Posted in Contests, Writing

Gearing Up to Get an Agent Meet and Greet

Deana Barnhart

Normally I won’t be posting Mondays anymore, but since this is part of a blogfest and not my own topic, I’m bending my new schedule.

Deana Barnhart is hosting, for the second year, the Gearing Up to Get an Agent Blogfest/Pitch Contest. This year also includes the chance to pitch to small publishers, not only agents. The first day of the blogfest, we’re answering the following questions.

Where do you write?  Generally in my room, but sometimes at the library. As much as I miss my old ’84 and ’93 Macs, there’s something to be said for the ease of taking a laptop anywhere.

Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see? My beautiful record player and the stereo it’s attached to.

Favorite time to write? Late at night.

Drink of choice while writing? I don’t regularly eat and drink while writing.

When writing, do you listen to music or do you need complete silence? I’ve been listening to music while writing since ’93, though I can also write with silence.

What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it? If you’d like, you can read the full story behind my inspiration for the turning-point and dramatic penultimate chapter here. You can also read about it in Justine’s own words here. The TLDR version: While I was writing my Russian novel sequel last year (first draft 406,000 words written over 5 months), I somehow ended up listening to a lot of Duran Duran. So when I moved to my next project, a contemporary historical set from 1979-84, I thought it would be a nice idea to somehow include that in the story.

Though Justine (who ages from 20 to 25 during the story) is a little too old to be a Duranie, her oldest nieces are the perfect age. The book’s timeline ended up coinciding perfectly, miraculously with real-life events, a massive snowstorm on the date of the band’s show in Hartford on 13 March 1984. Justine is 9 months pregnant when she drives her nieces there and back, and goes into active labor during the show (back when most women went into labor naturally instead of scheduling inductions at the 12-week appointment, but I digress). This act finally proves to Justine’s family once and for all that she’s a capable, mature, strong adult and not their little baby sister anymore.

What’s your most valuable writing tip? Write what’s familiar and comes naturally instead of writing to trends or sacrificing your art for the sake of perceived greater market viability. I love writing long, sweeping sagas with many characters and storylines, even though many agents aren’t willing to take such projects on if a person hasn’t been published before. I write third-person omniscient, which isn’t very popular in the States anymore. I write historical fiction, which isn’t as popular as it used to be. Most of my historicals revolve around young people, and YA historicals aren’t as popular or in the same form as they were when I was a young person. That doesn’t mean I’m going to start writing 250-page post-apocalyptic or paranormal books or make my YA historicals fit in with the current “sexy historical” trend I loathe and despise.

Short bio:

I began reading at three years old and have been writing since I was four years old. Ever since probably third grade, I’ve been focused on historical fiction. Originally I was all about the 19th century, but by junior high, I was completely immersed in 20th century historicals. Now I have plans to revisit some long-shelved but never forgotten characters and stories from the 18th and 19th centuries, and to someday write about other eras and regions, like Heian and Meiji Japan, Native American history, prehistory, the High and Late Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Golden Age of Islam. I also sometimes write soft sci-fi.

I’m a serious, quiet, bookish intellectual born in the wrong generation on several fronts. I love silent film, antique cars, classic rock, and classic world literature. Since I was such an advanced reader, I pretty much graduated to adult novels at 14 and didn’t read much teen lit during my teen years in the Nineties (before the explosion of YA). I was reading Hermann Hesse by 14; why would I be interested in reading about the exploits of kids in junior high or high school after that intellectual, spiritual awakening?

My BA is in history and Russian and Eastern European Studies. My areas of expertise are 20th century Russian history and the World War II/Shoah era, which I write extensively about. I’m currently finally going back to school to hopefully get a master’s in information science, with a concentration in children’s literature. Someday I’d love to have a master’s and doctorate in 20th century Russian history, with a focus on the Stalin era and GULAG. Yes, I’m such a pleasant, light-hearted person!


I started reading at three (my first book was Grimm's Fairy Tales, the uncensored adult version), started writing at four, started writing book-length things at eleven, and have been a writer ever since. I predominantly write historical fiction family sagas/series. I primarily write about young people, since I was a young person myself when I became a serious writer and didn't know how to write about adults as main characters. I only write in a contemporary setting if the books naturally go into the modern era over the course of the decades-long stories being told over many books. I've always been drawn to books, films, music, fashions, et al, from bygone eras, and have never really been too much into modern things. If something or someone has appeal for all time, it'll still be there to be discovered after the initial to-do has died down. For example, my second-favorite writer enjoyed a huge burst of popularity in the Sixties and Seventies, but he wrote his books from 1904-43, and his books still resonate today, even after he's no longer such a fad. Quality lasts for all time.

63 thoughts on “Gearing Up to Get an Agent Meet and Greet

  1. Hi! I’m also participating in GUTGAA and I stopped by to say hello. As soon as I saw the banner on your blog, I knew I had to follow. Once upon a time, I was quite the Duran Duran fan and shaped most of my childhood. I used to say I would someday marry Simon LeBon. That didn’t happen but I did travel to England where I met my husband.


  2. Hi there! Nice to meet you! So true what you said about not writing to market trends. I’ve done that int he past and it never worked for me. I found my voice just by writing what I wanted to read. That’s when everything clicked for me.

    Best of luck with GUTGAA!


  3. I’m also in GUTGAA and your blog title intrigued me. I was a huge fan of Duran Duran in my teenage years and I had a big poster of them in my bedroom (though, sadly, I never saw them in concert).


  4. Thanks for commenting on my blog! It’s nice to see someone else interested in historical fiction. I know I favor Ancient history instead of more modern, but I believe history no matter the period is something that can teach us about ourselves today. Keep up the good work!


  5. I definitely need to read more historical fiction. It’s great advice to write what you love instead of what goes with the trends. After all, true writers write for themselves first, because they have to. There’s a story inside that must get out or they’ll go crazy. Getting published is an added bonus.


    1. I’d been interested in Japanese language and culture for awhile, but what really got me into it was my wonderful Japanese History class I took my senior year of uni, by a professor who’s also an expert on Dr. Seuss. I was so upset to hear that he retired awhile ago, since he was such an awesome professor.


  6. I had to pop over here to read your bio & answers after you commented on mine. So nice to meet a fellow historian! I did my grad assistantship with a Russian history professor (mostly by helping him edit two volumes of a Russian/Soviet historical encylcopedia), so I have a fondness for Russian history even though my concentration was in US. I also love a good epic historical novel & am patiently waiting for historical fiction to make a comeback. 🙂


    1. It’s a real, modern turntable, though at the moment it’s not working exactly the way it’s supposed to. I hope no permanent damage was done during the three years it was in storage in my so-called fiancé’s parents’ basement.


  7. Nice to meet you! It’s wonderful that you have had an interest in history from such a young age. I must admit that my current interests in stories correspond somewhat with market trends (although there are some trends that I just can’t make myself write no matte rhow popular they are).


  8. You had me at record player and reincarnation ❤ And then you had me again at Omniscient POV! I tried that for a long while, but I was really bad at it.

    So happy to get to know you through GUTGAA 🙂


    1. Third-person omniscient seems to come most naturally to me, since I grew up reading it more than any other POV. With the kinds of books I write, it’s the POV that works best, unlike in something like a police procedural.


  9. Although historicals are not my norm – I’m a YA fantasy/sci-fi chica – I’ve enjoyed a few historcial novels recently recommended to me.

    I have to agree. It is important to write what you love. It makes it that much better when you see your hard work in a published form. Stick by your guns. You’ll find your success 🙂


    1. I do some sci-fi from time to time, though regrettably I haven’t finished any of the many sofi sci-fi projects I’ve had planned since 1992. I do want to finally get back to work on the one I got the most work done on on and off over the years.


  10. Like others I’m stuck on the 400k+ in 5 months — I want to flail my arms and chant “Does not compute. Does not compute.” Wow. But what I really love is how that inspired your Justine book.


    1. It’s kind of funny, since my first Russian novel was 342,000 words in its original finished first draft (up to a bit over 350,000 at its height during all the edits, rewrites, and revisions I did last year, and finally down to a near-perfect 335,000), yet I wrote that over eight and a half years, over three major writing periods. I guess having your own computer and being able to use it whenever you want makes all the difference in the world, as well as not having school to focus on.


    1. I classify anything from about the 1970s onward as late contemporary historical, though I know it’s in a much different ballpark from something set during World War II or earlier. I was born in 1979, and to the average kid today, my childhood is the stuff of historical fiction already.


  11. Wow, you do some serious writing. Impressive. And yeah, write what you love. You’ve got to spend a lot of time with your idea and characters — not to mention the research needed when writing historical fiction. It’s great to meet you!


    1. It’s hard to believe I’ll have been with the original batch of my Atlantic City characters 21 years this November, and 20 years with my original group of Russian characters in late January/early February. I feel like I literally grew up with my Atlantic City people, since we’ve been friends, so to speak, since we were eleven years old.


  12. I totally agree you should write what you are familiar and comfortable with, but I think there’s something to be said for pushing your boundaries and breaking out of your comfort zone to help improve your craft as a writer. No, that doesn’t mean write what you hate!! But writing something that’s one step or two steps away from what you write can really improve your writing. Just something to consider.


  13. Hi,
    Stopped by on the GUTGAA bloghop. I agree with your writing tip. Makes a lot of sense to do what you like and are good at, than trying to follow the trend. Best of luck.


  14. Hi Carrie-Anne! Nice to see you again (virtually!). I agree with what you said about not letting the market rule your work. Write what you want to read! That’s so important. If you aren’t passionate about it, how can you expect anyone else to be? Great advice! Thanks again for all of your help with my query letter at WriteOnCon! I look forward to picking your brain some more with GUTGAA!


  15. I’m another one from GUTGAA. In Germany, I am already agented but somehow I have difficulties getting an agent in the US or GB. I love writing YA and MG with historical or fantastical twists adn would never think about writing to the market. 😉

    Thanks for visiting my blog earlier.


  16. Hi fellow GUTGAA participant. It’s great that you stick with your guns when it comes to writing. No one can predict the trends and great writing speaks for itself.
    Thanks for visiting my blog. If you go to school for School Media Librarian my hat is off to you, I work with a lot of School Media Specialists and they are hard working ladies.


  17. Holy moly! 406,000 words? You are a machine, woman!

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog, and I can’t wait to be one of the first-round judges this year. Best of luck with your submission; your story sounds awesome!


  18. Write it the way you like it. Sounds like a great approach. With music. Sans music. Lots of historical fiction going on. Awesome. That’s a massive MS. Wow! I enjoyed your answers to the GUTGAA questions. Thanks for sharing and happy writing!

    Warm regards,

    Don #138


  19. Great to meet you. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I feel like I was born in the right generation but now living in the wrong one. 🙂 I love the line at the end of your bio!


    1. Nope, it’s meant as just one book. Splitting it up would make as much sense as splitting up the first book (finally edited down to a near-perfect 335,000 words). Each book has one continuous storyline, and the momentum and construction would be lost if they were chopped up piecemeal.


  20. Hi. Sorry I’m so late on GUTGAA, I signed up a little late.

    I would just like to say that I am totally intimidated by you. haha. I’m actually about as opposite from you as I could get. I’ve never liked old things, I’m kind of all about now. I think it’s so cool though, cause it’s something I’ve always wished I was into (it just seems neat) but, then when I try to read history or something, I get bored. I guess that goes with your advice to not write/do what doesn’t suit you. I also am the only writer I know that has no kind of degree. I have about a year and a half of college under my belt and spent the rest of my time raising four kids, so I’m seriously impressed and awed by someone with your education.

    I got into writing later in life, in my mid-thirties, but I love it so much and I know this is what I’ve always been meant to do. Luckily, this is one of those things that doesn’t take a degree, as long as someone is devoted to learning and mastering their craft (which I am)

    Anyway, I’m just hopping around to the GUTGAA blogs to say hi to everyone.I got so inspired by all the great blogs on here that I finally decided to start one. i’d love it if you’d stop by!! It’s brand spanking new and in desperate need of followers. haha.

    Good luck with GUTGAA…


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