Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write
THE TICK-TOCK HEARTS takes place at the turn of the 20th century and is basically a story about a 16-year-old
girl, her murdered father, missing hearts, clues hidden in books, the streets of Old Chicago, a secret society
seeking immortality, burlesque theaters and masquerades, people with glass eyes, some sexy kissing, and tragedy
in many forms. It's a bizarre combination of steampunk, historical, mystery, and science fiction. I was inspired
by a news article I read about a woman who had an entirely synthetic heart. She had to wear a special wrist band
because she had no heartbeat... and thus no pulse.
How long have you been writing?
For fun? Since I was a kid. With a serious goal toward publication? Two and a half years, give or take.
How long have you been working on this book?
This book started its life as a (terrible, terrible) NaNoWriMo draft in 2009. I'd had the spark of the idea a
month or two earlier and decided what the hell, I'll do it for fun (I was working on a fantasy novel at the
time). I filed the draft away, but the idea kept coming back to gnaw at me. I liked it. I REALLY liked it. I
fiddled with it a little more and polished the first few chapters to send to an SCBWI conference for critique. I
received some great feedback from the publishing professional who read it, but it of course needed more work.
Her suggestions inspired a complete overhaul. I rewrote the entire thing starting in early 2011, keeping only
the bare bones of the plot intact. Then I polished, and polished, and polished. All of that to say: the "real"
version of the book took me about eight months.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Sure, I think everyone does. I thought for a while that I was just fooling myself and that I wasn't that good.
But my family, friends, and writing partners all told me to shut up and keep going because I'm awesome. During
the querying process, I never really wanted to give up. I'd get bummed out, but I never felt like taking my ball
and going home. I had a list of agents, and I was going to stick to it. I knew rejection came with the process.
Is this your first book?
I wrote a HORRIBLE vampire novella when I was thirteen, and I've had a few other novels that eventually petered
out and flopped. But this was the first one I really stuck with and polished to a high shine.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Yes. I have a B.A. in English with a Creative Writing emphasis. Nothing beyond that, though. Most of what I
learned about the publication process and writing a salable book came from the Internet and networking with
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Sort of? I go in spurts. If I have a project I'm focusing on, I'll work on it several times a week. I try to
write a chapter at a time, because I'm really controlling and I don't like leaving something in the middle of a
scene. Then I'll take a break. Then I'll start something new. I write a lot of short fiction, as well.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Two complete overhauls, three rounds of smaller edits for scene/character/continuity/clarification, two
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Oh yes. I had one good friend (and also writer/English nerd) read over my chapters as I wrote them. Then I had
two critique partners (also writers) and several betas. Among my betas: an art and American culture historian, a
literature professor, a child development professional, and a really bright poet. And my parents, who loved it.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I had a loose outline -- a skeleton. I knew what the major plot elements were going to be and where in the story
they were going to happen. Then I wrote all the in-between stuff on the fly.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Two months exactly. This is the first book I've queried.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I researched the hell out of everyone who went on my list. I wanted to pick agents who I felt knew the YA
market, who liked speculative fiction, and who seemed like great people to work with. I had some misfires (a few
agents said they loved sci-fi, but ended up not being interested in steampunk), but overall I think I hit the
mark pretty well as far as tastes go.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Just about. There were a few I sent where there really wasn't much info about the agent besides the genres they
were looking for, so those agents just got a plain query. I personalized for just about everyone else -- a 2-3
sentence blurb about why I picked them.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Don't get desperate. I know it is so, so hard to avoid the temptation of sending it to everyone on the planet,
or panicking when other people are getting responses and you aren't. Try your best to chill (YOU MUST CHILL!)
and remain professional at all times. Don't sell yourself short. Query a project because you're confident in it,
not because you're desperate for approval. That sort of thing shows through in your correspondence. Do not under
any circumstances throw a hissy fit or get passive-aggressive, even if you think an agent is being mean. You're
a big kid, you can do this. All that said: it is okay to get excited and disappointed. Just keep a smart head on
your shoulders and have a friend you can call/email to spaz out to instead. Lord knows I did.