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An Interview with Tess Sharpe upon receiving an offer of representation.

09/08/2012

Tess Sharpe (sharpegirl on QT) has signed with agent Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
FAR FROM YOU is a contemporary YA mystery told non-sequentially. It’s about a seventeen-year-old girl fresh out of rehab who’s determined to solve her best friend’s murder—while trying to keep her friends and family from discovering their biggest secret. My wonderful agent, Sarah Davies of the Greenhouse Literary Agency, recently sold it at auction to Disney-Hyperion in a two-book deal to be published Spring 2014. It’ll also be published in the UK by Indigo, an imprint of Orion, around the same time.

This book was one that kind of came out of nowhere. I’d written the closing paragraph to one of the flashback chapters at the beginning of September and sat on them for a month, trying to figure out the story behind those 57 words. It just snowballed from there until it was a book.

How long have you been writing?
Since I was a kid—about 15 years, give or take a few months.
How long have you been working on this book?
I started FAR FROM YOU in November 2011 and finished the first draft in February 2012. After revising with the help of my amazing critique partners, I started querying in April and got my first offer of representation at the end of the month.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Not with this book, but I definitely felt that with previous manuscripts. The only sure-fire way I know to snap out of a rejection funk or the dreadful feeling of “this book is going nowhere fast”? Write something new.
Is this your first book?
Nope. I’ve got a few trunked manuscripts.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I’ve had some stuff workshopped, but my training is all in theatre. I learned a lot about plot, pacing and building three-dimensional characters by performing and in play analysis class.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
My only hard and fast rule is that when I’m drafting, I have to write 5,000 words a week.
How many times did you rewrite/edit your book?
I revised once before querying, and once with my agent before we went on submission.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
I did! I have the best betas in the world. I’d be lost without their encouragement, advice, honesty and tough love.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I’m a big fan of outlining. I like to know where I’m headed.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I queried for three or four weeks with FAR FROM YOU before I got my first offer. But I queried for about a year with another manuscript and six months with another about five years ago.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Nineteen.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I knew I wanted an editorial agent, so I paid close attention to that by reading interviews and blog posts. And because I tend to write on the darker side of teen life, I also looked at agents who had clients who pushed boundaries in subject matter.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I tailored only the queries that went to agents who had expressed an interest in seeing future work from me after they’d read a previous manuscript.

I learned an important lesson with this one. I queried an agent who’d read a manuscript of mine five years earlier. I almost didn’t mention that she had invited me to submit future work because I was sure she wouldn’t remember me or the old manuscript after all that time. One of my critique partners encouraged me to mention it, and not only did the agent remember me, but she remembered details of the old manuscript that I’d forgotten. So even if you think an agent doesn’t have a long memory, sometimes books they reject stick with them.

What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Be patient. Be professional. Don’t get discouraged about form rejections; they come with the territory. Make friends with other writers, because no one outside of publishing will understand what the heck you’re talking about. Research your agent choices carefully, and use the awesome tools and connections that QueryTracker and other writing forums and communities provide.

Be writing something else when you start querying, it’ll be a nice distraction from frantically checking your e-mail.

Also, try to get some idea of what you’d like your writing career to be, because sharing the same outlook on your career as your agent is vital. And if you’re looking at multiple offers, having an idea of where you want to go will really help you make the right choice.