Universal truth: writers are AWESOME, whether they have agents, book deals, contest wins coming out their ears, or are in the query trenches. Yes, trenches. You know, the period of time when a writer leaves behind anonymity and braves the rejection-heavy world in their attempt to obtain representation by a literary agency.
It’s a mouthful, ain’t it? Yeah, so is doing it. But when I was querying and entering every contest available, I found myself surrounded by amazing people who were querying right alongside me. Not only did my other “Trenchers” keep me going, but these were also the people who taught me the most about how to do this crazy thing we’re trying to do, and what kind of cheese goes best with red wine. (It’s Tillamook cheese, btw.)
It’s for that reason I reached out to writers who are either actively participating in contests or are querying agents, and I asked them about who they are, what they’ve learned and would like to share, and how we can support them in their journey.
I hope you join me in welcoming
K: Hi Tricia! Thanks so much for agreeing to talk with us! So first, what genre and age category do you write?
T: I write steamy Adult Contemporary Romance.
K: *high-five* Right there with ya, honey. How long have you been writing? What inspired you?
T: I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen, but I took a more “practical” road through college. Writing on the down-low, I would tuck it away, occasionally sharing with my mom, who kept telling me I’d missed my calling.
Then, I had to spend several years sitting on my ass having more knee surgeries than anyone should have to experience in a lifetime. I couldn’t work a regular job, I read constantly, and I found myself wishing there were more Romance novels with plus-size heroines. They are becoming more popular, but can still be hard to find.
I figured that if I wanted a heroine that was over a size six, it was likely other women did too (c’mon, I mean, the average size in the us is 14!). My mom suggested I put my money where my mouth was…so I did, and MOONLIGHT & WHISKEY is the result.
K: That is so incredible! As a plus-size woman, I know seeing myself represented in fiction has been something I’ve always been hoping to find. It sounds like you’ve been doing this for a while now—what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about writing/querying while in “The Trenches” that you’d like to share with other authors?
T: I’ve learned the business is subjective at every turn. Of course, we’re all told that as newbies—over and over again—but so few of us actually take it to heart, or apply it to writing beyond the manuscript itself.
Every agent wants something different in a query. We can read, “How to Write an Amazing Query,” by one an agent, and the next agent’s examples says, you must never do what that other agent told you because your query will blow. I also find a lot of what they say floating around––They say you should never do this, or they say you should always do that. In reality, never and always are relative only to individual agents.
Take what they say and give it proper consideration, but keep in mind it’s not necessarily indicative of every agent you query. What doesn’t work for one agent is exactly what the next is looking for and as hard as we try, we can’t please everyone.
K: That is so true: not every rule is hard and fast, and it’s so important to find out what works for you, and the agent you’re querying. When you’re preparing to query, do you have any resources that you can’t live without that you feel best point you in the right direction?
T: YESSSSS! www.querytracker.net is an invaluable starting point. It helps me search by genre, agent popularity, whether an agent is open or closed to queries, and gives reviews from other querying writers about their experience with the agent. It also provides a starting point for saving website info, email addresses and links to other sites like Association of Authors Representatives and Publisher’s Marketplace for vetting agents.
As for writing queries, I always have a base letter to start from. Reading the archives of Query Shark––a blog run by Janet Reid, literary agent with New Leaf Literary––is a wealth of information that can be a little overwhelming to wade through, but totally worth making the effort. From there I go to the website of each agent I’m querying, read through their do’s and don’ts, and tailor the query to their preferences (because, again with the subjective).
K: I love that you’ve got a lot of options for cross-referencing, because like you said, everything is so subjective. On that train of thought—with subjectivity also being one of the most common reasons for rejections—how do you stay inspired and keep going in the face of a rejection-heavy industry?
T: First and foremost, I’ve found my tribe. Those other writers who are in the trenches with me that cheer me on and cheer me up. Who commiserate with me when I receive yet another rejection. They’ve been there. They understand. So whether it’s twitter or critique groups, find a family that understands the struggle. Dig in and be active because their support is invaluable. You can always share your trials and tribs with your regular friends and family, but NOBODY, will understand them like your writing tribe.
K: So true! There’s nothing like the support that comes from a writing family. Can you tell us where did you find your CPs, and if are you seeking any additional Critique Partners or Beta Readers? If so, what are you looking for in a partner, and what are your strengths are as a CP?
T: I have an amazing Critique Partner and not only does she make me a better writer, she is my confidant through the process, listening to my whining and neuroses (because, hello––writer) and boosting me up when I need it. I’m going to venture that we make other writers sick with the way we profess our luuuurrve for each other, but when you find your perfect CP, you’ll understand how important it is to have them, and how amazing the relationship is.
Also where one CP is great, two are awesome, particularly if we all have different strengths.
I found my CP by following the hashtags for #CPMatch and Brenda Drake’s #Pitchwars to meet other writers. From there, critique groups sprouted up that I joined and I met my CP.
If you’re looking, I can’t stress enough to get involved in the Twitter-verse and participate in funsie type things like #2bittues and #1linewed. Find critique groups in your area or online––there are a number on Facebook that are specific to genre.
Finally, when another writer says something that resonates with you, don’t be afraid to start that conversation, even if it’s not in your nature. To use a shitty cliché, you have to put yourself out there. Step out of your comfort zone and get to know other writers, because you never know who might be your perfect CP.
K: I absolutely agree—get involved in the writing community, every way you can. So where can we learn more about you and support you as a writer? Any contests you’re actively participating in where we can root for you?
T: You can find more info about me and my debut manuscript at triciamckee.com. I also have a brand new blog you can follow called Not So Deep Thoughts where the posts will range from thoughts on writing, to dogs antics, or finding good biscuits and gravy.
You can also follow me on Twitter at @tmckee67
K: Perfect! So for our last really deep and difficult question: What book do you wish you had written because it’s just.that.awesome. ?
T: I’m sure a lot of people will choose books that are more profound and poignant than what I’m about to say, even classics like Hemingway and Fitzgerald––but fuck it.
I wish that I had written J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I am seriously envious of her ability to capture the alpha male POV. She is able to write a woman’s perspective and still turn around and flawlessly think like a dude.
I am also in awe of Dan Brown for the amount of dedication, research, and planning he puts into his novels. That kind of detail and connecting the dots between fiction and reality…It’s mind boggling.
If you’re still looking for the poignant classic, my weakness is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The visuals and descriptors are simply stunning, so carefully and well-crafted, yet not a single unnecessary word used (in my opinion because, hello—subjective).
K: Oh man, my reading list just grew! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Tricia!
Tricia McKee was also kind enough to let us enjoy a sample of her work!
MOONLIGHT & WHISKEY
I have a porn habit.
It’s not an obsession. It’s not a fetish. It doesn’t require trips to anonymous meetings where you said, “Hello my name is X and I’m addicted to naked men.” I simply enjoy watching people have sex.
The women in porn, however, never look like me. I’m soft and curvy, not thin and hungry, and not particularly tall, which means the extra weight is compacted by my 5’6 frame. People have told me that I wear the weight well, that I have a pretty face; all of that shit us girls with a little extra have heard. Men have told me that I have a great rack. That if I lost 40 pounds I’d be fuckable––that’s actual verbiage there––I’ve even heard guys refer to flirting with me as “taking one for the team.”
Mainstream porn stars, however, tended to look like some variation of silicone Barbie, i.e. half-modeling career failure, half-sex doll/mechanical experiment, a la Frankenstein. There were exceptions, of course; but generally, the Franken-hookers with the big fake funbags take the cake.
So as I scanned around the waiting room, taking in the other women, it was driving me bat shit crazy that they unknowingly resembled every porn star cliché I was sick of.
(End of sample)
Tricia McKee lives in the North Dallas burbs with her husband and two adorable dogs (seriously). A former competitive cyclist and social worker, during her days she uses her trucker-like vocabulary and dirty mind to spin tales of curvy heroines and the men who love them, and spends her nights in the arms of the hero of her own story.
If you have a friend or acquaintance who is actively seeking representation through the "Query Trenches" and you'd like to see them featured on Writers on the Rise, feel free to nominate them in the comments below, or you can reach out to me on twitter @KatieGolding_TX
Until next time, Happy Reading!