Tuesday, April 3, 2012

NAWS: Interview with Lori M. Lee

I am so excited to have the awesome Lori M. Lee with us for another Newly Agented Writers Series interview! Be sure to stop by Lori's fantastic blog and check out her website. If you would like to follow her on Twitter, you can do that here.

A bit about Lori (in her own words):

Lori was born in the mountains of Laos where her family relocated to a Thailand refugee camp for a few years and then moved permanently to the United States when she was three. She can’t remember any of it, and uses this excuse to insist she was raised by invisible flying unicorns. Like thestrals but less morbid.

She’s been writing since the third grade although quality has hopefully improved. Her first novel was a Mary Sue fantasy romance she wrote when she was a preteen. It contained many things preteens probably should not have been writing about. She blames her older sisters. (link)

Q and A:

First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you like to do for fun when you aren’t writing?

I'm a young adult writer represented by Suzie Townsend of Nancy Coffey Literary, and I can often be found sitting in front of my laptop either writing or jabbering on twitter about unicorns and manga. When I'm not writing, I'm either reading, doodling, spending time with my family, or browsing tumblr until I remember I'm supposed to be working.

What inspired you to start writing? Was it always a dream? Or did a certain event get you going?

I've always loved books, but my desire to write really came about in third grade during an after school program focused solely on writing and creating picture books. I fell in love, and it has since then always been my dream.

As to inspiration, everything I've ever read and loved inspires me to be a better writer. When I read something amazing, I get this rush of adrenaline and think, 'This is what I want to be able to do.' But I don't just think it—I actually sit down and do it (write, that is—not entirely sure I succeed in doing it well lol).

Do you have a particular writing routine? A way to get yourself focused?

I read over what I wrote the previous day. Maybe skim my notes to remind myself of details and what needs to be conveyed in whatever scene I'm working on. But usually, when I'm in my writing groove, the story never really leaves my thoughts so I can just sit down a day later and know exactly what words I need to write next.

What would you say is the hardest aspect of writing?

Plotting. I like stories that come full circle, where seemingly unrelated events at the beginning become significant at the end—every detail and action has to have motive and purpose. This can be a headache when plotting.

I know you’re a talented artist. Which of the following do you think is more true: your art greatly influences your writing or your writing greatly influences your art.

Thank you :) To be honest, neither is quite true. Neither one greatly influences the other. Sometimes, I like to sketch out my characters, but it's not necessary. And sometimes a piece of art will inspire a scene, but that's not often either. As I outline, I picture the scenes and settings played out in my head. But in the actual writing, I'm always agonizing over the words in order to convey the right image or emotion. I suppose it's a very equal relationship.

What is one unique thing that happened to you during the querying process?

Shortly after Suzie offered—and completely independent of it, because I had yet to announce anything—I was contacted by a phenomenal agent who ranks right up there with Suzie (I'll call her Agent A). Agent A heard through the grapevine about my manuscript and was interested in reading it. Normally, I'd have been thrilled... if not for the fact I'd already queried her. Her assistant had passed on her behalf weeks ago, so she'd never even seen my query.

Now, again, normally I'd just go YAY and send it along, but since I'd thought my chances with Agent A were shot, I queried a different agent at the same agency (Agent B) (Please note this agency allowed querying different agents so long as it wasn't at the same time). Not only did Agent B already have my full, but she ended up offering representation later that same day.

So I was in this hair-pulling position of having to actually deny Agent A her request to read my full. (Agent B was just as awesome, by the way—I wouldn't have queried her if I didn't think so. It's just that I knew much more about Agent A, which is why I had queried her first.)

Would you be willing to share a copy of your query letter for learning purposes?

Sure, but this should come with a caveat. Or three. First—Suzie and I had corresponded previously on a different manuscript so she was familiar with my work. Second—a critique from one of her authors turned into a referral to Suzie, so she was expecting my query. Third—none of that truly matters. I was absolutely honored to have the referral, but Suzie confirmed she would have requested regardless based on the sample pages.

Okay, I have a fourth caveat—ANY query that results in a request is a successful query. A request means your query did its job—it got the agent's attention. After that, it's up to your book and your writing to do the rest.

This was the "meat" of my query (but know that it was definitely personalized):

People are disappearing in the city of Ninurta. Like the rest of the citizens, seventeen-year-old Kai pretends not to notice. With her own survival to worry about, she doesn't have much concern to spare. But when her brother vanishes, Kai will do whatever it takes to find him, including using the ability she promised her brother to keep secret—Kai can see and manipulate the threads of time.

With the help of an annoying and distracting friend—distracting because he's beautiful, and annoying because he knows it—Kai discovers a secret war between Ninurta's governor and a rebel named the Black Rider. The Rider has been kidnapping Ninurtans and transforming them into cybernetically enhanced soldiers called Golems.

Kai sets out to find the Rider and discovers a shocking secret: the Rider is actually the Harbinger of Famine. And Kai? Not as human as she thought. Now, Kai will have to face down the Harbinger and uncover the link between herself and the secret war before her brother gets sent for dehumanization.

When you received The Call, what were your reactions?

We arranged it via email first so I had time to prepare. However, when I first saw Suzie's email, I braced myself for "Thank you, but..." Instead I saw words like "love" and "phone call" and my brain went "pfft" (that's the sound of it dying).

When taking The Call, is there anything you would recommend a writer be prepared for?

Have lots of questions ready! Suzie was fantastic in that she answered all my questions before I even had to ask, but it differs from agent to agent. The other agents I spoke with talked first about my book and then let me ask whatever questions I had for them.

How did you know beyond a doubt that Suzie was the perfect fit for you and your novel?

It was a much tougher decision than I expected. When Suzie offered, I was set on having her. But I knew I had to explore all my options, and Suzie encouraged me to do the same (she's awesome). I ended up really connecting with one of the other offering agents, and I was utterly torn. In the end, though, I went with Suzie because the idea of turning her down made me go 'INCONCEIVABLE!' And because of her amazing revision notes. I knew that, with Suzie, she would push me to work harder and be a better writer.

Based on personal experience, what final advice could you give to other writers? This can involve the querying process, general writing advice, or both.

Be informed. Research agents and editors. Read a lot in your genre and out of it. Find out everything you can about the industry, and make an informed decision on which route you want to take towards publication. If you query agents, follow submission guidelines and don't make rookie mistakes like querying a hundred agents all in one mass email.

The information is out there and can be easily found. Take advantage of it.

Just for fun short answers:

What is your favorite book or series?

I hate to be a cliche, but probably the Harry Potter series. I don't have a single favorite book. I love far too many for all different reasons to be able to pick just one.

Favorite music?

Celtic music/instrumentals.

Favorite dessert?

Ice cream!

I know you *love* unicorns. What would be your idea of the perfect unicorn? Would it fly? Would it possess magical abilities?

Flying is optional, but my perfect unicorn is pretty much the idealized version—snowy white, spiraling golden horn, the epitome of goodness. Habitat: enchanted forest. Some healing powers would be fab too.

Recently though, I've kind of fallen in love with the idea of a black unicorn. Like so: [click here for awesome unicorn picture] 

Isn't it stunning? *_*

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be?

Anyone with a pet unicorn. You saw that coming, right?

Are you a day writer or night writer?

Day writer. By midnight, unless I'm in a serious writing groove, I'll usually stop and allow myself to dither online. Typically by reading manga.

Favorite part of the writing process: first draft or revisions?

Revisions! I love editing. A first draft is always rushed and messy. I love going back to smooth things out, reword sentences and really flesh out a scene or moment.

What is one thing about you that might surprise readers?

I have never seen E.T. Is this surprising or just weird?

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Lori! <3 I wish you the best of luck on your current and future writing projects. :)


  1. Love this interview! Much like you, I had two pages of questions, but by the end of the conversation all my questions had already been answered! It really set the tone for our future relationship.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview! Thanks so much for stopping by! Welcome to the blog. :)

  2. Thanks so much for having me, Kristin! :)

    1. You're so welcome, Lori! Thanks again for taking the time to do the interview!! <3 :)

  3. Yay, Lori! Great interview. :)

    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Bethany! Thanks for reading! :)

  4. Really enjoyed the interview, it's always so good to find out how others approach it and their advice. Got excited about Lori's story all over again from reading that query! :)

    1. Yay! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :) And wasn't that query awesome? Lori's story looks *sooo* good. :D

  5. Great interview. Lori, I loved hearing about your querying process. How awesome that you had so many choices. And your book sounds really good from the query.

  6. Never seen E.T??!! Sort it out! : D

    Can't wait to read that book Lori :)

  7. One of my favorite movies is The Last Unicorn, and a black unicorn would be fabulous. (Maybe it can be the male and the females can be white?)

    NCLA has so many awesome agents, congrats to you, and I'm certain Suzie is amazing.