Thursday, September 15, 2011

RIPPLEs of Influence: Mandy Hubbard - Agent, Author Interview

The fantastic author and D4EO agent extraordinaire Mandy Hubbard has dropped by today for a pre-competition interview. As an author and an agent, Mandy has fantastic reach and influence in the publishing industry and may be the perfect person to represent your work. She is hosting a agent pitch competition on YAtopia on September 29. So hone your two sentence pitches over the next two weeks! But right now, if you're IN TOO DEEP, GETTING CAUGHT up in queries and YOU WISH that Mandy Hubbard would represent you, then read on (sorry Mandy, BUT I LOVE HIM and PRADA & PREJUDICE where too hard to fit in =P)

1) Tell us a bit about your journey into writing?
I really began as a reader-- first with books, of course, and later on It's a site for novice writers. After spending several weeks reading stories, I decided to try writing one. Over the next few years, I wrote a half-dozen novels. I had never actually considered myself to BE a writer until much later.
2) RIPPLE is your latest release, would you share with us how you came up with the concept?
I had wanted to do something with more fantasy or paranormal elements, but I wanted it to be grounded in the real world. I decided the main character would be half normal, half otherworldy. It was just a matter of what kind of otherworldly. I used wikipedia to decide on a siren.

3) You cowrote GETTING CAUGHT with Cyn Balog. Would you share with us a bit about the book and the cowriting experience?

Cowriting is such a blast! It combines writing and reading into one experience. I loved it. I wish Cyn could write half of all my novels. :-) The book is about two teens in a prank war that will only end when one of them gets caught. It's contemporary, humorous, with a big focus on friendship.

4) How did agenting become a part of your career?

Back when I was on submission, I had a big involvement in the submission process. I probably drove my agent nuts. One of the first offers I ever received for Prada & Prejudice was from an editor I chose. By the time BUT I LOVE HIM went onto submissions, my agent just let me choose who I wanted it to go to. As time went on, I became involved with a number of writer friend's projects-- helping them through extensive revisions and watching them land agents quickly thereafter. So when an internship opened up, I jumped on it. Interning confirmed my love, and I found an agency to join fairly soon thereafter. It's been a blast! I love the business side as much as the creative side.

5) How do you balance your agenting work with your own writing?
I get up early. I stay up late. I juggle. It's hard to stay creative for more than an hour or two at a time, so it tends to be a back-and-forth thing. I write for an hour until 8AM, and then switch to business mode. Then I write again late at night, after 8:30pm.

6) To give writers an idea of your tastes, what recent releases/authors do you wish were on your client list?
I LOVED Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. It used history in such a modern way. THE LIARY SOCEITY by Lisa and Laura Roecker is Ah-Maz-Ing. Crush Control by Jennifer Jabaley is a great contemporary story with a big hook. I'd kill for a contemp romance author who mastered the tension and sexiness of Jennifer Echols or Simone Elkeles. Still searching for a mystery or suspense.

7) What are the biggest mistakes you see in queries?
There are a lot of obvious mistakes, and those are easy to fix-- typos, targeting the wrong agents, focusing more on yourself than the book, being too wordy, etc. The hard thing is that probably 50% of queries don't make any obvious mistakes, they just sound boring, hum-drum. You have to work hard to craft a query that sounds intriguing and different. It's truly an artform.

8) What stories are you hanging out to see in the YAtopia pitch competition?
Pitch contests like this are hard for the more literary works, but sometimes people just nail it-- there's beauty in a pitch, even in just a couple of sentences. Those always impress me. I'd love something new and fresh under the fantasy umbrella, whether that's Sci-Fi, Epic, etc. And something girly and MG with a big hook!

9) What is an "ultimate" query to you?
Occasionally one strikes a real chord, and I can't request it fast enough. I saw Beth Revis' ACROSS THE UNIVERSE as an intern, and couldn't send it along fast enough. It blew me away. Queries like that are one in a thousand. But so worth the work to find them!
Find out more about Mandy as an agent and an author at her website: or by following her on Twitter @Mandyhubbard and start following YAtopia if you want a shot at catching her agenting eye.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A new boutique publisher: A Bit of Grace (Part 2)

Debut author, publisher and the woman who had to leave her agent to follow her dream - Kate Grace.

Part 1 of this interview can be found on YAtopia.

Sharon: So does ABoG have plans for more books coming out anytime soon?

Kate: Yes. There are actually a few additional elements to Burden of the Soul (book one) that will be released through the fall, including the paperback edition and bonus chapters that give the perspective of other characters within the book. We are also hard at work on the second book in the Burden series, set to release in late 2012. Our end goal is to be a fully operational boutique publisher, but on principle we're working out the kinks of the process on my books first. Once we feel ready to take on other authors and fully support them and their work we'll open for submissions.

Sharon: What will be the submission process of ABoG?

Kate: It's difficult to say given that we're still in the early stages of defining ABoG, though I can say we will stay within the realm of children's and teen literature for now with the goal of expanding into literature aimed at female readerships. I'm actually really excited for this, having been an editor myself and being connected to such a wide variety of talented editors and artists. I love the idea of creating teams around a work, tailored to the work itself. When we get there, we'll select manuscripts based on our interest in them and the way they grab us. Then we'll go out and find the perfect team to work with the author to create the best possible literary experience for readers. The structure we're experimenting with right now gives everyone on the team a stake in the project, encouraging active participation in every phase of a work. The test run for Burden of the Soul has worked extremely well, and we're going to test drive it again before we apply it to others' works. But we're hoping to have it fully polished and ready for outside submissions in 2012.

Sharon: What other stories/novels are you working on at the moment?

Right now I'm working on the bonus chapters of Burden of the Soul, which is so much fun. It adds so much to the writing experience to play around in other characters' perspectives. I really believe it adds dimensions and discoveries to the story as a writer, whether they're made public or not. Beyond that we're hard at work on the next book in the Burden series. There are, however, other characters unrelated to Burden living in my imagination right now with their own stories to tell, and occasionally they demand attention. As far as I can tell at this point they're not geared at the YA genre, so when the time comes I'll figure them out, but for now they serve as a great stretch.

Sharon: What are some tricks & tips you use to over come writers block?

Kate: It sounds so simple and so difficult at the same time, but the best way I have found to combat writers block is to keep writing. A block is rarely created by the part of ourselves that wants to write – it's created by that part of ourselves that wants to edit or critique as we go. Don't let that inner voice judge your work in progress! Keep going and write for the sake of silencing that inner voice. Tell it to shut up by writing more. If you need a break from what you're working on, write something else or find another creative outlet to keep that playful sensibility about expression. Show yourself some compassion and grace, and allow yourself to be a beginner. If when sitting down to write the first sentence you're worried about getting an agent, getting a publisher, having good sales, being able to pay off student loans... Oh my world, you'll never get to the end of that sentence! This is playtime, everything else comes after. Push it out of your mind and just allow that creative part of your self to run around a play for a bit without the manufactured risk of failing. There is no failing in writing if you get the words down. If you just write, you've succeeded already!

You can find Burden of the Soul for sale online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iTunes. You can find Kate on Twitter, Goodreads, A Bit of Grace Blog and Facebook.