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An Interview with Natasha Neagle upon receiving an offer of representation.

08/06/2014

Natasha Neagle (natneagle on QT) has signed with agent Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc..

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
When I wrote my first novel, I realized the scenes my CPs liked the most were the action sequences. I decided to write a YA Contemporary Thriller with the intent of making your heart race and question who the real antagonist was. I also wanted to write something that emphasized diversity. There aren’t enough books on the shelves that represent what the real world looks like, so this novel has multiple LGBTQ characters, POC, and a character in wheelchair. It was important to me that this not be a coming out novel and showed the characters sexual orientation and disability as nothing more than an extension of who they were.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve always loved to write, but I didn’t try to write seriously until a few years ago. I was teaching middle school science and my students inspired me to write down one of my ideas.
How long have you been working on this book?
This is the fastest book I’ve ever written. I started it in February and wrote 50K. I took off three weeks in March to restore myself and then finished writing the novel the first week in April. In all, it took me approximately six weeks.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Definitely. My emotions were up and down like a crazy roller coaster when I wrote my novel. I hated it one day and loved it the next. Whenever I felt like giving up, I sent a message to my CPs. They reminded me why I loved my novel and that I didn’t want to give up. Worked every time.
Is this your first book?
This is my second book. The first book I wrote was a YA fantasy. I love it dearly, but it’s currently shelved. I wrote this novel while my fulls were being considered and was offered rep on this novel before hearing back on my fantasy. I hope to pull the fantasy back out one day.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I have a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. While I didn’t major in English or Writing in college, I took more Literature classes than required because who wouldn’t want to read awesome books for a grade? My master’s degree was writing intensive, but technical writing is different from writing fiction. I’d like to think my degrees help with my editing skills.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Write every day for as long as I can. I start writing as soon as I wake up. Sometimes I reread what I wrote the night before and other times I just push forward.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
When I finished writing my novel, I let it sit for six days. I couldn’t wait any longer. I sent it to one of my CPs. Once I received her feedback, I sent it to my first round beta readers. With their feedback in hand, I sent it to another CP. When she gave it her seal of approval, I started querying.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
I broke down my beta readers into first round and second round. However, I never used my second round beta readers. I had an overwhelming positive response to the novel and I didn’t feel it was necessary to hold off on querying.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I can’t function without an outline. My ADD brain would have my characters doing something completely unrelated if I didn’t follow an outline. Sometimes, I don’t always follow the outline, but I’m lost without it. This novel was very detailed in its outline. The novel I’m writing right now has an even more detailed outline. It’s made writing so much easier for me.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I started querying this book in the beginning of May and received full requests right away. My first offer of rep came two weeks later. When I sent out my emails informing the other agents I’d queried, I received another offer the next day because the agent stayed up all night reading the manuscript. My fantasy novel taught me patience, so I didn’t expect things to happen so fast.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
I queried a total of 32 agents, 7 of which never responded. Out of the 25 agents that did respond, 13 requested my full manuscript, 3 requested partials, 2 wanted R&Rs. I received 2 offers of rep.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Using QueryTracker and a few other websites, I made a list of the agents I wanted to query based on whether or not they repped YA, thriller’s, and/or LGBT. I did this while my novel was being read by my CPs. I also used #MSWL on twitter to see which agents were interested in thrillers and LGBT. I also knew I wanted a career agent vs a book agent, meaning I wanted an agent that offered a contract on me and not my book. There is no expiration on a career agent’s contract where there is with a book agent. Searching for this was much harder and I had to rely on word of mouth from agented authors.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Only if I’d interacted with them or had something to mention, such as #MSWL. For instance, I talked to many agents on twitter before I queried. I wanted to get to know them before I queried because I needed to know we’d get along. I’d mention something from a conversation or include a link to our twitter conversation if they recommended I query them.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Do NOT give up. Remember that the next book you write could be THE ONE. You’ll never know if you don’t try. Be open to feedback. You absolutely need to have at least two CPs that you’d be willing to bury a body for because they get your precious before it’s perfect.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Dear Andrea Somberg:

After her celebrity parents’ divorce, sixteen-year-old Arissa Jayne moves to the suburban hellhole of Innsbrooke, Florida and abandons the spotlight and drama for a quiet life. But Arissa's existence as Girl Invisible is threatened when she tutors Erica, a flirty cheerleader, and they find themselves discovering more about the chemistry between them than the periodic table.

That’s when the harassment starts. Except it’s not the usual gay-bashing Arissa’s dealt with before. Each mysterious text or tweet threatens violence. All signed by Secret. When Arissa tries to block Secret from contacting her, the texts progress to a car accident. And murder. With the police involved and the evidence pointing at Arissa, she must confront Secret or end up going down for crimes she didn’t commit.

Determined to find out who’s hell bent on destroying Arissa’s life, she and Erica set a trap to expose Secret’s identity. But in a town where nobody plays by the rules and everyone has something to hide, taking down Secret to clear Arissa’s name might cost them their lives.

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS is Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars Series meets Heathers for the LGBT community, a 79,000 word standalone YA Contemporary Thriller with series potential.

I am a former middle and high school science teacher with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Education/Curriculum & Instruction. I'm querying you after a twitter conversation between you and your client [name redacted] (https://twitter.com/andreasomberg/status/[redacted]). Below are the first five pages per your submission guidelines.

Thank you for your time and consideration.