A good friend of mine and fellow writer, Shannon Mayer, recently signed with a major Canadian agent. I’ve been fascinated by her journey as she moves towards publication.
You can read a summary of her book at the end of this interview, I’ve had a chance to read bits of it and I love it. Shannon is well on her way to being picked up by a large publishing house. I couldn’t resist getting her to share some of her experiences so far.
Shannon, in my mind I would describe your work as gritty urban fantasy. In a market clogged with manuscripts, can you tell us what makes your book unique?
My main character, Toni, is a morbidly obese woman who does phone sex for a living, something she’s quite good at. That alone is a stand out quality of the book. There are stories about chubby girls and fat guys, but you would be hard pressed to find a main character who is truly obese.
Of course, there is a romantic element to the book and that also makes for an interesting twist with Toni being as large as she is and dealing with the issues of embodying [the vice of] Gluttony, as well as trying to keep her demon master in the dark about her love interest.
I would say that Toni’s story is a cross between Indiana Jones, The Biggest Loser with a dash of the Lightning Thief thrown in for good measure, which means it’s fast paced and a lot of fun despite the dark aspects of it.
Who do you think your story will appeal to?
I think that the book will appeal to a large range of people and ages, even those who perhaps have avoided the Urban Fantasy genre in the past. It’s dark enough for an adult book without being so bad that an older teen couldn’t enjoy it and while there is definitely a fantasy element, it isn’t vampires and werewolves.
The struggles Toni goes through and the things she wants for her life are things that we can all identify with. I think that this touch of realism will bring the book onto a lot of different shelves and to a variety of readers.
Why did you choose to write about a non-conventional heroine?
It wasn’t so much of a choice as Toni started to “tell” me about her life and I had to write it. It was as fascinating for me to write about Toni as I think it will be for people to read.
Do you have a message for your audience?
Ultimately, no matter how bad you think your life is, how far you’ve strayed away from the path that you wanted to be on, you can always make the change to bring yourself back. Whether it’s weight loss, finding the love of your life, changing habits or fighting off addictions, it doesn’t matter. We all have the strength to change, no matter what our circumstances. That’s what Toni’s story is teaching us, what it’s all about.
You recently signed with a major agent, but are still waiting for a publishing house to pick you up. Tell us about your experience so far.
It has been highs and lows to the extreme. The journey to this point has been overwhelming and so surreal and now to have finally signed with an agent, particularly as one as good as Carolyn Swayze still makes me shake my head.
You have to develop some serious patience. Even with an agent submitting your work, you can wait for months to hear back from interested publishing houses. It’s still faster than submitting as an un-agented author, but there is definitely the possibility of waiting on the big houses for four months or more… And that’s when they are keen to get to your manuscript!
How long have you been writing your book?
It took me about three months to write the rough draft. It took another year of learning about the craft, making revisions, and hiring a freelance editor (that I worked with on two rounds of revisions) before it was to the point where I met Carolyn and I signed my contract with her. And still now every time I look at it I see things I tweak and change. As you know, writing a book is a never-ending process.
How did you connect with your agent?
I was very lucky to meet Carolyn in person at the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference in Seattle this past July. She was one of the agents I had on my list to have a one on one with and we hit it off right from the start. I met her on Saturday and by Tuesday of that week we were discussing contracts. The whole thing happened very fast.
Why did you decide to work with her?
She has a great reputation as one of the best agents in Canada, and as I mentioned, we really hit it off. Although hitting it off with your agent isn’t necessarily a must, it is a very nice bonus when you are working with someone over a long period of time and on several projects.
What are some of the difficulties you’ve experienced?
Learning patience has been a biggy for me, and I thought I was a pretty patient person to begin with. Balancing the stress of deadlines with a full time job, husband and life has also been a rather interesting experience. It’s very easy to get wound tighter than a two dollar clock, so finding that balance is tremendously important, however you choose to do it.
What are the benefits?
The benefits I see in having an agent is there is someone else who believes in your work enough to put their name and reputation behind it. You have someone to bounce ideas off of, and also the most obvious benefit is they are pitching and selling your ms to the publishing houses that we as authors would have a difficult time getting our foot even in the door. This way I can focus more on the writing aspect of the business and let her do the leg work.
What is some advice you can give writers currently searching for an agent?
Well, I met Carolyn and she wasn’t at the time looking for adult Urban Fantasy and hadn’t taken any on up to that point in time. My advice would be when at conferences, pitch to as many agents and editors that you can. One of them may surprise you and be ready to step into your genre even if they haven’t in the past.
What is some advice you can offer for working with an agent? what are sensitive issues and what can be done to smooth these over?
Good, clean communication is the most important aspect of your relationship with your agent. Look at it like you would a new romantic relationship. Lay out the ground rules early on, what you expect from your agent and what they expect from you. If you aren’t sure, ask. The worst thing in the world is to be unsure of where you stand with your agent. As to treating sensitive topics I have found it is best to be honest and straight to the point. Although this is a relationship, the basis of it is a business. Treat it as such and your agent will respect you for your professional attitude.
For those who are writers, keep at it. It’s taken me nearly seven years now to get to this point and there have been some real low valleys. But the peaks are worth it, don’t ever give up, you never know when that next step will take you to the top of the mountain.
The Chronicles of Sin : Gluttony
Toni is a morbidly obese woman whose major talents are eating copious amounts of food and giving phenomenal phone sex, the latter being a fact she’s damn proud of. The weight is another matter altogether and it’s out of her control. She’s Gluttony, one of the Seven Deadly Sins, dedicated to filling the world with the compulsion to indulge. Trapped in a vicious circle, she can neither free herself on her own, nor love the life she leads as Gluttony.
Far from alone, Toni and the other six of the Seven Deadly Sins are bringing the world to its knees, overseen by Dantalion, a Grand Duke of Hell. The status quo is blown to hell when Toni falls in love with Rathburn, a.k.a Wrath, thanks in part to a flying nymph and his crossbow. Between a forbidden love and a little divine intervention from an archangel, Toni finds the strength to fight for the changes she wants in her life– Freedom from Gluttony and Rathburn in her arms.