Kess and Kat, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Kess, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
KESS: WHEN THEY BECKON is a YA fantasy about a con artist named Salome who was recruited as a child into a criminal organization called the Alliance. She gets the opportunity of a lifetime when the Alliance selects her to play Rosalia d’Ilumias, betrothed to King Vincent of Ilarya. But the con becomes complicated as a witch circus has been waiting for Salome, awakening something dark and strange inside her. And the stories of demons from the shadows plaguing the city are truer than Salome realized, and much more dangerous.
I wrote this book mainly for fun, at first. I had this idea and it sounded so cool, but it ended up into something bigger and more meaningful. It became a story about feeling the need to prove yourself in addition to trying to figure out who you are and what you want your life to be. And then, the more I worked on this book, the more I realized how much of an immigrant story it is. That made it all the more important to me.
Kat, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
KAT: There is so much that I love about WHEN THEY BECKON, from the world to the magic to the writing, but what sealed the deal for me is Salome. The POV characters are always the most important to me, and Salome is sharp and fresh in all the best ways. She truly is a Slytherin queen, and I adore her.
Kess, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
KESS: WHEN THEY BECKON took nearly two years to get into submission shape, mostly because it was a process of figuring how to write and what works for me. After I wrote the first draft, I reached out to a friend and she helped me whip it into something significantly more book-shaped and less painful to read. I outlined over and over, crafted character profiles for the main characters and some secondary characters. I lost count of how many times I edited, losing count after version 6! I still sought more critique partners and a couple other beta readers to check over everything though. DVpit was my final goal for WTB. I’d queried it once before, but I was losing confidence in it and figured I’d move onto my next project if querying didn’t end well during DVpit.
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
KESS: In one word: overwhelming. I didn’t expect my tweet to gain as much attention as it did, especially since when I last participated, I got maybe a total of seven or eight likes! I’d expected to get about the same reaction and yet it clearly was much more than that. This time, I’d also made more friends so I had a lot of people cheering me on and others that I cheered on. I was at work all day so I couldn’t even check my notifications. All I knew was that the likes and retweets kept coming and I couldn’t believe it. I was so stunned, I nearly cried at work. I held it together until I got home and then I started crying because I couldn’t believe so many people found my pitch interesting.
How was the experience for you, Kat?
KAT: So this DVPit was actually incredibly interesting for me. It happened just before I opened to queries, so I spent most of the that day scrolling through twitter and pining. When I saw Kess’s pitch, though, I had to retweet it at the very least. It was enough, though, for Kess to notice me, and shortly after I opened, she sent WHEN THEY BECKON my way.
Kess, did you receive pitch help or tips? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
KESS: I read a LOT of blog posts on pitching and Twitter threads with advice. There were so many that I cannot even remember them all, except Amelie Wen Zhao’s blog post. Her pitch in the previous DVpit event was so spectacular, I aspired to have one half as interesting as hers, and so her blog post on writing a killer pitch definitely helped me. There were also threads and posts about timing pitches and I think that played a role in the attention my tweet got as well. I kept it to the morning and around noon, considering agents popping in first thing as they start their day or during lunch. I mainly googled for advice though and also read a bunch of DVpit success story interviews for inspiration, actually!
And Kat, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
KAT: While it is very important to get your Twitter pitch down, don’t forget to work on your query! Know that even if I request through a Twitter Pitch contest, the query can still make or break a project. So please look at all the great resources out there.
Tell us about The Call, Kess!
KESS: I think the call was about forty minutes? I couldn’t go much longer because I was an emotional mess. Kat didn’t take very long to say that the call was to offer representation so I was crying about five minutes in. She’d emailed me early that week on a Wednesday to schedule the call, which we had the following Friday morning. I was so anxious leading up to it, researching what to ask and yet somehow forgot all my questions during the actual call! I was just so excited about everything. I scrambled to write things down but I was shaking so much, I couldn’t write clearly. Luckily, Kat emailed me with a summary of what we talked about. Basically, the things she loved about WHEN THEY BECKON were the things most important to me and she seemed enthusiastic about various future projects I had in mind. It was very clear early in the call that Kat is everything I hoped for in an agent and more.
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
KESS: “GRAVE MERCY + CARAVAL + Filipina diaspora
A con artist must prove herself to the criminals who raised her by deceiving a king for his riches. Then a witch circus, her own dark magic, and shadows coming alive force her to reconsider who she wants to be. #OWN #YA #F #DVPit”
Kat, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
KAT: First of all, I was drawn in by the Filipina diaspora element. As a biracial Filipino-American, I knew that I had to give this story a shot—I haven’t encountered a lot of Filipinas in YA, especially in fantasy.
And witch circus??? I just had to know.
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?
KAT: I’m open to all genres of YA, Adult SFF, and Romance, and you can find my full wishlist here and I often do MSWL calls on Twitter. But more than anything else, I am always looking for new, fresh voices from traditionally underrepresented communities in all categories.
Warm congratulations to Kess and Kat for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
Kat Enright (@KatEnright) is an Associate Agent with the Seymour Agency, and she represents all genres of YA, Adult SFF, and Romance. As a biracial, bisexual woman, she is especially devoted to championing diverse voices in fiction. She can be found yelling about video games and books on Twitter, and posting too many pictures of her cat on Instagram.
Kess Costales is a Filipina-Canadian author of ownvoices novels. As a child of Filipino immigrants, it is important to her to always provide queer Filipina diaspora representation in her stories. She recently completed her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Criminology at the University of Toronto. Currently, she lives in Toronto. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram and on her blog.