Precy Larkins is a mother by day, a dreamer by night, and a writer in between. She grew up in the Philippines, a country steeped in superstitions and rumors of enchanted beings roaming the woods. She now lives in Utah, where she occasionally hunts for fairies, with her husband and three kids. When she’s not teaching her preschooler how to tie his shoelaces, she writes stories that transport her to unexplored places. Precy maintains a blog and a Twitter account, where her friends know her affectionately by her nickname, Cherie. Her Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy novel, HIDDEN, is a story of a girl battling demons in her head only to find out they are real. With dark magick and soul-suckers on the loose, and a boy who can’t be trusted, she must use her visions to survive the world hidden beyond her own.
J.A.: How long have you been writing? What are your favorite genres to write?
P.L.: The first time I penned a book-length novel was four years ago. I’ve been writing on and off since—short stories, unfinished mss, and my current ms that got me my agent. I usually stay within the speculative fiction genre, specifically fantasy and paranormal. Oh, and I write YA and MG. I’m too much of a kid at heart to indulge in Adult Fiction all the time.
J.A.: What are your favorite genres to read? Which books have had the greatest impact on you?
P.L. While I do read books that are in the genre I write, I have a more diverse taste when it comes to reading. A memoir that won’t let me put the book down? Bring it on! Nonfiction science books with quirky humor? Yes, please! I also love to read horror and thrillers.
I can’t say there was ONE specific book that had the greatest impact on me as a person, or me as a writer. I’ve always loved reading, and it’s really a culmination of my reading experiences—the emotions I felt, the stories I cherished, and the truths I discovered through books all affected me in many ways.
J.A.: Aside from writing, what do you love to do?
P.L.: I love to draw. And play games with my family (board games, card games, even video games.)
J.A.: What can you tell us about your new agent and the process of signing on with her?
P.L.: My lovely and fabulous agent is Ms. Julia A. Weber of J. A. Weber Literaturagentur GmbH. She’s based in Germany and the UK, but she takes clients from the US as well. I absolutely adore her. Because she lives in a different continent, we’ve subsisted on an email correspondence. Oh, and Twitter, too. It took her 4 days to offer me rep—yes, she was THAT fast! The day I sent her my query, she asked for a partial within two hours. The next day, she emailed me asking for the full. Three days later, my heart stopped when I saw her email that started with: It is my pleasure to tell you…
After much squeeing and running around, muttering, “What do I do? What do I do next?”, I emailed my soon-to-be-published friend Bethany Crandell and basically yelled at her to help me! She responded quickly with very helpful info and a list of questions reserved for when you get The Call. Only in my case, it was The Email. So I asked the questions, and my agent got back to me promptly with excellent answers. Then I had to ask for time to notify the other agents I’ve already queried, or had my full submissions.
Ten days later, I was giddy when I sent Ms. Weber an email telling her I accept her offer of representation. It’s been great since.
J.A.: May we see your agent-winning query letter?
P.L.: Sure! It’s not perfect, but it got the job done. :)
Sixteen-year-old Layla Cadwell is losing her mind. Again.
The first time she lost it, she nearly drowned reaching for the blue lady she saw in the river. Years later, branded Freak Extraordinaire by her peers, Layla’s learned to keep her visions to herself. But when her father dies in her arms, murdered by a soul-sucking shadow-witch, Layla lands a stint in the psych ward. Because there’s no such thing as monsters, see.
After too many kumbaya-inducing meds, the memory of her father’s death becomes fuzzy. Mom, fearing Layla’s relapse on the upcoming death anniversary, takes the family to a distant town for the summer. But despite the relocation and anti-psychotic pills, Layla sees monstrous creatures prowling the woods nearby, and the blue water lady reappears to haunt her—this time begging for help.
As the visions intensify, Layla uses them to unearth the town’s secret of hidden people enchanting the woods. The phantom blue lady turns out to be her great-grandmother, whose soul’s been trapped in the shadow-witch’s dark magick. The same witch who killed her dad for revenge. And Layla is next in line. It’s a family feud, paranormal-style.
Or…maybe it’s all in her mind. But the local hottie believes Layla, though his trustworthiness factor is down to zero. Rumor has it he turned his exes loony-bin mad with just a kiss. Major relationship killer, right? When his eyes shift to resemble the witch’s gold-rimmed ones, Layla knows he’s trouble, though her heart tells her otherwise.
As the witch closes in, Layla must trust her visions to survive the world hidden beyond her own. A YA Contemporary Fantasy, HIDDEN is complete at 76,000 words.
J.A.: How long did you query before finding your agent?
P.L.: About 6 weeks. Hidden is the first book I’ve ever queried. I was prepared for the long haul of querying, so imagine my surprise at landing my agent so quickly. I sent out about 40 queries in all. When I started querying at the end of March, most agents were coming back from the Bologna Book Fair so I only sent out a few, mostly to test my query (which was still in its early stage). Lots of waiting ensued. In the meantime, I worked and reworked my query with the help of friends and critique from a writing forum, Agent Query Connect. Anytime someone would tell me it was great, I would send out a few. My first two responses were form rejections, but the third one was a full request.
I didn’t stop working on my query. My gut told me it wasn’t quite right yet. I also had to deal with spam issues—some of my query emails did not go through when I sent them. I knew this because I was supposed to get an auto-reply from the agent’s email, but never did. This is why you’ll need to do your research. Some agent websites will specify that they have an auto-responder. If you don’t get an auto-reply letting you know your email went through, then try again.
I queried intermittently throughout the month of April and the first week of May. My agent, Ms. Weber, got back to me so fast that some of the agents I had newly queried didn’t even have time to see my original query. A lot of them missed the notices I sent out about getting an offer of representation (so I ended up with emails long after the deadline from agents saying they were sorry they missed the opportunity). So here are my stats (I finally got it figured out):
40 queries sent
3 fulls requested before my agent offered representation (including my agent)
6 more fulls requested after I sent out notices of offer of rep
12 no response
5 passes because they saw the notices too late
14 query rejections
It’s true, you know. It only takes one to love your work.
J.A.: What advice would you give to those who are actively querying or getting ready to query?
P.L.: I’ve already mentioned some tips in my previous answer. But here they are again, plus a few more:
~Do your research when querying agents. Know their submission guidelines and follow them.
~Keep on working on your query. There’s always going to be room for improvement.
~Watch out for spam filter issues. This goes hand in hand with researching your agents. Some websites will let you know that they have an auto-response system in place. Others will tell you their turnaround time, and if you don’t get a response as soon as that time is up, most likely your query email went down Spamtown. So go send your query again.
~Another great way to track down the queries you’ve sent is to use Query Tracker. Some of the QT members will post their stats, and from that info, you can see where the agent is at with the slushpile. Just don’t get too obsessive. There’s no hard-and-fast rule with how agents sort their query pile.
~This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: BE POLITE. ALWAYS. If you get rejections, please do NOT take it personally. Just take a deep breath and move on. It’s not the end of the world.
~ Be very, very patient. Querying takes time. Agents are people, too, and they have busy, busy lives. Like you.
~Query widely. People have different tastes. Just because one agent didn’t care for your concept doesn’t mean another one out there won’t care for it either. You won’t know until you take the plunge. Be brave.
J.A.: What have you learned from writing and querying that you didn’t know before?
P.L.: That no matter how you prep yourself for querying and putting your work out there, that no matter how much you tell yourself you’re a big girl and can take the rejections with a smile, you will fail. You will be sad when you see that form rejection. You will squeal and dance around when you get a request. Your heart will beat so hard you’ll think you’re on the verge of a cardiac arrest when you send out that first full manuscript submission. You will worry and bite your nails as you refresh your email every ten seconds. You won’t be able to help feeling all these emotions. Even when you tell yourself again and again that you would never do all of these things.
J.A.: How important were your beta readers/critique partners?
P.L.: Very important! (Shout out to A. M. Supinger, my crit partner!) I valued their feedback, but at the same time, I also kept my vision for my book in check. Their comments made me think. Their critiques made me see my work in a different angle—something I would never have seen by myself. It also helps to have them proofread and spot my typos.
J.A.: What are you most excited to experience in the whole agenting process?
P.L.: My agent asked me in an early “getting-to-know-you” email what I expected from an author-agent relationship, which is a fantastic question, by the way. I think it’s good to know what our expectations are and to voice them out so that there is an understanding between the two parties. My answer was this: I view it as partnership. There has to be communication on both sides. It’s almost like a marriage, I guess. You have to trust each other, trust that they will work on their end while you work on your end.
Ms. Weber has been nothing but amazing! She’s excellent with communicating what she needs from me or what are the things I should know. She’s always open to questions and encourages me to voice out whatever concerns I have. At the same time, we’ve developed this camaraderie over Twitter—so much fun! This relationship has gotten off to a very good start, and I’m excited to embark on this collaboration with her. You see, having an agent represent you is not a short-term deal. We’re in it for the long haul. So it’s very important you find someone you can work with easily because you’re not only going to be dealing with them with one project, but your lifelong career of writing and future books as well.
Thank you, Precy. (I have to get used to calling you that now!) Some of us don't think much about looking for an agent overseas and it's good to know there are agents who take submissions for the U.S. Your story has evolved since I last saw it and it sounds great! We're wishing you a lot of luck as you start this next phase in your writing career. And for anyone reading this interview, definitely check out Precy's blog. She's in my spotlighted blog list and she's a very sweet person. Get to know her.