Friday, May 6, 2016

From Submission to Offer with Kristin Daly Rens

As you may have guessed, I'm a huge fan of historical fiction, so when I found out that Anne Blankman, author of PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG and CONSPIRACY OF BLOOD AND SMOKE, was releasing a third book this spring, I immediately reached out to see if her editor, Kristin Daly Rens, would be interested in answering a few questions about its acquisition. Ms. Rens graciously agreed, and when I sent her the questions, she knocked them out of the park. Enjoy!

KV: First off, tell us a bit about PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG. What is it about, and what did you love about it?

KDR: PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG is the story of Gretchen Müller, who has grown up in the Nationalist Socialist Party. Her father sacrificed his life to protect Hitler during the leader’s failed beer hall putsch several years earlier, and ever since, Hitler has kept the Müller family in his inner circle, safe and secure during unstable times. Gretchen is Uncle Dolf's favorite, and everyone in Munich knows it--until the night she receives a mysterious note that indicates her father’s death is not what it appeared to be. And Gretchen joins forces with a handsome young Jewish journalist to uncover the truth.

From the moment I cracked open the manuscript, I found Gretchen’s story absolutely gripping. The writing is lovely, and Anne has SUCH a gift for creating atmosphere--the historical detail throughout lends real authenticity to both the characters and the story. I was also intrigued by the fact that, when the story opens, Gretchen is a National Socialist, and yet as she comes to realize that everything she grew up believing is a lie, the reader can’t help but be on her side--it was a point of view I hadn’t really seen before.

KV: Do you recall how quickly you read Ms. Blankman's manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times, or do those vary?

KDR: Pretty darn quickly! I was really fascinated by the pitch, so I couldn’t resist starting to read right after I got the manuscript--which isn’t always the case, simply because I usually try to read manuscripts in the order they come in and so my response times can vary. It was a good thing I started reading PRISONER early, though, because within the week the manuscript already had strong interest from several houses, with one offer already on the table. From submission to end of the auction, the whole process took just about three weeks--which, considering the Thanksgiving holiday fell in the middle of that, was a whirlwind!

KV: Once you decided to take PRISONER to your acquisitions meeting/editorial board, did you inform Ms. Blankman’s agent of your interest in the manuscript? Do you typically keep in contact with the agent throughout the process, or do you prefer to have a final decision in hand before you reach out?

KDR: In part because there was already interest from other publishers as well, I let Anne’s agent know that I was planning to share the ms with the rest of the Balzer + Bray team, and then again when I put the project on our acquisitions agenda--I wanted both her and Anne to know how much I loved the book (and how much the B+B team adored it as well)!

KV: How did you prepare to bring PRISONER to your acquisitions meeting/editorial board?

KDR: The first step in the acquisitions process for me is always to share a submission I’m excited about with the rest of the Balzer + Bray team to discuss at our team meeting. Happily, they were all just as excited about Anne, and about PRISONER, as I was, and we were unanimous in our decision to bring the book to our acquisitions meeting for discussion.

For acquisitions, we generally share the manuscript with the group, as well as a memo detailing all of the reasons we think we should acquire it--and, with Anne’s books, there were MANY reasons!--as well as a tentative p&l form. We try to give materials to the group at least a week before acquisitions, whenever we can, so that they have time to read the manuscript to see how special it is beforehand--though sometimes, depending on the situation, they’re forced to read more quickly.

KV: How did you present your offer to Ms. Blankman's agent, and what was that conversation like? 

KDR: Oh gosh, it’s been about three and a half years at this point, so I’m not sure of the exact details, but I do remember that I called Anne’s agent to make the offer more or less the moment I got out of our acquisitions meeting--and that there was lots of gushing involved! And then I was on pins and needles waiting until the auction was over.

KV: PRISONER sold in a multi-book deal that ended up including its sequel, CONSPIRACY OF BLOOD AND SMOKE, and the just-released TRAITOR ANGELS. Were those books planned from the start, or did you and Ms. Blankman collaborate on the concepts over time?

KDR: From the beginning, we knew that CONSPIRACY OF BLOOD AND SMOKE would be Anne’s second book, though we weren’t sure at that point what book three would be. But when Anne sent in the proposal for TRAITOR ANGELS I knew that was going to be our next project--Anne and I share a fascination with Milton and “Paradise Lost” so it was clearly meant to be!

KV: How is TRAITOR ANGELS similar to PRISONER and CONSPIRACY, and how is it different? 

KDR: Like PRISONER and CONSPIRACY, TRAITOR ANGELS is technically historical, but it’s also a VERY different book--a heart-pounding adventure full of literary clues and puzzles, and an earthshaking secret that both the church and the king are desperate to conceal, so in some ways TRAITOR ANGELS is more akin to books like THE DA VINCI CODE. As always, though, Anne has woven true facts in with intriguing surprises to create an intricate and unputdownable story. With a heroine who is both a brilliant scholar and a fierce swordswoman, and a rich blend of romance, mystery, and historical intrigue, the book is a really compelling mix of historical fiction and code-breaking thriller.

KV: Oh my gosh, this book sounds DIVINE. Can't wait to get my hands on it!

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

KDR: Write what interests you, not what is trendy! One of my favorite things about Anne’s writing is how passionate she is about the topics she writes about--whether it’s WW2 Germany or the poetry of John Milton, Anne’s love for her subject matter shines through in every word she writes, leading her to create not only an evocative sense of atmosphere, but also fully-realized characters and rich, complex relationships that make the reader fully, and emotionally, invested. When a writer is passionate about what he or she is writing about, readers can see that passion on the page--and it makes them fall in love with that story as well.

Thank you for this wonderful advice, Ms. Rens, and for an information-packed interview. I'm sure I'm not the only one who will be coming back to refer to it:)

Have a great weekend, all. I'm out!


Rosalyn said...

I really need to read these books--they sound wonderful! Particularly the Milton novel (P.s. Anne is an agency sister, which is all the more reason I need to read her books)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks for stopping by, Rosalyn!