Happy Tuesday! Today, I’m sharing an interview with Adalyn Grace, author of All the Stars and Teeth (out Feb. 4, 2020!!). Read on to learn about Adalyn’s path to finding representation, her advice for entering a mentorship program, and her thoughts on why fantasy is going to last.
Can you tell me about the book that got you your agent?
AG: Yes! The book that got me my agent is my debut novel, All the Stars and Teeth! It’s a YA Fantasy novel about a morally gray princess who is forced to team up with a mysterious pirate in order to save her kingdom from a dangerous new threat. It’s a seafaring adventure full of magic, man-eating mermaids, and a whole lot of swashbuckling!
You’ll be able to find it in stores on February 4th 🙂
Can you tell me a bit about your querying journey? For example, was the project that got you your agent the first book you queried?
AG: All the Stars and Teeth was the 4th novel I ever wrote, and the 2nd I queried. Prior to writing it, I was in Pitch Wars with another manuscript. Pitch Wars is an amazing program I highly recommend that querying writers look into it. While I didn’t get my agent from the program’s showcase, I learned so much about editing and the publishing world, and it really helped take my writing to the next level. A few months after the agent showcase, I used my new skills to quickly draft and edit what has now become my debut novel. While my querying with ATSAT was astonishingly painless (I had multiple offers of representation on the book within 24 hours of querying), this came after over 100 rejections and two years of querying my past project! It was definitely not normal, nor what I was anticipating at all. I think it’s so important to remember that everyone’s process is so different, and that there’s no normal when it comes to querying. Someone can query for a year and get a yes. You can get one rejection thirty seconds after sending, and a request a minute later. Everyone has different tastes, books are so subjective, and agents can get swamped. So there’s totally no normal at all, and I am an outlier with what happened to me with ATSAT. I think the timeline of my previously queried manuscript is much more normal.
Was there a time in your querying journey when you felt like giving up?
AG: Ha! Fortunately I’m incredibly stubborn, otherwise I definitely might have. Rejections are hard, but especially form rejections, because it’s just a flat no and 0 feedback to give you any idea what you might be doing wrong. But with as busy as agents can get, sometimes those forms just have to happen. So I’m honestly very grateful for Pitch Wars and for the critique partners I found through the program and the Twitter hashtag; they not only really helped me learn and grow as an author, but also helped to inspire me and keep me going.
Do you have any advice for querying authors/what’s something you know now as an agented author that you wish you knew before?
AG: When I first started querying, I queried anyone under the sun who said they represented books. I didn’t really look at their sales or who their clients were, because I just wanted someone to say yes to me. So many people say a book isn’t dead until you’ve gotten 100 rejections, and to query widely, but honestly I think that’s such horrible advice.
When you’re looking for an agent, you’re looking for a business partner. Would you get into a business partnership with just anyone you meet on the street? No. Of course you wouldn’t! So then why do we think to do that with agents?
The power dynamics between agents and querying writers is incredibly warped at times. So many of us see agents as shiny unicorns, and believe that it only takes just one yes from them. But it doesn’t; it takes the right yes. It takes a yes from someone you trust with your career. Who you trust to sell your book to the right home, and to help you negotiate and handle things like contracts and money! These are serious things that can have huge impacts on your life and your career, and I wish I really understood this before I queried. I’m very lucky to have learned this before I queried ATSAT, otherwise who knows what might have happened!
I’d highly suggest making a list of only a handful of agents (maybe under 20 or so) that you’ve really done your research on and believe you could trust in a partnership. Check out their sales. How often are they selling books? Who are they selling those book to? How much are they selling those books for? Check out who their clients are.
Then, if all those agents say no and you feel like you’re scraping the barrel, trying to find more random agents to send your materials to, I’d suggest sitting down and having a pep talk with yourself. I’d suggest examining why the book might not have worked and, as difficult as it might be, I’d suggest moving on to the next project.
When and why did you start writing?
AG: I grew up enjoying storytelling in many forms–video games, anime, books, etc. I was definitely a reader, but I actually didn’t fall in love with writing by reading! It was honestly a total accident. When I was a kid, I was totally obsessed with Neopets, and used to spend way too much of my time on that website. One day, between trying to save up neopoints for a lab ray, I discovered the roleplaying boards on the site and never turned back. I became obsessed, and eventually found a small group of girls (all of whom I’ve now met in person and still love so much!) who I’d spend hours writing stories with every single day. We wrote about wolves. Vampires. Kids with powers. I spent hours and hours writing so many words, not caring how they sounded or how perfect they were. We very much wrote in our most raw forms, and it was so freeing and incredible. That period in my life is one I will always have incredibly fond memories of. So much so that I’m actually going to start up another roleplay for fun with one of those girls later this year! I miss writing just for fun, so I’m excited to start and just let the creativity roll without worrying about who is going to read this and what they might think
What inspires you?
AG: So many things! Books, movies, anime, games, friends, conversations I hear in passing, real life . . . I’m a bit like Hamilton I suppose, in that I’m rarely ever satisfied with anything. I’ve always craved the most magical things, and am constantly looking for that in any and every form I can find.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
AG: I’m pretty much exclusively a pantser! I love working on beat sheets like the one in Save the Cat prior to starting a draft. Things I wasn’t anticipating do always sneak their way into the story, but ultimately I need to know the bones of my book before I write it.
If you read writing craft books, do you have any to recommend?
- The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
- The Anatomy of Story by John Truby
- Wired for Story by Lisa Cron
- Stoy Genius by Lisa Cron
- Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
I also highly recommend Susan Dennard’s website as a resource to all writers.
Who would your dream co-author be?
AG: I think this is so tricky! There are a lot of authors I admire, but ultimately if I did a partner project, it’d have to be with someone who not only shares the same vision as me, but who has a similar style. I think this would be really fun one day, and I’d love to find someone who is really great in some of the areas I might be weaker. But right now, I’m not sure who that might be!
What’s a book you’ve read lately that you’re OBSESSED with?
AG: The main form of story I’ve been most obsessed with lately is actually a television show! It’s a K drama called Goblin, and I love it with my entire heart.
In terms of actual books, recently I’ve been doing a huge popular fantasy binge on older books like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, and The Kingkiller Chronicles. Apart from those, I’ve mostly been reading other debut and 2020 books. Here are just a few books I’ve read recently and loved!
- Fable by Adrienne Young
- Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez
- The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
- Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey Mcquiston
- Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
What’s your author dream? Fanart? Movie adaptation? Fanfic?
AG: Fanart was a huge one, and I’m always so so so excited and in love when someone tags me in a picture of any book related art that they’ve made for me! That’s been a huge dream come true. Apart from that, I’d love to see cosplay and fanfics! I cut my teeth on online roleplaying, so I think that’d also be super cool to see someone doing an ATSAT roleplay one day. Also, of course, I’d love to see a live adaptation, and maybe be an extra in a fight scene or something!
What’s the hardest part about being a writer?
AG: Sitting my butt down and carving out time to write. It sounds so silly, but between the admin work like emails and errands and phone calls, plus just being a basic human who also needs free time, the hardest part is just sitting in the chair, turning off the distractions, and getting the words out.
What’s the best part?
AG: 1000000% the readers. Those I’ve met and have spoken to who’ve already read the book are just incredible. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing to see stuff like the cover and getting to see your words printed for the first time. But words are nothing without readers, and the best part is getting to talk to them!
You worked as an intern for The Legend of Korra — has anything about that experience informed your writing or who you are as a writer?
AG: You know, it’s funny. I loved working on Korra. It was another period in my life that I’ll forever have great memories of, and that I’m incredibly grateful for. It was a huge stepping stone in my career, and I made so many wonderful friends through it. I was there from the end of Book 2 to the very beginning stages of Book 4, and it was amazing to have the opportunity to learn from this talented team, and to see the behind the scenes of creating the story to the sequel of a show I grew up on. But I think the most important thing being there taught me is that I will never be fully happy working on someone else’s story for them, when I could be working on my own. I love animation, and I loved being at Nick and think that experience so needed to happen for me in my life, but if I go back into that world again, it will be on my own projects 🙂
You’ve participated in Pitch Wars as a mentee and a mentor. Do you have any advice for people who hope to participate in a mentorship like PW someday?
AG: I have three pieces of advice!
- Just try. So long as it’s a reputable program, like Pitch Wars, the worst that can happen is you don’t get in. Putting yourself out there is terrifying, but it can have so many benefits, and really teach you so much.
- Use the hashtags. Even if you don’t get in, you can meet other writers in the same stage as you, and potentially meet new CPs!
- In terms of actually entering, make sure your materials are ready. As a mentor, I’ve received hundreds of submissions. If you’re not putting in the time to write a proper query letter and synopsis, or follow the basic rules, what does that tell me about the time you’d put into my notes and feedback? There are so many resources available online on how to write a query letter and synopsis. There’s no excuse not to get these right. Even if they’re not amazing, mentors need to see that you at least tried.
If you could swap places with any of your characters for a day, who would you like to be and why?
AG: Part of me says Vataea, because it’d be interesting to see the sea, but honestly I don’t want to know what’s down there. Even scuba diving freaked me out! So maybe the leader of the Barracudas, Shanty. I’d love to play with her magic for a day!
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who fear that YA Fantasy is dead?
AG: Fantasy will never be dead. Fantasy is escapism. It’s dreams and magic brought to life. And honestly, I think we need that now more than ever.
Write your book. Tell your stories. Worry about the rest of it after, and never let fear stop you from following your dreams.
About Adalyn Grace
Adalyn Grace graduated from Arizona State University when she was nineteen years old. She spent four years working in live theater and acted as the managing editor of a nonprofit newspaper before studying storytelling as an intern on Nickelodeon Animation’s popular series The Legend of Korra. Adalyn splits time between San Diego and Arizona with her bossy cat and two dorky dogs, and spends her days writing full-time while trying to find the best burrito around. All the Stars and Teeth is her debut novel.
Click here for more information on her debut, All the Stars and Teeth!
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