Christine and Suzie, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Christine, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
CHRISTINE: It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s about a Native girl, growing up in the twenty-first century. She loves art, and she needs braces, and her two best friends mean the world to her. In the early days of summer, she discovers a box in the attic, filled with letters and photographs from her Native grandmother. Once her curiosity is sparked by the past, her summer becomes a journey for truth, heritage, and reconciliation.
I don’t even know where to begin, in terms of why I wrote this book. I wrote three manuscripts before this, queried them all, and promptly fell out of love with them. When this fourth idea hit me, it felt urgent. The act of writing became this magical, incendiary thing. I discovered a character I wanted to fight for. I discovered a story I felt genuinely equipped to tell. And I think a big part of this came from my newfound, complete embrace of #ownvoices.
Suzie, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
SUZIE: Christine’s voice. Her writing is so beautiful and I instantly connected to her main character: Edie. I read the manuscript in one sitting and was so engrossed in her story—I choked up multiple times while reading and broke down into tears near the end. I knew I had to be a part of Edie and Christine’s story!
Christine, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
CHRISTINE: I draft tentative outlines, and I have a small circle of beta readers. I don’t work with strict deadlines, but I remain diligent, and try to write or meditate on my ideas every day.
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
CHRISTINE: I was nervous, but hopeful! The community responded with such profound optimism, and generous well-wishes. The agents I interacted with were intuitive and kind. And of course, I hit the lottery with Suzie. I’m so grateful to have her as my partner in the publishing process.
How was the experience for you, Suzie?
SUZIE: I feel like nervous and hopeful are also great descriptors for me as well! I was excited and hopeful to find some really great manuscripts, but also a little nervous—sometimes a twitter pitch can sound one way and the actual manuscript can be different. But #DVpit has been a great experience. I’ve met some really wonderful and talented authors and I’ve read so many great stories.
Christine, did you receive pitch help or tips? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
CHRISTINE: Your story has an essence, and your goal is to capture it. Some people accomplish this with comp titles, plus a line or two about the narrative stakes. I took a slightly different approach. I had these two visuals in my head, images that were central to the story, but also maintained an air of mystery. I conjured those images, and added a quick sound bite for the premise. It seemed to work for me! Just be creative, and aim to entice. Bottle that essence in 140 characters.
And Suzie, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
SUZIE: First and foremost, make sure you send your manuscript to requesting agents! I’m not sure why it happens but sometimes, I request manuscripts and they never come my way. It never hurts to submit.
Also, take the time to really read and revise your query. Get beta reads just like you did with your manuscript. You want your query to read like the book description on the back of a paperback or inside flap of a hardcover.
Tell us about The Call, Christine!
CHRISTINE: Beforehand, I made extensive, illegible notes to myself. I was so nervous, it felt important to create an actual script for our conversation. Then she called, and I kept thinking, “Oh my God. I’m talking to Suzie Townsend.” But despite how surreal it was, she made me feel so comfortable, I forgot to consult my notes. She was friendly and smart, and her excitement made me fall in love with the manuscript all over again. When she offered to represent me, I knew this partnership was exactly what I wanted.
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
CHRISTINE: “A box filled with secrets. A family tree with missing roots. A coming-of-age story about life after interracial adoption. #MG #Native #DVpit”
Suzie, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
SUZIE: Wow, so all of it. Just looking at it now makes me excited all over again. To be specific though, I love the way it’s structured. I was first grabbed by the idea of a “box filled with secrets.” It’s a great concrete image—I can see it and believe it. And it’s intriguing. I’m curious and I want to know what those secrets are. Then the image of a “family tree with missing roots” is also a great image. It’s more figurative but it still conjures a picture in my mind and adds to the intrigue—it gives a sense of mystery. Finally the “coming-of-age” theme fits perfectly in the middle grade genre and the idea that this character journey takes place “after interracial adoption” feels both unique and significant. It feels like a story I haven’t read before—yet an important story that should be out there.
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?
SUZIE: I’m looking for Women’s Fiction, Psychological Suspense, Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult and literary Middle Grade—especially for inclusive and diverse stories with new and unique voices. I’m often drawn to active and flawed protagonists and I love novels with a commercial hook, compelling storytelling, and beautiful writing, but first and foremost, I’ll follow a character that I love anywhere.
Warm congratulations to Christine and Suzie for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
Christine Day (Upper Skagit) is a writer and filmmaker. She is currently pursuing her Master’s at the University of Washington, with a thesis on extinct dog breeds, ancient weaving technologies, and the resilience of Native culture bearers. She is a contributor to the forthcoming anthology, OUR STORIES, OUR VOICES (Simon Pulse, 2018). Christine lives in the Coast Salish region. Twitter: @ByChristineDay.
Photo credit: Melanie Yordanova
Suzie Townsend (@sztownsend81) is an agent at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. Prior to joining New Leaf, Suzie graduated film school, earned her Masters of Education, taught high school English, and coached a swim team. In her spare time, she read everything she could, which prompted her move to publishing. She got her start as an intern at FinePrint Literary Management where she was hired as an assistant before making the move to literary agent. She’s been part of the team at New Leaf Literary & Media since its inception in 2012. Suzie loves strong characters and voice-driven stories that break out of the typical tropes of their genres, and she’s always looking for unique new voices in stories.