Michael Lunsford recently took part in our #WriteMentor programme and has now gone onto sign with a literary agent for his story, DEREK HYDE KNOWS SPOOKY WHEN HE SEES IT. Congratulations on your recent signing, Michael! Everyone at #WriteMentor is delighted for you!
Michael, what about Carolyn and Emma’s bios convinced you to sub to them?
That’s easy! Carolyn wrote, “I love chillers and thrillers and pacey nail-biting stuff. Horror is my main love, and mixing that with comedy my ultimate wish. If you’ve written something weird I am definitely interested.” Emma wrote, “I would really love to see some chapter books or Middle Grade in all of genres, but especially Humour, Fantasy or Thriller.” Sounded like a perfect fit!
Emma, what made you fall in love with DEREK HYDE KNOWS SPOOKY WHEN HE SEES IT?
I loved the pitch and the character names. It hooked me straight in and made me really want to know what was going to happen to the main character. The whole concept had the sort of quirky humour and concept that really appeals to me.
Carolyn, what made you fall in love with DEREK HYDE KNOWS SPOOKY WHEN HE SEES IT?
There aren’t many MG stories that grab me like that one did. It was clever and weird, and made me laugh. I had already picked two other mentees, but then Emma suggested working on it together and how could I refuse?
Michael, looking back, what was your favorite part of the #WriteMentor experience?
The edits I received from both Carolyn and Emma were great! And they were enormously supportive through the whole process. Even after all the editing and revision, they were so encouraging and wise in their suggestions about my querying process. I don’t think I’d be agented if it weren’t for them.
Emma, tell us what it was like working with Michael.
I loved Michael’s enthusiasm and commitment. He is a fast worker and soon got each set of edits done. We were able to brainstorm ideas and see which Michael felt would work best for his story.
Carolyn, tell us what it was like working with Michael.
Michael was super-committed and thrilled with the suggestions, he was great to work with.
Michael, what was the most surprising part of the #WriteMentor experience?
I was most surprised, and hugely gratified, that both Carolyn and Emma really “got” me. My humor is definitely quirky and weird, and rather more British than American, I’ve always thought. They both agreed!
Michael, the revision process is only three months and can be intense. Tell us about your revisions and how you dealt with constructive criticism from Carolyn and Emma. What advice do you have for future mentees?
Amazingly, I agreed with and made changes based on almost all of the suggested edits. I did receive one suggestion that I agonized over, and finally rejected—albeit very apologetically. The response was, “Hey, it’s your call! Edits are suggestions only, no need to feel badly.” So that’s my advice to future mentees.
Michael, after #WriteMentor, you signed with Patty Carothers of Metamorphosis. Give us all the details of “The Call.”
Patty Carothers of Metamorphosis Literary wrote in her email, “I’d love to get you on the phone and discuss the possibility of you being rep’d by Metamorphosis.” So I felt pretty confident going into “The Call.” I was delighted, though, when she told me her 8-year-old son (who hates to read) read the whole book to her out loud in 3 evenings—and they both loved it. That enthusiasm convinced me more than anything else that she was the right agent for me.
What does your writing process look like?
Michael – I started as a pantser, but after my first book I realized that this was not the most efficient way to write. Now I try to outline first—though I have to admit, it’s tough!
Emma – I also started as a pantser, but over the years I’ve evolved into a plotser. I’m not quite a full on plotter, but I do like to do a pitch, blurb, synopsis and chapter by chapter notes before starting any project now.
Carolyn – I start with the barest skeleton, but usually pants a few chapters and then plot from there once I’ve got the voice.
What fictional character would you like to spend a day with?
Michael – Captain John Yossarian, from the novel CATCH-22. It would be great to hang out with his offbeat and courageously irreverent view of the world for a day.
Emma – The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, because we’d always have plenty of tea, cakes and fancy hats!
Carolyn – Cassandra Mortmain from I Capture The Castle. She could show me round the place and then we could light a bonfire and dance!
What author has most inspired you, and why?
Michael – I discovered William Faulkner when I was in my 20s, and read every novel he wrote. His voice, characters and themes were always impressive and inspirational to me.
Emma – So many have influenced and inspired me, but I would say that Neil Gaiman is the one who inspires me the most. I love his variety of styles and genres, and his offbeat approach to any story. There are many YouTube videos of him giving writing advice, well worth a watch!
Carolyn – I’m inspired in different ways by different authors – from Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, Stephen King’s horrific imagination, Michael Crichton’s science thrillers… I’m fascinated by anyone who can write prose that grips me with that magic feeling that makes me never want to stop reading. I’ve recently been impressed by The Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison and Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff; also any Enid Blyton which I can read endlessly even now.
What is your favorite book (or series). Why?
Michael – The Nobel-prize-winning 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE, by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s epic, rich with vivid prose, and un-put-downable. I would love to write a magical realism book myself some day.
Emma – I have so many favourites! But if pushed I suppose anything by Matt Haig or Neil Gaiman, especially Neverwhere by Gaiman. With Gaiman, I love how he can transport you from the seemingly real to somewhere totally surreal.
Carolyn – Do enjoy a good series, Robin Stevens’ Murder Most Unladylike books are fab… but Malory Towers, I mean come on. Classics. Also at this late stage I’m reading the last two Harry Potters for the first time and I’ve been gripped.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Michael – I wish I knew! I’ve always been creative and full of ideas, but never understood where it all came from. I can say this: My best, most surprising inspirations come while I’m writing. And when I’m in the shower. So to get more inspiration, I need to write more. And take more showers.
Emma – It comes from literally everywhere. It’s the shadows across the path made by the trees in the early morning light. The advert with a catchy tune that gets stuck in my head. Snippets of overheard conversation. Books, television, a biscuit, anything. And I always seem to get the answer to a plot twist or my best ideas when I’m washing my hair!
Carolyn – I just let it flow. Just get writing and don’t think too hard about it. I like catchphrases and slogan competitions, I flirt with poetry and write a lot of flash fiction. Playing around with words is fun and leads to connections which develop stories.
Michael Lunsford lives with his lovely wife in the San Francisco Bay Area. A graduate of the U. of Maryland with a BA in English Lit, he’s the author of 14 tech books published by Bantam, Simon & Schuster and other top publishers. His latest manuscript, DEREK HYDE KNOWS SPOOKY WHEN HE SEES IT, marks his second try as a Middle Grade novelist. He’s now represented by Patty Carothers at Metamorphosis Literary. He’s also a poet, playwright, musician, composer, inventor, entrepreneur and chief cook & bottle washer.
Carolyn Ward lives in the West Midlands and is working on her debut children’s novel. She enjoys writing flash fiction and her shorts are featured in places as diverse as a writers’ café in Wolverhampton, the Express and Star newspaper, and anthologies including Original Writing’s Second Chance, the NAWG Narrathon project: The Wishing Star and the Birmingham (Alabama) Arts Journal. Her horror-themed flash is featured on several websites including Twisted Sister Literary Magazine, Horror Scribes and Sick Lit Magazine. She’s won writing competitions run by Senior Travel Expert, 99 Words, and Movellas. Her work will soon be published on a foreign language app by Alsina Publishing. For more, follow @Viking_Ma on Twitter.
I’ve been writing for donkey’s years, with my first item published on CeeFax at the age of 8. Over the years I’ve had poems, flash fiction and short stories published in a variety of magazines, anthologies and online. I mainly write MG Fantasy, but have written YA contemporary, upper MG thriller, and comedy. I am agented by Laura West of the David Higham agency and have a lot of experience editing and mentoring via Wonder Writers. I also had the best part of a year mentoring from Tamsyn Murray. I’m a member of SCBWI and belong to numerous writing groups as I love the company and support network offered by other writers. I’m open to most ideas in a manuscript, though I have a particular fondness for Fantasy, Humour, Horror and Thriller.
Carolyn and Emma – We’ve worked together many times over the years, including setting up a local writing group and winning a co-authoring competition on Movellas for a modern fairytale. We’ve been featured in our local paper for organising an evening with Skylark Literary when they visited our local area.
Our latest project is @WitchesWord on Twitter – launching soon.