A bit about Chantele (in her own words):
I am a wife, mother of three silly kids, a harp player and an avid reader of books. I enjoy reading and writing YA fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal. I’m repped by Uwe Stender at TriadaUS Literary and he is working to get my books published. If that ever happens you will be the first to hear about it! :) (link)
Q and A:
What made you start writing?
I've always had stories in my head, ever since I was a kid. I started writing a little bit in high school, just stupid stuff. And when I say stupid, I mean stupid! lol I sort of forgot about writing until I had my second child. I still had stories in my head, so I started to write them down. I wrote in secret, not telling anyone, even my hubby. When I finished my first book, I told him about it and he was so supportive. I don't know why I was so scared to tell him. I never even thought of trying to publish it until he told me to. So, I put myself out there and joined a critique group, made writer friends, and set time aside every day for writing. I love it. I realize now, writing has always been a part of me. I just didn't know it until I tried. And I'll never ever go back. :)
What genre do you write, and how did you get the idea for your novel?
I write YA. I love it. As in a specific genre, I don't really have one. I love paranormal, urban fantasy, classic fantasy, dystopian and I've even tried my hand at a contemporary as well. The only thing I can't write is sci-fi. I'm not smart enough! lol
As for my book that got me my agent, I read Janette Rallison's My Fair Godmother and had a thought. What if there was a fairy godmother that was a guy? And he hated it. That was the question that sparked my idea and turned it into a full length novel. :)
What kept you pursuing your dream of finding an agent even when you felt discouraged?
Oh, man. Rejection is so hard. For my first book I got one request and sent out fifty or more queries. I didn't think it would bother me so much to get that many rejections, but deep down it did. I knew it wasn't working, so I put that book aside and wrote another one. Which sucked, but I could tell it was better, if that makes any sense. Then I wrote my third novel and joined a critique group, got great feedback on it and researched agents and how to write the perfect query letter. You know, all that good stuff. I told myself if I loved writing as much as I thought I did, I would keep trying. Giving up is not an option with me. Even if the road seems SO hard at times. I still keep writing. Anyway, I sent out queries for that book and got requests almost immediately. It was crazy. I racked up plenty of rejections with this one as well, but I also had many requests for fulls and ended up with 2 offers of representation. Moral of the story? Keep writing, keep getting better and never give up.
What is one unique thing that happened to you during the querying process?
I got a rejection for a book that wasn't mine. The agent even went into a lot of detail and I felt so bad that I had read it, even though I had no idea who the person was that it was intended for. I ended up writing the agent back and telling him he sent me a rejection for the wrong book. He e-mailed back immediately and told me how embarrassed he was and that he hadn't even read my book yet. I ended up getting rejected anyway, but I had to laugh. Agents are people too, and they definitely make mistakes.
What resources did you use to help you write your query letter?
Honestly? I can't even remember! lol I do remember reading the querytracker blog and other blogs about query letters. Agent blogs and all that. There are so many resources you can find online now. It's crazy. I wish I could think of a specific one that helped me, but I can't. I know I researched though. I probably just won the award for lamest answer ever! :P
Would you be willing to share a copy of your query letter for learning purposes?
Dear Mr. Stender,
Thank you for the chance to pitch my book to you. I've heard great things about your agency. I know you are looking for young adult projects and I would like you to consider NOT YOUR AVERAGE FAIRY TALE, my YA fantasy. It is complete at 57,000 words.
Ash Summerland has it all–good looks, popularity, and the best grades at The Academy of Magical Beings. Ready to complete his last assignment in order to graduate, Ash is confident he will get the apprenticeship he wants. When he opens the letter from the Council, he is shocked to discover he has been assigned to apprentice Lady Shenelle, Keeper of Happy Endings. A.K.A. the head fairy godmother. Armed with wings and a blue wand, Ash is forced to grant three wishes to a troubled human girl and ultimately give her a "happy ever after". Humiliated and furious, Ash is determined to get his assignment over with as fast as possible. Then he can become what he's always wanted to be–a Sandman.
Still grieving over the loss of her dad, Kendall is trying her best to move on. If only she could shake the panic attacks that haunt her nearly every time she even thinks of him. Not to mention, the accident that took his life was her fault. When she meets her fairy godmother, Ash, she believes he's a joke. He's cocky, insensitive, and not to mention, a guy with a girls job. After making her first wish, Kendall is beyond happy when her long time crush asks her to Prom. But, the more time she spends with Ash, the more real he is, and to her surprise she begins to heal. Kendall doesn't believe in happy endings, but if she were able to have one, she'd choose the fairy over the prince.
Full of humor, romance, and a little mystery, Not Your Average Fairy Tale will appeal to fans of My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison. This is my first novel, with potential to become a series. I belong to several critique groups, and have gotten some wonderful feedback on my writing. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. Please know I am submitting to other agents as well.
When you received The Call, what were your reactions?
Yep. That's about it. Ha ha! Actually, when I first heard his voice on the other end of the phone I thought he was a telemarketer. He has an accent, so I didn't even think he was an agent. I was so shocked when he said who he was, since I sent him a query two days earlier. It was totally unexpected. I had to sit down and didn't say much as he told me how much he loved my book. What do you say to that? When he asked me if I had any questions for him I started laughing and had to ask if I could call him back! I know. I'm totally smooth. ;) When I got off the phone I freaked out and called my hubby, my sister, my mom, everyone! Once I was able to think straight, he called me again and we talked. I'm such a loser! lol
When taking The Call, is there one thing you would recommend a writer be prepared for?
Be prepared to ask questions. Have a list you've made prior to querying. You never know when an agent will call. And don't just say yes to the first person who offers representation. Think about it. Give yourself a week at least to get back to them. Don't just dive in, even if you're so excited you can barely function. Ask questions, let other agents you queried know what's going on and then take a deep breath and think things over. :)
How were you able to determine that the agent you have now was the right fit for you and your novel? (To learn more about this part of Chantele's journey, read her post "Getting an offer of representation.")
The two agents who offered were totally different. Uwe was the first to offer and another agent offered a few days later. Uwe had such a fun personality. He absolutely loved my book. He answered every single question I threw at him without hesitating once. He was easy to talk to, gave me examples of editors he had in mind for my book and let me know about some of the revisions we'd work on.
I wasn't very comfortable with the other agent. She was very nice, but I just didn't click with her. And it's funny because I never in a million years thought I'd have a guy for an agent. Is that weird? And I wouldn't change it.
Based on personal experience, what final advice could you give to other writers? This can involve the querying process, general writing advice, or both.
Surround yourself with writer friends. This business is tough. You need people to support you. Even if those people are your online friends. The writing community is amazing. There are so many people working toward the same thing and they are all so supportive and friendly. Get a critique group as well. I wouldn't be where I am today without mine. And last but not least, love what you write and NEVER give up.
Just for fun short answers:
Ha! That's funny. I could never ever pick one. And my list would be forever long! Oh, fine. Let's see. I loved Matched by Ally Condie. The Hunger Games, of course. Anything by Shannon Hale. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. And Harry Potter. That series is one I could probably re-read forever and never get sick of. :) Wow. This answer was so not short! lol
Paramore, Foo Fighters, Collective Soul, Goo Goo Dolls, Taylor Swift, etc. I am loving the INCEPTION soundtrack right now. It's excellent.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I play the harp, so I'd probably just teach harp lessons. I wanted to be an English teacher when I was younger. Then I thought about the millions of papers I'd have to grade...
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be?
Hmmm... That is a hard one. Katniss ROCKS, but I couldn't kill people. Or go through that much crap. I love Elizabeth Bennett, because, well, who doesn't? And I love Isi from The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Either one of those would be fine. ;)
Would you rather write during the day or at night?
I edit at night and write in the morning. I have to do them separate because I have a different mind frame for each. :)
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I've been a panster with my first 4 books. Book 5 is a little more plotted out. I guess it just depends on the project.
Favorite part of the writing process: first draft or revisions?
I LOVE first drafts. Even though they aren't even close to perfect, I love discovering the story for the first time. I do love revisions too, but first drafts are so much fun for me.
What is one thing about you that might surprise readers?
I sing. A lot. I started singing duets with my sister when we were 5 and 3. Still do. :) And I separate my M&M's into piles before I eat them. Like coordinated by color. Because I'm cool like that. He he. :)
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Chantele! :) I know readers will enjoy getting a glimpse into your journey as a writer.
Thanks so much for having me!!