Rocky Mountain Podcast–Episode #10

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #10

Susan Spann - Writer of the Year

In this episode, we talk with Susan Spann, recently announced as the 2015 Writer of the Year for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Susan talks about her switch from writing unpublished historical fiction to published mysteries, about the moment of  inspiration for the Shinobi Mystery series, her writing process and the Twitter hit #publaw.

Show Notes:

Susan Spann: www.susanspann.com

Donna Andrews: www.donnaandrews.com

Kerry Schafer: www.kerryschafer.com

Janet Lane: www.janetlane.net

James Rollins: www.jamesrollins.com

Lisa McCann: www.theunwantedsseries.com

 

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Chris Goff–Author on the Rise

By Liesa Malik

The Published Authors Liaison (PAL) is a sub-organization within RMFW that exists to provide networking and promotional opportunities for traditionally published authors. This begins a series of profiles on some of our PAL members in the hopes that you will make an opportunity to read their books and meet them either at Colorado Gold or in other venues throughout the country and the year. . .

Photo of Christine Goff
Christine Goff -- Photo courtesy of Mark Stevens.

INTRODUCING CHRIS GOFF

Kevin slid a paperback across the table and said, “Try this author. She’s really good, and I think she is, or was, a member of RMFW.”

The book, A Rant of Ravens, by Christine Goff truly was a good read, and a fun start to the great Birdwatcher Mystery series of five books with regional bestseller status and nominations for several awards. The sixth in the series, A Parliament of Owls, is set for release this fall from Astor+Blue Editions.

Christine Goff (Chris to friends), has been writing fiction since 1984, joined RMFW in 1988, and has played several key roles our group. She is the 2002 RMFW Writer of the Year, and has a number of other successes in the Rocky Mountain writing communities. Like many PAL members, Chris continues to support our community with behind-the-scenes efforts.

WORKING WITH RMFW

“I’ve often judged 30 or more entries a year in the Colorado Gold contest,” said Chris. “We all have a responsibility to give back. I got a tremendous amount out of RMFW in my formative years, and enjoy celebrating the new success stories.”

Chris’s multiple roles in RMFW have been a tremendous boost to our community, but the three she enjoyed most are Newsletter Chair, PAL Chair, and President.

“I have a graphic production/editor background, so Newsletter Chair was right up my alley,” said Chris. “And then PAL members offer so much in the way of support and credibility to the (RMFW) organization, and often behind the scenes--judging manuscripts, mentoring, critiquing, teaching and championing those who are working so hard to make it in the business—that as PAL Chair, I was pleased to get some things happening in support of our published writers. Lastly, as President, I was proud to be able to steer us through a controversial year and help RMFW weather a public relations storm.”

You’d think that a writer with such an illustrious resume might be tempted to sit back and relax. But not Chris. She’s on to new writing adventures and continues to support our writing community with fresh projects.

OTHER PROJECTS

Last spring, Chris gathered several organizations together to help bring about Genrefest, a one-day workshop that highlighted national best selling author, David Morrell. Mr. Morrell, a friend of Chris, was one of the famous authors to endorse her newest offering, Dark Waters, a thriller set in the Middle East (Crooked Lane Books).

“Dark Waters is Chris Goff’s breakout book,” said David. “A relentless international thriller with a terrifying topic and an impressive heroine, Raisa Jordan. It’s been a while since I had such fun reading the work of a fellow writer. Well done!”

DARK WATERS  Cover ArtANNOUNCING DARK WATERS

“Dark Waters is a book that came into my head years ago,” said Chris. “The idea sparked in 1999, when I was in Israel with my then 11 year-old daughter, who was there for some medical treatments. But, with my first Birdwatcher’s Mystery coming out in 2000, and three-books under contract, I put the idea aside. Then in 2008, finding myself out of contract, I decided to pick up Dark Waters again.

“Seven years later, I just got my hardcover copy in the mail and the book will be coming out to the world in September. Writing a thriller is very different than writing a cozy. It was a big change for me. There’s a difference in pacing, a difference in character development, a difference in stakes. And then there was the international setting and the political aspects of the book...just a lot of things that made it much more challenging. I have my fingers crossed readers are going to like it.”

Knowing the quality of work Chris generally produces in every aspect of her writing life, the book is bound to be a success. You can find it on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and IndieBound.

MEETING UP WITH CHRIS

Chris will be at Colorado Gold, September 11- 13. She’ll be on a panel with Jeffery Deaver, and presenting a workshop on Elements of Mystery.

“I’m easy to approach,” said Chris. “I hope people feel free to just come up and introduce themselves. I figure unless someone is clearly having a private meeting with an editor or agent or another author, anyone should feel free to step up and listen in on the conversations, and join in when there’s an opening. I love to meet people at conference.”

Chris will also be one of three Guiding Members of RMFW to receive recognition for their long-term support of our organization at the conference this year.

Asked for her one piece of advice for aspiring writers, she said, “If you want to be successful, treat it like a job. It’s so easy when you’re working on your first book to treat writing like a hobby. So many of us put in our three or four hours, then go off and do other things. But the truly successful authors treat it differently. They’re putting in eight to ten hours a day, sometimes six days a week. They spend their most creative hours writing and their less creative hours editing, social networking, making phone calls, promoting. As soon as you have a multiple-book contract, you have to start looking at it like work. Fun work, but work nonetheless.”

Everything I Learned About Writing I Learned From Mountain Biking

By Aaron Ritchey

I know what you are thinking.

When I first started blogging for RMFW I wrote that I learned all about writing from Johnny Cash. Well, that is true, but a blog entitled “I learned a little about writing from mountain biking because I didn’t learn everything from Johnny Cash” is kinda clunky.

The mountain bike rides I do can be divided into two equal parts—the sweaty, grinding, heart-puking climb up and the fast, glorious, soar of the ride down. Not a lot of flat, and I think in the writing life, there isn’t a lot of flat. It’s a struggle, but it’s the struggle that strengthens us.

As my friend Jason Evans says, all suffering is redemptive. So, that’s number one on the list, and you just know I was gonna do a list.

  • WRITING IS THE CLIMB – The climb is hard. The climb requires perseverance, and with mountain biking, constant pedaling. I’m a write-everyday-type of guy because if I stop, it’s too easy to stay stopped. If you don’t pedal while you are climbing, you will abruptly stop moving and fall.
  • FALLING IS PART OF THE GAME — When I was learning how to mountain bike, I would come home bruised and bloodied. Writing books and publishing books is just as bloody a business. There will be cuts, bruises, and injuries, sometimes to your very soul. It makes the successes all the more dramatic and heroic.
  • GOTTA UNCLICK — I would show my mountain bike guru my wounds, and he would say, “Gotta unclick, man. Gotta unclick.” You see, my shoes click into my pedals so I am one with my bike. If I ran into trouble bouncing up (or down) the rocks, or if I lost my balance, I had to quickly unclick a shoes from its housing, or I would land on my leg, thigh, side, arm, uvula. If I clicked out of my pedals before I fell, I’d set my foot down and avoid physical damage. In the writing game, when I fall, I have to learn to unclick. I have to learn to let go of bad reviews, a finicky editor, or terrible sales. I have to unclick, get my balance, and keep on biking up the hill.
  • GOTTA GET A GURU — Lindon Weibe was my mountain bike guru, and he taught me everything I needed to know. In writing, I’ve had many gurus—Linda Rohrbaugh, Andrea Brown, Laura Rennert, Jeanne C. Stein, Mario Acevedo, and many, many, many others. Find people to talk to. Listen to their advice and observe their lives.
  • LEARN TO LOVE THE CLIMB — So I bike Deer Creek Canyon, the east entrance of Mount Falcon, a little bit of Red Rocks, and the Apex trail near Heritage Square. All of these are a sharp elevation gain to the top, and then a swooping thrill ride down. I love downhill. It’s easy, exciting, no sweat. But to get to the downhill, I have to climb, so I taught myself to love the climb. It’s the joy of the struggle, it’s the self-discipline of figuring out a time to write, and then using that time to write. Even though the new season of Orange is the New Black is on. The good stuff is in the grit, baby.
  • DOWNHILL IS AN ILLUSION — When I’m climbing the east entrance of Mount Falcon, which I have dubbed MFE, Mount Falcon East, baby!, I am thinking, “Oh, the downhill is going to be so sweet.” And when I get to the top and turn around, yes, the downhill is fun, but it’s not as good as I thought it would be. I have a mantra, “There is no downhill. There is only the hill.” I think what happens to a lot of successful writers is that they get the fame and success and suddenly the writing game is like biking downhill. It all just comes, and it’s all so sweet. Humans were made to struggle and challenge their limits.
  • STOP AND LOOK AROUND— So we're climbing up the hill, sweating, or we're soaring down the hill, enjoying our successes. Either way, stop, look around, breathe. The writer’s life is a good life. Not an easy life, but a good life.

The biggest difference between writing and mountain biking is that writing doesn’t burn very many calories. Actually, writing is terrible for your physical health—carpal tunnel, back pain, weight gain from stress eating. Yeah, not good for you.

So remember, write a little, but put a little time in on your bike, mountain or otherwise. Gotta stay fit to write them books, partner.

Enjoy the climb. There is only the hill.

Fantasy Writer?

Terri 2015 head shotBy Terri Benson

I don’t write fantasy, but apparently I live it. More and more often, I find myself day-dreaming about standing on a podium, being awarded a Romance Writer of the Year Award, making the keynote presentation to a sea of faces, eager to hear my words of wisdom. I envision jetting off to an all-expense-paid trip to New York to hob-knob with my adoring editor and agent, while they wine and dine me to keep me happy. Then there are the world-wide book tours, with fans who act like I’m George, John, Paul and Ringo all rolled into one, and scream my name, fighting to receive a smile or a coveted autograph.

Then reality bites and I realize I haven’t finished that book. You know, the one that gets me all those things, and more. The one that will catapult me into the spotlight and cause Nora Roberts to call me when she has writer’s block and needs inspiration.

Because, you see, if you don’t write it, it doesn’t exist. And even if you write it, if you don’t shove it out of the plane at 30,000 feet and see if it can fly, no one will ever know of your genius.

I cringe every time I see a statement like “just sit down and write” because, of course, I’m far busier in my life than all those “other” writers. The select few who seem to have lottery winnings or a rich Aunt Fanny to support them while they are comfortably ensconced in a leather chair, tapping away joyfully at their computer. I want to think that I’m too busy/tired/hungry/lazy to write late at night or early in the morning or on my lunch hour. But if I’m ever going to have the chance at even a peek at my fantasy, I have to write.

So, the next time you see a ream of paper falling from the sky, it’s my great work. Treat it with respect, and don’t even consider using it for the parakeet cage or to start the fire for your hot dogs.

See you on the podium, and in the meantime: Write on!

Click here for my website

Titanic final

 

The 2015 Writer of the Year is Susan Spann!

By Wendy Howard

CLICK HERE to view the announcement party photo gallery. The 2015 Writer of the Year finalists were Joan Johnston, Cindi Myers, and Susan Spann.

Susan SpannSusan Spann's mysteries have made a splash, published in hard cover to unfailingly good reviews. Her third Shinobi mystery, Flask of the Drunken Master, was published earlier this month and now Susan has been named 2015 Writer of the Year. Her mysteries are set in sixteenth-century Japan and feature ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Jesuit Sidekick, Father Mateo. The first book was Claws of the Cat and the second was titled Blade of the Sumarai.

Claws of the Cat was named a Library Journal mystery debut of the month and was a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel. As a result, Susan was interviewed for an article in Writers Digest by Chuck Sambuchino.

Susan has been a voracious reader since preschool in Santa Monica, California. In high school, she wrote her first complete novel, a fantasy that started as a short story assignment, though she vows that book will never, ever see the light of day!

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan and earned an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies—a background she draws upon for her Shinobi mysteries. But before justice-seeking ninjas took over her imagination, Susan went to law school. She practices law in California, where her long-lasting love affair with books led her to specialize in intellectual property, business, and publishing contracts. She has also been a law professor.

Susan is the current president of the Northern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and also a member of the MWA National Board. She belongs to Sisters in Crime and the Historical Novel Society.

Susan founded and is curator of the #PubLaw Twitter hashtag, through which she provides pro bono information for writers and answers questions about copyright and publishing issues. When not writing or practicing law, she raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.

Susan has been an RMFW member since 2010 and has presented workshops for conference. She lives in California but remains a regular monthly contributor to the RMFW Blog, Writers In the Storm, and Murder Is Everywhere. She met and pitched to her agent, Sandra Bond, at the 2011 Colorado Gold Conference. Please visit Susan’s website to find out more.2015 WOTY finalists

Saying Thanks

By Pamela Nowak

Recently, I’ve thought a lot about how much, and how many people, I take for granted.

How often do we all converse about losing people and how much they meant to us—most often in the past tense? People move, become less involved, or—worse—pass away. Too many times, we chat about how important that person was without having ever told them directly. This seems to occur in families, with childhood friends, in careers…well, pretty much everywhere.

We think conveying appreciation more with family members because there are built-in holidays that prompt us to tell mothers, fathers, siblings that we care about them. Yet, we have a tendency to mention it only on holidays and we forget entirely about our extended families. Have you ever told your favorite aunt how important she was in your life? How long has it been since you even spoke to your uncle? Your cousins?

And then there are those friends from high school who are remembered at class reunion time but easily forgotten in between. Recently, I discovered Facebook pages related to my former hometowns and was able to reconnect with people from my past…it’s been a fun experience. But…maybe it’s time to reach out to tell them how much their friendships meant all those years ago.

There are so many I’ll likely never have a chance to tell. I wouldn’t begin to know how to locate college professors, former bosses, co-workers who taught me skills I use today. One day, I’ll see obituaries and think about how important they were, and how I never told them.

And then there are those who are still part of my life, many of whom have guided me in my writing. Writers seldom develop their craft in a vacuum and seldom find the courage to undertake the submission process without the support of others.

So many fellow writers taught me craft, helped me grow, supported me as I floundered, hugged me in the face of rejection letters. RMFW is filled with people who impacted me as a writer and as a person. Yet, I may have never told them how much they mean to me. It’s as easy to neglect doing this when you see someone regularly as it is when you’ve not seen them for years.

It’s well past time to let them know the impact they’ve made.

My challenge, to myself and to my fellow writers, is to reach out to those who helped shape us. Whether it be a chatty note, a formal thank-you, or a “I never told you this, but…” next time you see them, take a moment to convey your appreciation. Tell them they’ve made a difference. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just heart-felt. The Colorado Gold Conference is a perfect time to do this but certainly not the only time. The opportunities are endless. All we need to do is take the initiative and convey our appreciation.

Think about those who are important to you. Then, reach out and let them know!

Rocky Mountain Podcast–Episode #9

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #9

Kirk DouPonce--Designing Book Covers

In this episode, we talk with book cover designer Kirk DouPonce, who has produced over 1,000 covers for publishers and writers in his career. He's also one of the workshop presenters at the 2015 Colorado Gold Conference, to be held in September in Denver, Colorado. Kirk's workshop is titled, "Book Cover Design--Your Most Important Marketing Tool." We also chat with Suzie Brooks, chair of Colorado Gold, and get an update on registrations for the conference.

Show Notes:

Kirk DouPonce: www.dogeareddesign.com

Ronie Kendig: roniekendig.com

Bonnie Calhoun: bonniescalhoun.com

Stephen Lawhead: www.stephenlawhead.com

Mike Duran: mikeduran.com

Julie Dillon: juliedillonart.com

Enclave Publishing: enclavepublishing.com

Kathryn Lloyd--The Desk: www.thedeskonline.com/who.html

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Endings and Endings Problems:

By Robin D. Owens

Endings are extremely important. You want the reader to be satisfied, more, to remember that you gave them a good finish and look forward to your next book.

Here are some problems I, as a reader and writer, find in endings:

I had a favorite author (male writing under a female pseudonym) whose work I loved . . . until the end. Many of his/her books felt like s/he just didn't care past a certain point, or had left this particular project until late (the romances) and had to rush. Deeply unsatisfying.

So rushing pace can be a problem.

Or abrupt endings. I have a writer friend who likes to read endings with an emotional wrap-up, even as she tends to write until the action is done and stops.

Or a slow and lingering pace. The hero and heroine have solved the crime, saved the world, fallen in love, and you spend two more extraneous chapters describing how happy they and their friends and everyone else is.

Point of view. I have had books with only hero's and heroine's point of view . . . then, rather like a long camera pan in a film, the point of view changes to omniscient. This bugs me.

For example, I read a treasure hunt romance about a lost pearl (object has been changed). The hero and heroine kiss and go off to bed. The last line went something like: And in the moonlight the pearl softly gleamed. (What?)

Cliffhangers and Setting Up a Series

I would say that unless your next book will is out or will be published within, say, a week, don't do this. It irritates folks that the protagonist remains in danger, or hasn't solved the crime, or the love interest has died/left/been dumped.

A critique buddy recently read a mystery-thriller that began a series that she hadn't realized was the first book in a series. She thought the (continuing characters) cops were stupid because they didn't investigate well and didn't solve the original crime at the end, and the main villain escaped. Though the romance in the book wrapped up well, the mystery was left hanging. She was quite annoyed and would not go on to the next book. I heard about this and we dissected the technique for about two hours.

So watch your set-ups and pay-offs. If you set up an action, especially a main problem in your book, you will have less readers upset with you if you solve that problem instead of leaving it dangling.

For myself, I tend to leave a few threads unresolved in my series, this is usually acceptable for readers and hopefully tantalizes them, and it gives me a longer arc to work on a particular story.

The romance wraps up, the character growth wraps up, but there is a continuing story thread that is not resolved.

For instance: Once a hero was disinherited and this caused major problems for his whole family over the course of 3-4 books. Lately I've introduced a violent and evil political group (heh, heh) and have whittled down some of its members from book to book, but have left one last person unknown . . . to be caught and punished in the next book. This will wrap up that particular thread that's run through three books.

A final note. What I think is most important is the emotional punch of an ending. If you make sure you get the emotion right, some lack of technique can be forgiven. Like the first line or paragraph of your story should hook the reader, so should the last paragraphs or lines evoke enough emotion to linger in your readers' memories.

I've written twenty-five books, four novellas and two short stories, and I've always worked hard at the endings – to tie things up right, leave a good punctuating emotional note that would echo after the reader finished. But I think I've done exceptional endings twice.

My most recently published book, Ghost Killer, has one of the best endings I've done. (And thus why I thought of this topic). That ending is second after HeartMate, published book #1 (which might have helped get me published in the first place).

And here's a fact about Ghost Killer's ending. It came strictly through the historical research as I was writing the book. I knew in general what I wanted, but the research supplied another couple of layers to the moment.

So look inside yourself for your ending, see if it can echo your beginning, perhaps leave a hint of the next story. And be open for the muse or fate or research or an odd comment you might hear to add that emotional note you need to make a reader smile and sigh and close the book, wishing it wasn't over.

May all your writing dreams come true,
Robin

Debunking Copyright Registration Myths

Authors are often confused about the benefits and timing of copyright registration for creative works. It's a universal issue authors must understand, regardless of the publishing path they choose, so today we're taking a quick and dirty look at some popular myths--and truths--about copyright registration.

Myth #1: You Have to Register Copyright, or You Lose It.

The truth: Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office (or with foreign copyright offices, where appropriate) is not a legal requirement for copyright ownership.

Copyright ownership attaches automatically at the time a qualifying work is created. (For the sake of time and space...short stories, novellas, novels, anthologies and most other published fiction and non-fiction works generally qualify for copyright protection.)

However, copyright registration is required in order to obtain a variety of protections available to copyright holders under U.S. Law. Among them:

  • The right to sue infringers to stop infringement.
  • The right to collect statutory damages (money damages, in amounts set by law) from infringers.
  • The right to recover attorney fees against an infringer in a successful lawsuit.

Myth #2: If You Don't Register Before The Book Is Published, You're Screwed and Cannot Register At All.

(And yes, "screwed" is the technical legal term.)

The Truth: To maximize access to legal rights, an author's copyright should be registered within 90 days of the initial publication date. (Note: publishing the work for free online can constitute "publication" - so consult an attorney before you self-publish or release the work to the public in any form.)

However, authors can register copyright at any time. ANY. TIME. Although some legal rights--for example, the right to recover statutory damages and attorney fees--are lost if the 90-day window passes, other legal rights are available to the copyright holder at any time after registration, no matter when the registration is filed.

In other words: it's never too late to register. It just might cost you some rights if you delay.

Myth #3: Authors Should Register Copyright Before Querying Agents.

The Truth: Not unless the work is already published--and even then, the registration trigger is publication, not queries.

Sometimes authors think they need to register copyright to protect the work from being stolen by unscrupulous agents or publishers. To this, I have two answers:

First: why are you querying unscrupulous agents and publishers?? Do your homework and query only reputable industry professionals.

Second: Although this scenario might have happened to someone, somewhere, registering copyright to avoid an agent stealing your work is about as effective as wearing bulletproof briefs to prevent a random stranger from shooting you in the crotch as they pass by. Again...it might have happened, but if you're hanging out in places where this sort of thing goes on, a re-evaluation of life choices might be in order.

Registering copyright too early can create problems for traditional publishers, most of whom register copyright on the authors behalf. If the work is already registered, the publisher has to complete a different kind of registration, for a 'revised edition' of the work--which creates extra paperwork and headaches all around.

Myth #4: Legitimate Traditional Publishers Always Register Copyright for the Author.

The Truth: Many do, but some don't.

If you publish traditionally, your contract should contain language stating; (a) who is responsible for registering the copyright, and (b) that the publisher will include a copyright notice which satisfies the requirements of U.S. law in all copies of the work published and sold. If the language isn't there...ask for the publisher to insert it. If you don't know what language to ask for...consult a publishing lawyer.

Myth #5: Registering a Copyright is Difficult/Expensive/Requires a Lawyer

The Truth: None of the above.

Most copyrights can be registered online at the U.S. Copyright Office website (www.copyright.gov); in most cases, registration costs less than $50. The copyright office website has a tutorial for copyright registration that can walk authors through the process, step by step, with useful explanations for some of the more confusing terms.

The copyright office's tutorial isn't perfect--there are some areas where I think it could use improvement, and I'm planning a #PubLaw copyright registration booklet (when I get the time to write it...and a unicorn that takes dictation). Even so, it makes what might seem confusing much simpler, so anyone can do it.

So...when SHOULD you register copyright?

If you plan to self-publish, register copyright on your publication day if possible; definitely register within the 90-day window to preserve your rights.

If you publish traditionally, ensure your contract dictates who will handle the registration, and if the task falls to you follow through on publication day or within that first critical 90 days after initial publication.

And there you have it...a whirlwind tour of common copyright registration myths and the truths behind them. We now return you to your regularly scheduled summer fun.

Susan SpannSusan Spann is a California transactional attorney whose practice focuses on publishing law and business. She also writes the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month and a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel. BLADE OF THE SAMURAI (Shinobi Mystery #2), released in 2014, and the third installment, FLASK OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER, just released on July 14. When not writing or practicing law, Susan raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.You can find her online at her website (http://www.SusanSpann.com), on Facebook and on Twitter (@SusanSpann), where she founded and curates the #PubLaw hashtag.

Meet Agent Melissa Jeglinski

Interview with Agent Melissa Jeglinski
By Kerry Schafer

I'm always excited to meet another member of The Knight Agency, which happens to be home base for me. I had a fabulous time with Lucienne Diver last year at Colorado Gold, and this year I'm looking forward to meeting Melissa Jeglinski in person.

Let's begin with a short bio:

"A graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in English with a writing concentration, Melissa began her career as an editor with Harlequin Enterprises. Looking to work with a variety of authors and genres, she joined The Knight Agency in 2008. With over two decades experience in the publishing industry, Melissa has fostered her clients to National prominence including a recent Newbery Honor. She is a member of RWA and AAR. Melissa is currently seeking projects in the following areas: Romance (contemporary, category, historical, inspirational) Young Adult, Middle Grade, Women’s Fiction and Mystery."

Me: Thank you, Melissa, for taking the time to answer questions! Let’s start with genres that interest you. If the Perfect Manuscript landed in your inbox tomorrow, what would it look like?

Melissa: Oh, that’s a tough one because I want so many things. But it would most likely be a contemporary romance that is so different from anything I’ve read lately.  It will have a strong heroine with a unique past. She will not be returning to her hometown or have inherited anything. She will have a cat instead of a dog. The hero will be more than just the nice guy next door and still super sexy. Maybe he’s got all the kids but is doing well as a single dad so that’s not why he needs the heroine in his life. The writing is smooth, storyline is steamy, great cast of secondary characters. It has a happy ending, of course, but I’d love to cry while reading it as well. I’ve never not offered on a project that made me cry.

Me: What other types of projects are you looking for right now?

Melissa: I love romance but I’m specifically looking for: contemporary, inspirational, category, western. Middle Grade, really open to any genre except fantasy. Cozy mysteries with a unique setting.

Me: How agents relate to the rapidly changing publishing landscape is a hot topic for a lot of writers. Where do you stand on this? Have you ever signed somebody who has been publishing independently? Any thoughts on “Hybrid Writers” and how you, as an agent, would fit with that model?

Melissa: I’m open to working with Hybrid Writers as long we are communicating with one another about what’s going on. I have been lied to about what clients were doing outside of their contracted work through me and when trust is lost, it’s very difficult to regain. I am not currently interested in taking on a self-published author’s subrights because it doesn’t offer a great payoff for the time required. If they were to come to me with a new project, I’d be very open to taking a look but right now, I’m not wanting to place a previously published work.

Me: A really great agent/writer relationship is about so much more than genre and writing - what other qualities are you looking for in your Ideal Client?

Melissa: The agent/client relationship needs to be professional but also pleasant. So I need to genuinely like my clients and they should feel the same way about me. Our relationship works best when the client feels like they can really talk to me and ask questions and when they don’t get upset when I offer constructive criticism. Most of all, honesty is key. They have to keep me in the loop with every project, with deadlines, issues with their editor.  I am honest about feedback, sales, etc.

Me: Since agents are Human Beings (Yes, it’s a little known fact, but I think we can talk about it here) you all seem to operate a little bit differently. Can you talk about how you interact with your clients? For example, do you do a lot of editing, or expect that your writers will take care of that themselves? Are you a phone person or do you stick mostly to email? Is there a fair bit of chatter between you and your authors, or do you stick to As Needed communication only?

Melissa: I’m a fairly hands-on agent.  With my editorial background, I can’t not offer editorial advice and they should want that from me, otherwise we wouldn’t be the right fit.  I am probably best via email as I can respond quicker that way but I do set up phone chats when needed.  I welcome communication from my clients but they understand that I can’t always respond ASAP and that weekends are my time and I will get back to them first thing Monday morning.

Me: Do you have time to read for pleasure? If so, could you tell us about a book you’ve read recently that you really enjoyed?

Melissa: Honestly, I haven’t read for pleasure in so long but I just picked up LIFE IS SHORT by Dr. Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein, TLC’s Little Couple.  I enjoy a good biography because they’re not something I represent and I like to read outside my wheelhouse so I’m not comparing it to clients’ work or what is waiting in my submissions box.

Me: What’s the best way for writers to approach you at conference? Scheduled pitch appointments only, or are you open to “elevator pitches” in other appropriate locations and situations? (Note to agent-seeking writers: Appropriate locations excludes the bathroom. Really. Don’t do this. Appropriate situations excludes barging in on a conversation an agent is having with another writer, or when she is clearly busy)

Melissa: I’m definitely open to people coming to talk to me at a conference. If they see me sitting alone or maybe in a big group, feel free to join us. If I want to be left alone, I’ll be up in my room, not somewhere public. I go to conferences to meet potential clients so I’m always wanting to hear what writers are working on. I’ll ask you what you're writing, so don’t feel you have to have a perfect pitch ready. I like it to be a natural part of the conversation; I know pitch appointments can be really tough for some people.

Me: Last, but also very important. Coffee, Tea, or Something Other? And will we find you hanging out at the bar?

Melissa: Coffee, definitely coffee.  Of course you will find me hanging out at the bar—the best place to meet new people.

So there you have it, conference goers! When you see Melissa Jeglinski at the bar, feel free to start a conversation! Especially if you've got the manuscript for a romance that can make her cry but still find its way to a happy ending.