanted to give up every day of the three years it took to get around to writing ‘the one’. The lovely support of the ladies at LitBitches (writer’s group) was instrumental. I also refused to give up, because I’m stubborn like that. I had to keep writing until something worked. I needed to know I was writing for a reason.
Is this your first book?
No. PRETENDING TO BE ERICA is my sixth finished novel.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I wrote a massive Pokemon fan fiction in middle and high school, does that count? (Nerd pride!) Besides a few high school classes, formal writing training, for me, was gleaned through reading books and seeing what worked grammatically/syntactically/stylistically.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I write everyday, usually on my cellphone, since words start flowing into my brain and I’m not near the computer. Somedays it’s 10k words, others it’s 500. It’s become a compulsion to write words - a need. An itch I hope I never scratch.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Just once, but that’s because it was a contemporary. Usually my fantasy works take 3-4 revisions for worldbuilding. But you always nitpick at the small things, you know? You get bored, open the word document, take out a few ‘ands’. Stuff like that.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
I have a brutally snarky-honest nemesis who’s my unofficial alpha reader. I have a wonderful support group called the LitBitches comprised of agented/unagented writers, and they’re the betas.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Definitely write from the hip. I can’t work with outlines at all. I’m appalled at myself at all times, I assure you.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I started querying ERICA April 14th, and got the offer May 11th. Before then, I wrote and queried my five other books for three years.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
61 queries, 5 of those from contests. ERICA was an anomaly - for each of my other five books, I queried well over 100.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I picked the drop down menu on QT and hit Young Adult. Not the smoothest, or classiest, I know. But I did get picky when it came to online presence - if they didn’t have one, I didn’t query. I also stayed away from agents who asked for a synopsis. Those things are scary.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I prefer not to waste the agent’s time with pleasantries. They’re terribly busy people as it is.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Kick yourself in the butt all the time. If you aren’t harsh on yourself, how can you handle it when agents/crit partners/publishers are? Save yourself the heartache and be your own toughest critic.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Dear Agent Awesome,

Erica Silverman has it all - wild popularity, debutante beauty, scintillating smarts. But she can’t tell the truth.

That her name is Violet, not Erica.

That she’s sixteen, not seventeen.

That the real Erica Silverman, the one who was kidnapped at the age of four, is dead.

Violet is pretending to be Erica. She has DNA from the body the police haven’t even found, plastic surgery, and convincing memories. Violet is her conman father’s protégé, and this is their last sting - trick Erica’s mother into giving Violet the code to a priceless painting. But Violet falls in love with Erica’s life - the sweet mother, horde of good friends, and the witty six-foot-something who pushes her away but still blushes. Violet’s never had a life on the straight and narrow. She burns for it.

Violet wants to steal the painting and run. Erica wants to stay and live a lie. The girl torn between them fights to keep sane - money, or her soul? Security, or love?

Violet, or Erica?

PRETENDING TO BE ERICA, my YA/Contemporary finished at 64k, is pitched as Matchstick Men meets Veronica Mars, with a slight literary twist. Thank you for your time.