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An Interview with Olivia Hinebaugh upon receiving an offer of representation.

05/25/2014

Olivia Hinebaugh (Olivia_H on QT) has signed with agent Carrie Howland of Empire Literary, LLC.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
LEAVING PEACESYLVANIA is a Contemporary YA novel about a girl who has grown up on a hippie commune but decides to go to public school.
How long have you been writing?
I've always been making up stories, but I first started taking it seriously when I studied playwriting and screenwriting in college. Then life happened, jobs, babies, and I started seriously working on writing Young Adult novels about two and a half years ago.
How long have you been working on this book?
I started in October 2013, wrote a good portion of it for NaNoWriMo. Started doing pitch contests and querying it in March 2014.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
In terms of writing this book: I fell out of love with this story at one point. I have a wonderful CP who told me to focus on those moments of the story I loved and find some new music to listen to. It helped me rediscover what I loved.

In terms of finding an agent: I signed with an agent for my last book and it ended up not being a good fit. It was hard to leave an agent who was representing a book you love and start from square one, but I listened to my gut. And I'm so happy now with where I am.

Is this your first book?
This is my third completed manuscript. Like a lot of other writers, I found that writing that first one came with a steep learning curve. I wasn't clear on the category. It had four points of view. I still love the story and the characters, but it would need major work to clarify its audience.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Yes, but it is with scriptwriting.
Do you follow a writing 'routine' or schedule?
I wish I could have more of a routine, but I have to steal time whenever I can since I'm a work-at-home-mom. This means if the kids are sleeping, I write. If the kids are watching Phineas and Ferb, I write. I do like having tea or coffee.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
My first draft was 92,000 words, and I cut it down to 75,000 words before sending it to beta readers. I had two rounds of betas with revisions in between. Since signing with my agent I have done two more rounds of revisions.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Aside from my family (who loved it, obviously) and my critique partner, I had five beta readers.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I'm a total pantser. I don't draft super quickly (this one was four months of serious writing) because I only ever know a scene or two ahead of time. But these characters were very real and they had conversations that were natural and led to natural places. So I just go with it. I like the feeling of possibility when I sit down not knowing how everything will play out.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I was only querying this book for two weeks. I realize that's insane. My first offer came less than 24 hours after the query sent (which was upgraded to a full)

Previous books is sort of hard to figure out. I was querying my last book for a couple months before I signed with my previous agent. Then when we split, I queried that book for another month before moving onto Leaving Peacesylvania.

About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
I sent out 12. I got 3 full requests from contests and 1 from the slush.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
After my last experience, I was really clear with what I wanted. I wanted someone with good sales, who knew the YA market. I also wanted someone who had the support of a larger agency. And mostly I wanted someone I could work with editorially.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Absolutely. I made sure I mentioned any interaction we've had or if I had referrals or recommendations from their current clients. I read as many interviews as I could for each agent and if they had said something specific that I thought would fit my book, I mentioned that.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
The biggest for me is that if/when you get "The Call," really know what you're looking for. And you don't want to sign with someone unless you really know that they love the book and will do what they have to to get it in the hands of readers (and make you some money!)

Also, something I found really helpful was making a website during my query search. I wanted to be easy to find (and easy to twitter-stalk). I set up a site that had links to samples of writing (I write parenting articles) but also had pitches for all my projects. When Carrie had read all those pitches and was excited about all my projects, I knew it was a good fit.

Would you be willing to share your query with us?
I had a couple versions, but here's the query I sent Carrie.

Lark is the perfect hippie, growing up on a picturesque commune, celebrating individuality, frolicking in peace and free love. Except she can’t stop thinking that there’s more to life than permissive parents and low expectations. She wants to experience the real world and challenge herself. No more of this Kumbaya, grow-your-own-food, down-with-the-man stuff.

She rebels in a big way: public school. Despite the skeptical eyes of her family and friends back on the commune, Lark finds she actually enjoys her classes, meeting new kids her age, and even football games. She's even more surprised when meets a boy she can be serious about. Jeremiah’s genuine and kind. And a Republican. They really click, though their philosophical differences drive a wedge between them. Thankfully Jeremiah accepts her as she is.

When Lark's brother and her childhood sweetheart make a catastrophic mistake, they throw the whole commune into jeopardy. Lark finds her loyalties tested and everything she thought she could count on crashing down around her. With the future uncertain, Lark must learn to accept help and to be herself no matter the outcome.