Tricia and Saritza, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Tricia, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
TRICIA: First, thank you for having us! #DVpit changed the course of my journey to publication and I’m eternally grateful for the time and effort you contribute to make this contest a success.
I wrote Moonlight & Whiskey because I wanted more sex-positive/body-positive books featuring kickass plus-sized heroines. As a former athlete in a male-centric sport, I can attest to the pressures put on plus-sized women to fit neatly under the labels of what we should be, and how we should change to fit certain preconceived notions.
My heroine, Avery, is fighting to break free of the labels forced upon her. A plus-sized engineer with body issues, Avery never feels like she’s enough the way she is, an issue amplified by the traditionally male field she works in. As a result, she’s erected walls, and uses her sharp-tongue as a defense mechanism to insulate herself from rejection. When she collides with tattooed frontman, Declan, a man who likes his women as curvy as his guitars, she begins to embrace her curves. However, as their connection deepens, Avery discovers her insecurities are more profound than the size of her butt. She must face the fear of rejection ingrained long before she developed curves, or risk losing the frontman who’s stealing her heart.
Most plus-sized women have lived, or are living, Avery’s journey to learn to love herself as she is. Few curvy girls are confident from the go, and those who are, have fought difficult battles to achieve self-love. Confidence can’t be about how others see you, but how you see yourself. I think anyone who’s grappled with body issues of any kind will relate to the process Avery goes through.
Saritza, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
SARITZA: I was mesmerized with this book from its opening line all the way through the end of the manuscript but it was the representation of body positivity in the book that sealed the deal for me. I’m all about books that let you see yourself on the page without shame or as a life lesson to the cisgender, heteronormative, statuesque heroine. I was so enraptured by the tone and plot of the manuscript that I read it in one sitting then sat back and thought to myself, “This is it. Avery’s the heroine I’ve wanted to see and root for in my romance novels.”
Tricia, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
TRICIA: I’m very new to the industry. At first, I pantsed Moonlight & Whiskey, but realized about halfway through, that it was more difficult for me that way and started using a loose outline to see my way through the plot. When I’d finished, I was lucky enough to come across a mentor for another contest. She suggested I get involved in the Facebook and Twitter writing communities and told me to find a solid critique partner.
I jumped in with both feet, and before long, I met a wonderful CP that pushes me to be a better writer. We’re hard on each other, and as a result, we’ve both found our place in a community that has helped us improve at every step. I have a “team” now, of other writers and betas, in my genre who have my back. I’m eternally grateful to the romance community for being so welcoming and supportive.
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
TRICIA: Truth time. I learned of #DVpit a day before the pitch event in early 2016. I knew that I had an #ownvoices manuscript, with a marginalized heroine and writer, and I threw out a pitch when the manuscript was still very rough. The pitch wasn’t well thought out, and last minute—all the things you aren’t supposed to do—and, subsequently, it was a bust.
However, #DVpit is a wonderful chance for those of us who can get buried in other contests to really showcase why our stories are important. I planned and crafted pitches for the next #DVpit and got a wonderful response. Including Saritza, who I know loves my book just as much as I do, and is passionate about showcasing marginalized voices.
How was the experience for you, Saritza?
SARITZA: I’ve participated in #DVPit before and have loved seeing how this pitch event brings works to the forefront and attention of the publishing industry in a way we haven’t been able to before. It’s one of my favorite pitch events of the year and one I fervently believe in.
When Tricia’s tweet came through, I knew I needed to be in the running for this great book. I even called dibs on it when one of our agents also liked the tweet but was secretly excited to see others love this premise as much as I did. When the manuscript came in, I was not disappointed by the pitch at all.
Tricia, did you receive pitch help or tips? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
TRICIA: Absolutely. Prepare a bunch of pitches, have every writer you know look at them and give feedback. It’s extremely challenging to convey why your book is special in 140 characters, but it can say a lot about your writing ability. I ran pitches through my writing friends and my CP until I had a solid list.
Also, use great comps, but leave room for your voice to shine through, too!
All that said, keep in mind that timing and luck are key elements. I sent the right pitch, for Sary, at the right time, for this manuscript, and got lucky enough that she saw it. Be tenacious, and eventually, the stars will align.
And Saritza, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
SARITZA: It takes a village and Tricia is proof that a strong support network can really help propel your work in ways you wouldn’t be able to on your own. It’s important to research the agents you’re interested in querying but it’s crucial to understand the industry and the genre you’re writing in as well. Get to know the agents participating in pitch events like #DVPit by looking at their published author lists and wish lists. Practice your pitch with your writer groups. Streamline your pitch to be enticing, informative and representative of your tone. Not an easy thing to do but when it’s done right, it will attract the right kind of attention to your book from agents and editors looking to partner with you.
Tell us about The Call, Tricia!
TRICIA: Seriously, I fangirled the whole time. I asked a lot of questions, probably more than I should have, but Saritza was patient with me. We talked about where she saw my career going, branding and transitioning from “writer” to “author”, about possibilities for future storylines and the direction I wanted to take this series.
With Sary, I felt like I was talking to an old friend, someone who loved my characters as much as I did, and wanted them to find a home in publishing. But she also didn’t pull punches about telling me what changes she’d like to see to make that happen, and I knew then, she would be the best advocate for my work and career.
Still, for new writers, the idea of talking to an Agent can be overwhelming. Saritza made me totally comfortable with it and we immediately had a rapport. We definitely speak the same language, and the words, “I’d like to offer you representation,” had me bawling tears of joy after we hung up. (Shh. She doesn’t know that.) She does now! SH ;)
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
TRICIA: “DUMPLIN’+LEAD in New Orleans when a plus-sized engineer & commitment-shy frontman face rejection fears as her vacation ends. #OWN #DVPit #CR”
Saritza, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
SARITZA: I’m a huge fan of Julie Murphy’s DUMPLIN’ and loved it so much, I bought a copy of it for my niece and had it signed at RT this year (hands were shaking the entire time I was in front of Julie Murphy trying not to fangirl too much) and have always wanted to see an adult romance with an unapologetic “fat girl” getting her HEA. Add to it that the pitch gave me setting, plot, comp titles and the stakes in less than 140 characters and I was hooked! But I have to say that seeing “plus-sized engineer” in the pitch was what I zeroed in on first. This book was about a woman who wasn’t just a roadie or a rock star manager or a subordinate to the hero in any way. She was in a position of power in a traditionally male-centered profession! How freaking awesome is that?
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?
SARITZA: I’m always looking for more #OwnVoices and diverse books in romance both adult and young adult so I’m super excited for the next #DVPit! Right now, I have a hankering for RomComs, humorous, quirky romantic comedies featuring POC in leading roles navigating through life and love with humor AND poignancy. Would love to see a 50 First Dates meets Groundhog Day featuring POC. Am also dying for some less than conventional re-imaginings like Battle Mages in Space, Dragon shifters falling for their gargoyle protectors, Blue Lagoon meets The Martian and a romantic comedy featuring a hidden prince falling for a commoner man in the style of Coming to America. Still looking for #OwnVoices historical romance set in 19th Century Caribbean in the style of Beverly Jenkins and sports romances featuring non-traditional sports. You can find my #MSWL here.
Warm congratulations to Tricia and Saritza for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
Tricia Lynne (@tlynne67) is a Midwestern girl fluent in both sarcasm and cuss words with little filter between her mouth and brain. A lover of hard rock and Irish whiskey, she will always be a tomboy who prefers Vans to heels and rocked her curves before curvy was the new black. Tricia writes adult contemporary and erotic romance, but she loves any genre with strong, flawed heroines who are willing to fight dirty for their Happily Ever After. A 2016 Pitch Wars finalist, and a 2017 Pitch Madness finalist, she’s a member of the Romance Writers of America and currently lives in Dallas with her husband and their two dogs.
Saritza Hernandez (@epubagent) is the Sr. Literary Agent at the Corvisiero Literary Agency and known as the first literary agent to represent authors in the digital publishing landscape. While continuing to seek traditional publishers for her authors, Saritza is the leading literary agent in digital publishing deals, according to Publishers Marketplace. An avid coffee-drinker with a Kindle book obsession, she enjoys a steaming cup of strong Cuban coffee every morning while reading an erotic contemporary romance, a suspenseful romantic thriller or action-packed science fiction romantic adventure. A strong advocate of the LGBTQ community and #OwnVoices, she enjoys fresh voices in LGBTQ Young Adult and Adult genre fiction. Her client titles include: Dreadnought by April Daniels, Guyliner by j. leigh bailey, Even Odds by Elia Winters, and Lambda Literary Finalist, Gravity by Juliann Rich.