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An Interview with Shawn Thomas Odyssey upon receiving an offer of representation.

Shawn Thomas Odyssey (Odyssey on QT) has signed with agent Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management.

How long have you been writing?
About twenty years. I began when I was in high school. It was an English teacher, Mr. Healey, who encouraged my writing. For him I am extremely grateful…although sometimes, when I’m struggling with the process, I’m prone to curse him just as easily. See where encouragement gets you!
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I did stop writing for many years as I was pursuing a career in theatre, and then later in music composition for film and TV. Though I did write off and on during those years, it wasn’t until about seven years ago that I re-discovered the mysterious challenge and joy of writing.

And yes, when pursuing an agent for my previous book (my third), I did feel like giving up on the whole publishing thing. I thought that I might not even submit my next one. Luckily, when the time came, my wife encouraged me to do so…and voilà.

Is this your first book?
Not my first. There were three before this one, two of which will never see the light of day…(oh, okay, never say never). If nothing else, they are always good for spare parts.
How long have you been working on this book?
I’d say, all told, about two years. But there were a lot of breaks in between different versions. The first draft took maybe three months. It wasn’t until I was finished with that version that I discovered this fabulously engaging (to me) character. So the book got re-written, pretty much entirely, and then cut down, and re-conceptualized. Then I put it away and worked on something else for several months before returning to it. Once I found the main character and what she was all about, everything began to make much more sense to me.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
On the first draft, I have a quota of a thousand words a day. When I’m on to the editing stage, I tend to just feel it out. I do most of my work in the mornings; though lately I’ve felt like I need to change that up. Sticking to a routine can be very helpful, so long as one doesn’t get “stuck” in that routine, if you catch my drift. I use to beat myself up if I didn’t make my quota in the morning. How silly and useless is that?
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I can’t remember for sure. I think there were four different completed drafts before I sent it out. But there were countless different versions within versions, if you know what I mean. So you could say my real answer is: a lot! In fact, I’m currently waiting on notes from my agent so I can begin another round.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes. I gave it out to a few folks that would give me the truth, and a few others who would be sure to make me feel good. Both gave me energy, and I am eternally grateful. The “truth”, by the way, is far more important to the work itself…but hey, I’m only human.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I write primarily from the hip, which made writing this book a real challenge, because all said and done, in the end, the story is a good old-fashioned murder mystery. I did create lots and lots (and lots) of notes: brainstorms, character possibilities, and loads of paragraphs that began with “What if…” That sort of thing. But really, I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, and see where the story leads.

That having been said, I just finished a rough draft of a new book, and I used a fairly fleshed out plot synopsis as a guide. So go figure…whatever works, right?

How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
This one went fairly quickly. About a month, I think. I sent all of my queries out at one time. I learned from my previous book that sending one query at a time was a mistake. Interestingly enough, I found that a majority of all the responses, both positive and negative, came within the first week.

Catherine responded very swiftly to my query (a few days), and requested the first fifty pages. She responded just as quickly to those first pages, and enthusiastically requested the rest. That is such a nice feeling, when you get that kind of enthusiasm…especially from an agent who reps best sellers. I think she read it over the weekend, and called me up the following Monday.

About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Thirty; and like I said, all at once.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I submitted to those who accepted email queries, represented books in my genre (YA/Fantasy), and had a solid record of sales.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Yes and no. It was the same basic letter, but the final paragraph I usually tailored to the agent, and included whatever their web site specified: First few pages…etc. Oh, and their name at the top. Don’t forget that!
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Send out a lot of queries. Give the query a good voice (essence of your book), and don’t over think it. I think my query letter was a bit long, but I wanted to make sure the “tone” was right. I spent two, maybe three days on it at the most. I gave it to a few readers to check over, and made some changes based off of various suggestions. I let it sit for about a week, came back to it, deemed it worthy, and hit send.

Also, if and when you get a request, hopefully your book will be in the best shape you can get it. Meanwhile, find something to do with yourself while you wait it out so you don’t go completely bonkers! And keep writing! You can only get better. Hope that was helpful.