Today, I’m sharing an interview with a friend of mine from the query trenches. Elora Cook is a picture of endurance and strength, and her story has inspired me so much. One of the best parts of having a writer friend is seeing them get a big success–and that recently happened for Elora! She’s now represented by agent Sabrina Taitz of WME!
Read on to learn about how Elora persevered and what she learned on the journey to finding her agent!
Can you tell me about the book that got you your agent?
Of course! It’s a YA thriller à la THE SOPRANOS meets GOSSIP GIRL and for fans of Karen McManus’s stories.
Can you tell me a bit about your querying journey? For example, I know this wasn’t the first book you queried. Could you tell me a bit about that journey?
It definitely was not my first book I queried! I’ve written to this date three books with a handful of ones I started and gave up on for one reason or another. My mafia book (and my third written novel) was my third attempt at querying. It was surprisingly fast given my track record as I started cold querying around the end of November 2019 and received my offer of rep after participating in the Twitter event #pitmad on December 9th! This might look super discouraging / frustrating to querying writers (believe me, I’ve felt that many a times), but my track record before this was either 100% crickets (first book) or months of querying, getting requests, hoping, and in the end no offers (second book).
Was there a time in your querying journey when you felt like giving up?
Oh, like, every other day haha. In all seriousness, I’d have sometimes a week or two of believing in myself and my work, then the self-doubt voice would stir again. It would tell me I wasn’t good enough for this, my work wasn’t wanted, and that I would only ever get to cheer others on from the sidelines.
How did you get the strength to keep trying?
The important thing I learned through all my self-loathing moments and/or when I was licking my wounds from yet another rejection was to let myself sink into it then pick myself up again and get back to pushing forward. Sometimes those dark moments needed more time than others, but I always made sure I found my way back to hoping. Honestly, sometimes that hope felt super delusioned and that same self-doubt voice wanted me to believe the hope was all a scam, but it was the key to keeping my heart strong as I pushed forward.
Do you have any advice for querying authors?
Be resilient. Be kind to yourself, your peers, and the agents. Use Query Tracker as it’s a lifesaver! And make sure to know what you want from an agent before querying them. Go beyond, “to represent me and my books” to deeper areas that’ll be a concern once you get an offer (or two!). Things like, do I want a hands-on agent or someone who prefers distance? Do they represent other genres and/or age categories I want to write in one day? An established or newer agent? The more you know about the agent and agency the better! Also there’s absolutely nothing wrong with querying a newer agent! My opinion was as long as they’re at an agency I like and respect, the newer agent was fair game.
What’s something you know now as an agented author that you wish you knew before?
Revising under someone else’s deadline. Their expectations can be daunting as someone new to it! It isn’t only yourself you made promises to now. This isn’t so much something I had no clue about before being agented, but now living with this new aspect to my writing career has been an adjustment.
When and why did you start writing?
I’ve always been a storyteller. I was named after a princess character in a fantasy movie, so I feel I was meant to be the creative storyteller type (haha). I wrote my first short story when I was in the third grade with publishing aspirations already in my mind and seriously started writing novels when I was eighteen.
What inspires you?
Music, movies, television shows, video games, other books and the world I get to interact with.
What inspired you to write your mafia story? Were there any books/movies that helped you get in the mafia mood for writing the book?
I originally thought my answer to this question would be boring and I’d just say it came to me one day in late November of 2018…but then when I thought about it more, I realized I’ve actually wanted to write a story like this for a long time. Back when I was writing/revising my YA high fantasy in 2016-2017, I briefly plotted out the sequel to it, which had a lot of the same elements of my mafia story. Since that point I’ve had an urge to write a gritty, dark, sexy, glamorous story set in a city landscape and finally got around to making it happen! In all honesty, I never watched any mafia movies or Gossip Girl until after I had the first draft written. I was pleasantly-surprised by the fact that I unintentionally created Blair Waldorf 2.0 through my main character, Tasha. After the first draft though, I devoured so many mafia movies/tv shows and watched all seven seasons of GG to enhance my story. I’d also say specific music inspired the desire to write a story like my mafia one. Artists like The Weeknd, Halsey and Post Malone inspired so many scenes and vibes in my book. I also have to give a special shout-out to Ariana’s Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored because that song got the wheels turning with fleshing out Tasha’s character in the early days!
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a plotter through and through! When I first started writing I was a pantser, but with time I realized that I saved myself so much hassle if I plotted out my stories well before actually putting words on the page.
If you read writing craft books, do you have any to recommend?
I haven’t ever been able to get into craft books. I know how helpful they’ve been to others, but my eyes glaze over trying to read through one!
What’s a book you’ve read lately that you’re OBSESSED with?
I was lucky to read an arc of MY DARK VANESSA by Kate Elizabeth Russell that releases March 10th and I absolutely loved it. A super dark story, but gripping and intense. I couldn’t stop reading!
What’s your author dream? Fanart? Movie adaptation? Fanfic?
I would die from happiness if I received fan art of specific scenes from the book and a television show!
What’s the hardest part about being a writer?
Fighting the urge to compare yourself to others. Some of my lowest moments have come from comparing myself to someone who’s ahead of me in some way. Be it getting into a contest I wasn’t picked for, getting an agent while I was receiving rejections or quickly moving from getting an agent to a book deal (or two) and what feels like them leaving me behind. I’m still learning not to give into the urge to compare and I highly suggest other writers try to do the same if they suffer from this. It’s true when you see authors/writers say that everyone is on their own journey and no single journey will look the same. Unlike other types of jobs/careers, you can’t have any sort of expectation in this industry. If x writer gets a book deal after four months on sub or x writer gets an agent on their third book, you can’t assume the same will happen to you. There is no consistency in publishing other than your consistency to keep pushing forward!
What’s the best part?
The friendships and seeing your daydreams come to fruition on the page! I never realized going into this journey how many wonderful people I would meet and could confidently say were dear friends of mine. It’s so funny to think that growing up I was warned not to talk to strangers on the internet and now half of my friendships started online! I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of these friends in person and that’s been a surreal experience in itself in the best way possible. Then there’s seeing my imagination show up on the page because of the work I put into it. Sometimes I get wrapped up in the little things about writing, but when I step back and take it all in, I realize how fantastic this is that I made the imaginations in my head into something tangible for others (and myself) to read! It’s magic come to life.
Thank you so much for your time, Elora!
Elora resides in Toronto, Canada working in the TV industry by day and writing books by night. She holds a B.A. in the Creative Industries from Ryerson University. She’s a Pisces, a plant lady, former actress and received her name thanks to the 1988 fantasy movie, Willow, that destined her for a love of storytelling.