Friday, November 2, 2012

Agent-Author Chat: Taylor Martindale and Anna-Marie McLemore

I couldn’t be more excited to share today’s installment of “Agent-Author Chat” with you, not only because Anna-Marie McLemore is a finalist from “The Writer’s Voice” and a member of Team Krista, but also because she and her new agent, Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary, represent a direct success story for the contest and our team. Woohoo!
Feel free to check out Ms. McLemore’s entry, then come back here and find out the rest of the story!
As always, Ms. McLemore’s answers will appear in orange, Ms. Martindale’s in blue.
KV: Ms. McLemore, how did you first come up with the idea for THE COIN DIVER?
AM: A few years ago, I visited Hearst Castle at night, and I kept wandering off the tour to go look at the fountains. Those fountains stuck with me, how the globe lamps reflected off the water and how the coins glinted at the bottom.
Later, when I thought of writing about Hearst Castle, I didn’t picture it from the point of view of a Golden Age actress or a politician’s glamorous wife. I wondered what all of it might have looked like to an outsider, one who knew those fountains but had never been inside the house.
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?
AM: I always write the query before I write the novel. It helps me figure out what the main focus of the story is. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t change before it goes out, and in fact, this one changed a lot. I rewrote it during my first round of revisions. My critique partners’ feedback inspired me to make some major changes in the story, and distilling it down to a few sentences helped me figure out where I was going.
My writer friends also helped me get the frame of it in place. They encouraged me to start with the time period and the setting. That’s when the order of things started to click. Then Cupid was nice enough to put it up on Cupid’s Literary Connection, and the comments helped me get it prepped for the first round of The Writer’s Voice contest. During coaching for The Writer’s Voice, Krista took me through a few rounds of revision. She was really patient and persistent in getting it where it needed to be.
KV: How did Ms. Martindale come to request your manuscript?
AM: She voted for it during The Writer’s Voice. I was lucky enough to be part of Team Krista. :) I’d never entered a contest like this before, and I was a little nervous about putting myself out there, but it was a great experience.
KV: Ms. Martindale, when you saw Ms. McLemore's entry in “The Writer’s Voice,” what caught your attention?
TM: When I saw Anna-Marie's entry, I was immediately struck by the unique style she had, the way I was instantly transported into the scene. Her choice of language, and most importantly her voice, created such vivid images. I could see the dim light in the room, the gilded wall sconces, and I could feel the way her too-heavy dress dragged on the floor. I was captivated.
KV: Popping in to say that, months later, I remember all those details, too, especially the coins sewn into the hem of that dress:)
Obviously, the manuscript met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did you love about THE COIN DIVER?
TM: I love so much about this book! I love how unique it is, how Anna-Marie presents such fresh perspectives and characters. I love the element of magical realism that is woven throughout the novel, as it adds such mystery and depth to the story. Anna-Marie has a very literary style, one that always keeps my attention and constantly surprises me. I found myself savoring her writing, rereading sections just to see the flow of words again.
KV: How quickly did you read Ms. McLemore’s manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times on requested material, or do those vary?
TM: I think it took me roughly a month to read THE COIN DIVER, which I would say is average. Sometimes it takes me longer, and sometimes I'm able to respond much faster.
What was unique about this novel was that I wanted to read much faster but I kept forcing myself to slow down and read small sections at a time. I didn't want to read through in just a few nights because I wanted to savor every word. As soon as I realized that I couldn't stop thinking about the novel (which was early on), I knew I wanted to work with Anna-Marie.
KV: Ms. McLemore, now that you’ve reached the querying finish line, what do you wish you had known when you were back at the start gate?
AM: That every manuscript makes you a better writer. There were manuscripts I didn’t query at all because I knew they weren’t ready, and a couple I queried that got close but weren’t there yet. I wish I’d realized it didn’t necessarily mean I wasn’t good enough. It meant I was learning a craft (still am; I don’t think that ever stops). Sure, that first manuscript may be like the prom picture I hope no one ever finds, but without it I wouldn’t have grown.
KV: Ms. Martindale, what querying tips do you have?
TM: I'm sure you've all heard these tips before, but they're great things to keep in mind.
First, make sure that you're researching each agent personally and targeting them intentionally.
Second, don't query too soon. I've seen a lot of submissions recently that just aren't ready yet. Make sure you've revised and sent your manuscript to critique groups/ beta readers.
Finally, use your query to highlight the strengths and unique elements of your work. The query is your opportunity to let your work shine and capture an agent's attention.
KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?
TM: Keep putting yourself out there! Absorb as much as you can from conferences, contests, agent feedback, etc., and keep strengthening your book. When agents are looking through queries, we read with excitement and anticipation because we love our job. We can't wait to fall in love with your manuscript. :)
And last but not least, a big thank you to Krista for hosting this blog and your various contests! You're creating wonderful opportunities for everyone and are much appreciated.
AM: Make sure to say thank you! I’m not suggesting writing an Emily Post-worthy note to every form rejection. More like tweet a thank you to the agents who answer questions during #askagent. Thank your critique partners for giving you that note that helps you make your manuscript better. Thank your significant other for understanding why revising thousands of words reduces your conversational skills to monosyllables. There are so many people involved in a writer’s journey, both in the publishing world, and in a writer’s personal life, and it never hurts to show gratitude.
Speaking of which, thank you to my amazing agent for participating in Agent-Author Chat with me and to my fabulous coach for having us on Mother. Write. (Repeat.)!
My pleasure, Anna-Marie! Thank YOU for sharing these behind-the-scenes details with us. I love learning more about great projects, especially great projects I already love:)


Tracey Joseph said...

Lovely interview. I went ahead and reread Anna-Marie's entry. I agree with Ms. Martindale. The writing is gorgeous.

Stephanie Garber said...

Great interview! I especially loved reading about why it took Ms. Martindale a month to read Anna-Marie's manuscript.

Thank you all for sharing. And congratulations Anna-Marie!

Myrna Foster said...

"Thank your significant other for understanding why revising thousands of words reduces your conversational skills to monosyllables. "

Ha! So true! Looking forward to reading your story when it's published!

Unknown said...

Anne-Marie's entry was remarkable, and I can tell she's very talented. I wish her great luck with her new agent! :-)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Tracey, Anna-Marie's gorgeous writing immediately struck me, too. And she picked such an interesting time period to write about (and such a unique perspective to write about it from).

Stephanie, I like to include that question about response times because I know how curious querying writers are about those kinds of things:)

Myrna, I agree--that was a great line:)

Lexa, wasn't Anna-Marie's entry awesome?! I'd take more credit, but she's a revision whiz. I was really impressed with her ability to take one small piece of feedback and apply it well.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

This was a great interview and now I'm really dying to read this book! Congratulations to both Taylor and Anna-Marie! :D

Anna-Marie said...

Thanks so much everyone for your kind words! And thanks again to Krista for having us on the blog!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Amy, I know! I'm dying to read the rest of THE COIN DIVER, too!

My pleasure, Anna-Marie. Best of luck!