Every other Wednesday, I’ll be showcasing authors who got an agent in the last couple of years. If you’d like to be a part of this, let me know in the comments or contact me via Twitter @judi__Lauren
Today Lianne Oelke joins the Wednesday interview, and her book, House of Orange, just sold to Clarion Books! Congratulations, Lianne! Check out her announcement in Publisher’s Weekly. I loved Lianne’s answers–she has a quick wit and it only made me want to read her debut even more!
What was the hardest part about writing your book?
Finishing it! For the longest time I didn’t take my book seriously, or myself seriously as a writer. I had to tell myself over and over that I could do this. It took several years for that to sink in.
How did you meet your agent?
Kind of a long story, so grab some popcorn. I originally queried my agent Brooks back in 2014. He requested the full MS, which was amazing, but after months of waiting and no response, I assumed it wasn’t right for him. It was mildly devastating to get a full request from my dream agent and then not hear back(!), but I kept on querying. I had almost given up altogether when I participated in #PitMad in early 2015. An editor at an independent publishing house favorited my tweet, and a month or two later, called me to discuss a potential offer of publication! I also had a full MS with another agent at the time, so I was slightly overwhelmed.
It was funny how after a year and a half of querying, everything happened all at once. I talked to my insanely encouraging friend and critique partner Becky Albertalli (yes, that Becky Albertalli!) for advice. Becky also happens to be represented by Brooks. She mentioned my situation to him, and Brooks immediately remembered me. He gave me a call and apologized for not getting back to me sooner about my MS. His main concern with the MS was that it straddled the line between NA and YA, and he thought he’d have a hard time selling it as is. I received similar feedback from other agents, and the independent publishing house wanted me to increase the romance to push it more firmly into the NA category. Brooks offered some very helpful suggestions on how to skew it more YA, which was more in line with my vision. Ultimately he offered representation, and it seemed like a great fit! It wasn’t easy turning down a potential offer of publication (especially considering how long and difficult the query process had been), but I knew I was making the right choice. Since then, Brooks has more than made up for his delayed response, and I know my MS is in the best possible hands!
We all want a quick and easy query success story, but I think we should keep in mind that an overnight response to a query (or MS) isn’t the only way to get an agent. It’s a slow slow business, and learning patience sooner rather than later never hurts. It’s also good to remember that agents are only human 😉 –YES!
Do you have a rough number of how many queries you sent out before being offered representation?
I’d say 40, over a year and a half. During that time, I had one partial and three full requests.
What inspires you to write?
That’s a tricky question; I don’t exactly believe in inspiration. I started writing before I wanted to be a writer. I suffered from depression in university, and I kept a journal during that time. Looking back on what I wrote, I realized I was really uncomfortable with the person I had been. I wanted to change that, somehow. So I played around with some journal entries, adding things here, deleting things there, until I turned a story I didn’t like into something new. And so Jane Sinner (and House of Orange) was born!
Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process? Where do you get your ideas and characters?
Jane’s voice is what carried House of Orange to completion. Her voice is as clear as my own inside my head- sometimes clearer. I had the basic premise for the book, and the rest was just using Jane to fill in the blanks. It took me over three years to write HOO, so ideas and characters had plenty of time to develop.
Many people have jobs along with writing. How do you balance that schedule?
It’s not easy, especially when you’re working twelve hour days in the film industry. Luckily for me, HOO is formatted similar to a script, so having it open while I’m at my desk doesn’t look suspicious. Also, I rearranged my monitors to face away from everyone else, so I can write while looking busy. Whatever it takes, right?!
I’m still trying to figure out this whole writing schedule thing, but having a job and daily structure actually helps boost my productivity. Without a full-time job, I’d be a full-time Netflix watcher.
SAME! Is there a fictional character or book you wish you had created? Why?
Not really. My books will always be very personal and intimate creations, so I can’t imagine someone else’s characters as my own. It would be like trying to give birth to a koala.
That’s the most unique answer I’ve gotten to that question! What do you enjoy most about writing?
With HOO, it was definitely the freedom to take what I wrote when I was in a bad place and turn it into something I love. With my current WIP, it’s the freedom to write something that could never possibly (or probably never possibly) take place. Also, as an introvert and someone who doesn’t talk very much (I’m sure gazillions of writers can relate), writing gives me the voice I don’t normally have in public.
I couldn’t have said that better myself. Can you describe your MC(s) in three words each?
Jane Sinner: Guarded, cunning, definitely-not-sarcastic-at-all.
I love her already! Before you leave, would you share the first sentence of your query that got you an agent?
The only thing eighteen-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Lianne! I can’t wait until your books is available for purchase!
Lianne Oelke lives in Vancouver, BC. When she’s not running around in the woods pretending computers don’t exist, Lianne works in the film industry. Her disillusionment with made-for-TV movies featuring the mild antics of generically attractive white people has inspired her to write some pretty substandard stories of her own.
HOUSE OF ORANGE, her first YA novel, explores the shenanigans of a witty misanthrope caught up in the mediocre world of community college, reality TV, and really shitty roommates. Lianne is repped by Brooks Sherman at the Bent Agency. You can connect with her on Twitter and Tumblr.