An Interview with Jeyn Roberts & A Query That Worked

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!

Jeyn Roberts (pronounced Jen - the Y is silent) grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and started writing at an early age, having her first story published when she was 16 in a middle-grade anthology called LET ME TELL YOU.


When she was 21, she moved to Vancouver with dreams of being a rock star, graduating from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Writing and Psychology. For the next few years she played in an alternative/punk band called Missing Mile before moving to England where she received her MA from the prestigious Creative Writing graduate course at Bath Spa University. Jeyn is a former singer, songwriter, actress, bicycle courier and tree planter.

An avid traveler, she’s been around the world, most recently, teaching high school in South Korea.
A lover of animals, Jeyn volunteers regularly with helping abandoned and abused animals, especially cats.

Jeyn's YA title DARK INSIDE will be released by Simon & Schuster 1 Nov 2011.

SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I just go with the flow. Usually my idea starts tiny and grows from there.  I almost never know the ending of my stories when I start writing them.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

Three to five months.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

I try to stick to writing one project at a time but it’s rare that I’m thinking about just one project. With my last novel, I had three other ideas competing with my brain at all times. It gets a little crowded inside the brain sometimes.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Not usually.  But recently, since working on my sequel to DARK INSIDE, I’ve been having a lot of nagging doubts that this book will be terrible compared to the first one. But I think that could just be the paranoia of the ‘second book’ syndrome.

How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

Four. Two of which I’m still working on, two of which I’ve chalked up as learning experience.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

Not since I’ve started taking writing seriously. When I was a teenager, I started new books every day.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?

My agent is Julia Churchill from The Greenhouse Literary Agency. I got her the old fashioned way, I queried her.  A year ago she had turned me down after requesting a full on another novel. Although she gave me a no then, she left enough of an impression that I queried her again with DARK INSIDE.

How long did you query before landing your agent?

Julia was the first person I queried. She requested to read the book and signed me within twenty-four hours.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Always get advice on your query before you send it out. There are a lot of great websites that offer query help so take advantage of them. The query letter is harder than writing the novel; don’t be afraid to take advice. Be open-minded. Most writers query before they are ready. Be patient. Expect rejection. Don’t give up. All it takes it that one ‘yes’.

How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

The book isn’t out until September (UK) and November (USA/Canada) but I’ve had some pre-sales so far. It was pretty amazing to see that Amazon rank go up.

How much input do you have on cover art?

To be honest, when they sent me the cover art, I was so blown away by how amazing it was, there was no need to ask for any changes. But if I had truly hated it, they would have worked with me to find something more suitable.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

I’d learned a lot about the publishing industry when I did my MA in England so I knew a lot about the process. But I do think a lot of writers are surprised at how long it takes to get a book out into the public.

How much of your own marketing do you?

I’m on Twitter, Facebook and Myspace. And my UK website has just launched.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

That’s a tough question. I’ve seen people with options all across the board. With me, I waited until the book deal was announced.  I wanted to wait until I felt I had something that was good enough to push to an audience.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Absolutely. But it doesn’t have to come from the author. It’s really the fans that matter. They’re the ones who are the most important and no writer should ever forget that.

Jeyn was awesome enough to share her Query That Worked with me.  Read it and you'll know why she was signed within 24 hrs. of sending it.

In the moments before a worldwide disaster—the Baggers are awakened. 

On the first day Mason’s mother dies. Then the earthquakes shatter the West Coast. The Baggers stir and the killings begin. In just three weeks, mankind is on the edge of extinction and the last remaining survivors are still being hunted. 

Mason learns quickly there are no friends in this new world. In an attempt to escape his guilt, he travels across the country where he meets Aries, Clementine, and Michael. He knows he shouldn’t trust them but he’s drawn into their circle. Together in an abandoned tenement they will do whatever it takes to stay alive. But someone will betray them, a friend who doesn’t want to kill but can’t ignore the darkness inside.