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An Interview with Austin Siegemund-Broka and Emily Wibberley upon receiving an offer of representation.

11/13/2016

Austin Siegemund-Broka and Emily Wibberley (Polonius on QT) has signed with agent Katie Shea Boutillier of Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
THE GIRL BEFORE is a contemporary YA novel inspired by the Rosaline character in Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s spurned ex who never even comes on stage. We were inspired to write a YA novel about an unconventional lead who in fact doesn’t feel like a lead at all, who’s had plenty of romance in her life, just none of it real. We decided to set her story on the backdrop of a high-school Romeo and Juliet production for the symbolic connection, and because we really like Romeo and Juliet.
How long have you been writing?
Well, there are two of us. Emily’s been writing YA for four years, and Austin came onboard two years ago.
How long have you been working on this book?
This is the second book we’ve written together. We started it in March 2016 and finished it in September.
Do you have any formal writing training?
None, between either of us! Except Austin is an English major and worked as a journalist for two years.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
We wrote one draft, and then did one significant pass of edits.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
About half the writing process was spent extensively outlining the book—like, scene structure, dialogue, descriptions. In the end our outline was 30,000 words long.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
We queried this book for about a month. But we spent six months querying our previous novel.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
We sent about 70 query letters in total for this one.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
  1. Never, never, never give up. Every single time you get a rejection, meet it by writing more words and sending more queries. We can’t say how many times the goal felt unattainable and our highest hopes got punted off a cliff, but we hung on.
  2. Be working on the next thing. We would have been completely demoralized querying our first novel were we not filled with hope and excitement and ideas for our second.
  3. Listen to what agents tell you in their rejections. It’s easy to brush off commentary on something you’ve spent months and years pouring your soul into. But these people are smart. Never underestimate the value of fresh eyes.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sure! We would always personalize, like including a recent title of the agent’s we read and enjoyed.

We are seeking representation for THE GIRL BEFORE, a 75,000-word contemporary YA novel.

Megan Harper is a Rosaline. As in, Rosaline from Romeo and Juliet, the girl Romeo’s doting on before he meets Juliet — and promptly abandons when he does. Every one of Megan’s relationships has ended the same way — her ex replaces her with someone perfect. But instead of crying over every breakup, Megan spends her time on her two passions, pursuing her next fling and directing theater. She hates the spotlight, and she’s hoping to fulfill her dream directing college program’s acting requirement in the smallest role possible.

Until Megan’s theater teacher casts her to play none other than Juliet in her school’s production of Romeo and Juliet — and she meets Owen Okita, an aspiring playwright and fellow acting novice. In exchange for Megan’s help writing a play, Owen agrees to help Megan catch the eye of a hot hipster stagehand.

But between rehearsing for Romeo and Juliet’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival premiere and contending with her dad’s plans to move with Megan’s pregnant stepmom to New York, Megan begins to realize Owen — thoughtful, unconventional and utterly unlike her exes — might be the Romeo she never expected. Better yet, with him, she might finally be a Juliet.

Incorporating scenes from Romeo and Juliet, THE GIRL BEFORE is a story of love’s labors lost (and eventually found) and of feeling like a supporting character on everyone else’s stage.