QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, May 10, 2010

Interview with Lindsey Leavitt, Author of Princess for Hire

Picture a Harry-Potterish bookstore filled with little princesses. An author keeps them all spellbound as she reads to them from a very pink book. Picture the author handing out gift bags to each little girl, then taking time to talk to all people who come her way. (Including me and Elana!) Now, picture this author having all three of her kids at the book signing with her, plus lots of other family. Now you have a feel for Lidnsey Leavitt - super author, super mom! (She blogs about it here.)

QT: Two years to the day of your success story on QueryTracker.net, your book was released. And now we are interviewing you again. How does it feel to come full circle?

LL: Like a bouquet of rainbows smothered in sparkles and dipped in kittens.

But better.

QT:Can you tell us about your journey to being agented?

LL: I got my agent the old-fashioned way — cold query. And serendipitously enough, my agent wasn’t even agenting when I started querying, so I’m grateful for the process that led me to her. It took me six months from my very first query to my first offer, though I took some time off in between to nurse my wounds.

I queried in smaller batches — three or four carefully selected agents. Within those six months, I had some great feedback that led me to make some changes. I learned everything I could about the market climate (and querytracker was a HUGE HELP). I had some close calls that had me raiding my children’s Halloween/Christmas/Easter candy stash. But the most important thing I did was work on another novel. Not only did it help me maintain my sanity level (however low that was at the time), but I also believe having some range made me more appealing as a client.

When I did receive offers, the agents were interested not just in my first novel, but in my WIP (which I mentioned in a one-line pitch at the end of the query). I was very lucky to sign with Sarah Davies, who really got both strands of my writing and has helped me land deals with two wonderful publishers.

QT: Since writing Princess for Hire and getting your publishing deal, how has your life changed?

LL: Well, I guess the main thing that's changed is I have a career now (It still feels funny using that word. Like when I first signed with my agent, I dropped her name All The Time). A career gives me legitimacy to family, friends, and anyone else I have to tell to leave me alone so I can hole up and write. That was a struggle before I was agented, but had to treat it like work to get to the point of publication.

QT: How do you balance book tours and your career with family life?

LL: Sometimes I don’t balance. There are days I look around my house and think WHERE IS THE BOMB AND WHEN DID IT DENTONATE? But the biggest trick I’ve had to figure out is how to be at peace with the chaos. To let one part of my life get a little messy in order to achieve something else.  

That said, when I accepted my first book deal, I also made the decision that I would rather fail at writing then fail as a mother and wife. Meaning, no matter how crazy this business got (and it can get CRAY-ZAY), I was not going to let it mix up my priorities. Sure, I’ll let the laundry slide, or leave my kids with family while I’m on book tour (just blogged about that. Warning--lactation is discussed), but I never want being an author to overshadow the other aspects of who I am. It’s one piece of me, a very important piece, but it isn’t everything.  

QT: What inspired you to write Princess for Hire?

LL: This story came from lots of little ahas, from memories of my childhood, from asking again and again "what if?". But a big reason I set out to write a princess story is because so many fairy tales end when the girl becoming a princess. That's it. Now go live happily ever after. I wanted to turn that on it's head a bit. No, a lot.

QT: If you could be a character in Princess for Hire, who would you be? Why?

LL: Meredith, my main character's agent, is kind of like a twisted fairy godmother (but for your own safety, don't call her that). I get so excited every time I write a Meredith scene because it's through her that I get to say all the snarky things I never say in real life. Plus, she has green hair. Already set for St. Patrick's Day.

QT: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

LL: Books are hard. 

I know... duh. But THEY ARE. And only people in the biz really know that. I can't tell you how many times I've had someone say, "That's so cute you write kids' books! I'm going to do that someday, when I get the time." They have no clue, and I do my very best to smile because Crazy Author Spills Punch on Idiotic Party Goer isn't the best press, especially for my pink princess book.

When I started writing, I had no idea what went into a book. I thought you wrote it, called up a publisher and they said, sure, send it over. I didn't have any comprehension of revision, or cover design, or marketing or... I guess that's a lot of things.

Books are hard.

QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn’t you?

LL: One time? Try a thousand. And, actually, I did quit a few times.

I recommend it. 

Let me amend that. I quit worrying about publication. I quit submitting. My quitting time rejuvinated me, allowed me to nurse my wounds, and showed me how important it is to write just for the joy of writing. I always came back refreshed and with a more positive outlook. Of course, when I'm on deadline and don't have much choice (and yeah, being published doesn't take these feelings away), I quit for a night, or an hour. Somehow, letting myself mentally peace out from the pressure actually takes the pressure away.

So walk away if you need to. If you really, truly are a writer at heart, you're going to come back.

QT: If you could give a message to aspiring authors everywhere, what would it be? 

LL: Don't set your happiness on being published. I've heard lots of writers say, "if I can just get and agent, I'll be good." or "If I can just sell this book, everything in my life will be better." The problem with this thinking is being published isn't a fix all. Then you'll want an award, or a bigger deal, or more exposure or...

The hunger will motivate you. Just don't let it consume you.

Thanks so much, Lindsey. It was a pleasure to meet you and interview you!

You can find out more about Lindsey online:
Princess for Hire website
Lindsey's website

Suzette Saxton writes books for tots, teens, and in-betweens. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary.


Hardygirl said...

Great interview!! And, I'm in the "I love Lindsey" fan club. She's so much fun.


She Wrote said...

Thanks! I needed just this interview. Right now. Exactly this.

Elana Johnson said...

Lindsey was delightful! Great interview. I especially liked the part where she advised not to let the hunger consume you. That is so so true.

Mary McDonald said...

I'm going to so buy that book for my daughter. I think she would love it even though she's not yet an avid reader. Maybe this will be THE book that changes that. :-)

The interview is wonderful and I'm so glad to hear about how it's okay to give up for a little while, and then come back rejuvenated.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I am dying to read that book! Awesome interview, ladies - I loved it! :-)

Solvang Sherrie said...

Great advice in this interview! Lindsey is such a nice person, so easy to talk to and I was really impressed with Princess for Hire. Go Lindsey!

Dorothy Dreyer said...

Awesome interview. Really enjoyed it!

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

What a great interview! And I love your advice about not letting getting an agent or getting published consume you. Not all agents work out--I learned that lesson the hard way. The process can be really discouraging, so it's great to hear you remind us all to enjoy the journey.

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

What a great interview! And I love your advice about not letting getting an agent or getting published consume you. Not all agents work out--I learned that lesson the hard way. The process can be really discouraging, so it's great to hear you remind us all to enjoy the journey.

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Jackee said...

I second what Sherrie said about Lindsey. And I adored Princess for Hire! Readers who like Janette Rallison's book will love Lindsey's too. IMHO.