I am so excited to have the fantabulous Kristin Rae on the blog for another Newly Agented Writers Series interview! Kristin is a YA writer represented by Marietta Zacker of Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. Be sure to check out Kristin’s blog, and if you would like to follow her on Twitter, you can do that here (and you totally should!).
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 native Texan minus the accent you'd think a Texan would have, a wife that enjoys cooking but doesn't want to wash the dishes, and dog mom to two boxers. For fun, obviously I enjoy reading, especially outside in the hammock if the weather lets me. I like to play tennis, and hubs and I started kayaking a couple years ago.
What inspired you to start writing? Was it always a dream, or did a certain event get you going?
I hear I was over-descriptive as a young student during creative writing exercises, so I like to think I always had a mind for storytelling with attention to detail. But it wasn't until just before my college graduation ceremony that a group of characters popped into my head and wouldn't let me go until I'd finished the story over the next four years. That story is shelved (because it's TERRIBLE!), but it was such a vital learning experience, and confirmed to me that I wanted writing to be my career.
Do you have a particular writing routine? A way to get yourself focused?
Thus far, I haven't had to write on any sort of deadline, so I write when I feel the inspiration and have the time. Usually it's super late at night and I write until nothing makes sense anymore. For focus, I have to stay off of the Internet and set a timer for thirty minutes at a time. Only when the timer is up am I allowed to get up.
What would you say is the hardest aspect of writing? The easiest?
I'm still not solid on the technical stuff. There are some grammar rules and spellings that I may never fully internalize. As far as easiest... I have no idea. Character names?! haha!
I know you’re a talented photographer. Do you think your photography inspires your writing in any way? What about the reverse?
You are so sweet! I think my eye for framing what I see as well as attention to detail might factor a bit, yes. I actually used my Italy photographs for reference to describe setting. Best research there is--personal experience! And when I'm anywhere interesting now, I'll take a picture of even random things if I think I might be able to incorporate it into a story.
What is one unique thing that happened to you during the querying process?
Relatively early on in the querying process, I got the most helpful revision notes you could imagine from a rockstar agent who is notorious for taking her time with manuscripts (like, 6+ months). She read mine in less than a week! With the help of my critique partners, I made a game plan for revisions and my story was forever changed. If I ever meet that agent, I might cry in front of her. She'll never know how much she opened my eyes to my own story. I'm so grateful she took the time to help me instead of just saying no.
Would you be willing to share a copy or your query letter for learning purposes?
Funny thing here is that my agent hasn't even seen my query. The agency's uses a form, which asks for a 2-3 sentence pitch. Here's what I wrote:
When seventeen-year-old Pippa Preston ditches her summer art program abroad, she sets out on her own in hopes of falling in love with an Italian, but the road to amore gets detoured when she's torn between a sexy local and a hunky American archaeology student. As she explores the famous cities of Rome and Pompeii, Pippa must sort out her feelings before her parents figure out where she really is, ending her short-lived dream of independence.
What were your reactions when you received The Call?
My offer story is insane. Marietta was my fifth offer out of seven (six phone calls, and one email requesting a phone call, which I had to turn down because I already knew Marietta was the ONE). My very first offer was a mix of emotions. It happened so fast--the agent only had my full for three days. I'd been rejected so much, I thought it was possibly a fluke. But the next day I got a second offer, and my confidence grew. As the week went on and I spoke with a variety of amazing agents, my internal reaction was basically, YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME... THIS ISN'T HAPPENING!
When taking The Call, is there anything you would recommend a writer be prepared for?
It's never too soon to compile a list of questions you want to ask your potential agent. I had two offers that were unscheduled calls, so it helped that I had my questions lined up. Ask them how many clients they have, what houses they've sold to, if they have a house in mind for your book. Write down their reactions and gauge their confidence level in you and your writing.
How did you know without a doubt that Marietta was the perfect fit for you and your novel?
Her enthusiasm and confidence in my writing was a big deal. Combined with her experience, sales, and the ease of our conversation, I knew she was the one. When you feel like you can't wait to speak with them again... that's a good sign.
Based on personal experience, what final advice could you give to other writers?
Don't take rejections personally. Hard not to at times, I know, but think about the books you read. You don't like all of them, do you? But someone liked it enough to publish it. If an agent passes, it just wasn't the book FOR THEM. If they offered you notes on what could make it better, consider them seriously. They might be completely wrong for you and your vision of the story, but they might change your world.
Just for fun short answers:
Favorite book/s or series?
The Harry Potters, anything by Stephanie Perkins or Sarah Addison Allen, gah the list could go on forever.
Linda's Chocolate Fudge Cake from The Cheesecake Factory
I know you love Italy and have even had the opportunity to visit! Can you tell us something interesting that you saw or did on your trip?
Oh man, it was all interesting! I think what struck me the most was how old Rome is. You read about it in history class, hear about how Rome ruled everything at one point in time, but when you're THERE and you see the actual buildings that factored into the history, touch the stone set in place two thousand years ago... it's such an amazing feeling. I really tried to have my main character experience a lot of those feelings that I had seeing everything firsthand.
Music or silence while writing?
Movie scores. No lyrics means I can't sing, which is distracting haha.
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be?
Who doesn't want to be Hermione?
Are you a day writer or a night writer?
First draft or revisions?
Both are equally tortuous and wonderful at the same time!
What is one thing about you that might surprise readers?
Um... I used to coach figure skating? Is that surprising? :)
Thank you so much for doing this interview with me, Kristin! It was so much fun!! :D