It's time to meet another debut author and see how they found their literary agent and got published. These interviews are a great opportunity to see what debut writers did right on their journey as well as what they wished they did different. Today, we meet novelist Anna Loan-Wilsey, author of the historical mystery A LACK OF TEMPERANCE.
A LACK OF TEMPERANCE is Anna's debut novel. It is the first in the Hattie Davish mysteries. Publishers Weekly said, "Loan-Wilsey's delightful debut introduces Hattie Davish... Cozy fans will eagerly await Hattie's next adventure," while Library Journal added that "This historical cozy debut showcases the author's superb research. Readers will be fascinated by the volatility within the 1890s women's temperance movement and by the Victorian obsession with healing spas ... this is a warm beginning."
What is the book’s genre/category?
Please describe what the story/book is about.
Hattie Davish, a private secretary, arrives in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, on the eve of the 1892 Presidential election, to work for the leader of a temperance union, only to find saloons set on fire, women demonstrating in the streets and her new employer missing. (This is the first in a new series set in historic towns, each story drawing on the unique character and history of the real place.)
Where do you write from?
I live in a Victorian farmhouse just outside Ames, Iowa. We converted one of the bedrooms into a library (complete with a Victorian bust of Louis Agassiz). I use it as my office. My desktop sits on top of an antique Singer sewing machine and a turn of the century card table is my desk. When I’m in need of a caramel steamer or just want to get out of the house though, I work as long as my battery will allow at Café Diem, the coffee shop on Main Street.
Briefly, what led up to this book?
This was my first novel and first attempt at writing fiction. In college I had a few poems published in the literary magazine but for most of my life, the only writing I’d been doing was academic including co-authoring several scientific papers and government reports. It was only after I lost my job at the university that I was motived to write a novel. There’s no going back now!
What was the time frame for writing this book?
It took me about five years and five complete drafts to write this book. At first writing was a hobby I indulged in when I had time but eventually, with the support of my family, I invested the time and treated writing like a full time job. It was soon after that I had an agent request the first 50 pages. He didn’t take me on but he did give me some excellent advice which resulted in draft five, the one the publisher bought almost a year later.
How did you find your agent (and who is your agent)?
My agent is John Talbot, of the Talbot Fortune Agency. I had several strategies for finding agents to query: consulting several directories of literary agents, trolling writer’s discussion groups online and reading the acknowledgements of writers in my genre. I created a database to keep track of each agent and the status of each query letter. John, who had been acknowledged by several highly successful cozy mystery authors, was probably one of forty agents I queried over a two year period.
What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
One of my biggest surprises was, in this world of instant news, feedback and gratification, how long every aspect of the publishing process takes, from getting a response from an agent or a publisher to actually seeing your book on the shelf to getting that first royalty check (I’m still waiting on that one). I didn’t expect to have my patience tested in the process. I have to say though it’s been well worth the anxious wait!
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
I worked hard making my manuscript as well-crafted and polished as possible. I took to heart the common advice to cut, rewrite and cut and rewrite again. When I thought I was done, I crossed my fingers, hoped the stars were aligned and then rewrote again!
On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
I would’ve taken myself more seriously as a writer from the beginning. It is difficult thinking of yourself as a writer when you have yet to be published, especially if this is a new path for you, but I’d argue it’s an essential mindset if you’re to keep going.
Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing the build a platform and gain readership?
I had nothing in place when I broke in. I’ve always been a private person but to gain readership, I’ve needed to get myself out there. So now I have created a website (I still chuckle thinking of myself as a “.com”), set myself up on Facebook, designed and passed out business cards, attended book fairs and book signings, joined Goodreads and even started a blog.
Best piece(s) of advice for writers trying to break in?
Persistence, persistence, persistence. I had a well-known author kindly give me the following advice, “Trying to get a first novel published is not for the faint-of-heart. But perseverance often pays off in the end.” How true!
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
Something even people who know me would be surprised to learn is that my first job after college was training monkeys. They were named Hank, Billy, Bob and Jethro.
Amadeus. Mozart is my favorite composer and everything about this movie was done right. Unfortunately, I drive my husband crazy when we watch it and I say the lines out loud. I’ve seen the movie too many times to count and know the script almost verbatim.
The second in the Hattie Davish Mystery Series, Anything But Civil, set in Galena, IL, will be released Sept. 2013. I’m currently working on #3, A Sense of Entitlement, set in Newport, RI.
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Why You Should Query Agents in Tiers.
- NEW Agent Seeking Clients: Brittany Howard of Corvisiero Literary.
- Query Letter Writing Tips.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- How Sean Pidgeon Got His Debut Literary Fiction Published.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.
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