Interview with Light Blade author Kylie Griffin, TKA agents demystify the editorial letter, and Melissa Jeglinski tells aspiring authors how to get it right the first time when submitting a partial or full manuscript. 
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The Knight Post: Interview with Kylie Griffin
Author Tip of the Month: Cecil Murphey
Getting It Right the First Time by Melissa Jeglinski
Agents of the Round Table: How to Approach Receiving Your First Editorial Letter

  • Faith Hunter's BLOOD TRADE hit #32 on the New York Times extended list
  • Nalini Singh's ARCHANGEL’S STORM debuted on  Der Spiegel's bestseller list at #7 in Germany
  • Five Knight Agency authors received Reviewer’s Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews


Alliance Forged by Kylie GriffinLike many writers, Kylie Griffin spent her formative years absorbed in the imaginary worlds of her favorite authors, including Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, and J.R.R. Tolkein. As an adult she realized her childhood dreams with the release of the first book in the award-winning Light Blade series, VENGEANCE BORN, which she followed with ALLIANCE FORGED and ALLEGIANCE SWORN. Now the busy Australian-born author shares the details of her writing journey and the secrets behind her success, and agent Elaine Spencer talks about what first drew her to Kylie's work.

TKA: Not only are you an author and a school teacher, but you're also a volunteer firefighter. What drove you to put your life in so much danger, and is there any aspect of firefighting that has been useful in your writing career?

KYLIE: I never really thought of helping out as a firefighter as dangerous. Logically, I know it is, but it’s more that I see it as a way to help out my local community. I live in an isolated rural community in New South Wales, and with only 203 people in the village, paid emergency services like the fire brigade, ambulance, and police are 50 miles away.
Volunteering is part of our Aussie culture; it’s a part of life out here in the bush. Necessity dictates it. But I also do it because I enjoy the challenge of learning new skills, and it’s so different to teaching. I suppose aspects of firefighting have crept into my writing. A lot of my training has been in advanced first aid and medical training, so I do a lot of study based around injuries, trauma, medical conditions, and forming diagnoses based around signs and symptoms. It’s a bit gruesome, but describing injuries and scenes that involved trauma, fire, or natural disasters, and so on, are easier to write about because of those real life experiences.
Allegiance Sworn
TKA: You're represented by Elaine Spencer. How did this come about, and what do you like most about working with her?

KYLIE: Every time someone asks me this question I get the biggest grin on my face. TKA was my dream agency in my pre-pubbed days. I really liked the agency model and they represented a number of authors I enjoyed reading.
During 2010, I submitted to two other agents at TKA, but both passed on my work. What I didn’t know was that Elaine had also taken a look at it and was interested, but she was getting married in a couple of weeks so the timing wasn’t right. Later that year my manuscript Bloodborn (now published as VENGEANCE BORN) won the West Houston RWA's Emily contest and an RWA Golden Heart. The manuscript ended up in front of my editor Leis Pederson, who then made an offer to contract it. So, I queried TKA again.
Elaine remembered my manuscript, contacted me, and offered to represent me. I received seven other offers of representation from agents during that process, but because Elaine had prior history (and interest and enthusiasm) with my manuscript and our phone conversation went extremely well, I ended up accepting her offer.
What I really like about working with Elaine—and this came through in our initial phone conversation as well as all our emails to date—is her knowledge and passion for her job (and my work). I also very much appreciate and respect that she communicates openly and honestly, whether it’s about my work, a decision that has to be made, or giving me news. And this applies even when she’s telling me things I might not want to hear. She’s educating and informing me at the same time and I like that, a lot.

TKA: What first drew you to paranormal fantasy? What advice would you give to a writer just starting out in the genre?

KYLIE: I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t interested in all things paranormal. As a kid I loved anything to do with this genre, including fantasy. I grew up reading books by Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Mercedes Lackey, and watching TV shows/movies like Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and Dr.Who
With paranormal fantasy I LOVE the world-building and the pure escapism value of delving into worlds that are drawn straight from the imagination. As a young writer I’d spend hours pouring over the maps in fantasy novels—the world of [Anne McCaffrey’s] Pern fascinated me. So whenever I wrote my stories, I’d have to create my own maps, glossary, character lists, family trees, almanacs of creatures and so on, and I guess I never lost that obsession as an adult. For anyone starting out in the genre—read, read, read! Inhale and devour as many authors and their books as you can. Analyze and dissect how they were written; learn by example. And join a supportive writing organization (like RWA) so you can learn more about the craft of writing and the publishing industry.

TKA: Have you ever suffered from writer's block? If so, how did you overcome it?

KYLIE: I have had the plot stall on me more than once, and the trick to kick-starting it again is just a matter of identifying the right trigger. When it happens I go back and look at the scene or chapter and ask myself, am I writing in the right character’s point of view? Am I trying to get a character to do something they would never do or aren’t ready to do? Or am I revealing something too soon? Usually it’s one of these things stopping me from writing the rest of the scene. If none of the above applies, then I give myself permission to write rubbish until it all starts working again. I can always, always, always, edit rubbish and make it better.

TKA: Do you plan on continuing to write paranormal fantasies in the long term, or are there any other genres you would like to explore?

KYLIE:  I love paranormal fantasies, so I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing them. In the Light Blade series, while only three have been published to date, there are at least another four characters who are demanding that their stories be told! And I have no doubt more secondary characters will appear as I continue writing this series. I do have plans to write in a variety of paranormal genres. Mixing it up and changing to other sub-genres keeps me fresh as an author. I get the best of all worlds doing it that way!
I have two science fiction romance series planned, with the first in each completed and ready to go. I’ve finished one post-apocalyptic romance (but it needs some serious layering and editing), and I have the premise for another kicking around in my subconscious at the moment.

Elaine Spencer weighs in on what made Kylie's Light Blade series catch her eye….

ELAINE: When you look up “high-concept” in the dictionary of agent slang, Kylie’s opening pages should be what you find. I remember being completely swept away by her submission long before she was a client. She engineered a brilliant setup where the reader was immediately thrown into a high-stakes situation, and the result was that you immediately began to root for certain characters without even knowing exactly what they were. I knew there was no turning back right from the start. Kylie has a way with dialogue and world-building that is just super-special and unique and she has this ability to make you completely lose yourself within it. Hers is the kind of magic we’re always looking for, and her ability to continue to deliver book after book really makes her a standout in my eyes.

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Learn more about Kylie on her official site


  • Alice Clayton's previously published contemporary romance ebook WALLBANGER, a Wall Street Journal bestseller reported to have sold over 150,000 copies via Omnific, and THE UNIDENTIFIED REDHEAD and THE REDHEAD REVEALED, the first two installments in a three-book erotic romance series, all for immediate republication as ebooks with print editions to follow in 2013, and THE REDHEAD PLAYS HER HAND, for publication in fall 2013, to Micki Nuding at Gallery in a major deal, by Pamela Harty.
  • Norwegian rights to Kate Dawes's Fade Trilogy, to Improba/Juritzen through Philip Sane at the Lennart Sane Agency, by Elaine Spencer.
  • Kristen Painter's House of the Rising Sun, a new series about a reluctant fae who takes on the job of Guardian in New Orleans, a Haven city for othernatural kind, to Devi Pillai at Orbit in a very nice three-book deal, by Elaine Spencer.
  • Shirlee McCoy's H.E.A.R.T. (Hostage Extraction and Rescue Team) series to Melissa Endlich at Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense, in a very nice eight-book deal, by Melissa Jeglinski.
  • Marilyn Pappano's RETURN TO COPPER LAKE, in which a man with a dark past goes back to his hometown and falls for the local goody-two-shoes, to Patience Bloom at Harlequin Romantic Suspense in a two-book deal, by Melissa Jeglinski.
  • Deborah Blake's THE BABA YAGA, a modern retelling of a traditional fairy tale about a powerful witch who lives in an airstream trailer and rides a classic BMW motorcycle, rescues children rather than eating them, and finds her happily ever after with a handsome sheriff determined to find the missing children and save his damaged reputation, to Leis Pederson at Berkley in a two-book deal, by Elaine Spencer.
Sales Roundup is a selective sampling of TKA's deals for the past month. For more info on our recent sales, visit


*Released before she joined TKA.  **Sold by TKA while Doyle was a client.


WRITER TO WRITER by Cecil MurpheyCecil Murphey is the New York Times bestselling author of WRITER TO WRITER, an "in the trenches" companion for both beginning and seasoned writers.

Cecil's Tip: "I grew tired of seeing 'I' all through the book," one of my friends said about a ghostwritten autobiography. (I'm thankful it wasn't one I'd written.) I've heard that complaint many times. I recently figured it out—because I got caught. "I" stands out because the writer began almost every sentence the same way.

Here's the rule: Vary your syntax. Too often, we write subject-predicate in sentence after sentence.

Imagine my embarrassment when my assistant, Twila Belk, pointed out that in a draft of my book I BELIEVE IN HEALING, I had written 12 sentences in a row with the same structure of noun-verb. Not only was I embarrassed, it reminded me of the importance of varying the syntax.

If you read my first paragraph again, you'll realize that all five sentences followed the same pattern. The next two paragraphs modified the style.


Getting It Right the First Time by Melissa Jeglinski 

Melissa JeglinskiLet me preface this article with the guarantee that I do not sit at my desk and come up with lists on why I should say no to projects. You believe me, right? I really do want to find that next great thing and sign you on as a client. But many times I have been super excited by a query only to find that the partial or manuscript I’ve requested doesn’t quite hit the mark. And I can’t tell you how much of a letdown that is. Often a writer is so fixated on making it beyond the “gatekeeper” that they focus all their effort on making the query beyond reproach. As a result, the manuscript misses out on some much needed attention. 
So just what constitutes an automatic “no” for me?    
Unbalanced storytelling: Either too much narrative or too much dialogue. If a story is only narrative and character introspection, it will often feel like we’re being told a story rather than being in the moment. And if the manuscript is filled with mostly dialogue, it can feel as if I’m reading a script. Striking that perfect balance between getting people conversing and letting us know how they are feeling and reacting—beyond words—makes for a more complete picture.
Slow Pacing: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt that a book should begin three chapters later than the author has actually started the story. Throwing every backstory and detail into the front of the book so you can set the stage usually only bogs down the pace to the point where we are just waiting for the real story to begin. When a book starts out slowly, I am not compelled to keep reading. There may be some really great conflicts about to happen, but I can’t be kept waiting.
Unbelievable Characters: By no means do I have to like every main character. But I have to understand their motives. The whiny heroine who is only cranky because the writer wants her to be a mess so she can later transform? Well, if there’s no reason for her to be sullen to begin with, why would I care that she grows to become a nice person? I don’t understand her need for change and thus I have no stake in her character’s journey.  The alpha male who is just mean to be mean?  Yeah, I love a strong hero, but his take-charge attitude has to be caused by something—not simply because the story needs him to be a bully.  Remember, you may know why your characters act the way they do, but does the reader?  Too often you haven’t let the reader in on the secret. 
Lack of True Conflict: I have seen my fair share of really great writing where there’s not much of a story to go with it. And those are some of the saddest passes I have to make. If there isn’t a strong conflict behind the great characters and dialogue you’ve created, what’s going to keep me reading? I may love your way with words, but if they aren’t taking me on a compelling journey it’s going to be a “no thanks”.
Of course there are many other reasons we pass on projects. Sometimes it’s just not a storyline we love, or we don’t feel the idea is new, or there is a clown as your main character and I’m freaking terrified of clowns.  And those are things you can’t really do anything about—except, I know, suggest I talk to someone about my coulrophobia. But if you do present me with a project that ticks all of the boxes, there’s a great chance I’ll want to read on.


Question: What advice do you give to debut authors who are nervous about receiving their first editorial letter?

DEIDRE KNIGHT: Preparing to receive editorial notes from your first editor can be like waiting to be slugged hard in the face. Not really, of course, but you can envision that entire bracing of the body, the self-protection instincts that kick into gear.  So I advise authors to remember that in actuality they’re waiting to find out not just what areas to strengthen, but also the special parts of their work that the editor particularly appreciated. Because an editorial letter isn’t just a study in pointing out your work’s flaws, it is really an opportunity to see your work from a new angle—the good and the bad parts.  I’ll never forget that when I was given my first NAL editorial letter by TKA’s own Louisa Edwards, she praised elements of my work that she loved, but then I can vividly recall her asking, “Now do you want to know what your quirks are?” Among them, she let me know that I could “actually use some adverbs.”  As a graduate of Stephen King’s book, ON WRITING, I’d gone through a phase where I’d removed any and all adverb use (almost!).  Louisa noticed and reminded me that sometimes—especially in romance writing—a well-placed adverb was just what readers wanted.  But my best advice? As soon as you receive that letter, take a walk and process the notes. Then sleep on them without touching your book, allowing the comments to slowly come into perspective.  In the initial moments, the notes will undoubtedly feel overwhelming, but with a good night’s rest and time to think, they will energize you into action and toward making the work the best it can be.

MELISSA JEGLINSKI: I let my clients know they can expect to get a great education out of their first revision letter and true insight into how their new editor works. They will gain a brand new set of eyes, which should really help them see things they hadn’t before. I also warn that it may be a bit unsettling; an editor may ask for more revisions than the author was expecting. But the editor will certainly be up for hearing the author’s feedback, concerns, and questions. Nothing is set in stone. Every request is there to make the book better.

NEPHELE TEMPEST: First-time authors should keep in mind that their editor's goal is to help them write the best book possible. Editorial letters will range widely from minor tweaks to suggestions for major rewrites, but ultimately, all final decisions rest with the author. A writer should take the time to talk through the editor's suggestions. Sometimes an author will agree with the editor's assessment that a section of the story needs work, but not with their suggested fix; or they may feel strongly that a plot point needs to remain as written. Discussing any issues will help keep communications open and ultimately benefit the finished product.

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