Isabel and Mary, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Isabel, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
ISABEL: I had recently gotten married and honeymooned in the Caribbean. That’s where my obsession with pirates began. I could just picture an old man-of-war gliding along the horizon, ready to bombard pirate ships.
The story really took off from that moment. The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite Disney movies, and I thought it would be interesting to reverse the roles and have a merman instead of a mermaid as one of the central characters. I also wanted to explore what life would have been like for a girl living on board a pirate ship with a father she didn’t know how to reach. I always knew Cordelia’s story would center around her relationship with her parents, especially since she didn’t really identify with either of them. How do you bridge the gap? What if you can’t—even if you really wanted to? From personal experience, you can want that relationship but sometimes it really is just hard to have one, no matter how often you try.
As the daughter of two Bolivian immigrants, I was born and raised in the United States. I grew up in an entirely different world than my parents, even speaking a different language and showed much more independence than was common for a Bolivian girl. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for my parents to raise a child they didn’t quite understand. Figuratively and, at times, literally.
It took a long time to think of myself as a bridge to both worlds, and I wanted the same for Cordelia. To learn that it’s ok to be her own person, even if it meant not being exactly her father or her mother.
Mary, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
MARY: The twist at the end, which brings the focus on the main character’s relationship with her father instead of making it another love story. I also loved the sneaky way Isabel dropped swear words in Spanish throughout the story. Kind of like an inside joke for those who speak the language.
Isabel, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
ISABEL: I am a serious outliner. I think that’s the list maker in me. For this manuscript, I actually entered it into Pitch Wars, and was lucky enough to work on it with a mentor. From there, I went through several revisions, critique partners and a couple of beta readers. It went through many changes before I felt it was ready.
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
ISABEL: I could not be more impressed by #DVpit. Normally in Twitter contests, I tend to fall through the cracks. This specific contest, geared for diverse stories and authors, shined a spotlight on my story. It’s a great way to get eyes on your pitch.
How was the experience for you, Mary?
MARY: It was fantastic, there were so many interesting and unique stories brought to my attention, and I was blown away by the quality of the writing. My only complaint is that I have to compete with several other agents for each project I am interested in!
Isabel, did you receive pitch help? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
ISABEL: Yes, I actually did! A friend of mine from Pitch Wars helped me to craft the perfect pitch. I'll never forget the lesson. For the perfect pitch, you must include info about the character and stakes. Bonus if you can touch on the world, too.
And Mary, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
MARY: Try not to shy away from your identity in your writing. Agents in DVpit are seeking both diverse and marginalized stories, that’s why we’re there. If promoting your voice online or in your query is uncomfortable and you choose to remain quiet about it, then let your truth/ownvoices speak through your writing. E.g. I surprised Isabel by asking her to put more Spanish in her novel. She had been hesitant because she felt it would turn off readers. But readers can sense authentic voices, and if we can push past the ceilings in publishing, then the fans will come!
Tell us about The Call, Isabel!
ISABEL: Oh man, I was SO nervous. I sort of alternated between disbelief this was actually happening to me and terrified that I'd somehow scare Mary away. But that went away in the first few minutes. One of the things I loved was how keen Mary was about my Spanish lady pirate. Her love of Hispanic culture immediately put me at ease. And this was before she started speaking Spanish. After that, I was over the moon.
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
ISABEL: “Cordelia, daughter of the pirate king, must choose between following in his bloody footsteps or betraying him to stop a war. #DVpit #own #YA”
Mary, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
MARY: It happened to hit two of my personal interests, a Latinx voice and a female pirate in tropical waters. I like fantasy set in worlds that are not Medieval Europe countryside/castle type places and I love feminist main characters.
What else are you looking for these days? Is there anything specific on your wishlist that you’re hoping to find at the next #DVpit?
MARY: I am especially seeking Latinx voices in commercial fiction. On a personal note, my partner is a Mexican immigrant and we just had a baby girl together who will grow up in two worlds, Mexico and the US. I hope to play a small part in ensuring she will have voices to relate to in novels as she grows older. I also know that our family dynamic is one that is becoming more and more common here in the United States, which means more readers!
In general I’m looking to diversify my client list more, and I’d love to see some black voices in fantasy and Native voices in fantasy and magical realism.
Warm congratulations to Isabel and Mary for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
Mary C. Moore (@Mary_C_Moore) has been with Kimberley Cameron & Associates since 2012. She is open to commercial and upmarket fiction. Find out more about her on marycmoore.com and kimberleycameron.com.
Isabel Ibanez Davis (@isabel9thLP) runs her design and stationery company, 9th Letter Press, in Winter Park, Florida. Most days, you can find her with a sketchpad or a book, and hanging out with her husband and goldendoodle, Piper Bramble Buns Davis.