Farah and Rachel, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Farah, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
FARAH: I find it funny that despite having many false starts, this was the book that attracted an agent. It’s the silliest book I have written! But it’s also the most heartfelt, and the book that was the most cathartic for me to write. I came up with the premise at a workshop on writing comedy, where we were given a few minutes to come up with an idea for a rom-com. I thought of a love story between an engineering student looking for a quiet place to finish her thesis, and the tenor in a barbershop quartet who is rehearsing in her basement. As I fleshed out the story, it became about so much more than its silly start.
This book is about tolerance and family acceptance. It tackles topics like Islamophobia and homophobia, as the protagonist struggles to navigate career success in a STEM field and tries to live up to the expectations of her immigrant family, all while unexpectedly finding love with someone completely different from her. And most of all, it’s about the struggle to thrive in our modern world as a visible minority, Muslim woman.
Rachel, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
RACHEL: Is EVERYTHING an answer? Farah's voice shined and had me LOL-ing from chapter one (hint: garden gnomes). Her protagonist was complex and compelling, yet relatable and someone I was rooting for through the ups and downs. Farah tackled important, current topics that are balanced with the comedy and romance within the story, bringing it great depth.
Farah, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
FARAH: It was a very short timeline for me. I was still working on the manuscript when I decided to pitch it, because I knew this was the perfect opportunity for this book. I found beta readers in a hurry and pitched it on DVPit day while I was still hammering out my edits.
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
FARAH: I had participated in Twitter pitches before DVPit, but I loved that with this one, the agents who would respond to pitches were specifically looking for diverse voices. Once the day was underway, I did feel a little dismayed to see how many amazing pitches I was up against, but I was happy with the responses to my pitches. It was so amazing to read about all the great work that writers of diverse backgrounds are producing. It was humbling to be among them.
How was the experience for you, Rachel?
RACHEL: Fantastic, once again! There is so much talent flying through the Twitter feed on #DVpit days. Not to mention, lots of dedication behind the scenes too. I'm thrilled there is another #DVpit in October!
Farah, did you receive pitch help or tips? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
FARAH: I didn’t get any help but played around with pitches for a few days before the event. One word of advice I would give is to have different pitches that focus on different aspects of your story. You never know what aspect an agent will be drawn to. Also remember that every path is different, and every voice is different. Don’t get preoccupied looking at how many 'likes' other writers are getting, you only need one agent.
And Rachel, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
RACHEL: #DVpit and other Twitter pitch events are great opportunities to possibly find your agent match. However, querying is a great way too. I've signed new clients both ways, so if one way doesn't work for you, try the other.
Tell us about The Call, Farah!
FARAH: I had several requests for full manuscripts immediately after DVPit, but I took a bit of a gamble and decided to revise my manuscript at that time, taking it from a contemporary romance to a commercial women’s fiction, as my story seemed better suited for that genre. I had no way of knowing if the agents who requested full manuscripts wanted to wait around a month for my revisions, but Rachel told me to take my time and send it to her when ready. By the time I was done, she had changed agencies! I tracked her down and sent her the new manuscript, and she called me less than a week later. I was ecstatic! I’m still ecstatic!
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
FARAH: “Amira's tired of fighting Islamobhobia. Only someone like her could understand her. Not the redneck singer w/ a ginger-beard. #DVpit #OWN”
Rachel, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
RACHEL: Can I say everything again? Fighting Islamophobia? YES. The complexities of two main characters from different backgrounds, religions, and cultures? YES. Redneck singer w/ a ginger beard? Laughing and curious at how this factors into the story, while seeing a peek at her voice already, so YES. And the cherry on top, #OWN. YES!
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?
RACHEL: I'd love to find an #ownvoices f/f YA romcom and/or an f/f YA retelling (both with a happy ending, please).
Warm congratulations to Farah and Rachel for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
Farah Heron (@FarahHeron) was born in, and lives in Toronto, Canada. When she’s not locked in her office writing, she can be found searching for water for boating, fishing or kayaking, or baking bread in her kitchen. She lives in a small house with one husband, two children, one rabbit, two hamsters and a fish.
Rachel Brooks (@RachMBrooks) joined BookEnds Literary in June 2017, after three years as an agent at the L. Perkins Agency. While at LPA she established a mix of romance, young adult, and cozy mystery clients. Prior to that she was apprentice to agent Louise Fury. Fiction is still Rachel's focus, and you can find more details about what she's looking for on the BookEnds Submissions page.