Can you please share the query that got you a yes?
Looking back, she should have been more specific—much more specific—because that one wish changed everything. The upside was that she found love. The downside was that people died for it. Including her…sort of.
Madeleine Niteclif is catapulted into the world of dark mythology after she makes a wish for an altered reality on Midsummer’s Eve. That same night, a man named Bahlin strolls through her dreams. When he shows up the next day and claims he’s a shapeshifting dragon and insists Maddy is the prophesied Niteclif, super-sleuth of the supernatural world, Maddy thinks she’s kissed sanity farewell. But a series of discussions, a partial shift by Bahlin from man to dragon, and a never-to-be-mentioned-again fainting spell combine to convince her he’s the real deal.
Maddy finds herself thrown into a murder investigation before she’s been in London forty-eight hours. Proximity to her new partner combined with two unforgettable encounters between the sheets leave Maddy unable to resolve the man-versus-monster debate that rages within her.
When someone close to both Maddy and Bahlin disappears, they work together to find the missing person. Maddy and Bahlin follow the clues to the bitter end where they discover a killer who has far worse plans for the paranormal world than simple murder.
Set in London, LEGACY is a 100,000 word paranormal romantic mystery. The first book in The Niteclif Evolutions draws supporting characters from across global mythologies, spanning early Greek through contemporary urban legends.
How difficult was it for you to write the query that got you a YES?
The query letter was a challenge. I found that if I treated it like I was writing the jacket copy it was easier to come up with cool ways to tell, and sell the story. To help get in the mental groove, I read the backs of some of my favorite novels and read blurbs on Amazon, really analyzing the ones I liked—particularly for my favorite books.
What was the query process like for you? (Did you carpet bomb the entire publishing world? Did you get picked up by the first agent/publisher you sent it to?)
I wanted to make sure that my manuscript made it to the right hands because I knew I’d be entering into a relationship with this person. It was so important to me that it end up with an agent who strongly believed in both the manuscript and me, so I was incredibly selective and it paid off.
To keep up with the whole process, I created a detailed spreadsheet with agent names, contact information, etc. I identified agents based on what and who they represented, reputation and recent sales. I sent out queries in batches and tracked dates, responses, requests for material, and more so that I knew when to expect answers. It was incredibly helpful.
Who/where is representing you and your book?
I’m repped by Saritza Hernandez, and she’s with the Lori Perkins Agency. She’s incredibly enthusiastic and supportive.
My publisher is Samhain Publishing, and let me just say that they are awesome! My editor is Bethany Morgan and she’s so great to work with. I can’t say enough good stuff about them.
What did your yes look like (we are totally living vicariously through you)? If you don’t have the original, please summarize it.
My offer of representation from Saritza came over the phone. I knew the story had to have merit because I made a complete and total fool of myself during our first conversation. I was so nervous! But she was gracious and kind. It’s easy to forget that agents are simply people, and the majority of them really are very nice.
The offer letter from Samhain came through Saritza as the agent of record and was sent by my editor. It was very simple and to the point. They (Samhain) thought that Legacy would be a great addition to their lineup and hoped I was still interested in working with them. When Saritza called to tell me we had an offer, I actually put her on hold so I could scream. Even thinking about it now makes me smile. I was definitely “interested.”
What are some of the feelings you had upon getting your agent/publisher?
When Saritza offered me representation, I was really excited. It was the first true external validation I had received for Legacy, and it floored me. It’s a hard feeling to describe because you’ve wanted it, dreamed about it, reached for it. To find someone reaching back is seriously cool.
The offer from Samhain was thrilling and terrifying. I started off thrilled. All I could think was, “They liked it enough to offer!” I wanted to start editing immediately, but publishing doesn’t work that way. The contracts took a little time and I was so nervous. Having an agent really helped because she was the voice of experience I needed.
I morphed to terrified after signing the contract. It hit me full force that I had committed to putting my book out there for people to read. All I could think was, “What if they hate it?” The panic attacks came and went for a couple of weeks before I finally settled into the idea that there will people who love it and people who don’t. The bottom line is this: it’s a good novel. I believe in it. My agent and my publisher believe in it enough that the second book is already contracted and the third is underway. It took understanding this to help me find my happy. It’s also humbling that these people believe in me. To doubt their judgment discredits the experience and professionalism they bring to my writing, and no way am I going to do that.
The offer letter is framed and sits by my workspace. J
So far, what has the experience been like for you?
Wow. That’s hard to sum up. It’s been incredible, from the first query all the way through today and the anticipation of waiting for the October 18th release day to get here. I learned from the rejections, interacted with some amazing agents and kept the faith that my time was coming, whether it was with Legacy or the next novel or the next.
One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is patience. Things happen on a different time table in the publishing world, and you spend a lot of time waiting. I thought I was a patient person until this process started. I learned very quickly that the patience I had was completely insufficient to what I needed. When you’re really excited, it’s hard to remember that you’re waiting on others’ schedules to open up so they can complete their part of the publishing puzzle.
There are so many positive things I’ve learned that it would be impossible to pick just one. Some of the most important points include the fact that every novel is a new opportunity, mistakes happen, enthusiasm is much more fuel efficient than pessimism, most agents are very cool, editors really do know best and good critique partners are worth the price of the bribe (mine prefer chocolate).
Ant or Cougar?
Do you feel like the ant that could get squashed by the big, bad, publishing world or the cougar that is going to take the world by storm?
I’m definitely the cougar. I’m not going to say I’ll take the world by storm because I really believe that’s up to readers, but I wouldn’t mind generating a little rainfall with my first release. 😉
Nearly every author struggles with insecurities. What makes you feel insecure and how do you deal with it?
I definitely struggle with insecurities. I’m not very forgiving of my own mistakes, so when I make them I tend to bash myself about the head and shoulders with the first lead pipe I come across. But the more I write, the more I’m learning to relax the expectation a little. Very few mistakes in writing are unfixable. They might hurt, but they aren’t terminal.
How do you build yourself up?
There are two things that have helped me. First, I surround myself with great critique partners. These people are amazing, and they are an undeniable bastion of support. I trust each and every one of them to provide me with truthful feedback. Yes, they point out areas that need improvement, but they also point out areas I’ve knocked it out of the park. I respond best to criticism when my points of strength are also recognized. It helps me see the difference between what does and doesn’t work.
The other person who helps is my agent. Saritza is a great source of encouragement when I begin to doubt myself or my story. She’s talked me off the ledge a couple of times. I don’t know if all agents are as considerate of new authors’ insecurities, but she really gets it.
Guts and Glory!
So let’s get into the good stuff. Tell us about your book!
Legacy is an urban fantasy with strong paranormal romance overtones. The main character, Maddy Niteclif, quits her job and heads to England for thirty days on a short sabbatical after her parents are killed in a freak accident. Her goals are twofold: sort her life out and try to make her recurring nightmare go away. Little does Maddy know that her trip will uncover not only a history she never knew belonged to her family, but a parallel world where mythology is more history than myth and no creature is too far-fetched to exist. Maddy must solve a series of crimes and stop a murderer before the two worlds bleed together in a wave of violence that can never be undone.
I had the most fun writing Maddy. She goes from being an expert in her professional field to struggling to survive in a new “job” for which she’s clearly not qualified. She gains a better foothold in each book, learning how to adapt. Maddy is smart, a little snarky, passionate and desperate to carve out a place for herself where she belongs and is loved. I like the darker aspects of the story and the fact that the heroine is on a mission of personal growth. She’s definitely not a bumbling idiot but she’s also not an immediate badass. She’s just an everyday woman caught up in a series of fantastic events she never could have anticipated.
Need More Denise J. Tompkins in your Life?
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Don’t forget to preorder the book at a discount!
October 18, 2011 (digital)
July 2012 (print)*
April 2012 (digital)
February 2013 (print)*