Interview with R.S. Belcher - Writing a Middle Grade Novel by Melissa Jeglinski
The Knight Agency Newsletter: Write. Read. Repeat.

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Top Announcements

» ROCK COURTSHIP by Nalini Singh and WHERE HAVE ALL THE COWBOYS GONE by Kate Pearce hit the USA Today bestseller list.

» Faith Hunter’s BROKEN SOUL is on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, while Gena Showalter's White Rabbit Chronicles rose to #9 on the New York Times series bestseller list.

Top Sales

» Aimie Runyan's ICE FLOWERS, to John Scognamiglio at Kensington, in a two-book deal by Melissa Jeglinski.
Stacy Finz's STARTING OVER, to John Scognamiglio at Lyrical Press, in three-book deal by Melissa Jeglinski.

In this issue

» Ask Deidre

» The Informer

» Agents of the Roundtable

» New Clients on the Block

» Sales Roundup

» Agency News

» Author Interview

» Author Tip of the Month

» New Releases

Ask Deidre

Every month, Deidre Knight picks a question submitted by Twitter and Facebook users. The reader who submits the winning question wins any two books of his or her choice from this page. To submit your question, simply post it on Twitter with the hashtag #AskDeidre.

And now for this month's winning question ...

What are the best and worst things about being an agent?

I’ve always said that the very best part of being an agent—that every day is different and work life is the furthest thing from monotonous—is also its downside. You can start a day, prepared to read submissions or edit a client’s work, but then a publisher folds unexpectedly. Well, that’s probably a bit drastic. Let’s say you start the day, excited to go into the office and visit with coworkers, review contracts, have a sales meeting…and then it turns out that a client did something somewhat crazy, thereby semi-sabotaging some part of their career. And did so without getting your input, as you could have averted the crisis that’s now in both your laps.

The downside of agenting, for me, really involves those unexpected crises that pop up unexpectedly. I’ve tried to get away with my family on vacation and been interrupted by a major problem more times than I can count. However, nothing is more exhilarating than sending a submission and waking up expecting a ho-hum work day, only to have that expectation “ruined” by a massive pre-empt that’s going to pay your author hundreds of thousands of dollars!


The other part of agenting—the very best—is making people’s dreams come true. Helping them become better in their craft, selling them to a bigger or better or first publisher. I love knowing I’m needed, and I especially love knowing that working with me has changed an author’s life. There’s no better reward, ever. I’m blessed to do what I love, and even in the changing publishing landscape these days, I find that I’m more necessary than ever before to a client’s career. I would say that anyone who doesn’t grasp the value of a good agent in this changing climate doesn’t actually understand what an agent should do on their behalf.

The Informer

Writing a Middle Grade Novel
by Melissa Jeglinski

I admit to not having read much middle grade fiction before becoming an agent; at least not after I entered my teens. But several years ago I received a terrific middle grade submission and rediscovered my love of fiction for this particular age group. Since then I’ve been actively seeking MG projects but have found it far more difficult than I had imagined to find that perfect work. Many manuscripts cross my path, but only a few have all the elements necessary for a well-crafted MG novel.
VOICE: In my opinion, this is the most essential component of a great middle grade project. The narrator’s voice, whether first or third-person, needs to be geared specifically to the audience.  Remember, you are writing for someone between nine and thirteen years of age. (Although teens and adults will read MG as well, the tween is the audience you need to always consider.) You are not writing for yourself, and elements that are important to you will not be important to them. The best voices make the reader feel as if the narrator is a young person like them. Dialogue should have a younger tone. References cannot be dated to periods before the main character was born. And always avoid talking down to the reader.
CHARACTERS: The age of your main character should be under fourteen. Any older and you're veering into young adult territory. Your main character needs to be well-balanced and relatable to your reader. Not someone who is so together that they have no faults. Not someone so full of faults they have no redeemable qualities. Even if your plot involves fantastical elements, your main character should always have relatable characteristics. You want someone the reader can pretend to be. And you want your protagonist to be surrounded by other characters who are kids. So I always recommend at least one other tween character for your main character to confide in. Avoid having just one kid in a world of adults. 
PLOT: Remember, middle grade is not a genre, it’s an age group. So within middle grade fiction you'll find every genre imaginable: fantasy, sci fi, adventure, mystery, horror, etc. But the plot needs to be geared toward that MG reader. So the world building for a fantasy may not be as intense, the mystery as gruesome, the horror as bloody, as one geared for the adult reader. Still, the plot must be engaging and focused on something that would interest the age group. Those interests do change so always be aware of what’s current in the market and what classics are still speaking to young readers.
ENDING: I admit I prefer a happy ending. But fiction doesn’t always lend itself to things wrapped up with a pretty bow. I do feel, however, that a middle grade novel should have a satisfying conclusion. There can be tragedy (BRIDGE TO TERABITHA, anyone?), but there should also be something uplifting so that the reader leaves the story feeling fulfilled. I admit to feeling let down when tons of bad things happen to a character and the story ends pretty much back where they started without any kind of payoff for all their troubles. Provide a satisfying reckoning.
My Middle Grade Recommended Reads:
CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E.B. White (Joy, sadness, but a satisfying ending. And a total classic.)
THREE TIMES LUCKY by Sheila Turnage (The voice of that main character is priceless—and funny.)
WONDER by R.J. Palacio (What an amazing plot!)
MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool (Historical, but relatable in voice and experience.)   
THE LIGHTNING THEIF by Rick Riordan (Adventure and relatable world building.)


Agents of the Roundtable

Question: Do you read widely outside of your list and do you feel it's important to do so?

PAMELA HARTY: I do try to read outside of my list as much as I can. After all, a love of reading is why we are all in this business anyway, right? I have been in a book club for years, which means I get to read at least one book a month that isn’t work-related. We tend to pick popular titles, and our most recent selection was Donna Tartt’s THE GOLDFINCH. Other books we have read and discussed this year are Liane Moriarty’s THE HUSBANDS SECRET, CUTTING FOR STONE by Abraham Verghese and WILD: FROM LOST TO FOUND ON THE PACIFIC TRAIL by Cheryl Strayed. So many books, not enough time!

LUCIENNE DIVER: I do think it’s important to read outside my list to keep up with what’s on the market. I wish I had more time to do so! Right now I’m in the midst of reading an intriguing submission, as well as Jamie Mason’s wonderful psychological suspense novel THREE GRAVES FULL. After that I really hope to get to Ann Leckie’s award-winning science fiction novel ANCILLARY JUSTICE, not only because it’s a book everyone’s talking about, but because it was given to me by an editor I’ll be seeing at an upcoming convention and I don’t want to admit that I’ve been too swamped to dig in!

NEPHELE TEMPEST: I was a reader long before I was an agent, and while I love being on the inside track and getting to read my clients’ projects long before they’re published, I get a very different sense of satisfaction from reading books that went through that process elsewhere and already have a cover when I get my hands on them. Part of my job includes “reading the market,” which basically means reading books by non-clients but within the genres I represent. It’s vital for keeping on top of what editors are looking for, and also to see what’s been overdone or what new things seem to be catching attention. But I also read beyond those work-related genres, purely for pleasure, because I love to read.

Some recent titles include: GIRL ON A WIRE by Gwenda Bond and ORLEANS by Sherri L. Smith, both young adult novels; THE GAME AND THE GOVERNESS by Kate Noble, which is a romance; AND ONLY TO DECEIVE by Tasha Alexander, which is historical mystery/romance; 2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS, which is a fabulous new mainstream novel; and EXCELLENT WOMEN by Barbara Pym, a humorous older work of women’s fiction. Currently I’m reading BAD FEMINIST by Roxane Gay, which is a collection of wonderful essays; and THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness, the first in his young adult Chaos Walking trilogy (because Halloween is coming!) I’ve also got David Mitchell’s THE BONE CLOCKS sitting on my coffee table, tempting me.

MELISSA JEGLINSKI: I do try and read beyond my client’s books. It’s not always easy finding the time, but whenever I have a chance, I’ll pick up some recent releases. I’ve just finished DOROTHY MUST DIE, a great twist on THE WIZARD OF OZ. Time permitting, I will look on my bookshelf to find those books I bought but just hadn’t had a chance to get to: I finally read THE MAZE RUNNER and loved it.  

New Clients on the Block

» Tibby Armstrong (also writes as Kate Hollister)

Website | Twitter

» David Noer


» Donald Cowper

Website  |  Twitter  | Facebook

For a complete list of Knight Agency clients, visit

Sales Roundup

» Stacy Finz's STARTING OVER, to John Scognamiglio at Lyrical Press, in a three-book deal by Melissa Jeglinski.

» French rights to Ella Frank's TAKE, TRY and VEILED INNOCENCE, as well as Ella's THE EXQUISITE series, to J'ai Lu, by Anne Lenclud at Lenclud Literary Agency on behalf of Elaine Spencer.

» Aimie Runyan's ICE FLOWERS, to John Scognamiglio at Kensington, in a two-book deal by Melissa Jeglinski.
» Turkish rights to Natasha Boyd's FOREVER JACK, to Yabanci, by Fusun Kayi at Kayi Literary Agency on behalf of Elaine Spencer.


Sales Roundup is a selective sampling of TKA's deals for the past month. For more info on our recent sales, visit
Agency News
» Nalini Singh's ROCK COURTSHIP hit the USA Today bestseller list.

» Gena Showalter's White Rabbit Chronicles rose to #9 on the New York Times series bestseller list. The trailer of the finale, THE QUEEN OF ZOMBIE HEARTS, was revealed in Romantic Times. ZOMBIE HEARTS was also in the Top 10 Teen Books for September from Indigo.
stupid girl
» WHERE HAVE ALL THE COWBOYS GONE by Kate Pearce hit the USA Today bestseller list.

» Cindy Miles went on a five-day blog tour, discussing her New Adult novel 
STUPID GIRL and answering questions from readers. Stops included Pieces of Whimsy, Bittersweet Enchantment, and Reader Girls.

» Knight Agency client Vicki Wilson wrote a touching article about vows in Huffington Post.

» Christi Barth's
UP TO ME is in production at Audible.

CASE OF POSSESSION and THINK OF ENGLAND by KJ Charles are both Rainbow Awards finalists, as is Z.A. Maxfield's HOME THE HARD WAY.

» BOTH OF ME by Jonathan Friesen received a great review from Kirkus.

» BOUND BY NATURE by Cooper Davis and Shirley Jump's Sweet and Savory series are now available in Audible.

» Deidre Knight’s Parallel series is being spotlighted as a
NOOK First title this month.

» THE CIPHER by Diana Pharaoh Francis will be a Science Fiction/Fantasy Kindle Daily Deal on Oct. 24th. 

» Meljean Brook, author of the upcoming
THE KRAKEN KING, wrote a Book Riot article about ladies who write steampunk. 

» Faith Hunter’s BROKEN SOUL is on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

» PRODIGAL SON by Debra Mullins won first place in the paranormal category of the Orange County Chapter/RWA Book Buyers' Best Contest.

Interview with R.S. Belcher

R.S. (Rod) Belcher has been a private investigator, a DJ, and a comic book and game store owner. He has degrees in criminal law, psychology and justice, and risk administration from Virginia Commonwealth University.

His short story "Orphans" appeared in STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS 9 published by Simon and Schuster in 2006. THE
SIX-GUN TAROT was published by Tor Books in 2013, and the follow-up, THE SHOTGUN ARCANA, was released this month. His urban fantasy-noir novel, NIGHTWISE, is scheduled for release in the summer of 2015.

Rod lives in Roanoke, Virginia, with his three children, three cats, and two dogs.
TKA: THE SHOTGUN ARCANA and its predecessor, THE SIX-GUN TAROT, mix dark fantasy, steampunk, and the Wild West. What made you decide to write this particular type of story? Are these things you’ve always been interested in?
RSB: I tend to write stories full of stuff that fascinates me. I didn't start out to write a genre book, truth be told, I wanted to deconstruct as many sacred cows of the western as I could, and have a lot of fun in the process. I really try to make that part of my goal when I write—make it fun and cool. 
I was pretty sure I was writing a very niche story, and often joked about who the hell would buy this conglomeration. I was very fortunate and thankful to Stacey Hill at Tor Books for taking a look at the initial MS for me, and seeing something she liked and talking to Greg Cox, who is an incredible and very kind and supportive editor. I am in their debt for seeing something in this weird western [THE SIX-GUN TOROT] that they felt strongly enough about to take a chance on me.
TKA: Tell us about your road to publication and how you met your agent, Lucienne Diver.
RSB: I met Stacey Hill at DragonCon and pitched my novel to her after a panel. She said Tor was looking for westerns, and gave me her card. I sent her the first 50 pages and a summary, and waited and tried not to obsess about my poor little story's fate. I failed at that. 
After about eight months, Stacy emailed me to say she liked what she had read, and some other folks at Tor had liked the pages too. She was trying to find an in-house editor to give my MS a once-over, and would be in contact soon. Not too long after that, Stacey told me that Greg Cox, a very prolific and talented author, and an editor with Tor
who had handled writers like Richard Matherson (!!!)was willing to read my MS. 
About two weeks later, Greg contacted me, said some really nice things about my novel, and told me Tor wanted to buy it! It was very surreal. It still feels kind of like a dream I'm going to wake up from. It was amazing—one of the best days of my life! 
Prior to SIX-GUN TAROT being released I was looking for representation, and a very dear and talented friend of mine, Barbara Friend Ish, the publisher of Mercury Retrograde Press, suggested I contact Lucienne Diver with the Knight Agency. Lucienne has a fantastic reputation as both an author and an agent, and that reputation is justly deserved. I've never met anyone in publishing who has anything but good things to say about Lucienne. I sent along a query letter and we began to talk by email and by phone. At this point I was finishing up a new novel, called NIGHTWISE, and I sent some of the MS along for her to read. We talked about what I wanted out of my career in writing and what was important to me in my life, namely my family. The talks we had made it clear that Lucienne was the kind of agent I wanted, and that her priorities were in line with mine. Family means a lot to her, and I've seen first-hand how much family means to the wonderful people at the Knight Agency. I signed with Lucienne, and within 24 hours, she had sold NIGHTWISE to Tor, as well as the sequel to SIX-GUN TAROT—THE SHOTGUN ARCANA.
TKA: Research is an important part of world-building, not to mention essential in writing about the Wild West. Do you enjoy this aspect of writing, and what kind of research went into SIX-GUN TAROT and SHOTGUN ARCANA? 
RSB: I LOVE research. I've researched the weird and the obscure pretty much my whole life. Writing just gives me an excuse to do what I do anyway. For Six-Gun Tarot and Shotgun Arcana, I read a lot of histories of the U.S. Frontier. I watched a lot of westerns—a LOT of westerns, and had a blast doing it. Read up on Mormon beliefs, Chinese mythology, some finer points of Gnosticism, Lilith lore and early electrical experimentation.
For Shotgun, it was early American serial killers...the Cain and Abel mythology from many different cultures, a bit on the first Ghostdance movement and its founder, background on Pony Express riders and Pinkerton detectives, and quite a bit of Ripperology [the study of Jack the Ripper]. Like I said, I love digging into high weirdness. 
TKA: For aspiring fantasy and steampunk authors facing an increasingly difficult road to traditional publication, what advice could you offer?
RSB: Never give up. Never. If you want to write, then write. Never let anyone stop you from doing that.  If you have crazy screaming stories in you, then let them out—that joy can come if you are published or not!
If you want to write and be published, then you have to be like a prize fighter: expect to lose sometimes, to fall down and then have to drag your ass back up. Rejection and criticism are part of the job, and this is a job, a profession—you need to approach it like a profession. Take the punches, listen to your coaches and trust them, and keep on going. Never give up, and never let someone drag you down. Write, tell your stories. It's one of the most empowering things you can ever do.
TKA: Will there be a third novel in the Six-Gun Tarot series? What are you currently working on?
RSB: God, I hope so, Ha-ha-ha-ha! Right now I'm doing editing on my noir fantasy, NIGHTWISE, that is out in 2015. I'm also writing the first book in a new urban fantasy series, called the Brotherhood of the Wheel, due out in 2016. Both have been purchased by Tor (Thanks to Lucienne!).
I would very much like to write a third Golgotha novel in 2015. I have a working plot already hashed out in my skull, and I have wanted to do a Maude Stapleton spin-off novel for a while as well. I have a very trippy space-opera I'm tinkering with too. I could keep writing Golgotha stores for a long time, as long as folks want to keep reading them.


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Author Tip of the Month

Lauren Jameson is the author of LINGER, a blistering hot novel about baring it all.

What's my advice for aspiring authors? Without a doubt... finish the book. You can't publish it if it's not finished. You can polish that first chapter, rewrite until you're blue in the face, get contest wins, agent and editor requests, have your critique partner tell you it's the best thing you've ever written... but no reader in the world is going to buy just one chapter of a book. Or even the first few chapters, or the first half of a book. You've got to get it done. And that first draft doesn't have to be perfectjust get it out. Make time to write every day, even if it's just a few paragraphs. You can spend time editing and polishing later... once you've written the book.

For more information about Lauren and 
LINGER, be sure to visit

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