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An Interview with Nicole Clarke upon receiving an offer of representation.


Nicole Clarke (nicoleleigh 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?
The House in the Trees is women's fiction that deals with several mental health issues, including eating disorders and teen depression. I think these issues are worth discussing (and some have affected my life personally), so it's nice to find an agent who understands and connects with the story.
How long have you been writing?
Like most authors, I've been writing my whole life. I've been writing novels, though, for a little over a year.
How long have you been working on this book?
It took me about three months to write this book. (I actually wrote it while I was querying my first book.) After I wrote it, I put it away for about two weeks before revising (which took another week or two). Then it took another month for my beta readers to read and for me to revise again. So, all in all, I'd say I worked on it for about 5-6 months.
Is this your first book?
No. As I mentioned above, I wrote one book before this one, and I even queried it. Obviously, it didn't land me an agent, but after finishing my current book, I'm glad it didn't. I think writing novels takes a different mindset than writing most other things, and it took me that whole first book to really figure out my "voice." I don't think I'd ever want that first book out in the world with my name on it!
Do you have any formal writing training?
No, unless you count my high school journalism class.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Not particularly. I work full-time, so I mostly write at lunch or in the evening. I suppose that can be considered a schedule, but it's definitely one that chose me rather than the other way around!
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I never rewrote it, but I did edit it a lot, as I have the (probably not very good) habit of constantly editing. Usually, before I begin writing for the day, I re-read what I wrote the day before and make changes as I go. In addition to that, I read this book all the way through twice (again, making changes as I went). I also made some changes, including adding a few new scenes, based on my beta readers' comments.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes, and they were awesome! I can't imagine going through this process without them.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
When I started writing, I had a general idea of how the story would end, but I didn't outline more than that. Once I was about 75% of the way through the story, though, I outlined the rest (really just to see how many words I'd likely finish with). So both, I guess!
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I queried my first book for about 3 months. During that time, I queried about 65 agents, and I think I got one full request and a handful of partials. For this book, I only queried for about a month and a half before I accepted my agent's offer of representation (and actually, she was the very first person I sent my query to). I sent 25 queries for this book, and I received 5 full requests and 3 partial requests.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Obviously, I only picked agents who represent women's fiction. Other than that, though, I researched each agent briefly to make sure he or she had a track record of selling books, and I also looked at the agent's social media to make sure he or she seemed like someone I could work with. Also (and I'm not sure if I should say this), I tried to only query people who send responses one way or another. I hate waiting for a response that I don't know will ever even come!
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Just slightly. In the first paragraph of my letter, I would include the reason I queried that particular agent. For example, the agent I eventually signed with had liked my #PitMad tweet, so I made sure to include that!
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Yes, of course! See below:

Dear [Agent],

[Reason why I am querying, specific to agent]. Complete at just over 75,000 words, THE HOUSE IN THE TREES is a cross between Jodi Picoult’s subject matter (think PERFECT MATCH) and Liane Moriarty’s tone (for example, as in WHAT ALICE FORGOT).

Meredith Bowman’s very ex-husband is trying to steal her son. Well, he’s technically trying to win sole custody of seven-year-old Henry, but he’s certainly fighting dirty to get his way. For example, he’s acting as if Meredith is the bad guy, as if Henry’s poor marks in English class are somehow a cry for help. But her son’s disinterest in grammar surely isn’t because of her—at least, she hopes it isn’t.

As the battle for Henry’s custody wages on, Meredith struggles to balance her growing self-doubt as a mother with her ferocious desire to keep her son. Yet, Meredith never suspects that the biggest threat to Henry’s well-being might be teaching him English from Meredith’s dining room chair. Henry’s nineteen-year-old summer tutor, Wynn, secretly suffers from depression and plans on ending the summer with the one thing that will end it all for her permanently. But when Wynn’s plan goes astray, endangering Henry instead of herself, custody suddenly becomes the least of Meredith’s concerns. Now, the only thing that matters is saving her son’s life.

THE HOUSE IN THE TREES is upmarket fiction told from four points of view—Meredith’s, Henry’s, Wynn’s, and Wynn’s father’s.

[Personal bio.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.