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An Interview with Sophia Henry upon receiving an offer of representation.

03/30/2015

Sophia Henry (soph313 on QT) has signed with agent Jessica Watterson of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
DELAYED PENALTY, in the Pilots Hockey Series, is a New Adult/Mature YA Contemporary Romance which follows a hot Russian hockey star who unintentionally falls for his interpreter. DELAYED PENALTY is a fictional story inspired by my childhood aspirations. I grew up loving the Detroit Red Wings in the 1980's/90's. During many of my formative years, the Red Wings had an amazing group of Russian hockey players. So, of course, I wanted to go to school to become an interpreter for all the up and coming Russian hockey players. Someone had to live those dreams, why not the people in my head?
How long have you been writing?
Since I learned to write. I wrote poems, stories, journal entries. I wrote my first novel in 8th grade. There are pictures on my website! No, that novel will never see the light of day. I've been studying the craft and writing seriously for five years.
How long have you been working on this book?
I worked on this book for four years.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
The only time I ever felt like giving up came after I received the feedback from my very first critique. I'd never let anyone read my work before, so finding a stranger on Twitter to critique was probably not my smartest move as a newbie writer. When I read the critique I cried. Then I quit. But after a two week break to heal my wounded ego, I opened the critique again and realized that I agreed with most of the feedback. That book was not ready. It needed to be completely re-written. So I did.
Is this your first book?
Yes. (Other than that one from 8th grade).
Do you have any formal writing training?
I majored in English/Creative Writing at Central Michigan University. I wrote a few short stories for the required fiction courses, though I chose a poetry concentration. Now, I only write fiction, and laugh when I read through my old poems. (Readers can laugh, too. I use one of them in DELAYED PENALTY).
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I write on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the days my kids are in pre-school. I also write at night and on some Saturdays. I try to be efficient in the time I devote to writing. My kids are still young, and they need me, too.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I'm embarrassed to say! Over four years, I had 21 drafts. Then scrapped it completely. I re-wrote DELAYED PENALTY in six months and edited it in four drafts before pitching to agents and editors.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes. I have at least five beta readers. All of them serve a different purpose. One is exceptional with grammar. Another is good with big picture, developmental issues. I have one who thinks everything I write is gold. :) Not very realistic, but nice to look at when I'm having a rough day.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I wrote my first book from the hip--which was probably the reason for the initial 21 revisions. Now I outline first because it's so much more efficient for me.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
DELAYED PENALTY is the first book I've ever queried. I pitched it at a writing conference of the first time in May 2014. I singed with my agent, Jessica Watterson at Dijksta Literary, in August 2014, and I officially signed a two book deal with Random House/Flirt in February 2015.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
I sent out query letters to four agents and one editor. (Those queries were before I had my agent.)
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I researched agents on QueryTracker.net. I wanted to know: what genre they accepted, had they signed clients in my genre recently, what is their response rate, of those responses - who had a high accept rate. But I didn't just go by the numbers. I selected the agents I wanted to query, and then I researched them. You can find many agents have blogs or participate in interviews. They have Twitter and Facebook accounts. I put as much effort into researching an agent as I do researching my books.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
YES! The general query information/hook about my book was the same in each letter, but I began each query with a personal note explaining why I chose to query to the agent. In my query letter to my agent, I told her I chose her because she said in an interview that she eats Sour Watermelon straws while reading queries. I eat Sour Patch Kids when writing. So I thought we'd be a good match. But, that comes down to research, personalizing the query and hoping the agent has a similar sense of humor.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Research Research Research! Research your genre, the authors who write it and who their agents are. Don't query to an agent who's looking for Regency Historical Fiction if you write Paranormal Romance. I'm a firm believer that you can save yourself (some of) the heartache of rejection before the rejection comes if you do your research.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
I'm not willing to share (mostly because I don't believe the query letter in an of itself was that good), but I will say, I did my research. My strengths lie in researching the best fit and tailoring my query to get the attention of that agent on a personal level. I honestly don't know how I would've done if I had sent blanket queries to multiple agents. Not well, I assume.