Name: Amber and Danielle Brown
What you Write: We write thrillers that blend suspense and cultural commentary
Agent: Jessica Faust
Why BookEnds? We are long-time fans of the Bookends YouTube channel and fell in love with Jessica’s passion for thrillers and knew that her agenting style would be a good fit for us, so we had to query her. She was the first query we sent.
What book do you wish you had written, and why?
If we’re talking success and life of a book, definitely Gone Girl. The way it impacted the publishing world, specifically pioneered a new wave in the thriller genre, was legendary. But in terms of pure love and admiration for a book would be books like Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, Luster by Raven Leilani because each of these books wither inspired us craft-wise or just impacted us in such a profound way emotionally.
If you’re not reading or writing, what would we catch you doing?
Smothering our cats in kisses they hate, cooking, doting over our 30+ collection of plants all over our apartment, plant shopping because you can never too many (right?), and spending way too much time on Pinterest swooning over impossible real estate and amazingly chic interiors we’ll probably never be able to afford.
Where can readers find you on the web and social media?
You can find us on Twitter: @ambersharelle and @dani_nicbrown.
What’s the last book you read?
When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Mexican Gothic by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
What’s your favorite quote about reading or writing?
“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” — Ernest Hemingway.
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice you’ve received?
The advice we always got in the beginning was to read more. The advice we figured out on our own and will give to other writers is to read and write more. They both seem so basic, maybe even like “duh,” but so many aspiring authors simply do not do this. You need to constantly gorge books, not only books that are similar to yours so you know what’s out there and can keep up with what’s working in your specific genre. But also because reading puts you in the prime mindset to create. You’re more likely to get inspired if you read something that is amazing (or bad!). The whole reason we ever started writing when we were 14 was because we were voraciously devouring books and got (playfully) jealous of all these cool stories that other people got to write. So we joined them.
And when it comes to writing, you just have to do it. It never gets easy. Completing a manuscript will never be something you just do. But the more you write, the more you can anticipate plot holes, logical gaps, pacing issues, character inconsistencies, etc. in the future. The more you draft, the faster you draft and therefore the more projects you can get done in say, a year or the more you have time to spend on revising and rewriting. The best way to look at writing is as a craft. Take a woodmaker. The first thing you build will be wonky, but the more you refine your craft, the more you literally do it, the more the process comes natural to you and the more you improve.
What advice would you give to other authors in the query trenches?
We spent eight years in the query trenches and sure, over the years as we wrote more and more our craft/skill improved. But if we look at the latter years of our journey, the thing that got us from being unrepped to being repped wasn’t necessarily a huge jump in the quality of our writing or even query letters. It was simply the fact that we had a new manuscript to send out. So no matter how many rejections you get, write something new because despite how many people love to insist that this business is a meritocracy, it’s not. Everyone’s tastes are subjective and timing does matter.
We’d also like to say “don’t take rejection personally” blah, blah, blah, but for us that was nearly impossible and if you’re sensitive like us, it won’t be possible. But what you can do and what we did was use the sting of the rejection to fuel your passion for a new project. Always be writing something new despite your past “failures.”
Trend chasing is never a good idea, but we also think if you’re on the heels of a major letdown and are not sure what your next project should be, write something relevant to today’s society socially, politically, etc. Make a statement. Say something. Write a book that captures the heat of the moment but is authentic to you and from a point of view only you possess.
What was the most important question you asked when interviewing agents?
We were really concerned about agenting style and knowing that the relationship would be an equal partnership versus a dictatorship. We wanted to make sure that our future ideas would be heard and thoughtfully considered and that our relationship would be a collaboration at heart. Jessica made us feel super confident that it would be that way. But we will say that our decision really came down to passion. It was paramount for us to partner up with someone who was passionate about our project and our writing to the point where we knew they would be an amazing advocate for us for now and in the years to come. That you really can’t get from asking a single question. It’s more of a vibe.
How did you know your book was ready to submit?
It’s funny because the book that got us our agent was the book that we spent the least amount of time revising. That doesn’t mean we sent out a first draft. We put in the work, but we didn’t neurotically overthink anything. We’d also written the first draft from a very meticulously fleshed out outline and therefore, didn’t have a ton of major issues like wonky structure or plot holes to rectify when it was fully drafted. The decision to send it out was definitely more of a feeling than anything concrete that could be replicated in a future scenario. The more you complete manuscripts, the more you build your intuition for knowing when you’ve got your manuscript to the best of your abilities. After we both gave the book a once-over, it’s like something clicked and we were like, “let’s just send it out” instead of obsessively tampering and tweaking it like we may have done other projects in the past.