Hey, everyone! I have another Newly Agented Writers interview for you featuring the awesome Taryn Albright! Taryn is a YA writer represented by the lovely Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency. Be sure to check out Taryn's blog. And if you would like to follow her on Twitter, you can do that here.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What kinds of things do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
Hi, I'm Taryn :) I'm a college student. I used to swim collegiately, but I gave that up this semester to focus on writing and editing. I do CrossFit and love working out in general. Lately, I've started attempting to eat Paleo, and since I've never been much of a cook, this is turning into an adventure.
Do you have a particular writing routine? A way to get yourself focused?
Haha! Everyone hates me for this, but I have a very unique writing routine. I think about an idea, letting the ideas percolate. Then I write a query. Then I write a synopsis: a giant paragraph of run-ons that often spans 5 single-spaced TNR 12-pt pages. Once I'm happy with that, I carve out three days of my life (often a weekend), and write the whole book. Yes. In a weekend. I told you that you would hate me.
There's no time to be unfocused, so I don't really have any tools there. I love the drafting high, and I love being so deeply enveloped in my story.
What would you say are the easiest and hardest aspects of writing?
Easiest: for me, coming up with ideas. They're so distracting. (That's why I write so quickly--so I can't get distracted!) Hardest: the burning self-doubt. No matter if you're agented or if you have a book deal, whether your MS feedback comes back glowing or you win a contest, you are going to doubt yourself. Writers can be obsessed with their MSs one moment, and the next be wondering how on earth they ever thought this pile of crap was publishable. Everyone suffers from it. (I may be talking out my angst right now.)
How do you find inspiration for your writing?
Everywhere! The MS Molly signed me for was because my sister badgered me nonstop about writing a book set in Disney World. The MS my first agent signed me for was because of my swimming career. I have a new one that came out of my nightly Bible reading.
I know you run your very own editorial service – The Girl with the Green Pen. What is it about the editing sphere that drew you to it?
I love editing. I love it ten times more than writing (don't tell my agent). I'm going to be long-winded when I answer this question: So the summer before my sophomore year of college, I was poor, and I was beta-ing someone's MS, and they told me I was very good at this. "Hmm," I said. "Maybe I can charge a few bucks and not be poor!" So I started Teen Eyes with very low prices. After a month, I added another editor. I had a couple clients a month, which was just enough for late night applebee runs. At the end of 2012, business exploded. Even though we now had 3 editors, I had over ten clients a month, so I decided to split off on my own.
To the other editors, Teen Eyes was a way to make money while in school. I'd decided I wanted to do this for a living. My particular strength is story structure and other big picture things. I'm not so great with line edits. I love helping plot stories, brainstorming, asking what-ifs. Once my clients started getting agents and book deals (something like 14 with agents and 8 with book deals now!), I loved seeing their successes--loved it more than my own successes!
I love everything about the editing sphere, especially my clients :)
Can you tell us a bit about the novel that you queried your agent with? If you would be willing to share a copy of your query letter for learning purposes, that would be fantastic! :)
The night before seventeen-year-old Teegan Krane’s first day playing Alice in Wonderland at Disney World, she receives a mysterious invitation to a midnight scavenger hunt. Intrigued, she accepts. But the initiation rite turns from a dream to a nightmare when someone stalks her through the park, and another Alice is found poisoned the next morning.
As Teegan wonders whether she was the target, the police arrest a suspect: Teegan’s brother, the victim’s ex-boyfriend. But even after Miles’s arrest, the other Alices report shadows outside their apartments and threatening notes in their lockers. Talk about curiouser and curiouser.
When Teegan investigates behind-the-scenes (and under the streets) at the most magical place on earth, she discovers a world of jealousy and competitiveness blurring the line between fantasy and reality. And when all clues point to her roommate, Teegan knows it’s time to head down the rabbit hole for proof—or it’s off with all their heads.
*Secret: this is actually not the plot for the draft I queried. I mean, it is, generally, (murder mystery set at Disney World, an Alice dies, etc) but the third paragraph is completely off, and so is the line about her roommate. But I didn't want to revise after my original query for my first draft, so I didn't. Shhh.
What made you realize that Molly was the perfect fit for you and your novel?
Well, I actually interned for her in 2012. It's a funny story--we were emailing back and forth randomly, and I brought up that my MS was a murder mystery set in Disney World, and she said "OMG LET ME SEE IT NOW." And I was busy trying to find my opening, and I sent her a chapter that ended up being in the middle of the MS. She ordered me to keep her posted. I wrote it and revised it. All along I was thinking I want to work with Molly. I knew she was fantastic and communicative and savvy b/c I'd interned for her. Honestly, I should've just given her an exclusive. Regrets. But it still worked out :)
What were your reactions when you received The Call?
She emailed: "Taryn, I liked this, and I obviously like you. My intellectual property lawyer friend had some interesting questions. Can we talk tomorrow?" Which was not exactly the most promising email. So I was like OMG SHE HATES IT AND SHE WANTS TO LET ME DOWN BY SAYING I SHOULD GIVE UP WRITING FOREVER. Duh. Agents totally do this.
But I went to the one spot on campus where I have cell service, got ready, and waited. my computer died. She emailed, thinking she had my timezone wrong. I said NO I'M READY. We chatted. She was wonderful. But, like I said, I already knew that. Plus, since Molly was my second agent, I was less excited.
Then there were three more calls. You'd think I'd get more confident. Nope, every time I was like "they're calling to say no!" One actually was calling to say no, so I guess I wasn't too far off, lol.
When taking The Call, is there anything you would recommend a writer be prepared for?
Take notes. Make sure you have cell service (my first call w/ Molly dropped...*headdesk*). I've had six agent calls over my two MSs, and every single call has been shorter than a half hour. If you've already stalked the agent, you're gonna be able to cross out a lot, and don't be worried if a call was short. Also, sometimes agents aren't very good at talking on the phone, and their enthusiasm may not come through. Listen instead for what they're doing. Are they only saying they love it? Or are they trying to sell themselves by saying what they can do for you? Passion is good, but it's the action that will get you results.
What would you say have been the most exciting parts of your writing journey so far? The scariest?
Most exciting: writing a book in a weekend. Scariest: having to rewrite it entirely--in another weekend ;) The truth is, I don't really give much thought to my writing journey. I'm 90% focused on editing and other people's writing, 10% focused on me. So the most exciting part for me is seeing clients get book deals. Jen Alexander, whose book comes out 2014 from HarlequinTeen, came to me with the very first draft of her amazing sci-fi, then we did another couple passes, then she signed with Mollie Glick, and went on to sell. It was a really exciting summer :)
Since you’ve recently dealt with the situation of having to part with one agent and jump into those query trenches again, do you have any advice for other writers in the same boat?
I'm a bad person to ask because 1) like I said, I'm more focused on my editing, and 2) I love querying, and 3) I have so many agent connections that I wasn't really worried. But lately I've worked with some writers who were thinking about leaving their agents, and I want to support this. If you aren't happy with your agent, and s/he hasn't sold anything for you, and you feel like they aren't your book's best advocate, don't be scared to leave. You shouldn't feel like a burden.
Just for fun short answers:
Favorite book/s or series?
Ender's Game :)
Favorite type of music?
Whatever's on. Seriously; I care so little about music. Lately I've been on a showtunes kick lol.
Music or silence while writing?
Neither--background noise like rain or something. I can't write in silence.
First draft or revisions?
First draft! I love the drafting high soooo much.
If you could pick any place to go on a writing retreat, where would it be?
My CP's house in the Bay Area. We had one there last year and it was amazing. I love her, her cooking, her family, the area . . .
BUT I AM PLANNING A WRITING RETREAT IN THE SEATTLE AREA IN JULY. If you're interested, email me tarynalAThotmail--we still have a couple spots left :)
Are you a day or night writer?
Like I said earlier, I am a weekend writer. I start at 10 AM and end at 1 AM. More of a night writer, I guess, but mostly just an all-day writer.
What is one thing about you that might surprise readers?
I was a competitive weightlifter in high school. I have near perfect recall for numbers--I love math. IDK why I'm a writer. Even though I wrote a book about Alice in Wonderland, I don't really like it.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Taryn!! I wish you the best of luck with your writing. :D