I don't post many author interviews on my blog, but when I recently had a chance to talk with Karen Mahoney about her new novel, The Iron Witch, I could not resist. Read some Q&A with Karen below to learn about her journey to publication (and see if you want to add her cool novel to your reading list!).
Your book is YA fiction, correct? Can you explain to readers what the book is about?
Aided by a gorgeous half-fey dropout, a girl with
magical iron tattoos must race to save her best friend's life—even if
it means betraying one of the world's greatest secrets and confronting
the very thing that destroyed her family.
Where do you write from?
What led up this book?
I'd given up writing for five years—after writing
throughout my childhood and well into my twenties. After those five
years, filled with reading every kind of book I could get my hands on,
in my early thirties I had an existential crisis where I realized I'd
wasted enough time. I returned to my dream of writing and publishing
contemporary fantasy for teenagers and gave myself the next five years to
succeed. I was lucky enough to get invited to submit a vampire story to a
YA paranormal anthology, and that appeared in the summer of 2009 (in
The Eternal Kiss). The sequel to that story just came out in a new
anthology, Kiss Me Deadly (August 2010).
What was the timeframe for writing this book?
The first draft of The Iron Witch began as my
project for NaNoWriMo in November 2007. The first draft took me about six
weeks to write (I finished in mid-December), and then spent the next few
How did you find your agent?
My agent is Miriam Kriss, the Vice President of
the Irene Goodman Literary Agency in New York. Even though I'm British, I
decided that I wanted to target the US market, and specifically queried
US agents. I queried Miriam in the normal way, and was lucky that she
found me in her "slush pile." It took 6 months from sending that first
query letter and opening few pages, to her finally requesting the full
manuscript and then offering representation, summer 2008.
What were your biggest learning experiences or surprises throughout the publishing process?
How sloooowly things can move! Even though many of
my published author friends warned me, I never realized quite how true
this can be! Of course, there are exceptions ... but I wasn't one of
them. My book took 10 months to sell, but me and my agent didn't give
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
I queried widely and often when it came to getting
an agent. I believed—and still believe—that getting an agent to
represent your work is a huge help. I would always tell other writers
not to just target your "top 5" agents and then think of giving up after
that. Although Miriam Kriss was one of my "dream agents," I continued
to query widely and had a spreadsheet of 50 agents by the time I
finished. For each rejection, I sent out two more queries. For each
request for a partial or full, I then sent out another query to replace
it. I researched agents all the time; I lived and breathed agent
websites, blogs, etc. To this day, I'm still well informed about the
industry. I also highly recommend subscribing to Publishers Marketplace,
so you can see who is selling what—and which editors are buying.
On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
I don't know that I'd do anything differently. Not
that I did everything "right"—I just think it's important not to have
any regrets and to learn from mistakes.
Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing to build a platform and gain readership?
I suppose I did have a platform, but I honestly
never thought of it that way. I joined LiveJournal and started blogging
there at the start of 2007. I made so many friends and contacts, and I'm
still in touch with many of them today. I love social networking—I'm an introvert at heart, so online chattering suits me perfectly. I
can talk to people—which I love—but still keep some distance. It's
less exhausting. I have 1,500 followers on Twitter, and I know this is
because I always reply to comments on my blog and give people as much
time as I can. I am also a member of a group blog, including New York
Times bestselling authors.
Website and blog: http://www.kazmahoney.com
Website for the Deadline Dames: http://www.deadlinedames.com
I'm working on the sequel to The Iron Witch called The Wood Queen.
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