Triplet Talk with Kate Schafer Testerman

A few days ago I participated in an interview chat with my agent Kate Schafer Testerman and two of her other new clients, Krista Van Dolzer and Susan Adrian. We both signed with Kate within a few weeks of each other, and have quickly become close friends - we call ourselves the triplets! I'm hosting Part II of the interview, where we talk about persistence, inspiration, and ask Kate if we drive her crazy with our new client questions.

Part I of the interview is on Kate's blog, so you should start there, if you haven't already.

Part II:

Susan: I knew when I talked to Kate about the book that she really GOT it. That makes so much difference.

Krista: Me, too.

Liz: Definitely.

Krista: One of the main reasons I went with Kate over the other offering agent was because Kate could specify what she loved about Steve, and they were the things I loved about him, too.

Susan: Yes! The same with me. The fit is so important. Especially for you, Kate, when you will need to read our books and love them enough to sell them to others!

Kate: And not just once, which I think some people don't know about agents. I read them at every stage, sometimes more than once. And after I sell them to a domestic publisher, I want to sell to audio, to film, to foreign territories... I end up talking about a book I represent for YEARS.

Liz: That's a good point. I think when we're querying we're like PICK ME ANYONE but you really need an agent you connect with, and who loves your book.

Krista: That helps put things in perspective.

Susan: And not just the one book either. All the books you'll write.

Kate: Exactly.

Liz: Yeah.

Krista: That's another reason I went with Kate--because she'd requested previous manuscripts of mine. In fact, she probably doesn't even remember this, but she requested a partial from the manuscript BEFORE the last one, too.

Liz: Haha.

Kate: I did? Before TEETH?

Krista: My first partial request ever, actually.

Susan: You were meant to be.

Kate: What was it? Tell me the name.

Krista: SEE THE SAMELINGS. I would have sent you the query back in June of 2009, the same month my daughter was born.

Kate: Drat my need to clean out my e-mail periodically! I'd love to go back and see that again now.

Liz: I bet Krista has it!

Krista: No, you wouldn't. It was bad:) This was before I discovered the miracle of critique partners.

Kate: But wow, that raises such a good point. You kept trying. Not on the same book, which I'm guessing you recognized didn't work, but you kept writing, and kept submitting, and I kept saying yes. Well, almost yes.

Liz: Krista is definitely persistent.

Krista: Persistent's the nice way to put it:)

Kate: There are authors who NEVER get that. They write one book and put all their eggs in its basket, and send the same query over and over and over again. That's never going to change my mind.

Susan: I have that on my wall, next to "Don't Freak Out": NEVER GIVE UP. Even when I tried to, I couldn’t!

Kate: Actually, Krista, persistent's how I got my first job, at a bookstore. I just kept going in, asking if they were hiring!

Krista: Do tell, Kate!

Kate: I must have been like 15, I think. Young. Didn't know anything about selling books, but knew I loved reading them, and that I wanted to work with them. I just kept trying.

Liz: That's awesome.

Kate: But I want to go back to Susan's comment. I LOVED your guest post on Nova Ren Suma's blog, how THE TUNNEL started as just something for you when you thought you had given up. I love how it pulled you back in!

Liz: That was a great post.

Susan: Oh, thanks. It absolutely, completely was. I never thought it would go outside my head...and then I couldn't help it. At some point I wanted other people to know the story too!

Krista: Those are the best books, the ones that demand to be written.

Susan: Jake STILL won't leave me alone!

Krista: Ooh, that reminds me... Liz and Susan, where did the ideas for ALTERNATE and THE TUNNEL come from?

Susan: Partly as I said in the post--Chuck-inspired, an adventure story for me. But it's kind of odd... I did know a boy in high school who claimed to have an ability like Jake does (to touch an object and see what the person holding it sees). I think he was just trying to be mysterious, but still. It was perfect.

Liz: I love Chuck. I dressed as a Nerd Herder for the last two years at Comic Con.

For my book, I was watching that Terminator TV show and thought--what would happen if John Connor died? Would someone pretend to be him? And it went from there.

Kate: That's a great jumping off point!

Liz: The chosen one has been done so many times, so I wanted to invert it.

Susan: Oooh, I like it!

Krista: Very cool.

Liz: What about you, Krista?

Krista: I was lying in bed one night, waiting to fall asleep, and a first line came to me: "Mama said it was plum foolishness to keep my cousin’s dog tags like that, with his blood still stuck between the ridges of his name."

I asked myself what kind of story would start with that kind of line--and specifically, why the blood would be so important--and Steve was born.

Susan: Wow. Chilling, and such a great start.

Liz: Nice. I’m going to make Krista write all my opening lines now. ;)

Susan: Did you keep the line intact?

Krista: Uh-huh. I did tweak it a little--it wasn't quite so smooth in my about-to-fall-asleep brain--but it was basically that.

Susan: Liz, did you have a question?

Liz: Yeah. I wanted to ask Kate if it was a challenge having three new clients at once? Do we drive you crazy with our questions? You can be honest. >_>

Kate: *laughs*

Krista: Oh, you don't need to ask Kate that; I already know the answer. *sneezes "Yes!" under her breath*

Kate: No, in all honesty, you keep me accountable, which is something that I think agents can sometimes forget. Well, to make it personal, which I know I have forgotten sometimes.

It is hella rough being in your shoes. I know that. And you do SO MUCH work to get an agent, and then you're just supposed to sit and wait to be told what happens?

Susan: Or not told...

Liz: The waiting is definitely hard sometimes!

Kate: I like hearing from you with questions. Oftentimes, you help me come up with new ideas of where to pitch, how to do so, and that this crazy thing that comes (sort of) naturally to me, now, after several years of doing it, is still new to you.

Susan: You do a GREAT job of communicating, by the way. And sometimes as a newbie, or someone on submission, that's all you need, a quick line or two to settle you down.

Krista: Yep, that's been one of the hardest things for me, a querying veteran--relinquishing control of a process that's been all me ever since I started.

Liz: Kate is very fast to answer e-mails.

Krista: Ditto, Liz!

Liz: But Krista is right, it can be hard to suddenly trust this person you just met to do everything now.

Krista: So. True.

Susan: Ha! I guess since I had an agent before I'm coming from a different place. I'm so relieved to hand that part over to someone I trust.

Kate: Well, and there are parts of how publishing works now that make it so different from even a few years ago!

Susan: True!

Krista: I think a lot of newly agented writers think that they CAN'T ask their agents, that they're stepping on their toes if they do. But I've NEVER felt that way (even though I have a lot of questions).

Liz: I felt that way at first (scared to bug Kate), but I got over it.

Kate: You all know, I hope, that even if it may be after "normal" working hours, if you have a question, I'm here for you--via email, Twitter, phone, whatever. And Krista, I think you understand this very well, too--with little ones around, I may have even more time in the "off" hours to answer something thoughtfully!

Krista: Read: during naps and after bedtime:)

Liz: Ha!

For more, check out the rest of the interview: