Grace and Hannah, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Grace, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
Grace: I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology, and especially the story of Helen of Troy. She’s such a crucial figure in the Trojan War, and yet we never know much about her. She’s seen as beautiful and careless, the kind of girl who wouldn’t think twice about causing a war for her love. At some point, I started to wonder if there was more to it. I wanted to know why she had run away, but also whether she would have done anything differently, knowing what she knew now. So I wrote THE FALL OF TROY. It’s not exactly the story of the Iliad – it’s the story of what happens after, when Helen enters the Greek underworld and, for the first time, can determine her own fate.
Hannah, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
Hannah: Besides Grace’s fluid and ethereal prose, her engaging characters (from her charming Hercules to her dour Achilles), and her evocative worldbuilding, I loved the idea of Helen of Troy being in charge of her own narrative, hearing from her own lips what she went through during the Trojan war, and what she’s planning to do differently now that she has a choice and is able to influence her own destiny.
Grace, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
Grace: I have really, really amazing CPs and beta readers, who made editing and revising as interesting and new as writing it had been in the first place. I actually started writing this book without any clear idea of what it would become, or even whether it would become anything, so I never really had deadlines (or any plans whatsoever). I just knew I wanted to tell Helen of Troy’s story, and once I started writing it I couldn’t stop: I would write on my phone while walking, and think about the characters over dinner, and jot down lines that came to mind as I was falling asleep. The same thing goes now that I’m revising with Hannah – she’s so insightful and her suggestions are always so perfect that I find myself wanting to come back to this story whenever I can.
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
Grace: I had never participated in a Twitter pitch contest before, so I didn’t know what to expect. My pitch didn’t seem to fit in usual format, which worried me, but I couldn’t think of anything else. So the morning of #DVpit, I tweeted out my first pitch, and then I started getting notifications. I think I ended up with twenty-something likes, which was…surreal.
How was the experience for you, Hannah?
Hannah: I got amazing submissions through #DVpit, to the point where it was often difficult to decide what to do. While I connected with Grace’s writing and Helen’s story so deeply that I absolutely had to offer, there were definitely many stories that I loved reading, stories that were engaging and beautifully written. Some of the highest quality submissions I’ve ever received.
Grace, did you receive pitch help or tips? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
Grace: I think the best tip I can think of is to make your pitch unique. It doesn’t matter what you say as long as it makes someone need to know more.
And Hannah, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
Hannah: It’s always a good idea to have fellow writers and readers look over your work, be it a manuscript, a query, or a twitter pitch. Having fresh eyes on your words will help you know what’s working, what makes sense, and what needs to be reworked. If you’re stuck, it’s always a good idea to consider what your stakes are, and bring them out, whether it’s a 140 character pitch or a 250 word query.
Tell us about The Call, Grace!
Grace: I was expecting an R&R, honestly! Hannah told me about what she loved about my book, and then she started telling me what she thought needed work. I was actually taking notes the entire time (oops, not sure whether she knows this) because her points were so great, so when she asked me what I thought I was a little confused. I think I said something like um, yeah, I agree completely? Will definitely do these? What do you mean? And then she said well, I’d like to offer. And then I think I screamed.
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
Grace: “When Helen of Troy enters the afterlife, she must face all the heroes who died in the war she caused – and they aren’t ready to forgive her. #YA #DVpit”
Hannah, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
Hannah: First, it’s clear from this pitch that Helen’s story is being told, for the first time, from Helen’s perspective. This was immediately interesting because I love retellings and retoolings of myths that are written from the (traditionally silent) female character’s perspective. Grace gives us the main conflict of the book right at the end, sinking the hook.
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?
Hannah: In YA/MG, I want books with STEM themes, something witchy ala Practical Magic or The Craft, and historical fiction about amazing girls from around the world (see #BygoneBadassBroads). In Adult I am always interested in multicultural speculative fiction!
Warm congratulations to Grace and Hannah for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
Grace Li (@gracedli) grew up in Houston, Texas, and in elementary school, her parents once had a meeting with the librarian because they thought she was reading too much. She is currently a senior at Duke University studying biology and creative writing, and she still reads too much. Her writing has previously been published in an anthology of short stories as part of the Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest.
Before settling in New York, Hannah Fergesen (@HannahFergesen) worked and went to school in Denver, where she obtained her degree in Writing for Film and Television. After stints as a literary agent intern, a bookseller at the famous Books of Wonder, an intern at Soho Press, a literary assistant at Trident Media Group, and a freelance editor, she joined KT Literary in 2016. She has an all-consuming love for Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and anything created by Joss Whedon.