N.G. and Lauren, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, N.G., I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
N.G.: Sweethand is an adult contemporary romance set on my island Trinidad and follows my heroine, Cherisse, and hero, Keiran, as they’re forced to work together to plan a joint wedding shower for Cherisse’s sister and Keiran’s good friend. They always butted heads as teens and that’s carried over to adulthood so they’re not at all pleased they have to plan this event together so of course we have lots of fun juicy tension, and as much as they pretend like it isn’t happening they catch feelings.
I wrote this during a time when I was feeling pretty down. I’d just been laid off at work and this story popped into my mind. Funny enough this book started out as a sort of YA fantasy lol but it wasn’t working out that way and I’m an avid romance reader so I reworked it to adult romance and the story just poured out of me and was a great distraction while job hunting.
I also hadn’t really seen a lot of romance set in the Caribbean with Caribbean characters written by a Caribbean person so I said why not write about people like me and my family and friends? So my main characters are POC and all their friends are too because that’s my reality.
Lauren, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
LAUREN: There’s so much about Sweethand that I love, but I think what really sold me was that it had some of my favorite romance tropes (enemies-to-lovers! fake dating!), but still managed to feel totally fresh and original. And like all my favorite contemporary romance novels, by the end I just wanted to pack up my apartment and go live inside the world it created.
N.G., how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
N.G.: I try to do chapter outlines all the time while drafting mostly, I really do but I swear my characters have their own ideas so I usually just end up jotting down basic scene points and flesh out as I write. I wanted the manuscripts as polished as possible before DVPit, so after I did my own revisions I got feedback from my beta readers. I also got some professional eyes on it (I’d gotten a job by that time luckily so was able to hire someone). Their feedback was so appreciated! Based on that I did another round of edits until I felt yes, I would be ready to hit send the moment the contest was over.
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
N.G.: It was great! This was my second time doing it actually, and I think I was way more prepared because I had my materials ready to go once I got those likes and researched agents. The first time I did it I was scrambling to get my query etc done to send lol. I was still so nervous of course because I used a sort of not traditional pitch along with a more traditional pitch and was worried it wouldn’t work, but I figured hey my heroine’s a pastry chef why not at least try to be bit different and write it sort of like a recipe and I’m glad I took the chance. I also had some people I really admired reach out and offer to help with my pitches before. I was floored at the support but so grateful.
How was the experience for you, Lauren?
LAUREN: I’m always a fan of DVpit, and I think it’s the best run pitch event I’ve participated in—thanks as always to Beth and the DVpit team! The community support for the event seems to get stronger and stronger every time, which is wonderful to see. The one difficulty in that is that all the outside enthusiasm can make it hard to tell which requests are from agents and which are just people trying to be supportive—but I guess there are worse ways for publishing to be challenging than for too many people to love your ideas!
N.G., did you receive pitch help or tips? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
N.G.: As mentioned above yes I did! I want to thank Alexis Daria who reached out to offer help and Meredith Ireland (my agent sister) did as well! So grateful for those ladies. I also did a lot of research checking out sites like Writer’s Digest and the examples of real live successful queries on their site. I basically looked up all the tips I could find to be sure I had all the elements for my query.
To future participants I’ll say research is so important! Check out different resources on how to write queries and a synopsis (bleh lol). Also have your materials ready to go, as much as you can. You of course don’t need to send them immediately after the contest but I think it’s a good plan to have it as ready as it can be. Get some eyes on your query and get feedback. It’s always helpful! And check the dvpit tag for past pitches. Seeing the type of pitches that got a lot of likes was key for me!
And Lauren, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
LAUREN: I’ll second Natalie on research and also say that doing research after you get those likes is also super important. Not every agent is a fit for you, not every agent is credible, and you don’t have to submit to anyone just because they requested that you do. I do think it’s worth having your material ready to go, but don’t feel like you need to query instantly—take the time you need to put your submission list together. Agents won’t mind if the projects come in a bit later, truly!
Tell us about The Call, N.G.!
N.G.: Right, so after I freaked out over getting Lauren’s email asking if I’d like to chat I prepped before the call using a blog post written by one of her agency colleagues actually. Jim McCarthy suggested some questions to ask a prospective agent so I used it as a guide: dystelblogarchive.wordpress.com along with some other posts on the subject. I didn’t want to be fumbling while talking.
I was told by some of Lauren’s clients before that she has a lovely voice and they were correct! It’s so soothing hehehe. So while I was a wreck on the inside I managed to get through it okay. It went really well and I just felt that Lauren truly loved my book.
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
N.G.: “1 pastry chef maid of honor
1 infuriating best man
Stir in fake dating his bro to pacify her matchmaking mom
#dvpit #r #own #poc”
Lauren, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
LAUREN: Enemies-to-lovers + fake dating + wedding shenanigans? That’s definitely a recipe for success in my book. I really think this is a perfect pitch. It gives me plot and characters, a hint of tone, and had me praying to the publishing gods that it would be as good as it sounded as I was clicking on that Twitter heart. And it was!!
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?
LAUREN: I’m looking for a super wide range of projects, and you can find out more at our agency website or my MSWL page. One thing I hope to find at the next DVpit is more books by disabled and/or neurodiverse writers, especially those who are underrepresented in other ways as well. And I’d love a really fun middle grade adventure series.
Warm congratulations to N.G. and Lauren for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
N.G. Peltier (@trinielf) is an anime watching, book reading, video-game playing, story writing, island nerd with a dash of dork.
A devourer of words and books from a young age, she enjoys creeping people out with the Caribbean folklore stories she grew up hearing.
A Trinidadian born and raised, she currently lives in Trinidad with her mountain of ideas and characters battling each other for whose story get told next.
Lauren E. Abramo (@LaurenAbramo) is Vice President and Subsidiary Rights Director at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, where she maintains a carefully cultivated client list with a heavy emphasis on middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction, and interdisciplinary, accessible adult nonfiction approaches to important issues in contemporary culture. In all categories she is especially interested in underrepresented voices.