IT HAS HAPPENED AGAIN!!!! Some of the best news you can get is when you hear something amazing happening to one of your writing friends! If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that at RT 2016, I got to meet some new writer friends whom I absolutely adore with all my oomph! One of those writers was KAT!!! And, yup, you guessed it… KAT IS NOW SIGNED WITH BETH PHELAN OF THE BENT AGENCY!!!! How amazing is that?? (If you want to read about how Kat got her agent, I shall direct you to this link here!)
She is hilarious, guys! Super fun and friendly in the best way possible! You know how you meet someone and you instantly have Good Vibes about them? Yup, this was Kat! (And her cousin, Axie–hi, Axie!!!) In addition to being a cool person, she also writes AMAZING AMAZING stories! And the cherry on top? OMG ANOTHER BIG BANG FAN!!!!!!! Sooooooo, you know, that pretty much sealed the deal: Kat is cool.
Kat has wonderfully agreed to do a little interview for me regarding how she got her agent!! Without further ado… Here it is!!!
1.Kaaaaaaat!!!! Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you became a writer, and what you write!!
I was born on a brisk November evening in the western suburbs of Boston…
But, seriously. I’ve been writing practically since I was born. My sister would write stories and I’d illustrate them. Then sometimes, my cousin and I would write stories together (actually the same story over and over where we invented a time machine and went back to the time of the dinosaurs).
And then I started to write Mossflower/Redwall fan fiction because who doesn’t like mice living in an abbey eating all the food they eat. I also wrote books about horses because I wanted to be a horse jockey.
Anyway…what was I talking about? Oh yea, my writing.
My current MS is based on Korean mythology of the gumiho: a nine-tailed fox that has lived for over a thousand years and can shift into a beautiful woman. She must devour the livers of men to continue to live forever. So, you know a feel-good rom-com 😉
Anyway, my MC is a gumiho who is conflicted between her need to kill to survive and her desire to be loved. This all comes to a head when her secret is revealed to a human boy who is the opposite of her personality wise. He’s carefree and fun-loving and doesn’t take anything seriously. This kind of clashes with her need to control everything in her life. So, they fall in love and people get hurt because of her secret. It’s very very angsty.
2.What is your favorite part about writing?
There are A LOT of things I love about writing.
Writing is my therapy. It helps me to get the crazy out of my head so I am not kept up at night. I’m a generally anxious person, so if I can purge my mind of the millions of thoughts then it helps and writing is a very direct way for me to do that. I used to keep a dream journal, and that thing is cuckoo crazy-town. But also, potentially good fodder for future stories, who knows.
Writing is also something that I’ve loved since I was a child. It’s a way that my sister and I “played.” If there was a story that I loved I would get sad when it ended. So my sister would solve that by writing more stories based on that story. She pretty much wrote 7-year-old fanfic for me. Hahaha. So writing has always been something in my family and has been a way for my sister and I to express ourselves. It’s funny because she actually has a book coming out this year and I am so stoked for her. I’m going to bake a cake with her book cover on it.
And finally, my current journey of writing brought me one of my new loves: writing community. People like ERIN! Wheeee! I absolutely adore the writers I’ve met. I obviously idolize my hero authors that are making the stories I’ve always read. But meeting and learning about aspiring authors and people who are in the trenches with me is inspiring! I love to hear other people’s ideas and stories. I love brainstorming. I love fangirling. I love knowing that people with a shared dream can come together and support each other through all the crazy that is publishing. It’s so thrilling to be accepted into a world like this.
3.What’s your daily writing routine like?
Okay, I’ll only tell you this if you don’t tell my boss…
I sometimes write at work (hides under desk!)
The reason being that I’m a pantser at heart. When I get an idea I HAVE to write it down in its entirety and it just pulls me into a scene. I can’t plot and think things through until I have words on a page.
So, some days I’ll probably write half of the day and be actively in front of the computer typing away like a madwoman. I’ve had some 5,000 word days like that. Then there could potentially be days or weeks of no words because I just don’t have the inspiration. Those days I use for revisions. For me, revisions are a slower and more thoughtful time. I’ll definitely think through everything and actually set aside time for those. Usually at night because I’m a night owl. And almost always on my couch even though I have a whole office I’ve set up.
I like to write with music playing. I don’t want to make myself sound too nerdy, but I listen to K-pop. Not because my book is in Korea, but because I love it. And also because I can’t necessarily listen to music with English lyrics because it’ll distract me. In the same vein, I’ll have K-Dramas playing in the background sometimes when I write. For Gumiho, I rewatched all of School 2013 because I adore that show and the actors and I love the atmosphere of it.
4.Did you know that this book was The One?
Because a wizard came down from the mountain and bestowed upon me the ancient prophecy that my WiP was THE ONE. Also, because my book was born on the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year.
But seriously, it’s actually because I was TERRIFIED to write this book. Just was sooo concerned it would be too much for people to take (because I use Korean setting, culture and words and I don’t necessarily define everything). But despite that I still felt like I HAD to write it. So, I just wrote it piece by piece thinking if it became too much I’d set it aside. And suddenly I had a full book with characters I couldn’t let go of and I had to share it because I loved it that much.
5.What was the hardest part about querying?
The hardest part was to GET myself to query this time around. I queried about 2.5 years ago. It was a sad time in my life. I was not prepared for querying or for the industry in general.
I wrote a book that wasn’t that good. I mean, I still like it, but it will never ever see the light of day in its current form. But that book means something big to me. It’s the first book that I really revised. I got my first Critique Partners with that book. I got a whole critique group with that book. I went to my first conference with it and I pitched agents for the first time with that book (one of whom was Beth! Symmetry!)
So anyway, I queried that book. That querying process took about a year from start to finish. The reason being that everyone rejected it. And rejections sometimes take awhile to roll in.I finally went back and looked at my abysmal stats for this book:
– Slush queried = 34 agents
– Conference queried = 4 agents
– Average Response time = 39 days
– Fastest response time = 0 days
– slowest response time = 388 days
– requests = 3 partials
– rejections = 23
– CNR = 15
Don’t you FEEL BAD FOR ME?! Just kidding. I actually think this is a mild round of rejections. But for me, I was devastated. Really thought I’d at least get more requests. I have theories for why not, but I won’t bore you guys with them. The lesson is that I didn’t do well in this querying round. I had very low interest in my MS. And I worried that it was because I am a bad writer. It was a very sad time for me.
I gave up a little bit. Not completely, but enough that I wallowed for too long and got insane writer’s block. I tried to start 2 different WiPs that I could not finish for the life of me. And I started to just sink deeper into a hole of writing depression.
I’m not saying this to make anyone feel bad for me. I’m saying this because I think this can happen all too often. I think that I am not the only one that took my first rejections badly. And I hope that my initial failure might be helpful for someone else going out into the query trenches.
Anyway, because of this I DID NOT want to query my current MS. I loved it so much! Way more than I loved my last MS and I would have been really sad if no one liked it.
I tried to dip my toes in my submitting it to a couple of competitions and mentorship programs. And I got rejected from ALL of them. Not a good feeling. I don’t necessarily consider myself an award-winning writer, but it still stung as all rejections do in something so personal like writing.
However, the story obviously ends happily. Just keep reading!
6.What was getting The Call like?
Surreal. You know that moment when you go on a really good first date and you just keep smiling because you really like this guy/girl but then you think, “Oh no! I look like a crazy person, they’ll think I’m insane!”
That was me on The Call. I got the email for the call on a Thursday and was so flustered that I asked to have the call on Friday instead. Because I was so certain I needed to compile a list of questions (which I did).
Then the call happened and I had set up my desk so carefully that you’d think I was the most organized person in the universe (hint: I’m not). I had a notebook, THREE pens (why did I need three?!), my list of questions and a separate sheet of loose-leaf paper (you know, in case my notebook spontaneously combusted).
The agent started out with talking to me about DVPit and a conference we’d previously met at. It was nice, a bit of small talk to get the nerves out and it worked. I really liked that because it made me feel like it wasn’t all business all the time. It was a more organic and easy conversation. Of course, it shifted into the conversation about my MS. This was nerve wracking and wonderful at the same time.
Again, going back to the date analogy. It’s like when you’re sitting on a date and the other person suddenly goes, “You know, I think you’re so pretty and smart, and the way that you told that joke was really spot on, I laughed so hard.” It’s just fun-times compliment city and I basked in it hard core. Of course, then they go into the notes they have on revisions. That doesn’t have a date analogy, because I’ve never been on one where the guy goes “Well, could you have picked a nicer cardigan maybe?” And if anyone has, I’d tell them to leave that date immediately. But for The Call, it’s important to know what parts of the MS the agent thinks might need tweaking.
I loved talking about the revisions because I’m a glutton for punishment, haha. No, I’m actually just a realist and I know that any MS isn’t perfect and could probably use a little polishing before sub (Ahhhh! Sub!!!)
Anyway, by the end I was just super happy. Stoked about what the future had to hold. And then I stressed out about sending the “I got an offer” emails to other agents.
7.How did you know your agent was The One?
Because a wizard…oh wait, I already said this one.
Okay, for real, it’s because of many factors. It helped that she was always on my list, like since I queried my first MS a million years ago. I also met her at that first fated conference I went to two years ago, so I knew she was cool people.
Finally, it was probably the call. There were things she said about my work and about my book that really clicked with me. What I liked were the things she said that were critical. Not saying that she said my book was bad, but that it definitely still needed some revisions (which I knew). And she didn’t sugar coat it, she just told me exactly what level of revisions she wanted for my work and allowed me to brainstorm with her for like 45 minutes on the ideas she brought up. It felt like we were already working together and it felt so comfortable and real and dynamic. I could totally see that being our agent/author relationship for years to come.
There were other factors (boring things like sales or career history or her MSWL, etc) but the biggies were my ability to click with her as an agent on the phone. (Not to say I didn’t click on my other call, I just had a gut feeling about Beth from jump).
8.What advice do you have for writers in the query trenches?
Do NOT give up! I really really mean this. If I had given up after my first query fail, I wouldn’t be here. If I had given up after the next WiP went nowhere, I wouldn’t be here. If I had given up after the next next WiP went nowhere, I wouldn’t be here. If I had given up when I lost a bunch of competitions/didn’t get mentorships with my current MS, I wouldn’t be here. It is definitely true when they say it only takes one. And I KNOW how frustrating that is, how you want to scream because you think “But I can’t even GET one!” Trust me, it can happen. You can get a dozen, a hundred, a thousand rejections and then just get one, and it’ll wipe the slate clean.
This beginning of our journey is hard because we feel like we’re alone. After you get an agent and then (hopefully) an editor, you have an industry professional to fight beside you. It’s amazing. But when you’re just starting out you feel like you’re floundering without anyone to guide you. This is where CP’s and mentors ARE INVALUABLE. Get Critique partners! Get Critique Groups. I have amazing CPs and beta readers. They’re my cheerleaders. They make me smile even when I feel like crying. They send me crazy GIFs (this is akin to sending any other person chocolate and wine. Actually, I’d also like to receive wine). Anyway, my message is that you are NEVER alone, not if you don’t want to be. So go out there and make friends and let them be the ones who pick you up if you feel like falling down.
Publishing can be like a snowball rolling downhill. You start as a tiny little snowflake and then you pick up knowledge and friends along the way. And then you’re a giant snow ball rolling through down, destroying mailboxes and all small creatures that stand in your way! Wait…where was I going with this?
Thanks so so much to Kat for doing this interview!!!! And as a tribute to Kat (and because I really really really can’t resist) here is a Big Bang video!!!