Pay it Forward Interviews: Linda Grimes

Welcome to Pay it Forward interview week! Here and all over the writer blogs (links below), you’ll be drenched in inspiration and encouragement from others’ stories about their publication journeys. There are more than 70(!) writers participating, so clear some time for blog-reading.

Linda Grimes is like my literary, wise, big sister – she signed with her agent about a month before I signed with mine, so before I do anything I stop and ask myself “What would Linda do?” And then I double-check by asking her, too. She’s brilliant, lovely and has wicked wit. Enjoy!

1. Tell us about your book.

IN A FIX is a comically sexy…no, sexily comical…no, wait — oh, all right, it’s a bawdy paranormal mystery centered around Ciel Halligan, a do-gooder who just wants to help people, and maybe make a small profit doing it. (A girl’s gotta eat.) From a family of “aura adaptors” — human chameleons who can project the appearance of anyone they touch — Ciel is perfectly suited to step into her clients’ lives and fix their problems for them. As them. Too bad she’s not quite as adept at fixing her own.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication (finding an agent)?

I’m at the agented-but-still-unsold phase. If you’re reading this, you’re doing exactly what I did–engaging in the online writing community. The information available at the click of a mouse is amazing. Sites like agentquery.com, as well as the blogs of individual authors, agents, and editors, are incredible resources. Read them!

IN A FIX is actually the book I wrote to keep myself busy while giving my first novel–the one I cut my teeth on–a little distance. The plan was to play around with something light and funny as a kind of writer-ly palate cleanser before I dove into revisions on the first book. Turned out I liked my diversion better, so I decided what the heck, did my online research, and sent out a few queries.

Initially, I got some positive feedback, but mostly of the “I like this, but it’s not quite for me” sort. Kept sending out more queries, a few at a time, trying to gauge the response and tinker accordingly. I didn’t want to use the scatter-shot method of mass querying, because frankly I thought it would confuse me. So I researched every agent I approached, via both the internet and by peppering my writing buddies — the ones a little farther down the road to publication — with annoying questions. I got to know the agents as well as I could without stalking them, just to reassure myself ahead of time I would be happy to have them if they decided to offer.

Waiting for replies from only a few agents at a time can take a while, but I was determined not to find myself in the position of hearing back from someone and wondering, “Huh? Who’s that?”

In the end, it was Twitter that came through for me. I started following Michelle Wolfson, Agent Extraordinaire (@WolfsonLiterary). She was so funny I knew I had to try for her. Sent her a query and got a response back right away (apparently Michelle appreciates “bawdy”). After reading my partial, she asked for an exclusive while she read my full. Since some other agents were already reading the full too, I couldn’t give it to her. But Michelle was the one who blazed through it — that made me feel wonderful, I have to tell you — and DM-ed me on Twitter that she’d like to call me. (And to think, I almost didn’t start a Twitter account because I thought it would take too much time away from my writing.)

I was over the moon. Deep down, I’d already decided, after exchanging emails with Michelle as she read my full, that she was the one. She “got” my story, and asked intelligent questions about it. When she called, I was even more certain–she was every bit as funny on the phone as she is on Twitter. But what I really appreciated was, she didn’t blow sunshine up my…um, nether region. She didn’t make extravagant promises of instant publication. She just explained how we would work together to get my story out there, and I liked the sound of what she told me.

Right now, we’re in the revision process, trying to apply enough spit and polish to the manuscript to convince editors it’s worth publishing. We’ll start submitting soon, and then the waiting will begin again. (Has anyone mentioned how much waiting is involved with writing? This is why it’s good to have more than one project going at a time. Writing something new beats the heck out of twiddling your thumbs.)

3. Was there ever a time you felt like giving up?

Honestly? Not really. Oh, there’ve been low moments, like the time I got a rejection from an agent I hadn’t even queried. The agent I had queried liked my book, but it wasn’t… quite … for her. Still, she thought it had enough commercial appeal to show to the head of her agency, who apparently also saw the commercial appeal, but sadly wasn’t taking any more clients at that time. (At least, that’s what the original agent told me. Maybe she thought it sounded better than “The other agent thought it sucked, too.”)

I call that one my “bonus rejection.”

Well, I figured if I could survive a two-for-one bonus rejection, no piddly little single rejection was ever going to deter me. And … well, I’m stubborn. Sure, rejections sting. But ultimately you realize they aren’t personal. You take whatever is helpful from them, ignore the rest, and keep on moving. The only way you can really lose is to stop trying.

4. I wouldn’t have survived querying/revisions/submissions without:

My fantastic group of fellow writers and crit partners, who’ve given me support at every step along the way. Thanks, guys! And, of course, chocolate. Oh, and the two-cherry Manhattans made for me by my wonderful husband, Bob, aka the theater god. They help too.

Now that you’ve enjoyed Linda’s interview, click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, and Elana Johnson.

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