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An Interview with Peter Hogenkamp upon receiving an offer of representation.


Peter Hogenkamp (phogenkamp on QT) has signed with agent Elizabeth Kracht of Kimberley Cameron & Associates.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you┬╣ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
A friend of mine suggested I read Daniel Silva, and I was totally smitten with his Gabriel Allon series from the word Go. Gabriel is not a character to me; he is a real person who I know. I know how he thinks, I know what he is going to say. Since the time I met him, I have wanted to create a character as complex, as interesting, as genuine as Gabriel. Once I had finished conjuring up the character I had been thinking about, Father Marco Venetti, a Jesuit priest from Liguria, Italy, the rest of the book fell nicely into place. In one sentence (and yes, you have to be able to summarize your book in one sentence) ABSOLUTION is the tale of what happens when you thrust an intelligent, peaceful man into a cesspool of violence and moral turpitude.
How long have you been writing?
Although I wrote much prior to college, my pre-medical and medical studies sapped all my time and mental clarity for a long time. I started writing again about ten years ago, when life circumstances began allowing it.
How long have you been working on this book?
A friend of mine told me that a good thesis writes itself, which was his excuse for putting off a paper until the last minute. But there is some truth to it; ABOSLUTION was written in less than a year, during which time I worked full time and (with the help of my lovely wife) raised a family of four children. I think writing two previous mms helped speed up the process, yes; but the main reason for the efficiency was that I had come up with an idea for a MC which was so exciting and unique that I never lacked for enthusiasm to flesh him out on paper. I wanted to see this idea of mine take shape on paper as a living, breathing person; those of you who write--I assume most of you--will realize that writing rarely goes that way. Sometimes one has to force oneself to put words on paper, and that was the rare occasion in that year.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I am a writer; it's as simple as that. I got my first rejection in the fourth grade, from the New Yorker, and it didn't deter me. If you put stories down on paper, you are a writer and don't let any one convince you otherwise. I write because I love to create, no other reason. A writer should be writing for him or her self only, and for that reason it doesn't matter if anyone reads it, so giving up because you haven't secured an agent or a publisher is not an option. Having said that, it is very natural for a writer to want his or her work to read. I need to write; I want my work to be read. I came very close to obtaining representation for my second ms, but when the agent fell through I realized it was time to move on to an idea that had been banging around in my head for some time--and that ultimately led to me landing a great literary agent. You have to know when to move on.
Is this your first book?
No, it is not! First novels are essentially unpublishable, with very few exceptions. The best advice I could ever give to a writer is to write the first novel and go ahead and query it, because it is an invaluable learning process. But at some painful point, you are going to have abandon ship and write the next one, which, because of everything you have learned, is going to be much better.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I hold BA from Holy Cross College and a MD from SUNY Upstate/College of Medicine; other than that, no.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Wish I could, but no.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I can't count that high.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes, four, and I wouldn't even consider sending a query out until you have digested what the beta readers had to say, and re-edited. If your beta readers didn't have anything to say other than "good book," find new ones. They either didn't see the problems or they weren't able to tell you.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Right from the hip!
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Five years of querying three manuscripts!
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
ABSOLUTION is the result of a major revision of an earlier manuscript. Between the two, I sent out 80 or so query letters.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Since ABSOLUTION IS A THRILLER, I used QueryTracker to create a list of agents who were specifically looking for thrillers, as opposed to just commercial or general fiction. And then I eliminated the agents who were not taking on new clients, resulting in a list of about two hundred agents. Then the real work began, doing research on each agent before sending her a query. I found the list of resources on each agent's query page to be very helpful in this regard, especially any agent interviews that might be listed. I find these interviews, the more recent the better, to be very informative in terms of who the agent is and what she wants. To this end, I posted an interview with my agent, Liz Kracht of Kimberley Cameron & Associates, on her page on QT.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
DO NOT send a single query unless you have tailored it to the agent. I never sent more than three query letters out at a sitting in order to give me time to research the agent. The most obvious thing is to look for books the agent has repped which are in the same vein as yours. And be specific: Dear Ms. Kracht (my wonderful agent): I query you because you represent ABSOLUTION, a thriller similar to (insert title of your book.)
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
I credit three things for landing me a great agent: persistence, patience, and willingness to evolve. By persistence I mean readiness for the long haul (in my case, 5 years.) By patience I mean not letting a flurry of rejections dampen your resolve, not giving in to the impulse to send twenty query letters out in one sitting (a very bad idea), not bugging an agent when she has had your submission for two weeks without any word. Most importantly, however, is a writer's willingness to evolve. That's why I sent only three letters at a time, because if all three were negative responses I made myself change something. Writers tend to fall in love with their query letters, submissions etc., but you have to be objective. If agents aren't requesting your ms from your query, change the query. If you are getting ms requests from your query, but nothing further, change the ms. And, hardest of all, if you aren't getting anywhere after a year or so of queries/submissions, move on to the next project. I know, I know; I was just talking about persistence, but you can't beat a dead horse, and you have to be realistic about the feedback you are getting. It is one thing if you are getting a lot of ms requests, and many helpful rejections from the mms you have submitted (a promising scenario), but it is another if a year's worth of querying has resulted in a just a handful of requests, and that handful of ms requests didn't amount to much. Persistence, in this case, means moving on the next project.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Yes, I would, and I have: see the QT Forum section on Query letters. By the way, there is much to be gained from spending some time inside the QT Forum.