Kara and Caitie, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Kara, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
Kara: Thank you so much! Working with Caitie has been a blast so far, and I’m really excited to take those big steps to get to the dream.
My book centers on seventeen-year-old Ethan Kent, an introverted Filipino-American kid obsessed with metal. If there’s one thing he wants in life, it’s to keep basking in the glory of the underground music scene… from behind the mixing console. Between one of his best friends choosing a new crowd over him and a teen pop star bullying him at school, Ethan gets caught up in a dark place where he could either hurt himself or seek relief through writing music. When a metal song goes viral, a certain teen pop star claims the track as a side project, unknown to him or anyone that the song was actually written and recorded by Ethan. Ethan must then gather the courage to stand up for himself and the rights over his work by letting his friends in to expose a plagiarist or relapse into the darker side of his depression.
There are a lot of YA books that talk about music, mostly focusing on aspiring rock musicians who listen to a lot of Nirvana or The Beatles, but no one seems to talk about the quiet sound guy at the back. For a band to sound their best, whether at local gigs or large-scale Coachella-types of music festivals, their engineer should possess the right set of ears and a certain sense of creativity. Every show I go to where the sound is just absolutely fantastic, I make it a point to thank the rarely recognized sound guy. You should too!
Caitie, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
Caitie: So much sealed the deal for me, but it really came down to the passion and the voice. I loved that the character had something he cared about so much and worked so hard on. I am a metal fan, and that was something I haven’t seen in books! I also adored Ethan’s voice and how he dealt with his depression (which isn’t always in such a great way). It was such an authentic portrayal and I’ve cried every single time I’ve read it.
Once I started, I couldn’t stop thinking about these characters and their stories. I needed to spend more time with them.
Kara, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
Kara: I have notebooks on Evernote dedicated to every story I write. I’d come up with detailed character dossiers, outlines for the whole book and for single chapters, and sketch character studies—on paper, of course. So, that’s kind of my general process in preparing a manuscript, but for this one, I poured things I learned from my professional life into it.
I used to work for a local music magazine and concert production crew, where I’d get to interview all these metal/post-hardcore/punk bands and their crew—from Pierce The Veil, Bring Me The Horizon, Finch, All Time Low, The Maine, Protest The Hero, to Bullet For My Valentine—and pieced it all together with my experience as an amateur musician and underground show promoter in the Manila music scene. When things started getting more serious, I conducted interviews specifically for my book with Periphery’s Matt Halpern, Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe, and Tesseract’s Daniel Tompkins to get that look into the lives of touring musicians who found success from starting in the underground. I also did a lot of research and consulted my boyfriend, who works as a recording and live sound engineer, for the more technical behind-the-scenes stuff that fans don’t normally think about at shows and their favorite albums.
I went the extra mile and worked with an editor. I also have critique partners (we call ourselves the Breakfast Writing Squad) and beta readers familiar with sound engineering and the music scene. It’s been a really long journey, haha!
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
Kara: I’ll be honest—I didn’t really plan on joining #DVpit, mainly because I pitched at a Twitter contest before and didn’t get any of those darn hearts. It could be really intimidating to join, especially when you see all the hearts and retweets an aspiring author can get, while you get nothing. But maybe the cosmos had something to do with me joining the night I did. Traffic going home sucked real bad, so I decided to wait it out at Starbucks when I saw all these agents on Twitter talking about #DVpit. So I figured, I had time to kill and a book I wanted the world to know about. I scrolled through pitches, looking for a way to condense my story to 140 characters (including the hashtags), and drafted my own pitch from there. And for the first time, I received a heart and a full request right off the bat from Caitie.
How was the experience for you, Caitie?
Caitie: I really loved it! I have never been so excited about a twitter event than I was about #DVpit. The pitches were SO good that I ended up requesting a LOT of things.
The support from the entire community really makes this a such a great event. I can’t wait for the next one.
Kara, did you receive pitch help or tips? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
Kara: Leave it to the stakes. While you establish your main character and the bad guy, you need to point out what your hero needs to do to get to that happy ending. I came up with templates that look easy to fill, but still made my brain hurt when I thought about those 140 characters.
You can also practice with your favorite stories and draft up pitches about them. Consider what brought Frodo to his journey out of The Shire, why Walter White decided to cook meth, and what it took for Deadpool to reveal himself to Vanessa at the end.
Mentioning what’s at stake and how the protagonist comes out on top was what I missed when I first joined Twitter contests. That’s basically the heart of your story and writing them well is how senpai will notice you.
And Caitie, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
Caitie: The biggest advice I have for both queries and pitches on Twitter is to have other people who are not familiar with your book read them. And if you can, find people who aren’t your friends and will be honest with you. So many pitches and queries are confusing if that is all you see, so you want to make sure it is clear.
For #DVPit in particular, really spend some time looking at the other pitches on that day, and not to see who is getting the most hearts, but to meet people. Finding other writers makes the entire publishing journey so much better.
Tell us about The Call, Kara!
Kara: Caitie is awesome. We had a pretty quick chat over Skype, but her enthusiasm was what sealed the deal for me. She even gave me time to think over her offer and notify the other agents who had my manuscript before I could ask her. On top of that, she answered all my questions and encouraged me to send her any follow ups through email if I had any (and I had a lot). She’s been really great, and the fact that we’re totally on the same page in terms of goals and direction for my book makes everything even more exciting.
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
Kara: "BE MORE CHILL + NICK & NORAH: Introverted metalhead hits the stage to expose a teen pop star who plagiarized his song. #DVpit #YA #ownvoices"
Caitie, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
Caitie: I loved this pitch SO much. The comps made me super excited. Then I saw that he was a metalhead who had to learn to stand up for himself even though it went against his first instinct. That was when I knew I had to see the whole thing immediately.
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?
Caitie: Yes! I am looking for a lot of things, but right now I would love some LGBTQ+ fantasy and science fiction MG, YA, and crossover (intersectional is even better!). I would love to see any genres of middle grade. In adult, I am most hoping for millennial women’s fiction and historical fiction than reminds me of WE WILL RISE.
Warm congratulations to Kara and Caitie for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
Kara Bodegón (@karabodegon) is a music journalist and visual artist from Manila, Philippines. She lives through video game consoles when she isn’t in the photo pit or getting lost in her emotions at metal concerts. Find her on Twitter (@karabodegon) and Instagram (karabodegon).
Caitie Flum (@caitief) joined Liza Dawson Associates in July 2014 as assistant and audio rights manager. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2009 with a B.A. in English with a concentration in publishing studies. She interned at Hachette Book Group and Writers House. She was an editorial assistant then coordinator for Bookspan, where she worked on several clubs including the Book-of-the-Month Club, The Good Cook, and the Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club. When she's not working, Caitie can be usually be found watching lots of TV, going to the local theater, and playing board games.