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 Adele! First, thanks so much for agreeing to speak with me. What genre and age category do you write?
A: I write adult contemporary romance. Mostly comedic. The series I’m currently working on is set in the American theater.
K: Fantastic! And how long have you been writing? What inspired you?
A: Um…well, that depends. I’ve been writing fiction off and on since I was a kid. Then a bit over a year ago, I finally decided to dive in and write nearly every day. I kept up about 1,000 words/day almost every day (basically barring sickness or other exigent circumstances – often I would do double that on weekend days) for a year. I wrote four books in that time – two traditional-length novels and two category romances (short novels, longer than novellas for those who aren’t familiar with romance).
Inspiration? What finally got me off the dime? I’d wanted to write for a long time (SUCH a cliché. Oh, well). What really inspired me, believe it or not, was a habit of getting up and walking every morning before I got ready for work. It wrought a lot of changes in my body and my life, and it really proved to me that “one foot in front of the other, just do it every day” does work. Which I should know, because I’m also a knitter. What can I say? Sometimes I can be a bit dense.
My first two manuscripts were set in the computer gaming industry and were rough contemporary spins on Austen’s Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility. My category romance series, the theater one, started with a very rough take on Lady Susan and has strayed from there in the subsequent books. So Austen is also definitely an influence and an inspiration. I loved thinking about how her plots and the social structures of her era and country would map to modern America.
I queried the Persuasion manuscript for about eight months. Feedback from Pitch Wars led me to believe that it would be a good idea to shelve it (and its fellow) until I felt ready to rewrite it from the ground up. It’s too “partly women’s fiction, partly romance.” (The whole story of how I came to that decision is here)
That decision ended up being a very good one - I started querying the first book in the theater series (ACTING UP) in October, and I signed with my agent Amy in early February***.
K: That’s an incredible journey! And what a wonderful of example of persistence! So while in “The Trenches,” what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about writing/querying that you’d like to share with other authors?
A: If you can, send it and forget it. A watched inbox never…does anything. Also, self-care. See above re: the walking. I also do exercise classes about 3 times a week (Bar Method, which a friend of mine who is a mixed martial artist calls simply: “Pain.”). Try as hard as you can to cultivate patience, because even when things start to move (and events have moved very quickly since I signed with Amy), you are still going to have to wait. Reading takes time. Editing takes time.
K: You couldn’t be more right about that! It takes time, time, and more time, which is such an important resource to take advantage of, as well as a battle to overcome. As a querying author, do you have any other resources that you can’t live without?
A: The Herman Guide was great to get started – I got the latest edition from my library. If you can swing it, a Publisher’s Marketplace subscription is also an incredible resource. Lastly, spreadsheets to keep track of agents I want to query, their responses, and other notes. I’ve heard great stuff about querytracker.com too. I liked my spreadsheet, but I was considering a subscription to querytracker shortly before I signed.
K: Yes! Writers, hear that? Don’t forget to scour the library when looking for resources! So Adele, I know you mentioned earlier about how walking and moving forward got you started in the beginning. How do you stay inspired and keep going in the face of a rejection-heavy industry?
A: Well, I was an actress for about a decade. That was my first career (I’m on my third now for those keeping track at home—well, fourth if you count writing). I find query rejections to be far less personal than audition rejections. Frankly, the only query rejections that got to me were the ones that West Coast agents seem to send that coincide with me sitting down with a nice drink on Friday evening (which is Friday afternoon to them). Those were the ones that caught me off guard!
K: Four careers! An actress? Okay, you’re clearly fabulous and I’m sold: where can we learn more about you and support you as a writer? (links to twitter, fanfic, your own blog or website, or any contests you’re actively participating in where we can root for you)
A: Well, I’m irregularly blogging at www.adelebuck.com I tweet incessantly @_AdeleBuck. The occasional photograph ends up posted at Instagram at _adelebuck when I remember it exists.
I am also involved in the Miss Fisher Mysteries fandom and have written a bit of fanfic on Ao3 under the handle “jasbo” (I mostly do crossover stuff where Miss Fisher meets other literary figures of that era in London like Lord Peter Wimsey or Bertie Wooster, purely for the fun of it or as gifts for other fandom friends).
K: Awesome! Tell us, are you seeking a Critique Partner or Beta Reader? If so, what are you looking for in a partner, and what are your strengths are as a CP? Or, if you have a CP, where did you find them?
A: I’m always open to the possibility of a new CP or beta reader. I have a really nice group of people right now who are good enough to read my stuff and give me feedback, but I also know that different people have different time, skills, and outlook. Also, people move in and out of the industry all the time, or their schedules are more or less full.
What am I good at…Hm. Well, on the hyper-specific side, I’m usually a demon about continuity. If you’ve told us that your hero has a glass of whiskey in his hand and he yanks the heroine to him in a passionate embrace, I’m going to wonder IS SHE NOW WEARING THAT WHISKEY? AND IF SO, WHY ISN’T SHE UPSET THAT HE’S JUST RUINED HER SILK DRESS? Passion be-damned when an expensive dry cleaning bill and a sticky walk of shame is on the line, you know?
If you bring the funny, I can usually help you identify it (so you don’t delete that joke that really works) or add more humor (ask my CP, Lisa Leoni, about the last line of her entry in Pitch Slam!). I’m not as good as some on classic structure – I know a lot of people swear by very specific timing of various elements in romance: this thing happens n pages in, this other thing happens n+y pages in…If a story works for me, I don’t care so much about that.
K: GIRL, PREACH about continuity and LOL! I bet you bring the funny! On that line, just for fun: What book do you wish you had written because it’s just.that.awesome. ?
A: I…don’t think that way! I love what other authors bring to the table and enjoy the heck out of them for who and what they are. I freely admit that my idea to do a US-based theater series came out of my enjoyment of my friend Lucy Parker’s Act Like It. I read it (and reread it) and thought, “You know? I used to live in this world, at least on this side of the pond. I could do something like this!”
If there’s anyone I want to be when I grow up, though, it’s Victoria Dahl. I love so much of her work, but especially Taking the Heat. And she’s a troll-devourer on Twitter. So badass.
K: So badass! And thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, Adele!
Adele Buck was also kind enough to leave us a sample of her work!
Cath De Courcy picked up her pen, opened her notebook to a blank page, and wrote in her tidiest handwriting:
Returning her attention to the audition, she tapped her pen against her upper lip and watched Susan Vernon act. She knew why Paul leaned on the table beside her, clear blue eyes intent on the performance, hair disheveled from raking his fingers through it. Cath couldn’t stand the woman, but even she had to admit the actress’s skill. Susan’s responses to the production assistant’s cues had a fragile intensity even though Frederica’s delivery was stammering and nervous. Poor Freddie had been goggle-eyed and awkward from the moment Susan walked in. Instead of being gracious and soothing, Susan had ignored the other woman’s obvious distress, only making it worse.
Susan Vernon had an artist’s appreciation for the effect she had on people and no desire to lessen anyone’s discomfort.
Cath looked down at her notebook again. Underlined the single word. Darkened the dot over the i.
Susan spoke her final line, staying in character for a beat before she turned to beam at Paul, the rusty folding chair she sat in giving a faint groan as she moved. Cath flipped her notebook shut and rested her palm on it, attempting to smile back when Susan turned a slightly lower-wattage expression her way.
“Thank you, Susan. We’ll be in touch.” Paul threaded restless fingers through his hair again, further disordering it. As usual, he needed a haircut. Just now he looked like a men’s cologne ad crossed with an absent-minded professor.
Susan extended a hand for him to shake. “No, thank you for the opportunity, Paul.” She continued to hold his hand as she turned to Cath. “It was great seeing you both again. Who would guess we all would end up in the same room again after so many years?”
(end of sample)
Adele Buck is, by night, an author of contemporary comedic romance. By day, she’s a law librarian at a very large law school. She’s a walking cliché in a cardigan with too many cats, a husband with vast reserves of patience and support, and a pleasantly filthy mind.
***At the time of the interview, Adele Buck was unagented as per my WOTR interview criteria. Since then, she has since signed with her agent, and the interview was amended to reflect this. Congratulations, Adele!
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!