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An Interview with Vahini Naidoo upon receiving an offer of representation.

Vahini Naidoo (inkspatters on QT) has signed with agent Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy 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 Colors of Sky is a contemporary YA novel about a girl who’s attempting to find her very own heaven on earth. I’m not exactly sure what inspired me to write it, I was looking for a project for NaNoWriMo and the protagonist just started talking in my head.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing seriously since I was around fifteen. So that’s about two years.
How long have you been working on this book?
I finished the first draft in fifteen days, and managed to revise in another two and a half weeks. When I started querying, though, and rejections on fulls came in with really encouraging feedback, I made sure to use that feedback. I guess I revised the manuscript for another month or so before sending it back to agents who said they’d be happy to see it again.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I’ve never wanted to give up on writing, to be honest. Giving up on querying this particular book? Sure. I suppose it was my friends who were so enthusiastic about the manuscript that kept me going.
Is this your first book?
No, it’s actually my third book.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I’m still in high school, so nope. But I do intend to take creative writing at University, sometime.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I suppose I do, but it’s not a very rigid schedule. I just make sure to write every day, no matter how busy I am. I always try and fit in the time to write around five hundred words or so.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I’d say it went through three fairly big rounds of revision. But it was never rewritten, as such.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes. I had two beta readers for the first version of the manuscript, then another for my first set of revisions and another three for the second round of revisions. I also have an amazing crit group, and some of my betas came from there.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I wrote from the hip, I guess. I do a weird form of outlining where the character just says a whole bunch of things to me and I work out where in the story those little moments fit before I write. But it’s maybe three or four moments or images, and they’re not particularly significant. The rest gets worked out while I write.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I queried this book from January to the start of April. So that’s three months.

The book I queried before this I queried over a period of around a year, but there were huge gaps in between. I queried in March, gave up. Then queried again in October and November, then gave up again.

About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Over a hundred, easily.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
They had to represent YA, and the comments about them on QT and other places like Bewares and Background Checks on AbsoluteWrite had to be pretty favourable.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I didn’t tailor my queries unless I had something really specific to say to that agent. I’m one of those people that can’t make a personalisation sound natural, I always sound incredibly forced.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Persistence is crucial, and be open to revisions.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
My agent requested to see my query and manuscript after I won a blog contest, so I suppose it's not an exactly traditional querying route. The manuscript's also had a title change since I queried, but here's the original:

Dear Awesome Agent,

Sixteen-year-old Skylar Jones hasn’t seen her jailbird mother in ten years. So when mommy dearest arrives on the doorstep armed with apologies, Skylar has no idea what to do.

Skylar would prefer meeting up with the Wicked Witch to seeing her mom again. But fragmented childhood memories– her mom’s shallow dimples when she smiled, their hands twined together– convince Sky to chase after a reason to let her mom back in. To figure out whether she can trust her mom Skylar puts the motto her mother taught her to live by, “Find Heaven on Earth,” to the test. If it was more of her mother's drugged up bullshit, Sky plans to dump her childhood memories in the nearest ditch and move on.

Artistic Skylar’s version of heaven is nothing more than a stunning colour palette, so she sets about getting blissed out on colour combinations. She lights illegal fireworks at the local park, letting pink and green spark above her. But heaven’s yet to appear and Skylar just discovered why her mom finally came back: she’s dying of cancer. Skylar's attempts to find heaven become desperate. When she jogs headfirst into a field of speeding cars – yellow headlights, red taillights, rusty bumpers and the bruise-coloured evening – and her heart rate doesn’t even spike, Skylar realises she's no longer just looking for a reason to trust her mom. She’s searching for a reason to live, and a way to make peace with her past, but heaven's still slipping through her fingers.

SKYLAR’S STORY is a 50,000 contemporary YA novel that I hope will appeal to fans of John Green’s Paper Towns and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,