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An Interview with Sarah Ahiers upon receiving an offer of representation.

01/27/2014

Sarah Ahiers (Falen1 on QT) has signed with agent Mollie Glick of Creative Artists Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
ALL THAT REMAINS Is about a teen assassin who sets out on a path of vengeance for her murdered family.

I've always been a fan of assassins and revenge stories. And I just wondered how a culture would handle it if murder was not only legal for a certain class of people, but expected and welcome. Throw in a renaissance Italy feel and masks and ghosts and my inspiration was fueled.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing since high school (the late 90s)(ugh. So long ago) but I didn't get serious about my writing and writing towards a goal of publication until around 2010. That was when I realized that the only way I was going to reach my goals was if, you know, I tried. And tried hard.
How long have you been working on this book?
I wrote the first 50K for NaNoWriMo 2011 and then put it aside to finish up revisions on another MS. Then I wrote the second 50K for NaNo 2012 and spent most of 2013 revising it. Sloooowly. My goal was to take my time with revisions because I worried that rushing revisions were the downfalls of my last two manuscripts I queried.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
No, not really. At least, not recently. I kind of stopped writing for a year or two after I graduated from college, but that was mostly because I was working on a MS that I no longer wanted to work on, so it killed my motivation. Once I got past that, though, I've kept my eyes on my goals
Is this your first book?
Nope! ALL THAT REMAINS is my fifth novel, and the third one I queried.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I do! I have a BA in English with an emphasis in fiction writing, and am currently enrolled in Hamline University's MFA in writing for children and young adults. I also took two classes specifically to workshop ALL THAT REMAINS in 2013 (this was before my MFA started)
Do you follow a writing 'routine' or schedule?
It's more of an idea of a routine. I try to write M-Th as much as I can during the day. Sometimes I do more that others. Sometimes I will write on Sundays if I'm behind or if I'm meeting up with someone
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I'm not a person who keeps track of drafts, but there were some larger revisions. I cut two characters and combined two more. I also deleted a few scenes, changed a few scenes and did a whole revision just for theme work (which was long and required printing out the MS, but was totally worth it)
Did you have beta readers for your book?
I do. Quite a few, actually. I wanted to get a lot of reads for ATR because I wanted to do everything I could to make it the best it could be before I queried it.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I'm an outliner. Before I begin writing a draft I do character prework, write a query draft and write a list of scenes. This helps me from getting stalled out midway through and then just giving up on the MS.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
ALL THAT REMAINS went fast. I started querying on Halloween 2013, with the understanding that I would stop for December and start up again after my MFA Residency in mid January. But by December I had 4 R&Rs, and then my first offer in early January.

But for my previous two manuscripts I spent over a year on each, querying.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
25 for this one. I would have kept going, though. I sent close to 100 for each of my previous manuscripts.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Because I'd been down the querying road before, I came out of the gate this time targeting those agents who had read previous manuscripts of mine. I knew they would be likely to request again. I did target a few agents who hadn't requested from me before, but not many.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
A bit. If they were an agent who had read my work before, I made sure I opened with that.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Just keep going. I've been querying steadily, more or less, for 3 straight years and when it finally happened, it happened fast and I wound up with 7 offers from 7 awesome agents.

If you need to write a new book, then write a new book. Each one will be better than the last.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sure thing!
Dear Agent,
In the Kingdom of Lovero, where families of assassins lawfully kill people for the right price, seventeen-year-old Oleander “Lea” Saldana sets out on a path of vengeance against the most powerful assassin family of all.

The list of things Lea can count on in her life has never been long: her mother will try to poison her to make Lea a better assassin, she can beat her boyfriend, Val, in a fight, and her bone mask will keep her safe from the angry ghosts as she kills someone in the night. But when she trusts Val, a member of the powerful Da Via family, with the secret location of her home, she is betrayed and her family is slaughtered while Lea barely escapes as the sole survivor.

Now there’s only one thing left to do: make the Da Vias pay.

The only problem is, the Da Vias have gone to ground and the one person who can find them is her missing uncle, banished from her family years ago. Even if Lea can find him before the Da Vias realize she escaped their knives, Lea can’t trust him. Hells, she can’t trust anyone ever again, and definitely not her uncle’s too-attractive-for-his-own-good apprentice, Alessio, no matter what her heart and body tell her. How can she trust Alessio when the last boy she loved destroyed everything? How can she fall for Alessio when revenge is all she should care about?

But when the Da Vias kidnap her uncle, Lea has a choice: use him as a distraction to finally kill the Da Vias, or trust Alessio and save all that remains of her family.

ALL THAT REMAINS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 99,000 words. It would appeal to fans of Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING trilogy and Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW AND BONE. I have a BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota, served as the fiction editor for 2003 Wayfarer, the literary magazine of the U of MN, am a SCBWI member and have been accepted into Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults (January 2014). My young adult horror short story “Smothered” appears in DARK MOON DIGEST YOUNG ADULT #1 and I have a story for the adult horror market in DARK MOON DIGEST #6.

(redacted), editor at Harlequin Teen, read five pages for a critique session at the MN SCBWI October 2013 conference, loved them, and would like to see the manuscript when it’s ready for submission.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sarah Ahiers