Ryan and Tricia, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Ryan, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
Ryan: It’s about orcs in space. My agent coined it Starship Troopers meets Warcraft. I love Star Wars. I love orcs. I read about every book out there with orcs in it. Really. There’s about 147 books out there so far, I’m sure there is loads more by now, a surprising majority of the published books are romance books. Like maybe, 40+ books are non-romance novels. Which struck me funny. I digress. I always wanted to see what happened after the medieval era where orcs got their orcish reputation. I thought it funny to find orcs as we know them in the future where there are starships, galactic racism, hundreds of planets, cool tech, the Internet and selfie culture. Didn’t find a book out there like it, so I thought I’d give it a ye ol’ college try.
Tricia, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
Tricia: I was surprised at the creative way Ryan blended fantasy and science fiction. At the end of the first page, I knew he’d created something worth reading. I had laugh-out-loud moments. I got angry. I even felt sad during some key moments. Before I’d finished reading, I wanted the manuscript. Sometimes a manuscript defies the odds.
Ryan, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
Ryan: I print it out and sit somewhere with a red pen. Then I revise. And revise. And revise. By the time I got to the third draft I’d found a professional editor by the name of Ester Porter. She was amazing and really helped nail down the fourth draft. Then I let a few of my close friends read it and I got their feedback, which was largely positive and a great way to knock down the fifth draft. Then I bought a book called A Guide to Literary Agents 2017, which is the bees knees. I highly recommend. It was actually the only reason I found out about things like Twitter Pitch Parties. I saw there was one coming up that very week called DVpit. Seemed up my alley. So the day of the Pit, I joined Twitter and a feisty weirdo named Trish thought my pitch was worth her time.
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
Ryan: It was one of the coolest, weirdest things I’ve ever done. I was expecting thirty “likes” from thirty agents, blowing my phone up and landing me HBO deals. But I knew I’d settle for one agent. My worry was that no one would like it. The entire experience was deeply exhilarating and humbling. Made me happy. Beyond happy.
How was the experience for you, Tricia?
Tricia: I’m a #DVpit founding participant so I knew the ropes! It was by chance that I checked the #DVpit feed one last time when Ryan’s pitch caught my eye. Imagine that a moment. Hundreds of pitches, and one just jumped out at me. I can’t tell you how or why, but I’m glad I saw it. That’s part of the fun of the event. The surprise. The shock.
Ryan, did you receive pitch help or tips? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
Ryan: Nope. I just sort of, uh, winged it. Hm. If you have to sacrifice words to fit the Twitter limit thing, I’d say make sure what’s left is 40% story, 60% voice.
And Tricia, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
Tricia: Choose three things that really set your manuscript apart, and craft your pitches with those in mind. I read a number of poorly thought out pitches. Also, be careful of clichés: “before it’s too late,” “before she loses everything she holds dear.” You know the ones I’m talking about. Everyone uses those to convey tension; most are so fake sounding they just scream, “skip me!”
Tell us about The Call, Ryan!
Ryan: Oh gods. The Call. I’m sure Trish and I have very different recollections of it. I was watching Westworld, drinking with my mates. Then I got an email from Trish saying she liked what she read and wanted to know if I was free to talk on the phone. Technically I was, but part of me was thinking it wasn’t the brightest idea to talk to someone you want to both impress and actually have a great discussion about something you spent 2 ½ years of your life writing when you’re a few doubles of Rum in. But the other part of me said, “what’s the worst that can happen?”
She called me a few minutes later, which startled me. This person meant bidnass. So I told my mates to pause Westworld, and I walked outside and answered. We made our introductions and she dove right into talking about my book and the orcs that dwelled within. I was blown away to find she loved the pages she read and the characters she encountered. When talking about the main character she named “Big T,” which I found hilarious, it made me believe almost instantly that she was the right agent for me.
The lot of it was a blur.
The whole time I kept a very cordial professional tone and was very “Yes, ma’am” about it. The conversation lasted just under an hour, I think. We talked about orcs, science fiction, fantasy, games, being non-European, and how relieved she was to find a wagon burner who didn’t just write about the “Native-American Experience.” She found an author who just happened to be a red man. Which was a real defining moment for me. Someone had finally understood.
The last few minutes she went on to say “you got the Call, feel free to shout,” and I did. I broke all stoicism immediately. I was constantly pacing back and forth and giving myself high fives as we formally said we’d embark on this coolio Agent and Client adventure. Here’s to a future not unlike Californication.
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
Ryan: “Two words occurred the orc captain as his spec-ops team stared down the guns of a thousand enraged human pirates. "Well, shit." #DVpit #sf”
Tricia, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
Tricia: Ha! It sounded EPIC! Every SFF movie or TV show I’ve ever loved had one of those moments – the “against overwhelming numbers” scene. As soon as I read, “Well, shit,” I couldn’t request the query and sample pages fast enough.
What else are you looking for these days? Is there anything specific on your wishlist that you’re hoping to find, maybe at the next #DVpit?
Tricia: #DVpit has made a huge difference in the queries I now receive. I think participating and seeing my requests has helped authors better understand what my wishlist means. So, they should hop over to my #MSWL page for details.
Warm congratulations to Ryan and Tricia for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
Ryan Abe (@wagonburner5000) is a member of the Spokane Tribe. In the spring of 2003, he played a game called Warcraft 3, felt immediate kinship with Orcs, and hasn't left their side since. He attended the Art Institute of Seattle for Digital Filmmaking, and uses what he’s learned to build deeply visual worlds in literary form. He currently works as a Computer Technologist, illustrating, animating, filming and taking photographs of ancient Spokane sites, stories and myths.
Tricia Skinner (@4triciaskinner) was raised in Detroit, Michigan. Professionally, she began her writing career as a newspaper reporter and wrote for The Detroit News, Investor’s Business Daily, MSN, and The Houston Chronicle. Tricia has 20 years of experience working with the video game industry in various roles. She is also a hybrid author of urban fantasy romance (represented by Fuse co-founder Laurie McLean). Diversity in genre fiction is dear to Tricia’s heart.