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Monday, July 25, 2011

Sarah Jane Freyman Interview

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sarah Jane Freyman of the Sarah Jane Freyman Literary Agency about publishing and her goals as an agent.  She was very insightful, inspiring and an absolute pleasure to talk with.  She's accepting queries...so read on and take heart! 

We all know ebooks are changing the publishing industry.  Sarah affirms they're definitely having an impact on publishing but they aren't to be fear or scorned.  She reminds us that there was a time when books were illustrated manuscripts made by their creator.  People had to deal with a move to print.  Going back even further, all stories were told verbally without paper.  Things change.  The one thing that doesn't change is "the need for humans to hear story."  Whatever medium those stories come to us is just fine.  We must, "save what's worth saving, embrace technology and make it beautiful".  The only thing she feels needs to be changed about ebooks is the amount of money authors make from their work.  "That will have to change."  (I agree!)
Her final thought on ebooks and publishing right now, "We're a little lost in the rapids right now but we'll find the flow."
Talking about manuscripts and what she's interested in representing, she says, "Everything interests me."  She would love to see an illustrated novel for adults or YA or a fabulous mystery, but really, she loves a good story.  (Sarah Jane Freyman Agency does not currently represent children's authors other than Young Adult.)  They more recently added Young Adult to their list after she read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  She admits it was "one hell of a story."  The writing wasn't great but the story was and Sarah could see the market was shifting and she wanted to be part of the great work being done in the Young Adult market.
Sarah has been an agent since the 1970s.  To keep at a job for that long, a person must really love what they do.  Sarah's love for her job shone through as we talked.  For her, the best part about being an agent is "discovering new worlds and dipping into them."  She loves discovering a wonderful story and savoring that moment of wondering what it could be and how she can help to realize it's potential.  As a result, Sarah Jane Freyman is an editorial agency.  If the underlying story and the author's writing is good enough, she'll take on a client and offer editorial help to get it up to speed for the market.
Sarah's ideal client is simply a nice person.  If you're nasty, aggressive, or too touchy, don't query here.  Be willing to consider editorial advice and be polite.
Serious writers know the market is seemingly impossible to break into but Sarah offers hope.  She believes writers need to learn to write a good query letter and to seek outside help for their work if they need it.  (critique groups, outside editors, etc.)  Don't send in your work before it's ready!  Authors get a high from that completed manuscript and often want to send it out immediately.  Sit on your hands until the madness passes!  Although, Sarah says publishing is a paradox.  You have to strike a balance between sitting on your hands and leaping before you look.  Keep learning and never give up.  Learn from mistakes and try again. 

Thank you so much, Sarah for taking the time to talk with me!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gwen Hayes Interview

I recently picked up a book called Falling Under.  The cover is gorgeous, don't you agree? Here's some of the back cover copy:
"Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life, not allowed the same freedoms as the rest of the teenagers in the small California town of Serendipity Falls.  But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, she feels every urge she's ever denied burning through her at the slightest glance from Haden Black.  Theia knows she's seen Haden before - not around town, but in her dreams."

That, alone, sounds pretty compelling, right?  For better or for worse, it's taken me so darn long to revise my novel that I've started reading books that have similar elements to make sure I haven't been trumped.  It scares me to read these books until, phew, I discover they're completely different than mine.  However, books like Falling Under aren't only different than mine, but written so beautifully that I find myself getting lost in the writing, then going back to figure out how she did that.  Gwen Hayes is a masterful storyteller.  Her characters are well drawn and interesting.  (The supporting cast is a riot!)  The descriptions are not too lengthy but gripping.  Each chapter ends with a mini-cliffhanger.  (I did some heavy revising on my chapter endings after I put this book down.  Thanks, Gwen!)  Books like this become instant inspiration for me and the authors become heroic, in my eyes.  (this includes the other authors I've interviewed here.)  So, I highly recommend reading Falling Under if you're looking for a dark, beautifully written paranormal romance.  The scenes will not quickly leave your mind.  If you don't believe me, here's the first sentence of the book, "Everything changed the night I saw the burning man fall from the sky."  Amazing!  And if that doesn't catch your attention, just wait until you find out who the burning man is and how she describes him.  So, without further gushing, here's my interview with the brilliantly talented, Gwen Hayes.

RW (Restless Writer): In your acknowledgements, you admit that it scared you to write this book. I know what scared me reading it, but what scared you about writing it?
GH (Gwen Hayes):  When Falling Under started haunting me, I was busy writing a romantic comedy. I wasn't quite prepared for all the dark, twisty things...I thought I was going to write funny books. It was scary because it seemed like such a stretch for me and I was afraid I was going to blow it. Also...I totally creeped myself out.
RW: What was your first inspiration/idea for this book? 
GH: The first scene with the burning man wouldn't leave me alone. I had no idea what I was embarking on...but that is the original idea.
RW: I was blown away by the pacing and the fantastic chapter endings.  As a writer, it makes me wonder how much was changed in the editing process.  Are there major difference, that surprised you, between the version you first submitted and the final? 
GH: Thank you! I do like to end my chapter and scene endings with a reason to turn the page. :) As for revisions, the first version is unrecognizable. For instance, Madame Varnie came about as a surprise during revisions. And what a surprise Varnie is, right?
RW:  Within the book, Theia makes a comment about vampires who sparkle in the sunlight.  Are you a Twilight fan?  (if yes, team Edward or Jacob?) Did it have any influence on how you told Theia’s story? 
GH: I really enjoyed Twilight. I think Stephenie Meyer does a great job connecting people to the story. And I always felt that Jacob was kind of whiny...so def. Team Edward.
RW:  As a mother of young children, I’m fascinated how other moms make time for their writing.  How do you do it? 
GH:  My kids were 11 and up when I began writing, so I have no idea how women with wee ones do it. My husband is the reason I can write, though. He takes care of everything and reminds me to eat when I'm writing. 
RW:  How long did it take you to complete Falling Under, find an agent, sell it and when did you start the sequel? 
GH:  The book took about 6 months to write, and I got an agent less than a month later. I know this is not typical. I know this because I had been querying agents for some time before this book. Penguin bought the book 3 months after I acquired my agent. It all went super duper fast.
RW:  Amazon reviewers, even the negative ones, agree that the world of Under is a unique and interesting place.  Was it easy to write about such a creepy, dangerous place? 
GH:  Well, yes and no. The Under scenes came pretty easily writing wise, but they sometimes left me unsettled. 
RW:  Amazon reviewers also agree that the supporting characters are awesome.  Varnie alone is so interesting I can imagine his own series of books.  How do you keep your amazing supporting cast in check while you tell Theia’s story?  Do they ever try to get more of the spotlight? 
GH:  In a lot of ways, it's just as much their story as Theia's....we're just looking at it through Theia's eyes. And I don't think Theia could function without her best friends, so they are very important to the way she sees her story. 
RW:  Do you belong to any professional organizations?  If yes, how have they impacted your career? 
GH:  I belong to RWA-Romance Writers of America. It's a strong, empowering organization. I'm very proud of the fact that I write romance.
RW:  What are a few of the last great books you’ve read and what struck you about them? 
GH:  I just finished revisions (I don't read much YA while I'm writing YA), so I'm really looking forward to TEXAS GOTHIC by Rosemary Clement-Moore which I shipped to myself last week when she gave me a copy at a conference...and now I have to wait for it to get home. :)
RW:  These days, everyone imagines their favorite books as movies.  Do you have an ideal cast in your head for Falling Under? 
GH:  ARGH...I suck at this question. No...I really don't know the young actors these days, but trust if there is ever a movie, the ideal cast will make it their own. Also, I wouldn't mind it being a Tim Burton movie. I think he would understand Under very well.
Thank you so much, Gwen, for taking the time from revisions to do this interview.  Everyone, keep an eye out for Dreaming Awake, the sequel to Falling Under, coming out in 2012.   For more info. on that, and to see the amazing cover for Dreaming Awake, visit Gwen's website.