Success Story: Krista Van Dolzer and THE REGENERATED MAN

Hello everyone! I'm delighted to continue our success story interviews with Krista Van Dolzer, MG author.  Her amazing blog is a must for aspiring writers: full of agent interviews, pitch opportunities, and more.  When I heard that Krista's novel THE REGENERATED MAN sold, I was so thrilled because she's done so much for the writing community, and also because it sounds awesome. Here's the scoop on her novel, her blog, and her writing journey!

Congrats on your recent sale of THE REGENERATED MAN to G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers! What's the genre and one-sentence pitch?

THE REGENERATED MAN is an MG historical with a dash of science fiction. As for a one-sentence pitch ... I never wrote one of those:) So I'll just refer you to the summary on my blog if you want to know more.

How did you get the idea to write about a regenerated Japanese WWII veteran?

The first line came to me as I was falling asleep one night: "Mama said it was plum foolishness to leave the dried blood on my cousin's dog tags." (It actually used to be worded a little less simply than that, but you get the idea.) I wondered what sort of book would start with that sort of first line, and THE REGENERATED MAN was born (though I usually just call him Steve).

I think the idea of making the regenerated man Japanese probably stemmed from two places: First, I wanted to make sure he looked different from all the other characters in the book, and second, I wanted to pay homage to my maternal grandparents. My grandfather was Filipino and served in the United States Army during World War II. After the war, he married my grandmother, a blond-haired, blue-eyed Utahn. I've always admired them for loving each other at a time when most people frowned on interracial marriages.

I've been a fan of your blog, for quite some time now. The agent interviews are incredibly useful, and the Agent Inbox is a unique and fun way to gain insight into how agents think. Did you always envision that it would concentrate on uniting agents and authors?

Not really. After I'd been blogging for a few months, I decided I wanted to do something to boost readership. I contacted a few agents about doing interviews, and lo and behold, a few of those few said yes:) Over the years, I've just tried to keep the blog's content fresh and useful. I imagine it will continue to evolve over time.

How quickly did your blog take off, after you began interviewing agents?

I distinctly remember I had twelve followers on the day I posted my first interview. (Thanks for saying yes, Joanna Volpe!) That was back in February of 2010, if I'm not mistaken. For the first year or so, I worked really hard to post a new interview every week, and it only took a few months for people to catch on. By the end of that year, I'd say I had somewhere around 200 followers, but that's a total guess.

Do you think your social media presence helped with attracting an agent, and eventually a publisher?

I don't think my social media presence in and of itself made my writing more attractive to agents, but the relationships I built definitely helped. By the time Kate offered, she and I had been e-mailing back and forth for years on interviews, blog contests, and requested manuscripts. I already felt like I knew her and what it would be like to work with her, which is one of the main reasons I accepted her offer.

How did you initially pitch to your agent, Kate Schafer Testerman (contest, conference, query)?

Cold query. As I said, we'd corresponded quite a bit in the past, but I still sent my query and first three pages to her query inbox, just like her submission guidelines specified.

How did you feel when Ms. Testerman offered representation?

Thrilled. Shocked. Mostly shocked. A few days before she offered, she started following me on Twitter, then sent me a tweet that made it clear she was reading. (Hint: If Kate starts following you on Twitter, that's a REALLY good sign.) I spent the rest of the week trying to convince myself to stay calm and not get my hopes up, and by the end of the week, I'd actually decided she was going to pass. When her e-mail popped up in my inbox, I literally burst into tears. But the news was much better than I'd anticipated:)

Did you have any previous projects that you either queried or went through the submission process before THE REGENERATED MAN that didn't sell? If so, what did you learn from the experience?

As I implied above, I queried three manuscripts that never snagged agents. The first time, I had no idea what I was doing, so the rejections didn't faze me. I sent around 50 queries and ended up with exactly one full request. The second time, I was much better informed and had much better results. I sent around 75 queries and ended up with around 15 requests, a mixture of partials and fulls, but still no offers.

I got serious with my third manuscript--found some critique partners and learned how to revise--and when I sent my first batch of queries, I genuinely felt that this would be the One. Early results only reinforced that idea. My first three queries garnered three partials requests, one of which morphed into a full request literally overnight. I figured I'd have an agent within another week or two, but that wasn't what happened. (And thank goodness it didn't!) After many months and five (count 'em, five!) requested revisions, I moved on to my next project, a little MG historical I'd taken to calling Steve.

Through all of this, I learned to just keep writing, just keep writing. If it wasn't going to be this manuscript, then it had to be the next one (or the next), and the only way I was going to get there was if I stuck my butt in that chair and churned out those words. That is the one thing all published authors have in common: They wrote their way through rejection.

What are you most looking forward to as you prepare for the release of THE REGENERATED MAN in 2015?

Holding the book in my hands and seeing my name on the cover. The truth is, that's all the payoff I'd ever need. (But don't tell anyone! The money's still nice:) )

What do you think will be the biggest challenge?

Promoting it, no question. A lot of a book's publicity rests on the author's shoulders these days, and I definitely want to do my part. I want to show my publisher I'm a smart, savvy author who knows how to create her own buzz.

What's your current favorite YA book and why do you love it?

How about three? I went back to see which YA books I've recommended recently, and they're all fantastic. THE COMEBACK SEASON by Jennifer E. Smith is poignant without being melodramatic and a great contemporary read. (I've read two of her other books, THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT and THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE, and they're also fun.) SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman is a beautifully crafted high fantasy and a stunning debut. Finally, THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater remains my favorite YA read from the last year or so. It's the perfect combination of myth and reality, and I loved watching Puck and Sean's relationship develop. (Puck is a girl, by the way.)

What authors have inspired you?

I don't know how Shannon Hale juggles a husband, four kids, and a prolific writing career, but she does. When I grow up, I want to be just like her. And I really appreciate Lauren Oliver's repertoire. Someday, I'd love to be able to move back and forth between MG and YA, the real and the imaginary, as seamlessly as she does.

What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?

Do whatever makes you happy. If armadillo-herding makes you happy, then herd armadillos. If writing makes you happy, then write. And if writing ever stops making you happy, then stop. There will always be tough days, of course, but you don't have to die for it. It's not quitting if you find something else that makes you happier. People change, goals change, and that's okay.

What an inspiring journey! Thanks so much, Krista, and good luck with the release of THE REGENERATED MAN.

If you'd like to learn more about Krista, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter @KristaVanDolzer