Cynthia Watson interviewed Karen Duvall, author of her recently sold Adult Urban Fantasy novel, KNIGHT’S CURSE.
Karen and her husband are empty-nesters, who live with their three cats, and one dog in beautiful Central Oregon.
QueryTracker.net: Karen, thank you for chatting with me. Congratulations on selling your book! Please tell the QueryTracker.net folks what your book is about.
Karen Duvall: Thank you so much, Cynthia. I'd love to tell you about my urban fantasy novel that just sold to Luna in a two-book deal.
The first book, KNIGHT'S CURSE, is about Chalice, who's half angel with superhuman senses. She's cursed with bondage to a homicidal gargoyle, and forced to steal cursed objects for the sorcerer who kidnapped her as a child. The only way to break the curse is to kill the beast, and its death must come by the hand of its own kind. To regain the freedom she longs for, Chalice risks losing either her life or the love she has struggled so hard to believe is real. The choice is hers.
QT: Can you tell us about your journey? How did you get started with your writing?
KD: I've been writing seriously for a number of years, starting out with short stories before graduating to novels. I make my living as a graphic designer and always wrote on the side to fulfill my passion for storytelling.
My first attempt at a novel was semi-autobiographical, and told the story of a young pregnant woman in search of her birthmother. It was very women’s-fictionesque, and actually got me my first agent, but after two years of trying to find a publisher for it, that agent gave up on the manuscript, and gave up on me.
Then, I wrote a science fiction novel called PROJECT RESURRECTION that got picked up by a traditional small press, and published in 2000. I wrote a romantic suspense that came real close to getting published with Silhouette Intimate Moments, but the editor I'd been working with for over a year left the company, and the manuscript was rejected. However, DESERT GUARDIAN saw print in 2004 with The Wild Rose Press.
Though my experiences with the two small presses were okay, I realized going that route would never gain me the writing career I wanted. So, I decided that finding an agent to represent my work, and to support and encourage me as a career-focused writer, was the best way to go. After writing KNIGHT'S CURSE, I believed I'd finally written the book that would take me to the next level.
QT: Karen, tell us how you found your agent?
KD: I found my agent through QueryTracker.net. I did the research starting with genre, and selected a group of agents to submit my query to. I visited each agent's website or blog, and was very impressed with the McIntosh & Otis, the oldest literary agency in New York. They represent John Steinbeck's estate, among other prominent authors. So I queried Elizabeth Winick, who represents my genre, and the rest is history.
It's important to note that Liz was not the first and only agent I queried. It took four months to find the right agent fit for me, and I feel very fortunate to be with one of the best literary agencies in the U.S.
QT: How did you feel when you heard your book was going to be published?
KD: Stunned, lol. The book had been making the rounds for two years, and the editors reading it were taking months to respond. There were a few near misses, but I was used to the book getting rejections by then. So my agent and I decided that rewriting it as a Young Adult might help its chances. Before the revised Young Adult version of the manuscript had a chance to go out to a new set of publishers, my agent gets a call from Luna saying they have a two-book offer.
I was on my way out the door to a lunch meeting with a design client when my agent called with the good news. That I was ecstatic is an understatement, and I think I'm still in the state of shock. It's finally starting to sink in though. I had to stop pinching myself. I was leaving bruises.
QT: Did you help pick out the cover art, and can you tell us what it looks like?
KD: It's still too early for cover art, though I just finished filling out the Art Fact Sheet for KNIGHT'S CURSE. My contributions so far have been answers to the questions on the form, and I'm more that fine with that.
I designed the covers for my small press books, even won an award for one of them, but that was because those publishers didn't have a professional art department. I make my living as a designer, and I know what I'm doing. But Luna creates gorgeous covers, so I'm content with leaving it up to them to do their magic. I can hardly wait to see what they come up with.
QT: Who are some of your favourite writers?
KD: I have so many. Rachel Cain is high on my list with her Weather Warden series. I also love C.E. Murphy's books. Clive Barker is known for his horror, but I love his other speculative works like IMAJICA and GALILEE, among others. Then, of course, there's Neil Gaiman's brilliant story telling. I could go on and on.
QT: Who, or what, has been your biggest influence as a writer?
KD: I've been a reader since age five, so all the authors I read from then until now have heavily influenced me. But the author whose gift for great characterization is the one responsible for me writing my first novel. Armistead Maupin, though a writer of more mainstream stories, is amazing. I felt as if the characters were sitting right there with me, telling me their stories.
QT: What is it about your genre that captures your imagination? Is there a genre you haven’t written, but would like to try?
KD: Paranormal stories have always been my passion. I love reading about the impossible, and taking those imaginative journeys to fantastical places with characters who can do inhuman things. It brightens my brain.
As far as a genre I'd like to try, I almost said historical, but I've done that already with my alternate history steampunk fantasy MYSTIC TAXI. It's the first book in a planned series, and I'm eagerly awaiting word from the editors who have that one.
QT: Please tell us about the projects you are currently working on; what can readers expect to see in the coming months?
KD: I'm currently working on book two of my HATCHET KNIGHTS SERIES called KNIGHT'S PROMISE. This story continues Chalice's journey of connecting with her sister knights in the modern world, and vanquishing an evil that's responsible for killing hundreds of women in the Order of the Hatchet. And, of course, fulfilling her promise to the man she loves. I can't say much more, or I'll give it away!
Let's hope there's a third book because I have that one planned as well. It's called KNIGHT'S BETRAYAL.
QT: What is your advice to our QueryTracker.net members who are writing their first book?
KD: Write the best book you can, and write it like you expect it to sell. It probably won't, but don't worry because there's no such thing as wasted words. Every word you write, every sentence you put down, brings you that much closer to your dream.
Write for yourself, and write what you love. Keep an open mind, and take criticism with grace. Always work toward improving because your work isn't perfect, and it never will be. If you think it's "good enough," it most likely isn't.
Don't give up. After the first book is done, write another; and another one, after that. As you query agents on one book, be writing the next one. Stay busy, and stay focused.
QT: That's excellent advice! Thank you, Karen, for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me. Where can readers find out what's new, and how can they contact you?
KD: I have a blog I haven't added to in a while, but will be updating soon. So feel free to drop by, and read past posts about my journey up to this point.
You can visit me at www.karenduvall.blogspot.com.
Or check out my website to read unedited samples of my work at www.karen-duvall.com.
QT: Karen, we will be watching out for KNIGHT'S CURSE. We are pleased and proud that QueryTracker.net was part of your writing journey. Everyone in the QueryTracker.net family wishes you all the best.
Read Karen's original success story interview at: www.querytracker.net/kduvall.php
Cynthia Watson is in the query process for her first novel, WIND, a Young Adult Paranormal Romance, while writing the second book in the saga, SAND. Cynthia lives in Barrie, Ontario, just north of Toronto, Canada, with her Cocker Spaniel, Symon, and five rescued cats.
Cynthia blogs at: http://cynthiawatson.blogspot.com/
Follow Cynthia on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CynWatson