Today is installment number ten of my Friday series on successful authors from QueryTracker. Some of my guests have agents, others have found success in less conventional ways. But one thing they all have in common is the utilization of the QueryTracker website to help make their tracks in the publishing world.
After an astounding SEVEN offers (whew-wee, I know!), today's guest, Lisa Iriarte, signed with agent Amy Boggs of Donald Maass Literary Agency. Much like me, Lisa found herself querying again after having parted ways with her first agent. You can read her incredible call story in detail on her QT interview and on her blog.
Now, without further adieu, let's welcome Lisa to the interview box.
AGH: Hello Lisa! So, what genre(s) do you write?
Lisa: I write science fiction/romance, and science fiction. I'm also thinking a paranormal may be in my future, since I have some coursework done in parapsychology.
AGH: Could you give us a quick summary of the book which snagged your agent?
Lisa: Well, VICIOUS CIRCLE is science fiction/romance. I pitched it as "Xena Warrior Princess in space." The protagonist is a female assassin. The antagonist is a demon-calling, power hungry maniac masquerading as a priest. Throw in some space pirates, some healing magic, and some not-so-subtle subtext, and you have VICIOUS CIRCLE.
AGH: How long did you query it, and what were your stats?
Lisa: I queried VICIOUS CIRCLE for approximately three months. I was actually querying two different novels at the same time to different agents. I sent out about 145 queries for VICIOUS CIRCLE alone. I won't say how many rejections I received, because I like to pretend they don't exist. :-) But I will say that I ended up with six offers of representation for VICIOUS CIRCLE (and one offer for the other novel I was querying.)
AGH: What inspired your book idea?
Lisa: I've always been fascinated by the assassin mentality. As I said, my protagonist is an assassin, so she only kills those who would harm/kill countless others. Still, even working for the greater good, I like to consider the psychological make up of such a person. How does she live with what she does? Who would her friends be? Who would love her, and would she be able to allow herself to love in return?
AGH: How did you come up with the title?
Lisa: Hah. Actually, I thought I was being so clever with this title. The character leaves (gets thrown out of) the Assassins Guild, and by the end of the story is forced to return there, hence the VICIOUS CIRCLE. Of course, since finishing the manuscript, I've discovered that this is a pretty popular title. There's at least one other novel currently on the shelves by that name.
AGH: Before you signed with your first agent, how many books had you tried to query?
Lisa: Yes, my current agent is my second agent. Prior to signing with my first agent, I had queried one book. The second book got me my first agent. After she left the profession, my third book got me my second agent.
AGH: What books / authors have most influenced your own style and concepts?
Lisa: Too many to list here. The main ones would be Elizabeth Moon and Tanya Huff for my pure science fiction, Linnea Sinclair and Ann Aguirre for my science fiction/romance, and Vicki Pettersson and Gini Koch for the science fiction/superhero novel I'm currently working on. Right now I'm reading the latest in the VALOR series by Tanya Huff, and I've ordered Pettersson's last book in THE SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC series. Can't wait! Several of these authors are also personal friends who've critiqued my work or given me advice, and I value their input tremendously.
AGH: How did you find QueryTracker, and how did it help you in your effort to get inside the publishing doors?
Lisa: I actually don't remember how I found QueryTracker initially, but I'm going to guess it was through an agent's blog. The website was a huge help in narrowing down my list of agents to query, guiding me to agents' websites and information on each one, and keeping my queries and submissions organized.
AGH: Have you recently learned anything about the business side of publishing that you can share with up and coming writers, something you wish you’d known in the beginning?
Lisa: Well, not so much about the business side, but I will say this: I wish I'd realized how close I was when I queried for the first time, many years ago. I sent my first science fiction novel to about 75 agents. I got a lot of rejections, but also several requests for partials and fulls. In the end, I did not get any offers of representation, and I quit writing for a couple of years. Oh, if only I could have those years back! I had no idea what a full request meant. If I'd gone ahead and written another book right away, I probably would have found representation much sooner. So, bottom line, don't give up, and don't stop writing. Each book will get successively better, and your chances of catching an agent's attention (or six or seven agents' attention) will increase.
AGH: Do you have any news you can share, or new projects you can tell us about?
Lisa: Not too much yet. I'm working on a science fiction/superhero novel with romantic elements that is turning out to be a heavy action/fun romp. As this is being posted, I'm up in New York, meeting my new agent face-to-face for the first time. We're all heading off to Ninja New York for dinner (an appropriate choice for a writer of assassins, I think.) My husband, also a writer, won a scholarship to the Backspace Conference, so I'm accompanying him. Actually, I won the same scholarship a year and a half ago, and I highly recommend the Backspace conferences for networking with agents. It's where I was offered representation, in person, the first time I got an agent.
**Five for fun**
AGH: Which would you rather do: carry an umbrella or sing in the rain?
Lisa: I'd sing in the rain. Prior to changing my college major to Creative Writing, I was a Studio Music and Jazz Voice major and also sang opera with several companies.
AGH: Are you Team Dog or Team Cat?
Lisa: I am totally Team Dog. We have two Chinese Crested Powderpuffs at home, both named after characters from my books. Don't get me wrong. I also love cats, and we have a "porch cat" who comes by for some food and affection on a regular basis. However, I am horribly allergic to cats, so we can't have them in the house.
AGH: If I were at your house right now, what would I find in your refrigerator?
Lisa: Oh, you're supposed to store FOOD in there? I thought it was just for Coke Zero and other sources of caffeine.
AGH: If you were tight with one of the Greek gods, which one would it be and what favor would you ask of them?
Lisa: Xena. Yes, I know she wasn't a Greek god, nor was she an actual part of Greek mythology, but I really want to learn how she twirls that dang sword. That is so cool! The hubby got me shooting lessons for my birthday, so I can accurately fire a 9mm pistol, but you don't find sword twirling lessons in the Yellow Pages, at least not around here. Maybe in Greece. Hmm . . .
AGH: Drinking tea … pinky up, or heavy on the Long Island?
Lisa: Um, both. I hate plain tea, unless I'm sick and need it to settle my stomach, so the Long Island version would be much more fun. But my grandmother always drank with her pinky raised, and I picked up the habit from emulating her as a child, so I drink everything, and I do mean everything with my pinky extended, and yes, I know that's weird. Can of Coke Zero? Pinky extended. Glass of ice water? Pinky extended. Here's to you, Grandma!
Lisa: Thanks again for the opportunity to share my writerly path and pinky raising quirks with you!
Thank you, too, Lisa! And for the record, I'm partial to quirks, especially the ones passed down by grandmas. ;) Your book sounds AWESOME (I mean, Xena? Can't beat a kick-bootie heroine like that).
Congrats on all of your successes so far, and I wish you much luck and happiness on the rest of your writing journey! BTW, I should let all of my readers know that Lisa is out of town so she'll be responding to comments here when she gets back.
That said, I hope to see you all next week. Until then, have a wonderful, safe, and relaxing weekend.