Friday, July 23, 2010

Fangirl Friday

My biggest Query Inspiration:  Kelsey Ketch
On a personal note:  I found Kelsey in an interesting way:  I was on and would always look at who queried the same agents as me.  I found that Kelsey and I had queried alot of the same agents and we both kept getting the same rejections and felt a bond (even though I never voiced it).  When I saw on Query Tracker that she landed an agent and read her success story it gave me even more hope on my querying journey.  So this Fangirl Friday is for Kelsey and for all of us that believe in dreams coming true!

Kelsey Ketch is a graduate student living in North Carolina, where she finds a wealth of resources for her writing. Much of her young life was influenced by her father’s love of the sea and nature, inspiring her sense of adventure in both her hobbies and future careers. When he died of cancer, Death’s Island was her way of escaping the world and coping with the loss. She spent years researching the lifestyles of the eighteen century in England and the colonies, as well as maritime history to create this adventure.

Mrs. Vee:  So can you tell people a little bit about your story that has just been picked up for representation? What was the inspiration?

Kelsey:  Thanks for inviting me. It’s a pleasure chatting with you. Death’s Island is a historical young adult novel set in early eighteen century. Meriden Cook’s troubles began a hundred years before, when her great grandfather stumbled into a mysterious world ruled by Death. A former naval officer, Cutup Cook was on the run for piracy. Death ensnared him in a deal that entailed the harvesting of human souls in exchange for unimaginable treasure. However, Cutup Cook tries to shirk his commitment. For this act, Death wrecks the Plunderer, and places a curse upon his family’s bloodline--a curse that later caused the mysterious disappearance of Meriden’s father.

Decades pass. The story of Cutup fades into legend until Meriden unearths Cutup’s map. She takes command of her father’s ship, the Orion, and journeys across the sea to solve her family secret. Her good friends: the dashing Doctor George Hobson; the playful cook, Matthew Kettlesworth; the wealthy Rupert Railing; and the passionate stowaway, Gregory Wilson, accompany her.

Despite their efforts, the group finds trouble around every corner including a mutinous crew, treacherous storms, and sailors bewitched by greed. Those issues pale in comparison to the cursed forests and hideous monsters they face once on Death’s Island.
Mrs. Vee:  According to, you sent out 199 queries. Did you tailor each one to a specific agent or send them all at once? What was your querying strategy?
Kelsey:  I tailored each and every letter - all 199 queries. It was a lot of work. actually helped a lot with this because you can check website, join discussion groups, and keep track of all your queries. Before I even queried any agency, I did a little research. Seeing what books they represent, what was published, etc… Then, I sent out about three letters every other day for four months. This became emotionally exhausting. Rejections flooded my inbox, tracking no responses, finding three new agents and researching. It just became too much. Eventually, I started sending one query every week instead. This eased the emotional tension.
Mrs. Vee:  I know I’ve faced some difficulties handling rejections (and usually solved them by eating a box of Girl Scout cookies), but how did you go about facing rejections?
Kelsey:  A tissue box and an episode of either M*A*S*H or Castle. With each rejection, it felt like a piece of me died along with it. It tore my soul apart. Over time, though, I learned to control my emotions, but it’s hard. The book is a part of who you are and when it’s rejected, you feel rejected. That’s why I turned to things that make me laugh such as M*A*S*H or Castle. Laughter is the best medicine.
Mrs. Vee:  Did you re-write the manuscript at all? How many different drafts did you go through?
Kelsey:  Before querying, I went through four drafts. I had Death’s Island printed and bound each time. Then I would read the book cover to cover out loud to make sure all my ‘i’ were dotted and all my ‘t’ were crossed. Even so, as I was writing Death’s Island, I was continuously going back to individual chapters. Editing, re-writing, or even cutting them out completely.
Mrs. Vee:  Was there a time that you felt like giving up and how did you overcome that?
Kelsey:  Yes, this January. I had received my third rejection on a submission – I think I used up two tissues boxes that day. With that, the inbox filled with rejections, and all the no responses, it was very disheartening. I even stopped sending queries for a while. I’m not really sure how I overcame my situation. All I remember continually thinking about my dreams of seeing Death’s Island on the bookshelves. To let others enjoy the world that helped me pull through the roughest times of my life.

That’s when I changed my strategy. I went back and did a little revising of the beginning of the novel, reducing the number of words. I reshaped my query letter and synopsis. I decide that it didn’t matter if I received one thousand rejections. I was going to see my book through. I created backup plan and a backup plan for the backup plan. Fortunately, I didn’t have to use them.
Mrs. Vee:  What is the best advice that you got while going through the querying process and what advice to you have to other writers going through the same difficulties?
Kelsey:  I remember a close friend of mine telling me, “You’ll find the right agent at the right time”. And I found this to be so true. Even with all the rejections and even with all the heartbreak, it just wasn’t time. You just have to keep looking. And believe me it’s harder than finding a frog prince in a pond of toads. You just have to keep looking for it.
Mrs. Vee: What is the best part about being an agented writer?
Kelsey:  I think the best part of being an agented writer is my agent herself. Bree Ogden has been there every step of the way. She answered all my questions on terms and contracts. She’s helped me with my marketing proposal. She discusses concepts, giving me opinions on how to proceed. And she’s fun. Even reading her e-mails can make me smile. She has such a great attitude and such enthusiasm it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement. She is just great!
Mrs. Vee:  What did you do before you became a writer and what are your plans now?
Kelsey:  I started Death’s Island the summer before my junior year of high school. So, writing has been my past, present, and will be my future as well. It was always in the cards.

My plans, well that’s a little harder to go into. There are a lot of dreams I still wish to come true, but I also want to see what life brings me. I will always write, there is no question about that. However, when it comes to what’s next in life – only the fates know. For now, I’m focusing on the next step.
Mrs. Vee:  Favorite book, movie, food?
Kelsey:  My favorite book is The Dragon and The George by Gordon R. Dickson. I found it in the attic, buried in my father’s collection of science fiction novels. The mixture of science fiction and fantasy are marvelous. Jim Eckert is transported into the body of a dragon. His love is in danger, held captive by an evil force. He must figure out how to control his new form, travel through a new world, and rescue his love. My favorite character is Danielle, a huntress who assists Jim in his quest.

Also, my father introduced me to Cutthroat Island with Geena Davis. This is my favorite movie in the whole world. Nothing tops it. I love Captain Morgan Adam (Geena Davis). She is one character I would love to be. She’s a quick thinker when danger is on the horizon, and isn’t afraid to push the limits. When it comes to her wit, her mouth is faster than her blade. She fights with style and flare, showing the power and elegance of a woman. Her life is an adventure. Then there is Dawg (Frank Langella), my favorite villain. He is cruel and terrifying, but he also has a dark humor to his character.

Now, I’m not sure if I have a favorite food. You see, I love to cook and experiment with new tastes. I’m always falling in love with something new. The only thing that I could never live without is coffee. Without coffee, I would never survive.
Mrs. Vee:  Famous last words?

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” ~Thoreau


  1. Thank you so much for the interview, Magan! And good luck! I can't wait to read your success story on Query Tracker.

  2. Congrats on getting an agent! Talk about perseverance. :) Very inspiring.

  3. Awesome interview--that quote by Thoreau is one of my all-time faves! :)

  4. Great interview! I love hearing success stories...good luck with your queries Magan! Query tracker is the best!

  5. There is so much wisdom in this interview, from Kelsey's wonderful attitude toward writing, to her revisions, to the careful organization of her submission process... Bookmarkable in every respect. I know that, just as with finding the right agent, Death's Island will find the right publisher. Thank you both!


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