A #DVpit Success Story:
Interview with Mona D. Shroff and Rachel Brooks

** UPDATE: Mona’s book has found a publisher! We are so delighted to have Mona back to answer a few follow-up questions about the deal, the book, and the experience since #DVpit.

Mona, first of all, congratulations on your book deal! We’d love to hear how the submission process was for you, from editing to polishing, to going out on sub to publishers, to getting news of your book deal. Catch us up on what’s happened since #DVpit!

MONA: Such excitement!! So #DVPit put me in touch with Rachel Brooks of BookEnds, who became my agent in June of 2017. Once Rachel had my MS out on submission, we received a few initial rejections, and then silence for a bit. But I have to say, Rachel only allows silence for a short while, before she nudges people! Then in January 2018, Brittany Lavery at HQN asked for an R&R. She was very concrete about what she thought was important, and she made sense, so I did it. Then at the end of June, Rachel heard from Brittany stating that they wanted not just that MS, but my next one as well!!! cue happy dance!

Tell us about your editor! What was it like speaking to them for the first time? What is your relationship like?

MONA: So Brittany is awesome! I’ve only spoken with her once, but most communication is via email. She’s really excited about my work, and open to answering my questions/concerns etc. This is all new to me, and she’s very patient.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you knew or prepared for when you were first entering #DVpit and getting ready to pitch agents?

MONA: Actually, I was able to participate in the practice session that was held a few weeks before, and that was really helpful. So looking back, I think I was okay.

Are there any updates you can share about your book? Pub date, hints about the cover, finalized jacket copy, pre-order links, etc?

MONA: We’re really just getting started. My pub date is broad right now ‘early 2020’ and I’m getting started on edits that Brittany sent me. That’s all I have right now—but maybe check in later!

What’s next for you?

MONA: Well, I am currently working to get book 2 done by its deadline—and then work on Book 3. I’m just SUPER excited that my book is going to be on shelves somewhere—it’s almost surreal at times—like I have to ask myself —did that really happen? I almost feel like it won’t be REAL until I hold that book in my hands.

Congratulations once again, Mona! Thank you for sharing your journey with us, and best of luck with the publication of HEADS OR TAILS. We’re all excited to see it hit shelves!

[The original interview follows.]

Mona and Rachel, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Mona, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.

MONA: My book is about second chances and forgiveness, and of course true love. Maya is an Indian-American girl who gets pregnant out-of-wedlock, and is unable (for a variety of reasons) to tell Sam, the father, and so returns to her mother’s house to raise the child on her own. When the daughter is 15, Sam finds out that he has been a father all this time. Both Sam and Maya have to deal with secrets, forgiveness and of course, their feelings for each other.

This is my first book and the idea came from the writing prompt ‘Heads we get married, Tails we break up’. I wrote a 750-word short story for a contest. It did not win, but my daughter (at the time 16) loved it and insisted I write the full novel. So I did!

Rachel, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?

RACHEL: I fell in love with Mona's voice immediately. When her characters broke my heart and then put it back together (more than once, by the way), I knew I couldn't let this story go.

Mona, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?

MONA: This was a long time in the making—so yes to all of the above. I made an outline, but I adjusted it as things changed (and they always do!). I had many critique partners who gave wonderful feedback, and toward the end I did definitely make use of beta-readers. As this is my first novel, it was a learning process in terms of knowing what would and would not work. This is definitely not something that is done alone.

And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?

MONA: By the time I got to #DVPit, I had been through more than a few of rounds of cold querying and live pitching which put my expectations in check. I’m always hopeful, so to me, this was a very positive way to get agents to notice my work. And it worked!

How was the experience for you, Rachel?

RACHEL: Fantastic! The enthusiasm from everyone both behind the scenes and the creators participating was contagious. I'm thrilled there is going to be another #DVpit in October. I'll be there!

Mona, did you receive pitch help or tips? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?

MONA: I happened on #DVPit a few days before the first practice session. That was very helpful in terms of feedback I received on how to tighten my pitch as well as hit the important points—in 140 characters or less. I would advise future participants to take part in the practice, as well as just brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm! The pitch that actually got attention was one that just sort of hit me that morning, as I was reviewing my tweets for the day.

And Rachel, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?

RACHEL: Hashtags help so much. I know it's hard to fit everything into the limited 140-character count, but that "#YA" or "#MG" helps filter through all the (amazing) entries for what we are seeking. That said, if you don't get many (or any) favorites from agents in #DVpit, don't give up. Some people get agents from contests, others from querying. You never know which path will be yours unless you try.

Tell us about The Call, Mona!

MONA: So, The Call was preceded by an email from Rachel. Upon receiving that email, I messaged my trusty tribe asking them what I was supposed to do in that call! They all responded immediately, so I was well prepared. (Importance of having a tribe!!) The Call itself was really satisfying. I thought I’d be more nervous, but Rachel is very professional, and it was clear she loved the book (I had to suppress giggles when she told me how much!!), so I was immediately at ease. She was open to my questions, and I had a very positive feeling about working with her.

Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!

MONA: “#DVPit #OWN Indian girls don’t have babies out of wedlock. Maya did. Now she has to tell Sam his daughter is 15 and in trouble w the law”

Rachel, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?

RACHEL: SUCH SECRETS! And conflict! I mean, a secret baby is going to cause conflict, but a nearly 16-year-old secret baby-turned-teenager?! Then when I read her query pitch and learned Mona's manuscript blended culture, family, lies, and secrets, it had all the things I was looking for!

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 Mona 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!

Mona Shroff (@mona_0768) is an optometrist by day, romance writer by night, currently living in Maryland. She’s an empty nester now, but when she’s not writing or checking eyes, she’s making care packages, helping her dog deal with issues, training for triathlons and loves to bake. Her debut HEADS OR TAILS releases from HQN in early 2020.

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.