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An Interview with T M Becker upon receiving an offer of representation.


T M Becker (arabella on QT) has signed with agent Craig Tenney of Harold Ober Associates, Inc..

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
I got the idea for Full Moon Rising after reading Beauty, by Robin McKinley, while I was pregnant with our fourth child. Sometimes I get mad pregnancy insomnia, and I spent more than one sleepless night quilting together the plot. In Beauty, the title character has quite a hang up with her looks, and there are no mirrors in the beast's castle to tell her otherwise. I wondered what would happen to a character if she, instead of just perceiving herself to be unattractive, actually saw an ugly reflection in the mirror. Of course, Arabella is the last one to figure this out, and her perception of herself affects her relationships with all the other characters in the book. Throw in an oppressive king, some forbidden books,a petulant, spoiled younger brother, and a date with the gallows, and I had the makings of a pretty good story.
How long have you been writing?
I started Full Moon Rising when I was pregnant with our second son, and he just turned nine in ten years.
How long have you been working on this book?
I finished the first really rough and lengthy draft in 2009. Since then, I have cut, cut, and cut some more while I edited and rewrote extensively. I don't think a single sentence avoided the scalpel, except the very last one.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I did. There were several times when I felt like throwing the thing in the trash, especially after agent rejection after rejection. But I'm stubborn, and on this third and final round of querying, and I decided I was going to query or bust. In other words, I was going to exhaust my list before quitting. Back in 2010, my husband signed me up for a writer's group, and with their help, as well as feedback I received from the ABNA, I realized what I needed to do to make it better.
Is this your first book?
It is, though I have finished a sequel/companion book which Craig is also representing.
Do you have any formal writing training?
No. But I have lots of practice, which is better than training. I encourage everyone to edit other writer's work extensively, because that will make you a better self-editor.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I grab moments whenever I can find them. Most Tuesdays I can squeeze in forty minutes during my daughter's guitar lesson, and now that I have an agent actively seeking representation, I try to write for an hour each afternoon. It doesn't always happen, however.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I rewrote the beginning several times at the advice of a friend and an agent, and I made continual tweaks while I submitted to my writer's group. I received an R & R request in 2012, and I cut an entire subplot and rewrote parts of the story to make it stand better on its own. But I have made minimal changes since then.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes. But not all of them were helpful. I rely mostly on my writer's group now. I'm a better writer now as well, and I found I needed to make considerably less changes to my second book.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I quilt. I come up with scenes, and then I quilt them together into a narrative. I'm about half done (I think) my third book now, and Craig asked me for a synopsis. It turned out to be a very good exercise for me. It helped me order and organize my ideas, kind of like a long form outline. But I don't think I can do that before I've put extensive thought into the plot.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I did a short round of querying in 2009 before I realized that at 147,000 words, no one was going to even look at it. My query letter stunk, as well. I entered the 2010 ABNA and made it to the second round. I used the feedback I got to edit the beginning and shorten the book. By 2011, it was down to 120k, (though I billed it at 96k when I started querying). I got a request, so I had to cut like mad to get it down to the promised length. After that rejection, I spent the next year rewriting and editing. I queried again in 2012 and got two requests and one R & R. I made extensive cuts and changes for that, but I took a year off after that rejection. I sent about six queries for my second book, but mostly I just moped. Then I started querying again in March of 2014, and this round generated 10 requests, though two came after Craig's offer.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Haha. This question always made me snicker with sick laughter when I read other success stories. More than anyone else, apparently. I sent nearly 400 queries in 2014, all to generate 10 full or partial requests. And that doesn't count the nearly two hundred I sent in 2012 or the fifty or so I sent in 2011. All I can say is that sometimes, persistence pays off.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
If they breathed and had ever requested young adult, I sent a query. I learned that the most unlikely candidate might make a request. Craig's associate at Harold Ober had already rejected me when I sent him a snail query. Querytracker also has him as closed, but since the Harold Ober website didn't specifically say he was closed, I sent it. And I am so glad I did.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
No. I filled in their name and switched the genre from YA romance to YA fantasy depending on their likes, but that's it.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Be persistent. Be confident in your book. If you believe you have written the best manuscript you possibly can, (and at least one other writer whose opinions you trust agrees with you) go for it. Keep querying. If that fails, keep writing. Eventually you might find someone who loves your writing as much as you do.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Of course.

As an agent interested in young adult novels, please consider FULL MOON RISING.

The musty books hidden in her mother’s trunk are the key. Fifteen-year-old Arabella is certain of that. When she stumbles on the secret compartment, Arabella is confident the texts will answer the questions that have plagued her since childhood. They will teach her how to end her vivid nightmares for good, or perhaps explain where her mother came from. Better yet, they might even tell her why her mother disappeared mysteriously so many years ago.

There is only one problem; the books—and the ancient language they are written in—are banned in the kingdom of Atruria. And not just a little banned, but rot in prison, slave away in the mines, or hang from the tallest tree…banned.

Of course, Arabella is determined to read them anyway.

Just when she thinks she is on the verge of deciphering the books’ mysteries, Arabella’s spiteful brother discovers her secret and betrays her to the authorities. Despite her youth, Arabella is found guilty of treason. She will hang!

On the eve of her execution, a mercurial young enchanter named Oryn orchestrates her rescue and makes her his apprentice. While Oryn offers hints about her mother’s heritage, many answers still elude Arabella, such as why he insists that she stop taking the “cure” she discovered for her nightmares. And not even Oryn can tell her what happened to her mother.

As Arabella’s skills grow, so do her feelings for Oryn. She even allows herself to dream of a future with the secretive enchanter—until a fellow apprentice turns traitor. Spurred by resentment and jealousy, he plots to kill Oryn. Arabella must harness her fledgling skills to save both herself and the man she loves—before it is too late.

FULL MOON RISING is an 89,000-word young adult romance (or fantasy) novel. The first x chapters or pages follow this query.

In my free time, I enjoy boxing, running, cooking, reading to my children, hiking, and gardening. I have taught English, writing, and grammar to elementary and middle grade students for twelve years.

Thank you for your time and consideration.