Friday, April 18, 2014

Kickass Queries Series! # 9 - Michelle Modesto

Good Morning!

Today we have a double feature of sorts for the Kickass Queries Series. My agent sister, Michelle Modesto, is here - and over at the YA Misfits blog - talking about her novel, MACHINE AND THE WILD, which debuts with Balzer + Bray in 2016.

Michelle's deal was announced the same week as mine, and if you're looking for a 2016 book to be excited about, look no further. Here's why:

Michelle's Query:

It's been several years since seventeen-year-old Westie lost her family and her arm to cannibals while traveling west on the wagon trail, yet the memory still haunts her.

She's on a downward spiral, spending her time in saloons, preferring the warmth of whiskey to the cold hands of everyday life. It's only when fate brings those cannibals to Rogue City where she lives with a brilliant inventor and a band of misfits, she discovers her will to live again. She trades booze and gambling for a stronger drug: vengeance. 

Now, with a powerful mechanical arm, there's nothing to stop her except maybe her own reckless ways. If she’s not careful, the revenge she seeks for those she lost years ago could cost her the family she has now.

G: How many manuscripts did you query prior to signing with your agent?

M: I’d written four other novels, but only queried one other MS prior to Machine and the Wild. The others were more like practice books, a way to strengthen my craft. So, in other words, they sucked.

G: How long did it take to write your query, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent-ready?

M: I started writing my query letter when I started writing the book and it changed as the book changed. Overall, I think it took about six months. When I was done I entered it into a query contest on Twitter where I was able to get it critiqued. That was so much help. I recommend Twitter contests to everyone.

G: Tell us about your query style – do you approach your entire list of prospectives at once, or query in small batches and revise in between?

M: I always queried in small batches, about five at a time. Keeps things clean and focused.

G: Now the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent was the right person to represent your project?

M: Yay! This really is the fun part. So, we all have that dream agent, right? The one we’ve had our eye on for some time. John M. Cusick was that agent. It happened after I read Girl Parts a few years ago. That book was weird and wonderful and one of my all-time fave YA novels. When I got the idea for Machine and the Wild, he was the first agent I knew for sure I wanted to work with.

The “call” was equal amounts of excitement and terror. Here was my dream agent and he was interested in my book. I kept thinking, he likes my book, this is awesome, I’ve got this. Then when my phone rang I totally panicked, like, oh my dog this is really happening, what did I get myself into? I felt like an imposter and that somehow he’d made a mistake. But he loved my book and was a super chill dude, easy to talk to. When we started talking about changes for the book and I saw our visions for it align, it was pencils down, the search was over.  

G: If you could give one piece of advice to authors seeking publication, what would it be?

M: My advice for authors seeking publication is, get on Twitter and follow agents and editors. They are always tweeting their wish lists and other helpful advice.

Thanks, Michelle! To learn more about MACHINE AND THE WILD, head over to today's YA Misfits post and check out our interview!


  1. What a fascinating premise! I'm already wondering: is this historical? dystopian? alternate history? steampunk? Good to know I'll have something to read in 2016!

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