Friday, April 14, 2006

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Deidre Knight, Part 2

Agent and founder of The Knight Agency, Deidre Knight had her first novel, Parallel Attraction, published just last week. Therese and Kathleen recently chatted with her to learn more about her dual careers, including the future of her newborn series!

Part 2: Interview with Deidre Knight

Q: What is your writing process like?

A: I tend to write at night, on weekends, or even during occasional “retreats” away on my own. As far as my process, I write all over the map in a book, depending on what’s speaking to me. And I’ll even write ahead on future books. For instance, I wrote about 125 pages of the third book in this series while still finishing PARALLEL ATTRACTION. I’m guided by the parts that are speaking loudly to me, and I’ve learned over time to focus on those while they’re burning inside of me. Otherwise, those same scenes may lack power once I get to them. On PARALLEL HEAT (book two, which publishes in October), I’d written the last one hundred or so pages early on. It was great knowing exactly where the book was headed, and once I reached that section, I was so excited to knit that portion in with the rest of the book I’d been writing. I found that the end of that book had a real energy, which it might have lacked if I’d waited until the end to write it—at which point I was pretty ready for the book to be over.

Q: As a full-time agent (and mother!), have you found it challenging to also pursue your writing career? Has it been easy or difficult to balance these roles?

A: I think the greatest challenge for modern, working women is always balancing motherhood and their work. I’m no different. But I’m also very lucky in that I am my own boss, and this translates to some flexibility—even as it means burning lots of midnight oil (just ask my clients about those round-the-clock emails!) As a mother and wife, the writing is, frankly, less of a challenge than the agenting because I usually write once my kids are in bed. I think it’s the stress of agenting that sometimes gets to me, especially as a mother. But the longer I’m in this business, the more I’m learning about balance.

We've also hired some fabulous support staff at TKA this past year, and that has freed up a lot more of my time for what I do best at work—agenting. Not handling 1099’s, or submission logs. I’d say that’s one major reason why our sales have exploded in the past twelve months. Already this year TKA has placed 51 titles!! I can’t wait to see how we close out the year. We also have two other agents at TKA, the amazing Pamela Harty, who is both V.P. of Sales, part owner of the company, a kickass agent—and my sister! Nephele Tempest is our newest agent, and she has impeccable taste, is incredibly savvy about publishing, and brings a background from Simon and Schuster. Plus she’s one of my very dear friends.

Also, my faith really keeps me centered. At times I might feel like I’m overloaded, but then I’ll pray and ask for strength, peace, and focus. Honestly, I have a dream life—amazing children, soulmate for a husband, and on top of that, I get to agent and write. I could be jealous of me.

Q: You mentioned balance. How structured do you have to make your time to be sure you get that balance? What have you learned?

A: Oh, man, this is every working mother’s struggle (and every working woman’s, for that matter!) My biggest secret is knowing when to “no” or “I can’t do that.” As an agent, obviously there are many people and events pulling at my time and energy. So I have to protect myself by setting limits. That might be if a potential client pushes me about signing them on. My motto has always been that if I have to give an answer right now, that answer is likely no. Taking time for exercise, which I’m trying to become much better about. My husband and I have recently taken up tennis and it’s a great stress reliever. And definitely scheduling spiritual time—meditation/prayer time, church time, and so forth. That’s been one area where I’ve struggled because there’s always something “more important.” But I’m learning that if I don’t take time to recharge myself by making room for my spiritual self, then I get very burned out.

Q: Can you read a book or watch a movie for enjoyment now, or are you on some level analyzing what works and what doesn’t?

A: Absolutely! Movies in particular are one of my great interests. This week we watched a great sci-fi thriller, THE ISLAND. I knew nothing about it going in, and it really captured my interest. Laughed really hard this week at TEAM AMERICA, though it was over the top in its satire. Still a lot of fun. As for books, I especially enjoy historical romance, a genre that is pretty tough to agent right now. I’ve devoured just about every book ever written by Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn. I do find it a bit harder to emerse in genres I rep more frequently. I find there’s a disconnect. And then of course there’s always the guilt factor, i.e. “I should be reading X client’s proposal, not this romance by another author.” So it’s complicated, but the joy is still there for the right books.

Q: This past year was a big year for the Knight Agency. You have new digs in Atlanta and a growing branch in California. How are things looking for 2006?

A: We’re off to an amazing start, with fifty-one titles already placed in the first ten weeks or so of the year. Our sales last year were up almost 30% over the year before, and we expect to hit at least that kind of increase this year! We’re all aggressively looking for new authors, and just yesterday I placed a new YA author, Marley Gibson, with Puffin for four books! So we’re all incredibly excited about the direction things are going this year.

Q: Do you have any predictions for the next hot thang?

A: See the below answer. :) But in terms of what editors are looking for: YA, romantic suspense, paranormals, erotic and very sexy romance, and even—get this—historical romance. I’ve had several editors mention historicals to me lately. Still, when an author trusts their unique ideas, THAT translates to the next hot thing.

Q: It must be incredible to make that kind of discovery in a new author. Are there ever any tell-tale clues that you’ve spied a new talent?

A: Well, it’s all subjective, of course. My tastes won’t match that of ten other agents’ sometimes, but the trick is finding a manuscript I’m passionate about, then conveying that passion to just the right editor. It’s a matter of falling in love, then getting someone else to fall in love too!

Q: What’s your best advice for a writer who wants to be unique – and publishable?

A: To be true to their own ideas, and not be absolutely driven by the market. I see too many writers studying what’s selling, what’s on the shelves, and so forth. You have to go with what’s inside you. Not to the point of being foolish, but you do have to trust your own ideas. Chasing the market will always be just that—chasing. Writers should strive to be pacesetters. When they trust their own instincts, that’s when the unique, hot, breakout ideas come.

THANK YOU, Deidre Knight, for an inspiring interview. We wish you all the best with your new career--and your old one, too!

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