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An Interview with Tracy March upon receiving an offer of representation.

Tracy March (TKMastaler on QT) has signed with agent Kristin Lindstrom of Lindstrom Literary Management, LLC.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
The pitch-style answer is that Girl Three is a mainstream suspense/thriller with romantic elements. The better answer is that the story is a who-done-it laced with political power-grabbing, medical malfeasance, family dysfunction and dark deception---minus the police procedural.

My inspiration came from my career as a pharmaceutical sales executive---I’m now recovering! The characters and plot of Girl Three were gleaned from my overactive imagination, my experience and encounters in the medical field, and my love/hate relationship with politics. The story features characters who face ethical dilemmas in unethical times, and powerful elitists willing to kill to keep their secrets.

How long have you been writing?
I have been seriously writing fiction for almost six years.
How long have you been working on this book?
From plot to finish, eighteen months.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Absolutely. I think it is natural for most writers to go through periods of self-doubt. The key to overcoming the doubts is to surround yourself with a support system of family, friends---especially those who are writers---and professionals (even if you have to pay them!) who are realistic and encourage you in your work.

That kind of tiered support system worked for me because I had a quality mentor who was honest about the potential of my work and the state of the publishing industry. My professional expectations were managed and my emotional/ego needs fulfilled by family and friends. I enjoy a great deal of support and gentle prodding from a special writer friend who understands the highs and lows and keeps me accountable and motivated---and laughs with me (and at me---that’s okay!).

Is this your first book?
Let’s just say that it’s the first one that’s worked! I have a 95,000-word file that I call my practice novel stored on an old jump drive.
Do you have any formal writing training?
No. Mostly informal!

As I mentioned, I have been writing fiction for about six years. My training during that time includes numerous online workshops and a lot of self study. I have attended Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Intensive, a week-long course based on his techniques, and Margie Lawson’s five-day Immersion Master Class which focused on utilizing rhetorical devices in writing, portraying character emotions and deep editing. I also have worked with the Truby Studio in California learning plot and story building.

Additionally, I have attended several conferences and writers’ retreats where I’ve learned a lot from workshops, professional panels and networking.

Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I wish I did. I am working on my next novel now and determined to impose house rules and curfews! This is where having someone who keeps me accountable becomes so valuable.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
There is no way to calculate how many times I revised the first three chapters! I am one of those plodding perfectionists who edits as she goes, so it’s hard to say. However, I got crunched against a self-imposed deadline when writing the final third of the book. I wrote a draft of the last 30,000 words and edited it once. Really.

I had worked with my mentor/editor through the first two-thirds of the book and learned a lot from her edits. I knew it was too much to ask for her to keep up with my writing tear on the final third of the book. I took off the training wheels and finished on my own.

Did you have beta readers for your book?
No. I received a lot of valuable feedback through contests and critiques of the first several chapters. I made some changes based on that feedback, yet also learned that I tend to get bogged down with too many opinions. The sometimes conflicting advice can foster a lot of doubt---there’s no way to please everyone and yourself. I was determined to be true to my vision of the story.

The sage advice is never to submit to agents until other objective readers have read your book, given feedback and you’ve fixed everything. But that’s not how it went with Girl Three.

My mentor/editor read two-thirds of the manuscript over a seven-month period. I wrote the last third and submitted the full for agent requests. At that time, I was the only person who had read the entire manuscript. Risky, I know---kind of crazy!

Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I am a plotter to the point of paralysis. I have to outline the plot before I can write a word of a story! This can really slow things down in the beginning, but liberates me to write freely to the end thereafter, knowing that things are going to work out as I planned.

Ironically, building a strong plot ahead of time may seem creatively stifling to some but I found that it allowed for unexpected twists to emerge---and work---based on the solid plot foundation.

How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Girl Three is the first manuscript I have queried. After the manuscript was complete, I sent out queries for a month.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
About forty.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I did a lot of research looking for agents who represented work in my genre and who had a good sales record with publishers. Additionally, I tried to find online interviews or blog posts that gave me insight into their vision of the agent/author relationship. As I received responses from my early queries, I saw a pattern in the type of agents showing interest (requesting partials or fulls). I targeted the same agent demographic in later queries with a few wild cards thrown in. I wasn’t looking for just any agent; I was searching for a professional partner. So I queried agents with whom I felt I could relate---just a vibe I got from them through personal contact, a reference or their online presence.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Yes, I think that’s the polite thing to do. I respect each agent as a professional and hoped they would do the same with me. Through my research on their websites, on blogs, through interviews, references or at conferences, I tried to find an interest of theirs or a quote that resonated with me or connected us somehow. I used that information to open my query letters.

There is advice out there to jump right into the query without pleasantries, but I’m a southern girl and couldn’t write a letter without a cordial greeting! Besides, I think agents appreciate knowing why you selected them as a potential professional partner.

What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Use QueryTracker! Seriously. QueryTracker is a great resource not only for research and tracking, but also to manage expectations on response times and replies. When I received rejections, it was nice to know whether they were personalized or forms, as often noted by posters in the QueryTracker comments sections. The site offers vital tools for any writer who is actively querying.

Most of all, I’d advise perseverance, patience and a tough skin. The first few rejections stung, but then I learned not to take them personally. Every rejection was a step toward finding the right match for me---an agent who believes in my work as much as I do!

Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Dear Ms. Lindstrom,

I see that you will be attending ThrillerFest this year and participating in AgentFest. I regret that I am unable to attend, yet hope to capture your imagination with my 91,000-word thriller, GIRL THREE, particularly considering your proximity to Washington D.C.

In her quest to avenge her sister’s murder, acclaimed bioethicist Dr. Jessica Croft becomes a target of Washington, D.C.’s power elite. The worst of them would kill to keep a secret. One of them already has.

When Jessie learns that her sister Sam, a D.C. lobbyist, has been murdered, she expects the authorities to deliver justice. Instead, Sam’s death is classified as natural and the case is closed. Driven by grief and outrage at the corrupt system, Jessie seeks justice for Sam on her own. She first suspects her estranged father, a not-so-honorable federal judge, of burying the crime beneath a cover-up. But when Jessie peels back the tainted layers of Sam’s life, she reveals a salacious extortion scheme teeming with enemies and rivals eager to keep their secrets buried.

Michael Gillette, ex-Secret Service agent turned private investigator, has a vested interest in Jessie’s plight. Sam died on his watch. Plagued with guilt, he vows to vindicate her murder. But Michael’s plan becomes complicated when Jessie’s father retains him to protect her. He demands that Michael forget about Sam’s death and forbids him to get involved with Jessie. But Michael can’t disregard an injustice, especially one he could have stopped. And Jessie is difficult to resist.

In a scandal rife with adultery and deceit, too many people have too much to hide—and even more to lose. Michael must pick a side. Playing the middle could result in another death on his conscience. Jessie reduces herself to the dirty tactics of the prominent and powerful to expose the truth. She gambles with moral bankruptcy, and her life, as Michael fights to keep them both out of the crosshairs of a ruthless killer.

I’m a member of International Thriller Writers, Inc. and Romance Writers of America—Kiss of Death and Washington Romance Writers Chapters. I was recently notified that GIRL THREE has been selected as a finalist in Chicago-North RWA Chapter's 2010 Fire and Ice Contest in the category of Women's Fiction with Romantic Elements.

Following are the first three chapters and a synopsis of GIRL THREE. Thank you for your consideration. I hope you like my story and I look forward to hearing from you.


Tracy March