Friday, August 19, 2011

Query Trackers Making Tracks, #11

Today is installment number eleven 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.

Today’s guest, Stephanie of The Cracked Slipper Blog
, signed with her agent  Rebecca Friedman of Hill Nadell Literary Agency on the VERY first book she ever wrote. From my experience, that's a rather rare occurence, so kudos to you Stephanie! What an amazing feat. You can find the details in her QueryTracker success interview.

I've had fun getting to know Stephanie over the past six months or so. She was with me in the query trenches and we commiserated a few times over rejections. I was thrilled when I heard she'd found success and remember asking her right then to come on my series one day.  Finally that day has arrived and we get to hear how she came up with her wonderfully unique book idea. J


AGH: Welcome Stephanie! Could you give us a quick summary of the book which snagged your agent?

STEPH: Set in a pseudo-renaissance, corset-and-petticoats enchanted kingdom, The Cracked Slipper is the other side of happily-ever-after: A love triangle between a scholarly Cinderella, an alcoholic prince, and his Mister Darcy-ish best friend. It's a book club friendly fairytale retelling.

AGH: Before you signed with your agent, how many books had you tried to query?

STEPH: The Cracked Slipper is the first book I've queried.

AGH: What were the responses to those queries (stat-wise: fulls, partials, etc.)?

STEPH: I had a lot of full and partial requests, but I'm not sure of the exact numbers! I think I sent out about fifty queries.

AGH: What genre(s) do you write?

STEPH: I write fantasy that leans in the direction of women's fiction. I'd like to try my hand at historical fiction, but I'm sure anything I write will have a speculative element.

AGH: What inspired your very first book idea?

STEPH: The Cracked Slipper is my first novel. I thought of the initial concept while driving ballet carpool and listening to the Cinderella story with my daughters (then six and four). The girls were of course enthralled by the happy ending, but I had this thought: "Whatever! She probably died in childbirth."

I have an MA in Sociology with a focus in Women's Studies, and that first idea inspired me to rewrite fairytale marriage within the constrains of women's lives in pre-industrial, patriarchal societies. Despite the dragons, unicorns and witches, The Cracked Slipper reads more like historical women's fiction than genre fantasy.

AGH: How do you come up with titles?

STEPH: My titles tend to be metaphors based on significant physical objects in my books. Obviously, there is indeed a broken glass shoe in The Cracked Slipper! My second novel (the sequel to The Cracked Slipper) is called The Red Choker. I'm working on a kaleidoscope theme for book three!

AGH: What books / authors have most influenced your own style and concepts?

STEPH: Three writers that have most influenced my style are Stephen King, Jane Austen and Frank McCourt.

I read my first Stephen King book, IT, when I was about ten years old. IT gave me nightmares for months, but also changed my life as a reader! Memorable characters, snappy dialogue, vivid setting, wholly unique fantastical elements: that book has it all. I tore through all of King's novels over the next twenty or so years, and I count IT, The Stand and The Dark Tower Series as my favorites.

I first read Pride and Prejudice in tenth grade English, and fell in love with Jane Austen's wit, biting social commentary and strong female characters. I also admire Ms. Austen's ability to craft a subtle love story. Longing and conflict create romantic tension. Of course, I'm not opposed to a steamy scenes, but Austen created some of our most beloved romantic relationships...and her characters rarely come into physical contact with one another.

Lastly, I've never fallen for an author's voice quite so hard as I fell for Frank McCourt's in Angela's Ashes. The light, lyrical quality of the prose and the subtle aging of the first person narration blew me away. McCourt found ways to bring humor into the most tragic of situations. I was literally laughing on one page and crying on the next.

AGH: How did you find QueryTracker, and how did it aid in your effort to get inside the publishing doors?

STEPH: I found Query Tracker through Google! I'd recommend the site to all querying writers. It helps you stay organized, but even more important the commentary from other querying writers gives you insight into agent interests, responses methods, and response times. New agents are always popping up on the site, and it's a great way to ensure an agent's reputability. Also, a great way to meet other writers! 

AGH: Have you recently learned anything about the business side of publishing that you can share with up and coming writers?

STEPH: The best advice I can give to other writers is make sure your MS is very clean before you query. First, make sure you're really ready. Compare your work to published material. Does your prose sounds natural? Have you followed basic rules of POV, grammar, plot? Have you upped the stakes for your characters? Have you revised and revised and then revised some more?

Once you think you're ready, stop! Let lots of people read it. Give it to all your bookish friends. I probably had forty people read The Cracked Slipper, and most of them gave me valuable feedback. In addition, book doctors and editors can be expensive, but worth it if you can swing it. You're paying someone to examine every nook and cranny of your manuscript and give you honest feedback. I struggled with critique groups and beta exchanges, because I simply didn't have time to provide the kind of extensive feedback these reciprocal relationships require.

Once you do start querying, pay attention to feedback, or lack thereof. If you send twenty queries and get no bites, revise your query. If you get five partial requests and none turn into fulls, re-examine your partial. Most of all, settle in for the long haul and try to grow about ten extra layers of thick skin. Querying is not for the faint of heart!

AGH: Do you have any current news to announce?

STEPH: My fun news: The Cracked Slipper is currently on submission. So I'm back to waiting on pins and needles!

**Five for fun**

AGH: Team Dog or Team Cat?

STEPH: I used to be heavily Team Dog but I'm drifting toward Cat these days. We have a very sweet dog, but in general dogs are just too high maintenance for this point in my life. I have three little kids. Poor doggie is pretty low on the totem pole. I appreciate our kitty's independence.

AGH: If you could morph into any food, what kind would you become and why?

STEPH: If I could morph into any food it would be a dark chocolate covered almond. Chocolate and a super food. What could be better?

AGH: When would you go to if you had a time machine, and why?

STEPH: If I could travel to any time it would be the court of Elizabeth I in the early 1560's. I'm a sucker for all things Tudor, and QE1 is my most admired historical figure. Just amazing how she held her own against the most powerful men in the world for decades. Most literary (and film) portrayals give us a fierce, regal matriarch. I'd love to meet her as a young woman. Watch her find her feet.

AGH: If you were tight with one of the Greek gods, which one would it be and what favor would you ask of them?

STEPH: If I could be tight with one of the Greek gods it would have to be Apollo. I'd love to steer the sun across the sky. I'd ask him for some godly advice on the global climate crisis. Maybe he could help us out with renewal energy sources. Solar, anyone?

AGH: Drinking tea … pinky up, or heavy on the Long Island?

STEPH: My tea is definitely heavy on the Long Island, but I still drink it with my pinky up. :)


Thank you for the interview, Stephanie! I love the idea of a kaleidoscope theme. J And Angela's Ashes had the same affect on me. I also loved To Kill a Mockingbird for the amazing voice. 

Don’t forget to visit Stephanie’s The Cracked Slipper website / blog and follow her on twitter to stay abreast of news and announcements. Also, please leave her any questions, comments, or kudos below. I know she'll be thrilled to see them!
Stephanie, I hope you hear some good news very soon, and that the submission trail is a short one for you! I'll be looking forward to reading this book series one day. Everyone else, have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you next week!


  1. Awesome interview ladies! Your book sounds AMAZING; no surprise that a plot like that got snagged! :)

  2. Great interview, and thanks for introducing us to Stephanie (I have to say, the "she probably died in childbirth" comment made me laugh involuntarily).

    By the way, Anita, I haven't yet congratulated you!! What wonderful news--can't wait to read your book!

  3. A renaissance era fairytale retelling of life after the HEA? Neat. Digging the Greek god answer, too.

  4. Great interview ladies. And that is so awesome that she landed an agent with her first novel. That's some talent there :D

  5. Hey y'all! Thanks for stopping by. Glad my ideas are resonating. Always good to hear. And hopefully my heroine avoids death via childbirth, but we shall see. :)

    Thanks to the fabulous Anita for having me! :)

  6. Great interview! And I drink EVERYTHING with my pinky up, cuz I've got class. *snort*

  7. I live in Charleston, SC, so it's all about the manners down here. Oh, and the bourbon. :)

  8. What a great interview! I love the description of your book, Stephanie, and I love how and when you came up with the idea! Great advice, too.

  9. Anna~ Hi, and thanks for the kudos! The book does sound fab, right? I can't wait to get my hands on it either. :)

    Sarah~ Stephanie's actually hilarious. You should check out her posts. :) And thanks so much for the congrats!

    Sophia~ Hey there my Goblin Market sistah. I always love seeing what kind of answers the interviewees give for those silly questions. Gives a good glimpse into what makes them tick

    Lori~ Thanks for stopping by! And I know, right? I was stunned when I realized this was her first novel!

    Stephanie~ My pleasure! You are a delightful guest. :)

    Michelle~ Yes, you are definitely a classy goat. Hee

    Julia~ Thanks for popping in!

  10. I found Stephanie on Miss Snark's First Victim and have been really glad for it--and now, glad that her blog has led me to yours! I'm also on Query Tracker right now and trying to revise my first attempt at a query (which hasn't netted anything), just as Stephanie suggests...and Jenny Bent's on my list, so I'm thrilled to find a client of hers! I'll have to check out Rebecca Friedman, too.

  11. Great interview. I always enjoy these. Gives hope. And this story sounds AMAZING! Can't wait to read it. Well done, ladies, well done!

  12. Thanks, all! So appreciate the support.

    And I'm really not THAT hilarious, but thanks, Anita! :) xo

  13. Stephanie, that is just the COOLEST premise! Genius, I say! Congratulations & good luck.

    Miss Anita, another great interview.

  14. Kathleen~ So nice to meet you! Thanks for stopping by. :)

    Mandie~ I appreciate your support, girl! These interviews are always fun to do.

    Rookstar~ I know, this book is right up my alley. Thanks for the sweetness, luvie. :)

  15. Sounds like a fantastic book premise, Stephanie!

    Dark chocolate covered almonds? Uber yum.

    Great interview, Anita!

  16. Wonderful interview!

    I love twisty retellings of classic fairy tales. Will have to watch out for this one.


  17. Mary and Cherie~ Hi lovely ladies. :) I love fairy tale adaptations, too! And this is a twist I've never seen done. I hope it gets a home very soon so we can read it.

  18. Loved this interview, Anita & Steph! My favorite line: "Whatever, she probably died in childbirth." Ha! What a great story about the inspiration for the book. The title Cracked Slipper is PERFECTION.

  19. Hey y'all! Thanks to Bethany, Marybk and Cherie for the encouragement! Hopefully you'll get to check out The Cracked Slipper in the not terribly distant future.

    And thanks always to Nina B and Anita for just being fabulous! xo

  20. Thank you Anita for re-starting this Friday tradition. It is one of my favorites!

    And many congrats to Stephanie!

  21. ahh... this sounds great. I have to confess a *snort* at the "died in childbirth" thought. How jaded we become... :D

    What great advice about making your MS as clean as possible. I think that could have a lot to do with why more aren't picked up at the first book. I learned that lesson the hard way.

    All the best to Stephanie! Cracked Slipper sounds fab~ :o) <3