An Interview With Authoress

In the course of internet wanderings I’ve ran across a lot of really awesome people, and culled an enormous amount of information from blogs. As I raided my brain – yes, I picture myself on the prow of a Viking ship, approaching my own gray matter – for more people I’d like to interview, it repeatedly offered up names of bloggers. And so, my readers, I give you another series; Bloggers of Awesome. Yeah, it’s the BOA. (This way my female guests get a feathery scarf, and my males get a big, long snake to represent them…and since we’re writers, we understand symbolism, yes?)

I'm very excited to have an interview today with Authoress - the faceless wonder behind an excellent blog that brings inspiration to aspiring authors. Authoress' monthly Secret Agent contests have helped more than a few hopeful writers find an agent.  She's a recently agented YA author herself, and I wanted to give her some blog space to give us a peek behind the scenes at her awesome blog, her own writing process, and her agent journey.

You run an excellent blog for aspiring writers over at
Miss Snark's First Victim . What made you decide to take this approach on your blog? How do you get all these awesome agents to agree to the Secret Agent contests you do there?

Thank you! You may not believe me, but it was a whirlwind, spur-of-the-moment idea I had one day. I envisioned a blog for aspiring writers, created it, and decided to remain anonymous. That'll be 3 years ago in April!

Shortly after the blog was born, I came up with the Secret Agent idea. We were already having some successful, in-house critique sessions, but I thought it would be more exciting if a real agent showed up and offered feedback. Holly Root was the first one to say yes (and only the third one I asked, which is a pretty good start!), and it moved on from there. And honestly? There's no magic formula. I introduced myself and my blog and invited the agents, one at a time. One sign of the blog's growing success happened when agents started to ask me if they could participate! Makes things a little easier. :)

Just so that everyone can be even more appreciative of you than we already are, how much time do you put into you blog, weekly?

I treat the blog as though it's part of my professional life (which it is, really). So I don't allow myself to go near it on weekends, for starters. During the week, I will spend anywhere from 5 to 10 hours a week on "blog work," which includes posting, dealing with email and comments, and running contests. Of course I put more time into it during Secret Agent weeks, which is why we only have those once a month.

What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers out on the agent hunt?

OOOO, that's easy!
1. The Verla Kay Blueboards
2. AgentQuery
3. QueryTracker
4. Jodi Meadows (she dissects queries and she's great at it!)

Also, there is a growing number of agent blogs out there, so as you research agents, be sure to check for blogging activity.
Some really informative ones:
1. Kathleen Ortiz
2. Jennifer Laughran
3. Kristin Nelson
4. Rachelle Gardner

Tell us a little bit about your own agent, and how you landed him?

I love my agent! The short version is: Josh Getzler was one of my Secret Agents in 2009, when he was still with Writer's House. He was a joy to work with--pleasant, funny, and completely ego-free. When I was in the midst of querying my YA dystopian in 2010, I discovered he'd moved to Russell and Volkening and was interested in YA, so I queried him. He seemed delighted to know my "real identity" and, more importantly, he was interested in my story, and asked for the full the day after I sent the query. The full request led to a phone conversation and revision request, which led to fairly sweeping revisions, which led to his ultimate offer of representation the week before Christmas.

You can read our full he-said/she-said version of the story here

Let's talk about your writing, since you donate so much of your own blog space to the writing of others. What genre do you write, and is there any one particular thing that led you to it?

I write MG and YA fantasy and sci/fi. I'm admittedly leaning more in the YA direction and will probably concentrate on it. My novel currently on submission is a YA dystopian, and my WIP is a YA urban fantasy. I grew up ADORING fantasy (I started reading Katherine Kurtz when I was in seventh grade), and I'm a huge Star Trek: TNG and Voyager geek. There. I've admitted it.

What's funny about the fact that I write novels at all is that I declared a long time ago that I could "never write a novel." I had self-published a collection of humorous anecdotes and labeled myself an essayist (how boring is that?). Then, one night, I was curled in bed reading The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. I know that novel is beloved by many, but I didn't like it! It was predictable and its heroine was propelled by obvious, leading circumstances at every turn, and I found myself thinking, "I could write a better story than this!" Thus began my first labor of love--the worst YA fantasy novel you can possibly imagine.

But hey. It was a start! Now, six novels later, I can safely say that, yes, I am a novelist. And there isn't anything else I'd rather be writing!

Where do you find your inspiration, typically?

Story-wise, I'd have to say that I'm a thinker and a dreamer, and that's where my ideas come from. (I was the girl in school whose margins were crammed with doodles.) Not to mention my love for things fantastical, things otherworldly, things uber-geeky but still believable. And happily ever afters. I love those.
Writing-wise, I am inspired by those who have gone before me as well as those who walk by my side. The online writing community is AMAZING. When I first began this journey, I was pretty isolated. Looking back, I don't know how I survived. And truthfully? My writing didn't begin to mature until I "plugged in" to the wonderful resources on the internet.

Are you a pantster or a planner? Tell us a little about your process.

Pantser all the way!

Actually, I prefer the term "organic writer," because, really, it's more about allowing the story to unfold organically than it is about "flying by the seat of one's pants," which has a pejorative ring. That, and it just sounds cool. ;P

I'm definitely planning more than I used to, though. The downside of pantsing is the proverbial writing-oneself-into-a-corner, and I've gotten thoroughly tired of doing that. So I'm much more about inciting events and plot points than I was before. Right now I'm in the middle of the push-to-the-end in my WIP, and I've happily done enough pre-planning (read: staring, angsting, and teeth-gnashing) to make this process feel almost effortless.

(Emphasis on "almost." I have a lot of trouble shutting down my internal editor, so drafting tends to go more slowly than it should.)

Do you use beta readers, and if so, where do you find them?

I have wonderful readers! My primary reader is and always has been my dear husband, who reads, takes notes, and then talks through every chapter with me over glasses of wine. He's been a huge part of my journey--awesome sounding board, constant source of encouragement, and incredibly adept at picking out Really Bad Dialogue and reading it out loud in stupid voices until I'm practically peeing myself.

Then there's my small gaggle of online writing buddies, who read for me and for whom I read in return. Jodi Meadows was the first person who ever offered to read for me, and sending that first manuscript was nothing short of terrifying (the gal is ruthless and wonderful!). She's made more of an impact on my writing that I can effectively express to her, despite my constant bowing and scraping. (Okay. I'm not the bowing and scraping sort. But I do adore her!)

The question of how to find readers is actually a frequent topic of emails I receive from my blog readers. "Can you suggest someone?" "Is there some way we can hook up with readers on your blog?"

Thing is, swapping manuscripts is a very personal and unique process. Each person who reads for me (and for whom I read) has come to that place over time and the development of our relationship, as friends and as fellow authors. It may sound infuriatingly like the way people respond when you ask them how they knew their spouse was the "right one," but really, you usually just "know." And even if, in the end, the reader doesn't connect with your genre or writing style, it's a good experience, anyway, because it goes back to your relationship with one another, and the strengths you each bring to the table as writers/critters.

Between writing and maintaining your blog do you ever get time to read? What are you reading now? What books coming out are you most looking forward to?

Doesn't it always seem that reading is last on our list of things-we-have-time-for? And yet I ADORE reading, and would happily curl up for hours on end with books and chocolate.My two most recent reads are THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, which was long overdue, and PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow, which was a rich and beautiful feast of words and imagery, and the most awesome talking cat you will ever meet. Of course I read mostly YA, since that's what I write (and love!). Within that genre, I am drawn to SFF, since that's what I write (and love!). But I also adore Jane Austen. And of course, Tolkien gets a reread every few years, because...well, it's Tolkien!
As for what I'm looking forward to? What a fun question!

First and foremost, I'm excited for the release of Jodi Meadow's INCARNATE from Katherine Tegen Books, in early 2012. I'm also looking forward to Beth Revis's next book, the second of a trilogy which began with ACROSS THE UNIVERSE from Penguin/Razorbill. Then there's Elana Johnson's POSSESSION, which is out in June from Simon/Pulse, and several books that are already out but haven't made their way to my itchy little hands yet, like LOSING FAITH by Denise Jaden and LEARNING TO SWIM by Sara J Henry (the only non-YA on my wish list!).

I'm sure I'm forgetting some. I have a never-ending "I wanna read that next!" list.

Hey, how DO you have time to write? :)

Hey, I don't know!

Actually, that's not true. I'm pretty anal retentive about my writing time. It's my career, so the time I sink into it is sacred. I refuse to schedule appointments, meet friends, or do anything else EXCEPT WRITE each day during the designated time. Six days a week. (I choose either Saturday or Sunday to take off.)
Well, I'm completely divergent, so naturally I'm checking email and tweeting in between sentences. But that's how my brain seems to work.

Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers that aren't cliched like the ones I give?

They all seem cliched after a while, don't you think? But for me, it always comes back to Never Give Up. I go through these private phases of "I'm really going to quit this time, and I'm not going to tell anyone because they'll try to talk me out of it." No, really. It happened as recently as two weeks ago, when I was stuck on my WIP. Somehow, I always move past it. Somehow, I remember my own motto of Never Give Up. Sometimes it happens without my even realizing it. Suddenly I'm writing again, and things are okay.
Because, really. How could any of us STOP WRITING? Might as well remove our lungs.

And finally, will you be "outing" yourself when you are published?  Will we finally know the name that goes with "Authoress?"

Yes, I will be outing myself once the book sells. Josh and I are going to have fun, I think, deciding how to do the "unveiling," how to time it, etc.  In the meantime, I'll just keep hiding under my hat!