Focus on your Query Letters: An Interview with Scarlett Dunn
What made you decide to write your first novel? Was there any particular author you read that made you think, I could write like that?
From a very young age, I knew I would write novels one day. I read non-fiction and tons of history books. When I read fiction, it was mysteries. I didn’t have much interest in romance novels, other than the classics. Once I started reading more romance, I loved the genre. I decided to combine my love of history with inspirational romance.
How long did it take you to write your first book?
When I was writing my first published book I owned two businesses, and I didn’t have much free time. It took almost a year to write that one.
How many rewrites did you do on it?
No rewrites, before or after I submitted the manuscript.
Who helped you with the editing?
My agent read through the manuscript of my first published book. While there were no content changes, she found a few mistakes. I don’t know if anyone else has this problem, but I see words that aren’t there! I’m confident I typed them, so I think my computer eats them!
Who encouraged you along the way?
I walk every morning, and I call these my “God” walks. I always turn over any writing dilemmas to Him, and I feel He encourages me every morning. It’s a great way to start the day. I may not receive an answer at the moment, but if not, you can bet the answer will come to me in a dream rather quickly.
I also have a good friend who encourages me with every project. I do want to urge those writers who may not have a cheering section, to persevere. I’m a big believer in having faith in yourself. If the desire is in your heart, then you have the talent to see it through. There are always a few naysayers, but your dream is not their dream. You are the only one that can keep your dream alive. How did you go about finding an agent/publisher? Did you go to conferences? Send out queries? Introduced to someone in the business?
After researching the people who would be most likely to have an interest in what I write, I sent ten queries. I was fortunate to receive responses rather quickly. The agent who called me after receiving my query, read my manuscript in a few days and became my agent. It was only a matter of weeks after receiving my manuscript that she sold the trilogy. I was truly blessed.
What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating a scene? Dialog? Tension, etc?
The hardest part for me is writing a romantic scene. It is important for me to be true to my beliefs, and I don’t think every romance novel requires explicit sexual scenes. There’s definitely a market for the more graphic scenes, but it doesn’t mean there is not an audience for something different.
I see romantic scenes as a delicate balance of creating sexual tension, yet leaving something to the imagination. Think about it — there was a time when a man saw a woman’s ankle, his imagination ran rampant! Less is oftentimes more.
What does your editor remind you to do most often?
I have a wonderful editor, John Scognamiglio with Kensington Books. Since my agent died last year, John is the first person who reads my complete manuscript. He is a talented professional, and he always offers great suggestions. If I haven’t expounded on feelings of a particular character in a scene, he will let me know.
What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
My initial agent was extremely encouraging. She always told me she loved my work. I’m encouraged when my editor likes my work. I am encouraged by my readers, and appreciate the kind messages they send.
I love hearing from women since they are voracious romance readers, and it’s a joy to hear their opinions. Lately, I’ve heard from several men who say they never picked up a romance novel, but they saw mine and gave it a try — and even better, they enjoyed it. That’s very encouraging! A few gentlemen have told me they teared up reading one of my novels, and I really loved that. We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of one you’ve had, and how you learned to write past it.
I know this is going against the norm, but I don’t even think about rejection. Agents and publishers are like your readers, some will like your work, and some won’t. Writers starting out should remember it’s not a rejection of you, but simply a project that may not be right for them at the time. Why waste mental energy feeling rejected? Buy a pair of shoes or cowboy boots and move on!
What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing?
It surprised me how excited I would be to see my first cover.
What frustrated you the most?
If I had to pick one thing, I guess it would be that after you’ve read your novel so many times, and it’s been read by many individuals before it is printed, there will occasionally be a mistake. It’s going to happen. In the final analysis, it’s really not that earth-shattering, and I know we all try hard to avoid the mistakes. What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
How much fun it would be. I love everything about the process.
What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?
My best advice is to set writing goals. If you don’t set daily/weekly benchmarks, you have a tendency to let other things keep you from writing. I also think it is important to have an outline. It doesn’t need to be lengthy, but an outline keeps you focused. Don’t panic when thinking about an outline — it’s not carved in stone, you can change it!
Are there any other points about writing that you would like to add?
I would probably stress the importance of character development. Once you know your characters inside and out, it’s amazing how the story falls in line. I would also encourage writers trying to get published not to send a ton of queries. Take the time to do your homework on the agents. Just like writing, you need to be laser focused when searching for an agent or a publisher. Your query is an important selling tool, so before you send it out, ask yourself if you would request the manuscript from your query letter.
What is the next book that will be coming out? Give me a short synopsis? WHISPERING PINES is the first book in my new trilogy to be released July 25, 2017. ..After an absence of five years, Rose Langtry returns home to Whispering Pines to find her intimidating neighbor, Morgan LeMasters, is about to hang her brother for cattle rustling. After a tragic stagecoach accident, Morgan cares for Rose, and she discovers he’s not the terrifying man her brother has led her to believe. Both Rose and Morgan will be caught up in her outlaw brother’s evil schemes as they try to forge a life together.
That’s all for today’s interview. If you would like to learn more about Scarlett’s upcoming works or buy her books, here are some links to get you started.