The Call with Gita Trelease, Author of Enchantée

Gita Trelease, YA author, EnchanteeWe all love “the call” posts. When revisions needed in our work-in-progress seem endless or a rejected query has us ready to give up, they’re the reminder that the next step will happen. We’ll get an agent and sell a book…eventually!

Today’s post is very close to my heart. Gita Trelease’s Enchantée (Flatiron/Macmillan, 2019) is a gorgeously-written YA historical fantasy set in pre-revolutionary Paris. It’s full of magic and romance, struggles to get by, and the excesses of Versailles. Gita is too modest to tell you this herself, but when she queried Enchantée, she rocked it! She had an 80% request rate, got her first offer after 16 days, received one request from an agent who’d heard about her novel through the rumor mill, and ended up with offers from six agents. Gita’s querying was over in a month. A MONTH! Here’s the scoop.

First of all, how does it feel to be interviewed for The Winged Pen instead of writing a post?

Gita: Exciting! But unfamiliar, like moving from behind the camera to standing in front of it.

Tell us about your experience writing Enchantée.

Gita: It took me about 2 ½ years from inception to querying. At the outset, it seemed like a straight-forward story, but of course it turned into something with multiple threads, what felt at times like hundreds of characters, and tons of research. There were many dark days when I thought I wasn’t smart enough to write this book. My writing friends kept me going through those times with their love and encouragement. I think every writer faces doubts like that, but the important thing is not to let them set up shop in your head and derail you. It’s easier said than done, though. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to step away, take a break, fill the well. Sometimes you need to find a new way to approach your writing; in my last big revision, Donald Maass’ The Emotional Craft of Fiction helped me do that. And if perfectionism demons (this is an ongoing battle for me) get in the way of your writing, I can recommend Hillary Rettig’s The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.

What kind of agent were you looking for?

Gita: Going into this, I had very high expectations! I hoped for an agent who was editorial, experienced, knew the publishing industry inside and out, had a strong track-record of excellent sales, and whose clients’ books were ones I loved. I hoped for an agent who was smart and well read, a good communicator, someone who truly “got” my book—and me.

Everyone dreams over having agents fight for their manuscript. What was it like to receive offers from several rock-star agents?

Gita: I hadn’t expected that to happen! It was both exhilarating and disorienting, because how do you choose? I loved chatting with the offering agents, hearing each one’s vision for my novel, emailing/talking with their clients (very important)—but after ten days of that, my head was spinning. In the end, I needed to let go of my tendency to overthink things, and trust my gut. I am so happy I did.

You chose to go with Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency. What made Molly the one?

Gita Trelease, YA author, EnchanteeGita: Molly was the first agent to offer and I loved her from the start! She has everything I was looking for in an agent (see above), plus certain qualities I didn’t even know I was looking for: a great sense of humor, curiosity, enthusiasm, and a fierce commitment to her clients. I feel incredibly lucky that she offered to represent me.


You queried in July, had an agent in August, and Molly wanted to take Enchantée to the Frankfort Book Festival in October. What was editing with an agent like?

Gita: Molly had gone through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, giving me both line edits and bigger editorial notes. To get it done, I worked ten-hour days over the course of two weeks, but thanks to Molly’s comments, the process was exhilarating. Over and over, she saw how my story could be more nuanced, layered, sharper, bigger—and she pointed to ways I could get there. She also reminded me that all of her comments were suggestions—even if they didn’t sound that way—and encouraged me to argue back in the comments. I didn’t engage in too much back-talk, but knowing I could helped me get in the right frame of mind to do my best work. Two days after I turned it in to Molly, we went on sub!

Any advice for those querying?

Of course! Do your query research (see Alexa Donne’s great Wattpad piece), read a lot of books in your genre, and, on top of all the other advice you’ve already heard, make sure your query highlights what’s fresh about your story.

Congratulations, Gita! Everyone on The Winged Pen is so excited that Enchantée is headed for book store shelves!

Readers can follow Gita on Twitter and Instagram, and find her at www.gitatrelease.com. Enchantée is scheduled for publication in January, 2019. But you can check out some of Gita’s beautiful words sooner, right here on The Winged Pen:

Writing Historical Fiction, or, Notes from a Time Traveler
Creative Cross-Pollination
Master Your Craft: Research – Make Your Story Believable
Master Your Craft: Using Metaphor

GITA TRELEASE writes YA fantasy. In her former life as a college professor, she taught classes on fairy tales, monsters, and Victorian criminals. Her current project takes place during the French Revolution: hot-air balloons and gambling, decadence and dark magic. And wigs. She is represented by Molly Ker Hawn at The Bent Agency and her debut novel, ENCHANTÉE, comes out from Flatiron/Macmillan in January 2019. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

The Call with Julie Artz

Hi, Julie. I’m so excited that you’ve signed with Jennie Dunham of Dunham Lit and are on your way to publishing success! I think The Call is one of the most desired/feared/nerve-wracking/exciting/elusive steps a writer works toward. You’ve nailed your query and finally garnered some interest, but now what?

Photo credit: Gail Werner
Photo credit: Gail Werner   

 

She sent me an email. I had received a similar email from her in the spring that ended up being a Revise & Resubmit on an older manuscript, but the wording on this one was different, so I was pretty sure it was going to be an offer. She didn’t mention a time, but she called me the next morning, so there was only one day of nail-biting.

How did you prepare for The Call? Any sites or blog posts that you felt were helpful in preparing?

I emailed my amazing Pitch Wars 2015 mentor, Juliana Brandt, who shared her list of questions and gave me an awesome pep-talk. And I emailed a couple of critique partners to freak out/ask for advice. I also did a little cyber stalking internet research on the agency and its clients. I read Janet Reid’s blog religiously and she talks a lot about how to maintain good agent-writer relationships. If you’re querying and not subscribed to her blog, go subscribe NOW!

I have to ask where you did the call? Were your kids and husband home?

I was home alone, thank goodness, because I was pacing all over the house with my phone and notebook. I was so nervous and had to keep moving (and reminding myself not to talk too much)! Once I got off the call, I was getting DMs, emails, text messages, and phone calls all at once. I didn’t even text my husband until later because I was on the phone with The Winged Pen’s own Jessica Vitalis, talking her ear off as she drove out of town!

How were you feeling when the call started? How did you feel once the conversations got going?

I had already had a really positive interaction with Jennie about the R&R on my previous manuscript, so I was feeling really good from the moment the call started. Even before it started, really. I sent her The Elephant Tree instead of the revision (with her permission) because I felt it was a stronger manuscript and she was enthusiastic about the project from the moment I pitched it to her. The call blew me away. By the time we had this call, she had read all three of my middle grades, so I knew she really got me as a writer. And she said all the right things. I was floating by the end.

What was the big deciding factor on deciding that this was the agent for you? Was there a moment in the call or something she said?

When she made me cry (in a good way), I just knew that she got me 100% and was going to be the perfect fit.

How has communication been since the call and what’s the next step for you?

I have been working on revisions on The Elephant Tree since we signed in October. So in addition to discussing revisions, we’ve also had a productive back-and-forth about my next story. The one I was plotting before I signed with Jennie is a totally different genre than The Elephant Tree (dark fantasy instead of contemporary with a sprinkle of magic), so it doesn’t make a very good follow-up.

 I came up with a character and pitched Jennie a story idea that, unfortunately, has been done in an upcoming MG. That’s why I’m so glad to have an industry insider to help me navigate this—can you imagine if I’d written the whole story before I found out someone else had done something similar? I was able to take that same character, who I’m sort of falling in love with, and put her into a new story that Jennie thought would make a great follow-up to The Elephant Tree. Now if I can just get these edits done, I can start writing the shiny new story!

Are there any questions you wish you had asked that you didn’t?

We got so busy talking about edits for my current manuscript and story ideas for my next one that we completely forgot to talk about what her contract looks like! She had to email me the contract after the fact. I actually thought of a ton of questions after I got off the phone with her, so we had another round of email back and forth during my nudge week.

Any advice for querying writers working toward The Call?

Don’t give up! This was the third middle-grade manuscript I’d queried (fourth manuscript total because there was that one awful chicklit novel I wrote in my twenties and was foolish enough to query) and I racked up over a hundred rejections on my Pitch Wars 2015 manuscript before I shelved it to focus on The Elephant Tree. The evening before I got the email from Jennie, I got a heart-breaking pass from another agent that had me so down in the dumps that I’d actually told my critique partners I was all done with this manuscript (even though I only sent a total of 48 queries on it!). The next day, I had an offer.

Julie, thanks so much for letting me pester you with all these questions and congrats on this giant leap forward. I can’t wait to see what’s next for you. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieartz. You can also find her at julieartz.com.

~Kristi Wientge is the author of KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE out August 2017 with Simon & Schuster BFYR and is repped by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.