Lana: How did you find your agent?
Rosalyn: My agent hunt was a combination of things: conferences, querying, and online contests. I met my agent (Josh Adams) at the LDStorymakers conference last spring, in an intensive workshop where we looked at first chapters. He requested to see the full manuscript when I was finished polishing, but it took a few more months to get there. At the end of July, I entered Miss Snark's First Victim's Secret Agent contest in the hopes of getting some feedback on my first chapter. To my surprise, I wound up getting two full requests on the manuscript (one was from a ninja agent), and that jump-started my querying. To be honest, the manuscript probably wasn't ready to be queried then. All of those early submissions came back rejections. At the end of August, I entered Pitch Wars and was lucky enough to be picked by a fabulous mentor (Virginia Boecker—her historical fantasy will be out in May). She gave me some terrific feedback that resulted in rewriting a significant portion of the manuscript: I'd already cut about 10K to get into Pitch Wars, and I cut another 25K and added 27K in the two months we worked on my revision.
Just before Pitch Wars started, I also entered another online contest (Pitch Plus Five, at Adventures in YA publishing). For both contests, my primary aim was to get feedback on my pages. I got some great feedback, but beyond that, I met some fabulous fellow writers, so even if I hadn't gotten requests, I'd say that those contests were worth it. As it turns out, I got several requests: between the two contests, I ended up with just over twenty full and partial requests—above and beyond what I'd hoped for!
Because I'd done well in the contests, I knew my pitch and first pages were working, so I also sent out a bunch of queries just after Pitch Wars ended. I got my first offer (from a Pitch Plus Five agent) about two weeks after Pitch wars ended. That prompted a bunch of emails (seriously, I didn't quite realize how many queries I'd sent until I had to contact every agent I'd sent something too—I wound up notifying agents who just had my query, and several of those requested to see the full). I asked the offering agent for two weeks, which is a little longer than normal, but it spanned Thanksgiving.
Lana: Did you have interest from other agents, and if so, how did you choose?
Rosalyn: I wound up with five offers (plus a couple of requests to revise and resubmit). Choosing just one was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. The agents I talked to all seemed like terrific individuals, and honestly, I think I would have done well with any of them. Three were newer, two were more established—I wound up going with Josh Adams, partly because he represented a friend of mine and I was impressed with the way he'd stuck with her through two unsuccessful submitted manuscripts, and also because I'd met him in person and knew we'd get along well.
Lana: After signing with the agent, how long did it take for the manuscript to sell?
Rosalyn: My experience was actually pretty fast (although apparently there's really no normal for submissions). I signed with my agent in early December and did some minor revisions over the holiday break, and wrote up synopses for the next two books in the series. Josh sent the book out on submission in mid-January, and we had an offer about a month later.
Lana: This is a 3-book deal. How much material did you have to submit for the second and third installments? What kind of timeline do you have?
Rosalyn: I submitted a short blurb for the other two books—basically a glorified query letter. As far as timeline, I don't know exact details, but the first book comes out Fall 2016, and the sequels come out each succeeding year (so 2017 and 2018).
Lana: What is the series about?
Rosalyn: Here's the Publishers Weekly blurb for the first one, THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION: The romantic fantasy adventure set during the political unrest of 19th-century Europe follows a 16-year-old British socialite exiled to Hungary and swept up in a revolution to overturn world order.
I'm not sure how much I can say about the others, save that they continue Anna's confrontation with the Hapsburg empire and the consequences of the magical turmoil unleashed at the end of the first book.
Lana: How long were you working on the first manuscript?
Rosalyn: It took me about nine months to draft, and another nine months or so to revise. I'm hoping the others are faster!
Lana: How did you come up with the idea?
Rosalyn: The idea evolved from several things. I love the 19th century (British and American—I wrote my dissertation on 19th century American women's rhetoric), and I'm a long time fan of several series set in 19th century England and America (Patricia Wrede, Gail Carriger), so I wanted to try my hand at something historical, but with a magical flair. I also served an LDS mission in Hungary, so I wanted to try and use what I'd learned about the culture and the language while I lived there. 1847-48 was pretty pivotal across Europe, and especially in Hungary, when they broke away from the Hapsburg empire, so that seemed like a natural starting point. Much as I have loved stories about the chosen one, or a teen with phenomenal powers, I was intrigued by the opposite possibility: what about a teenager who didn't have any of the abilities common to her society? What would she do? And so the seeds of the story were born.
Lana: What's your best writing advice?
Rosalyn: I don't know that I have any great advice—only that you have to keep at it! Writing means working through discouragement, rejection, writer's block and so much more. But there are few things that compare with the high of wrapping up a story that came out of your own head.
Lana: Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with me and my readers. :)