Thursday, June 26, 2014

Beyond Creativity: The Importance of Research

Good day, bloggers! Shocked to see me? Believe me, you're not the only one who's surprised; I fully intended on leaving you in agonized suspense for another half-year or so, but seeing as I'm here for the second time in one month I thought I'd talk about a topic that is often left out of the writing discussion: research.

This is not what most people want to think about when they ponder being an author. Everyone tends to focus on the romantic elements, the magical spark of imagination lighting up the page, but the research is important in making sure that spark can shine. In short, it behooves you to know what you're talking about. Unless you're someone like Madeleine L'Engle, whose written universe is pulled purely from your own head, your story will not exist in a vacuum. It's part of the world around it, and ensuring that that world is depicted accurately will lend your manuscript a layer of authenticity that makes everything else in it seem more believable.

Take me.

I am, as you know, a writer in my own right, and have recently embarked upon a project of my own after editing projects for so many others. I won't go into too much detail lest I indulge in shameless self-promotion, but suffice to say that this story involves an old mansion, a dwarf orgy, more slavery than I am comfortable with, and the great state of Pennsylvania.

(I know I joke quite a bit, but the above is all sadly very true.)

And I am researching all of those things. I will hopefully not be participating in all of them--the slave trade and the dwarf sexcapades in particular aren't my cup of tea--but I will read about them thoroughly. I will interview knowledgeable sources. Where applicable, I will visit historical sites. And the information therein accumulated will form the narrative backdrop of a book that, I can assure you, will be nothing short of brilliant. I've allowed JK the top spot for several years now out of courtesy, but I'm 26. It's my time to shine.

When your time to shine comes, do it right: if you're writing about a 32-year-old dental hygienist who finds Mr. Right, take the time to actually speak to a dental hygienist. Ask if you can shadow her at work. Maybe sign up for an OKCupid account so you can experience first hand the impotent frustration of online dating.

Historical novel? Head to Gettysburg, or London, or Normandy, or wherever it is the thing takes place. And if you absolutely can't, then speak to a curator, historian, or some other figure who can give you the facts and perspective you need.

Hell, last weekend I found myself swigging brandy while singing a song about drag-dressing gods to the tune of Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville," all in the name of literature. (This actually happened)

In the end, it's worth it, and your projects and mine will have the dimension they need. So tell me: what do you do for research? What goes in to making your novel great?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It Was Bound to Happen--How I Broke My Cardinal Rule

Good day, literati, and welcome to powerhouse literary agent Ethan Vaughan's bi-annual blog post. Please hold your applause.

(On a side note, isn't it just deliciously shameless how I pretend as if I actually maintain a blog?)

It's been a solid four months since I last posted anything at all, so it made sense that the first thing I'd do is fatally undermine my credibility to the few of you who might still be hanging on. What is it I've done? Involvement in a drug cartel? The advancement of a Ponzi scheme? Piracy off the Somalian coast?

Yes to all of those things, but that's not why I've suddenly lost all legitimacy. You see, in between running my drug-money-funded Ponzi operation from a ship in the Indian Ocean (see how I brought all that together?) I managed to do the one thing I promised you I would never do.

I mixed work and pleasure. Or rather, work and work. Pleasure and pleasure...? Look, I signed one of my editing clients to a contract for representation.

I know, I like, swore.

Remember what I said? There are agenting clients and there are editing client, and ne'er the two shall meet.

But then there was this one story that was super good and, like a hipster in a health foods store, I couldn't help myself. But there's an inherent conflict here: editing clients pay me money, yet agenting clients, by the rigorous ethical standards of our industry, cannot be charged money. How to bridge that gap?

You guessed it.

Long story short, this manuscript had better do well, because once it sells I am out the chunk of change that I'm refunding to the author so as to make our transaction squeaky clean. You read that right, I'm actually paying someone for the privilege of representing their manuscript. Oh, publishing.

But you guys, this book is awesome.

Remember how I went on and on about loving Percy Jackson so much? Well imagine Percy Jackson with a badass female lead, a whole lot of dark humor (the phrase "try not to dwell on it" crops up a lot), and, oh yeah, NORSE GODS. Such is the awesomeness that is Wish Maiden by Katy Kerrey, who will have a website up as soon as I lay myself prostrate at her feet and beg her to do it.

Check out the query below!

"When 17-year-old Rafe winds up on the wrong end of a pistol during a bank robbery, he’s convinced he’s a goner. That’s until she shows up; the mysterious, beautiful girl named Kara who saves his life and gets stuck in his head. There’s just one catch: that beautiful girl is no girl at all, but a 1,000-year-old Valkyrie, a powerful being from Norse mythology who does the bidding of the gods. Who, by the way, are all real. Who knew?

"Now Rafe and Kara are caught in a forbidden infatuation between mortal and immortal, not to mention a race against time as an unseen power tries to use their love to bring about Ragnarok—otherwise known as the Apocalypse. Puppy love has never been so dangerous.

"Wish Maiden is a 79,000-word YA fiction from Katy Kerrey, a technical writer who earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is represented by Ethan Vaughan of Kimberley Cameron & Associates."    

You're jealous of my job right now. That's okay; it's an amazing job. But Katy Kerrey pretty much made my life when she asked me to edit this book, and after I realized what a gem it was I just couldn't let it go. What's even better is that it's a part of a series that, I promise you, gets pretty damn heavy. Do you know what's supposed to happen during Ragnarok? A wolf eats the sun. And that's not even the worst of it, so our buddies Rafe and Kara had better come through in a big way. 

I suppose that's enough bragging for one night. Katy will have her site up soon, and when she does I will be sure to link you all to it. Until then, keep writing and watch out for the frost giants!