Jessica and Tricia, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Jessica, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
Jessica: Thank you so much for asking! #DVpit turned into such a wonderful thing, and I can’t thank you enough for making this happen.
My book is about a transgender nurse who is tasked with helping a firefighter recover from injuries he received during an apartment fire. As they get to know each other, a friendship—perhaps more—develops. Nurse Zoe has her own life outside of work. When she’s attacked and left for dead, Jason uses his computer skills to help find the person who attacked her. Then, when the bad guy comes back into their life, they have to team up to try to take him down.
I wrote this book because I am partial to the thriller/suspense genre. I also wanted a story where a transgender woman had an opportunity to have a romance, and a story that didn’t necessarily center around her transition. She is well into her transition, and has taken advantage of opportunities to carve out a life for herself and contribute to society in a way she is proud of.
I’m really happy that Zoe turned into such a great character, and I hope that everyone loves her as much as I do!
Tricia, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
Tricia: The immediate draw was the depth of the relationship between the hero and heroine. Zoe and Jason were incredibly sympathetic characters, and I was sold on the conflicts facing them. They’re so real, and that added to a beautifully organic relationship. Jessica delivered a love story with epic undertones. I actually screamed at the villain, and her secondary characters were memorable for all the right reasons. It was clear after the first scene that the story would be unforgettable.
Jessica, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
Jessica: I prepared by editing, then editing some more. When I started querying, I took the notes that the wonderful agents who rejected me passed along and edited some more. Really, I learned so much from those rejections and I appreciate every agent who took time to read the manuscript and tell me what didn’t work for them. I tried to outline and plot this novel, I swear I did, but this book didn’t cotton to such foolishness. My apologies to the plotters who may moan in dismay, but this book insisted on being a pantser from the start.
I did have some amazing crit partners and beta readers who suggested edits after the book was finished, and I love them dearly. But by serendipitous accident, I found a reader who I blame entirely for this novel being finished. I was four chapters in when I sent a couple of chapters for her to read, and she loved it so much that I would send each new chapter as I finished. First draft, mind you, with all the terribleness that implies. I wound up putting aside any preconceptions about the book, and simply did my best to tell her a story that she would love and hang on to. She responded by loving it, warts and all, and when I finished, she was over the moon about it. I LOVE my reader!
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
Jessica: Oh! The experience was amazing! Confession: I was on the fence about participating in the Twitter pitch because I had participated in one before, with no success. Total strikeout. I decided the night before, ‘what the heck, I’ll take a flyer on it.’
But then the event turned into this exciting thing, and there was some response. I wound up with a couple of agents who were interested and a press who offered to publish. It was just a really great experience.
How was the experience for you, Tricia?
Tricia: I was thrilled to see the incredible pitches that ended up on the feed. Hell, I wanted to request manuscripts for genres I didn’t rep! #DVpit proved there were hundreds of manuscripts available, a direct contrast to places that claim they can’t find amazing diverse books. The event blew that excuse apart. I loved being involved in the event and I loved the global support for the authors, editors, and agents.
Jessica, did you receive pitch help? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
Jessica: I did receive pitch help! I told one of my crit partners that I was going to participate the night before but that I suck at twitter. She said, “hold on.” Then, about half an hour later, she had several tweetable pitches that I loved. We tweaked and brainstormed a little more, and voila! 140 characters that unlocked the next level. (Shoutout to @spookyspark for her awesomeness!)
Words of wisdom: don’t be afraid to ask for help with your pitches. I still suck at tweeting, but I have friends that don’t. They are why I’m here. I truly feel that writing is a team sport, and I encourage everyone to have cheerleaders, and readers, and crit partners. One of the coolest things about #DVpit is the opportunity to meet new friends who can be on your team, which is what has happened since the event. We have a Facebook page and active DM’s, and there is a huge camaraderie. We can’t wait to welcome more people to the team!
And Tricia, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
Tricia: I’ve said this before: finish your manuscript before you start querying. In the lightning fast world of Twitter pitches, you will likely grab an agent or editor’s attention. It’s best to have the manuscript polished and waiting to be sent out rather than to tell that agent or editor they’ll have it in a few months. Talk about killing your own momentum!
Tell us about The Call, Jessica!
Jessica: The call...that is a memory I will take to my grave. A two-hour squee session about the words I strung together? Yes, please, can we do that some more? It was surreal that there was this stranger offering to represent not just this one book, but my career, based on what I wrote and how we responded to each other. It was a perfect fit. Trish is this enthusiastic person who sees what could be, and does a wonderful job explaining her vision.
She had me at “hello.”
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
Jessica: The #DVpit tweet I sent was "Falling for each other, a trans nurse and burned firefighter realize they both have some healing to do. OWN LGBT #DVpit”
Tricia, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
Tricia: I have the biggest soft spot for firefighters! Jessica’s pitch not only gave me one of my favorite heroic roles, she added a heroine I never see in contemporary romances. I had to read her book!
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: I’m always tweaking my list because I fall in love with all sorts of themes and elements. I recommend authors keep an eye on my team page on Fuse Literary’s website.
Warm congratulations to Jessica 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!
Jessica Gibson (@JessiGibs) is a former zookeeper, a professional firefighter, and a paramedic-level trained Emergency Medical Technician. She writes Romantic Suspense with LGBT themes. Through the Inferno is her first novel.
Tricia Skinner (@4TriciaSkinner) is an Associate Agent at Fuse Literary who specializes in all subgenres of adult and YA Romance. She is also a hybrid author of passionate urban fantasy (represented by Fuse co-founder Laurie McLean). As an agent, Tricia wants to represent authors who reflect diversity and cultures in their work.