Friday, October 12, 2012

Agent-Author Chat: Andrea Somberg and Melodie Wright

Man, it’s Friday again?! I apologize for my blogging absence. I finally wrapped up my latest project (for the time being, anyway), so hopefully, I should be able to get back to my normal routine next week.

In the meantime, check out this latest installment of “Agent-Author Chat” with agent Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc., who’s been around the blog before, and one of her newest clients, Melodie Wright.

Ms. Wright’s query and responses will appear in orange, Ms. Somberg’s in blue. Happy reading!

Ms. Wright’s Query I'm excited to query you for THE TALISMAN, a 99,000-word thriller/adventure set in Israel.

Rachel Marr's Hollywood life is put on hold when her father's death coincides with her own chemical meltdown on the set of her latest movie. Rachel's impulse to flee is helped along by her late father's bequests: a letter sharing his suspicions about his latest archaeological dig in Israel, and a mysterious Islamic coin. Both suggest he was on the treasure hunt of his life before it ended.

With the encouragement of her late father's protege, Abraham Goldhirsch, Rachel travels to Israel. Her goals are to fund the dig until Abraham can rustle up some sponsors, and to tie up her father's affairs. When Abe discovers the mosaic floor at the Byzantine church they're uncovering is actually a treasure map of ancient Jerusalem, and the coin Rachel inherited holds the key to the map, neither can resist chasing the mystery. Their hunt takes them deep into the heart of Jerusalem, where they realize they're on the cusp of uncovering a sacred relic of Judaism. But others are following the same path, others so committed to making sure the past stays hidden, Rachel and Abe are soon in their cross hairs. If the pair aren't careful, they'll find themselves buried with the treasure they seek.

Told in the alternating POVs of Rachel and Abe, THE TALISMAN is National Treasure meets The Sign by Raymond Khoury. I've been to Israel several times as a kibbutz volunteer and archaeology student. The setting in this MS is based on a newly discovered site in Israel.

Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you soon.

KV: Ms. Wright, how did you first come up with the idea for THE TALISMAN?

MW: After having visited Israel years ago, I've always wanted to write a novel set there. I saw an article about a stunning find at a dig near Jerusalem with really cool historical connections. The idea grew from there.

KV: Tell us a little bit about your query-writing process. Did you work on it here and there as you were writing the manuscript, or before, or after? How many times did you revise it? And how did you decide what order to put things in?

MW: I wrote a blurb for my blog when the MS was finished and used that as the main idea of my query. (This is the last MS I've done in this order--for every other MS, I write the blurb for first. If I'm having trouble blurbing it, chances are the idea isn't viable.) I didn't really revise this much, just went with what sounded intriguing and hooky. I kept my info limited to the first third of the MS.

KV: What was the hardest thing about writing your query? What was the easiest?

MW: Hardest thing: keeping to the first third of the novel.

Easiest thing: writing it so it sounded like something I'd want to read. A great query starts with a great premise...which I shamelessly robbed from real life! ;)

KV: Ms. Somberg, when you first read Ms. Wright’s query, what caught your attention?

AS: I've been looking for a strong romantic thriller for a long time, so Melodie's query immediately caught my eye. But it was really her writing and the narrative voice that had me hooked!

KV: Obviously, the manuscript met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did you love about TALISMAN?

AS: I fell in love with the two protagonists, Rachel and Abe. The manuscript switches between their points of view--and both characters are unique and compelling in their own right. I also really loved the setting and the premise of the novel. Both are ambitious--but Melodie pulls it off!

KV: How quickly did you read Ms. Wright’s manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times on requested material, or do those vary?

AS: I received it on a Monday, but I didn't start reading it until the following Wednesday evening. I woke up early the next morning to finish. Incidentally, it was my birthday--I couldn't have wished for a better birthday present! My response times vary, but usually it's within one to three weeks…

KV: Ms. Wright, what tips do you have for fellow writers as they work on their queries?

MW: My best advice is to write the blurb before you even start on your rough draft. The blurb reveals the main character, his/her motivations and the stakes. If you don't know what those are going into drafting, chances are you'll be stuck trying to write a query...not to mention finishing your WIP.

KV: Ms. Somberg, what query-writing suggestions do you have?

AS: Short and straightforward is the best way to go. Don't try to be cute or use gimmicks--simply state what your book is about, the word count, and any relevant biographical information. I also really like when authors include some sample pages--it's so hard to get a sense of a book from a query letter alone! But I know that other agents have different thoughts on this…

KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?

MW: It's the old cliché--READ. Read everything you can get your hands on. And take notes. An author acquaintance keeps a notebook beside her when she's reading a favorite author. In it she notes characterizations, plot devices, cool phrases or scene starters...anything that catches her eye or draws her into that world. Writing all that down tends to make the techniques sink into your brain the next time you start writing. Bottom line: it doesn't matter how great your query is if your MS is a mess.

AS: There are a lot of great agents out there! Don't give up hope just because a few have passed. On the other hand, if you start getting consistent feedback about why a project isn't going to sell, it's important to pay attention and reassess.

Thanks, ladies, for these great responses! THE TALISMAN sounds like an exciting read.

Have a great weekend!


Dahlia Adler said...

I love love love books set in Israel, so I'm particularly excited for this one! Sounds so good! And, of course, congrats on signing with the greatest agent in the biz ;)

Suzi said...

I've heard so many good things about Andrea Somberg. And even though she passed on my ms after a full read, she offered great insight and some other nice comments. I really appreciated that.

And Melodie's story sounds amazing. I love reading stories set in other countries that are so different from ours. Good luck with everything, Melodie.

Tamara said...

Great advice. Thanks for the excellent interview. :)

Hall said...

Reading what appealed in the query is like candy. Thanks for this great series! Happy weekend!

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed reading this interview, and especially Andrea Somberg's final comment. It's good to keep trying and not leap to conclusions about feedback unless it's consistent.
Thanks for the post! :-)

Kimberly Gabriel said...

I love Melodie and her book sounds AMAZING. I get really excited just thinking about her premise. I would love to read this!

Janna Remien said...

Andrea passed on my MS as well, but was the first agent to give me any kind of feedback. I love the fact that she does things like these interviews. Newbie writers can't get enough professional help!

Melodie, hi-five you're novel sounds impressive. I'll be waiting for it.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks for reading, everyone! And while we're on the subject, I, too, think that Andrea's pretty awesome. Any writer would be lucky to have her:)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I've read this! It's SOOOO good! I'm so excited for Melodie and Andrea. Here's to book deal news soon! :)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Oh, Amy, you've already read all the exciting manuscripts! *blows raspberry* ;)