Interview with INK author Amanda Sun. Advice on achieving your writing goals from Deidre Knight.
The Knight Agency Newsletter: Write. Read. Repeat.

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The Knight Post: Interview with Amanda Sun
Author Tip of the Month: Jonathan Friesen
New Clients on the Block
The Informer: Do the Work by Deidre Knight
Round Table: Advice for Adult Fiction Authors Looking to Expand Into Young Adult



Amanda Sun is the author of INK, the first book in the The Paper Gods series, which was inspired by her experiences living in Osaka, Japan, and traveling throughout that country. As a college student she majored in archaeology, mostly because she thought learning how cultures evolved and changed throughout history would be useful to world-building and plotting. When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys cosplay (costume play), knitting "geeky things," and gaming.

TKA: Give us the elevator pitch. What is INK about?

AMANDA SUN: After the death of her mother, American Katie Greene moves to Japan to live with her English-teaching aunt. There she crosses paths with Tomohiro, the kendo [a Japanese martial art involving swords] star at her new school, whose drawings come to life in dangerous ways. Tomo’s abilities put the two of them in danger when the wrong people notice—the Yakuza (Japanese gangsters) and an even more dangerous group linked to Japan’s paranormal underbelly.


TKA: What social media platforms have you found most useful for connecting with teen readers?

AMANDA SUN: My favorite online places to connect with teen readers are Twitter and Tumblr. I love the interesting conversations that can come from chatting online with each other—there are lots of fun ways to find common ground. Tumblr is the same—I love animated gifs, and Tumblr is full of them! I like how on both of these platforms, posts you make can be expanded and commented on by others, and everyone is free to join the conversation. I’ve met so many interesting readers and writers this way. Things always feel genuine on these platforms—you can jump in and learn from each other. It's a great way to connect.

TKA: What made you choose Shizuoka, Japan as the setting for INK?

AMANDA SUN: I lived on exchange in Osaka, but I chose Shizuoka for the story for a couple of reasons. I wanted to set the story in a city that didn’t have very many foreigners, unlike Tokyo. I wanted Katie to know what it was like to be a minority, to really experience the culture in an immersive way. I also needed somewhere isolated for Tomohiro to safely draw his dangerous drawings, and Shizuoka had a great archaeological site that would make that possible. I was really taken by the beauty of Sunpu Park and Castle when I visited and I like the proximity to Mt. Fuji, the tea fields, and some important shrines and temples. The history and geography of Shizuoka line up very well with the mythology of The Paper Gods.

TKA: Where did you first get the idea of having your character Tomohiro’s drawings come to life?

AMANDA SUN: That’s all Tomo's fault. Characters never listen to their authors! I started INK as a contemporary young adult. Tomo was someone who wanted to be an artist, but was being forced into the sciences by his overbearing father. But one day, when I was watching Tomo sketch in my head, his drawing leapt across the page! Slowly Tomo began to tell me who he really was, and I realized I had a completely different book on my hands.
The idea of drawings coming to life came from a couple sources. I have a background in archaeology, and I learned that Egyptian scribes were frightened that some hieroglyphs would come alive on the walls and endanger the pharaoh entombed. I combined that with the origin of Japanese kanji as a way to communicate with the spirit world, as well as my childhood interest in Japanese mythology.

TKA: The Kami, mythical ancient beings who once ruled Japan, play an important role in INK. How did you first hear about these rulers, and will similar mythology play a role in future books?

AMANDA SUN: When I was young, my mother bought me a beautiful encyclopedia of myths. There were a couple of familiar Greek and Roman ones present, but mainly the book was bursting with myths I'd never seen before—Inuit, Sumerian, Polynesian, and Japanese. I first learned about the kami in this mythology book, and I never forgot how dangerous the early stories seemed. I loved how the stories twisted in ways I didn’t expect.
I love mythology and archaeology, so I'm quite certain they will continue to weave themselves into my future books. I do feel strongly about authentic and lead roles for Asian characters in young adult, though, so I will continue to write books with lots of Asian and otherwise diverse characters.

TKA: How many novels do you have planned for The Paper Gods series, and will they all be set in Japan?

AMANDA SUN: Currently The Paper Gods is planned as a trilogy, and there is also a free prequel e-novella called SHADOW. All books are primarily set in Japan, although the characters do travel around a bit so some scenes are set in other Japanese cities and in New York. I hope you'll find the series an interesting glimpse into Japan's culture, tradition, and dangerous mythology.

Follow Amanda on Twitter
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Order INK


Twitter Chat with Steena HolmesWHEN: Thursday, August 29th at 4 P.M. EDT
WHAT: Q & A chat with INK author Amanda Sun
WHERE: Twitter. Moderated by @KnightAgency
HOW TO CHAT: Use the hashtag #knightauthor to join the conversation

Join Amanda and The Knight Agency to discuss INK, the ins and outs of writing young adult fiction, and much more!


  • Crystal Green's ROUGH & TUMBLE Series, to Cindy Hwang at Berkley, in a three-book deal by Pamela Harty.
  • Diana Pharaoh Francis's TRACER, to Debra Dixon of Bell Bridge Books, in a nice deal by Lucienne Diver
Sales Roundup is a selective sampling of TKA's deals for the past month. For more info on our recent sales, visit



Jonathan Friesen is the author of AQUIFER, a young adult dystopian novel about a world where water is power, control is absolute, and a truth exists that the rulers will do anything to hide.

Jonathan's Tip: Passion really matters.

I have spent much of my brief writing career trying to figure out what the market wants. I have played the chameleon, trying to change colors for editors and publishers. And in the process, I have watched my joy for writing diminish. But when I returned to my heart, to writing those things that mattered to me, I rediscovered that joy.

Passion matters. Sometimes I think it may be the only thing that does. So, write your heart. Nobody else can do it.

To learn more about Jonathan and AQUIFER, visit



 Do the Work by Deidre Knight

Nephele Tempest, Agent I've always considered myself fortunate that I came to agenting after working in other fields, including film/television and sales. Yet few elements of my experience have equipped me to help my clients as much as one I've pursued since I was a child: writing. As an author, I run into a lot of the same challenges that my clients do, and that's when I turn to one of my true writing heroes, Steven Pressfield. His e-book DO THE WORK has helped bring me back to basics, and reignited me creatively.
Pressfield coaches writers to stand against creative blocks, which he collectively terms "Resistance"—those forces that try to get between you and the achievement of your goal. Resistance takes many forms: too much planning or outlining, for instance, or fears of various kinds. And let's face it, Resistance often shows up smiling and looking a lot like your mother or friend who offers a million different reasons why you shouldn't write because it will take time away from your kids/job/significant other, or simply because she "just doesn’t want to see you get disappointed." Here are a few key points of Pressfield's that have helped me address my own slamming case of Resistance:
Forget outlining a work to death, but do ensure you have your three key acts on paper before you start
You start with a setup in which you introduce your protagonist, antagonist, and other main characters; then a key event happens that spins the action into the main body of the story (Act Two.) This second act culminates in a climactic scene where it seems like all is lost for our protagonist, paving the way for the third act and the resolution of that conflict.
To summarize your work in three acts, think like a screenwriter. Here’s how Pretty Woman boils down. In the setup, Vivian is on the streets and Edward is lost until she climbs into his car and provides direction. Act One ends when he contracts her services for the week. Act Two is about them falling in love, and the climactic moment occurs when they part ways because their "real world" lives are irreconcilable. This spins us into Act Three, in which Edward, convinced that he cannot live without Vivian now that he’s found her, must set about winning her once and for all.
Sound like an oversimplified process, this plan to work off a barebones outline? Just ask anyone who has had the experience of over-outlining a book only to find the actual writing of it lifeless and sapped of energy. (Raises hand—remember what I said about having to learn things for the greater wisdom of my clients!)
Do not slavishly write your story in chronological order
Instead, if a scene is speaking to you powerfully, write it down immediately. This should not be misinterpreted as a license to put a draft on paper that lacks substance or order. But a bestselling client of mine once confided that if she did not write a scene when it was really speaking to her, then when she finally did get to it, all its power would be sapped because she had already lived it in her head. Since that conversation, I have always tried to at least put bare bones on paper when a scene speaks that strongly to me.
Don't spend a lot of time on research at the beginning
If a writer bogs down in learning too much, analyzing too thoroughly, or outlining in too much detail, they're simply strengthening their greatest enemy: Resistance.
Write like the wind until you have your first draft on paper—messy, ugly, or otherwise
Only when you're finished with that should you go back and edit, layer, redraft, and question.
Become "stupid" again
Dropkick your rational mind off the field, and instead allow yourself to be stupid enough to write like a kid and rediscover the magic without questioning.
Confession time: when I delivered my final Gods of Midnight book to NAL in December 2010, I vowed I was done. No interest in writing again, ever—that’s how burnt out I was. Yes, all you writers out there, proceed directly to the mocking queue because we all know that for any real writer, pledges of creative abstinence are always broken. So, big surprise—wait for it—this summer a new idea, something fresh and just for me, started downloading into my brain. I pulled up DO THE WORK and shoved aside all the disciplined, smart work habits I’d maintained as a contracted writer. Nothing had to be pretty or polished, nor did it need to make sense in terms of the basic idea. And you know what? Writing on my iPhone and laptop, editing on my Kindle app in bed at night, I basically blinked and discovered I had committed some 70K words to paper without losing time from TKA, my family, my workout regimen, or anything else.
As is often the case with some of the deepest revelations we experience, great wisdom is found in incredibly simple principles: do this, don’t do that—and most important of all, DO THE WORK!



Question: What advice would you give to authors of adult fiction looking to expand into young adult?

DEIDRE KNIGHT: It's so important for a young adult author to truly have an ear for the teen voice. Often, I've had the experience of reading young adult submissions where the characters sound like adults. Now, I'll state here and now, as a mom of a teen and pre-teen, my ear is especially attuned to such awesome words as "cray-cray" (crazy), but what I’m actually referring to is less surface than mere slang. Be sure that in writing your teen characters, you think about their needs and motivations, and how those are unique to their age. Everything is monumentally intense to a teen, whether it be singing the scale for a new chorus teacher on the first day of high school, or falling in love with the boy you've known since age five. Remember that every experience is far fresher to your teen characters than it is for us as adults—because all of it is being lived for the very first time. Beyond that, surely watching some episodes of MTV’s Girl Code or flipping through Teen Vogue can only help with hearing that younger voice.

PAMELA HARTY: Several years ago when the young adult market really took off, I had a number of authors who wanted to give this hot new genre a try. The biggest mistakes I saw from some of these talented authors who were successfully writing for the adult market was their inability to realistically capture a young voice. On the surface it might look simple—just make your characters younger and put them in a high school, boarding school, cheer squad and give them a love interest, a conflict, etc. Throw in some current teen lingo and you would have a marketable book. But it's not quite that easy.  
So my advice is to remember that young adult readers are much more savvy than that and they expect more. It's a crowded shelf and the cream will rise. Work to not only tell a great story and shape wonderful characters, but—most important—to hone your voice and the tone of the book. As with the adult market, excellent writing is a must, and your book must have a realistic feel.

NEPHELE TEMPEST: Young adult is a very specific market, so I would advise any authors of adult fiction who are interested in YA to read, read, read. Check out what's selling in the young adult market, and what has been selling for the past few years. Read the big, popular authors but also the award winners who might have slightly quieter titles. See what's been done. Just because there are trends, that doesn't mean you can skate by writing more of what's been successful. You need to be fresh, put your own stamp on it. Beyond that, I say go for it. If you think you have a young adult voice down—if you can write teens who sound like teens and not just adults with teen-type problems—and if you love the genre, go ahead and give it your all.

MELISSA JEGLINSKI: I'd advise a writer of adult fiction to really do their research before trying to write for the young adult market. The tone, subject matter, just the overall "vibe" of the books are so different. And voice relatability is key. All too often I’ve seen young adult manuscripts with teenage protagonists acting as teens would have back when the writer was a teen, not as they would now. You can't just "write what you know," because what teens know now is so different. The young adult reader doesn't want to feel talked down to, or that the book is a lesson or lecture. They want to be entertained, so writing a relatable and entertaining story is super important. 

ELAINE SPENCER: READ, READ, READ (within the genre of course) to find out what is out there! What is being done in young adult fiction is changing at a rapid rate. Things that were taboo just a few years ago are now the norm, and if you haven’t been keeping an eye on the market, you might be shocked to discover that your ideas are far behind the times.

Generally speaking, moving to young adult can be a much more difficult transition for authors than they anticipate. To hit the right note in young adult fiction, you have to have a very specific novel—one that not only has a unique and contemporary concept and hook, but also is written in a voice that feels true to teenagers. When I say it has to be contemporary, that means it has to appeal to today's teen even if it's historical or futuristic. As an author you have to channel the thoughts of a sixteen-year-old, which often times turn out to be very different from what you might think they would be.

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