Pitch Madness 2015 Sorry! Edition
Rebecca agreed to let me
torture interview her. Here’s how it went down…
So let’s get this party started. What made you decide to enter Pitch Madness, and how did you feel during the contest?
I actually first submitted to Pitch Wars last year after a girl from my writing group told me about it. Looking back, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t make it in, because my book was in no shape to be seen! So I went through a major rewrite and kept my eye on your site, waiting for my next chance – which turned out to be Pitch Madness. I was thrilled when I found out I made it in. I’m actually traveling in Australia at the moment, so the time difference made for extra excitement (read: stress and terror)!
Which blog were you on and what was the title of your entry? How many requests did you get? Any other details you’d like to share?
My book CURSES LIKE ROSES was picked for the Blue Team, led by Rebecca Coffindaffer and Marieke Nijkamp! (Entries were posted on Rebecca’s site.) I got five partial requests from some awesome agents! To be honest I didn’t quite believe that it was all really happening until that moment – and then I scrambled to finish up the revisions I’d been discouraged about getting through so that I could send out my requests!
So you sent in your request to your agent. Was it a partial or a full? Tell us the details of the submission and wait time you had before Rebecca Podos with Rees Literary Agency asked for the Call?
My agent story is a little different in that the agent I ended up signing with was not an agent who participated in Pitch Madness. At the same time that I sent out my Pitch Madness partials, I queried a select number of agents I’d already had my eye on (for YEARS, in some cases!). Rebecca replied within the HOUR to my query and requested the full manuscript. Two and a half weeks after I sent her the full, she sent me an extensive email talking about the things she loved and things that needed work. She didn’t make an offer, but we set up a Skype call to discuss potential revisions to the book. In the meantime, I nudged the other agents who had CURSES LIKE ROSES and asked them to get back to me. That nudge resulted in two other offers of representation (including one of the Pitch Madness requests!).
Okay, this is my favorite part *sits at the edge of her seat*. Tell us about THE Call.
I was so nervous! (Read: excited and terrified!) While the other agents who offered representation were both excellent, I was just completely in love with everything Rebecca said about my book. She saw exactly what I was trying to do, punched holes in everything that I had been too exhausted to fix the first time around, and was so enthusiastic about my book’s potential while still being very direct and honest about the work it needed. I knew Rebecca would help me make my book the best it could be and I was sure I wanted to work with her, even if it meant passing on other offers in favor of working on a revision with her. Luckily for me she felt the same way, and made the official offer! I honestly can’t even remember a lot of that Skype call, except that there were LOTS of exclamation marks and lots of uses of the word “excited.” Usually in all caps: “EXCITED!!!!!”
Can you tell us a little about your book?
CURSES LIKE ROSES is a YA dark fairy tale mashup, combining elements of Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and Rumpelstiltskin. In it, Lena, a girl cursed with a touch that causes death, ventures into a mysterious forest in hopes of breaking her curse. What she finds makes her suspect that everything she’s been told about her history is a lie, and she must come to terms with the possibility that in order to break the curse, she too must die. There are wolves. And delicious honeycakes. And a whole lot of blood.
How long had you been querying before you got your agent?
I was just finishing up revisions when I entered Pitch Madness, so I hadn’t queried CURSES LIKE ROSES at all before March. From first partial sent to the first agent offer, it was about a month. (Which is really fast in the glacially slow land of publishing! I queried a previous novel a few years ago and sent out over a hundred queries over several months with only a few requests, so I wasn’t expecting this kind of response at all. Frankly, I was blown away.)
Okay, let’s have some fun. Coffee or Tea?
Tea! Anything herbal: chamomile, lemongrass, rosehip, berry blend, orange spice…and I also have a weakness for chai lattes. I don’t drink coffee at all, much to the chagrin of my fiance.
Potato chips or chocolate?
Oh, this is a tough one! Based on my current consumption levels, I’d have to go (reluctantly!) with chocolate.
What’s your favorite cookie?
While I adore all types of cookies, I have to say that there is something timeless and perfect about a basic chocolate chip cookie warm from the oven. With milk!
Which vacation would you prefer: camping out in the wilderness or shopping in a quaint town?
It really depends on the location. I’m in Australia at the moment and the camping here involves hanging out with koalas, so two thumbs up for that! If it’s anything less than koalas, I’d have to go with shopping. For books. Many books.
At my desk, in my chair. If I need a change I’ll swivel around and put my feet up on the bed while I write. (The joys of small apartment living!)
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Tamora Pierce was a huge inspiration during my middle school years. I was obsessed with Alanna and the world of Tortall! These days I’d have to say I’m really interested in authors who push at the limits of what I thought possible and make me think about the world (and literature!) in different ways: N. K. Jemisin, Ann Leckie, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman. Ann Patchett, for her endless words of writerly inspiration. Shannon Hale, for writing one of the best YA fairy tale retellings I’ve read (The Goose Girl)!
What author would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with her?
Diana Wynne Jones, hands down, no question. I’d want to have tea and pick her brain about how she came up with ideas. I’m in the middle of reading her entire backlist and am blown away by how inventive she is as a fantasist. So many things about her books make me sit back and go, “Okay, I see how you got there, and it’s so clever! And yet I would never have thought of it myself!”
What book character or movie character best describes your personality?
Strangely, the character that comes to mind first is Lilly Okanakamura, from the movie Pitch Perfect. (She’s the one who can never open her mouth wide enough to be heard, but finds her footing with a beatboxing crowd.) Like Lilly, I tend to be VERY shy in new circles and large social settings. But once I find a comfortable circle, you’ll definitely hear from me!
And the big question, are you an outline or pantser type?
Pantser when I’m first coming up with an idea, but outliner after I’ve written my way into the story. For me, I often find trying to outline too early squelches the book’s heart, but trying to pants all the way through tends to make a hopeless mess! So I guess I’m a hybrid.
Before I untie you from the chair, do you have any advice for those seeking representation? Anything you wished you’d done differently?
Advice is tough! Well, I will say this: If your book and query are done and you’re hesitating for no good reason, just jump! I’m so grateful for Pitch Madness because even though I didn’t sign an agent directly from my requests, just being in the contest forced me to get off my butt, finish that last polish, and finally start querying (which landed me my fabulous agent!). I can say without a doubt that if I hadn’t gotten into Pitch Madness, I would still be hesitating on sending that first query…
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I can’t wait to hold the actual book when it comes out. Congratulations, and here’s hoping you sell tons of books. And now it’s time to dance!