Finding an agent,  Getting Published

How I Got Here: Nicole Castroman

Nicole CastromanI’m so, so excited to introduce you all to the brilliant and beautiful Nicole Castroman.  We’ve been friends and critique partners for almost three years, and her book BLACKHEARTS  is a story I love so much that I wish I could claim it as my own.  I’m thrilled Simon Pulse will be publishing it in Spring of 2016!  Nicole has worked so hard and I think her story will be an inspiration to anyone trying to break into the publishing industry. Becky Wallace:  So Nicole, tell everyone a little bit about yourself.

Nicole Castroman: A little known fact about me is that I love languages. I do. In high school and later at BYU, I studied German, Russian and Spanish. I’m still fluent in German, I can speak enough Spanish to get myself into trouble, but I can only say a few words in Russian. Very sad, but true. I think that’s why I love to write so much. It’s a way to communicate with people. Learning about other cultures is fascinating for me, which is why I love to travel. I’ve visited most countries in Europe, including Russia and the Republic of Georgia. Yes, there is a country named Georgia. Kind of appropriate that I live in the state of Georgia, no?

BW:  Remember when I said she was brilliant?  That wasn’t me just being nice.  She really is a super smart.  *Nicole blushes* And, how long have you been writing?

NC: I’ve been writing for approximately 5 1/2 years.

BW: How did you get your agent?

NC: I signed with my first agent in 2011. At that point, I’d written three (bad) manuscripts, but my fourth one did the trick. It didn’t sell, but I kept writing. Always be working on your next project. I cannot stress that enough. Not only does it improve your technique, but it keeps you from obsessing too much over the submissions process.

After about 18 months of working together, my agent and I decided to part ways. It happens. At the time, it was frustrating, but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned so much from her and really, in the end, things worked out for the best. I know several writers who have switched agents, for a number of reasons. It’s a part of the business and that’s exactly what this is. A business.

So, in August 2012, I was agentless. That’s when I started writing BLACKHEARTS. The words literally flew from my fingertips. I loved the characters and the story so much, it really was a joy to write. I’m not sure exactly how many queries I sent out, but I had several requests for partials and fulls. I remember very well the Friday at the beginning of January when I received an email from Quinlan Lee at Adams Literary. She said she was enjoying my story, which at the time was called THE LEGEND OF EDWARD TEACH. She asked me a few questions and said she would read the rest over the weekend and get back to me on Monday. I could hardly sleep all weekend, wondering what part she was reading and whether she liked it or not. On Monday, she asked to set up a time to talk. As soon as I spoke with her on the phone, I knew she was the agent for me, because it felt so natural talking to her. She’s amazing! She’s a great communicator, advocate and is incredibly knowledgeable about the entire industry. It’s an honor to be part of the team at Adams Literary. Josh Adams came up with the amazing title, BLACKHEARTS. Seriously, I love that title! Tracey Adams is so supportive (and a riot on FB) and Samantha Bagood is so nice and gives feedback on my writing as well. I feel very blessed to work with them. And just a little shout out here to my editor, Sara Sargent. I’ve followed her on Twitter and have always thought how great it would to work with her and now I get to. DREAMS DO COME TRUE.

BW: Blackheart is the story about how Blackbeard became a pirate.  How did you come up with this idea?  What inspired you to write about pirates? What are you working on now?

NC: Why write about Blackbeard? Well, I love history and interestingly enough, there isn’t much information about Blackbeard. In fact, only the last two years of his life are documented. It was believed he came from a wealthy family, because he could read and write. Some accounts have his last name listed as Drummond, although like most pirates, he changed his name to avoid dishonoring his family. Contrary to popular belief, there are no reports of him ever harming or killing anyone he took hostage. Instead, he used psychological intimidation to get what he wanted. He secured burning hemp ropes in his beard and beneath his hat, giving him the appearance of some large, smoking specter. He captured a French slave ship, freeing those on board and renaming it Queen Anne’s Revenge. At one point in his career, he held the entire city of Charleston, SC hostage. His only demand–medicine.

All of those facts inspired me and I simply deconstructed his story, or at least my version of it. Or maybe I should say, I constructed his story.

Right now, I’m working on another historical story, set in New Orleans during the Reconstruction Era, after the Civil War.

BW: If you could give a piece of advice to someone who is trying to get published, what would it be?

NC: Can I give lots of advice? Like, a whole cake worth, not just a piece? I know this sounds cliché, but NEVER GIVE UP! Seriously, if you love to write, keep at it. And read a lot. And write a lot. And find an amazing CP like Becky who will tell you what works and what doesn’t. And then find beta readers who will be honest with you and tell you what works and what doesn’t. I have no filter, so when it comes to critiquing, I’ll pretty much say what I think. If you can handle it, THAT is the kind of person who will help your writing. Not me, per se, but someone who will be completely honest with you. It’s nice to have someone say they enjoy your story, but it’s even nicer to improve your craft. Oh, another piece of advice. Try to develop a thick skin. I could go on and on…

BW:  Now tell everyone three reasons you think I’m wonderful.  Just kidding. 🙂 If you have any questions for Nicole, you can ask them in the questions or tweet them to her @nicolecastroman. She’d love to hear from you! 

Author, baker, mother.

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