LitChat Interview: Kelly Peterson, Corvisiero Literary Agency

by Tee Tate
 Kelly has her B.S.Ed. in English and originally became a teacher. She quickly found out that the teaching profession wasn’t for her and followed her passion for books instead. After working for Corvisiero Literary Agency over the last two years, Kelly has come to find that she’s extremely picky, a tough editor, and an even greater enthusiast due to her background in teaching, editing, and blogging. Her passion is her work and her enthusiasm shows. Working to continue her career as a literary agent, she’s begun the process of building her client list and continues to search every day for the fit that’s right for her.
LS: Kelly, we’re so happy to have you on the site today. Thanks for agreeing to chat with us.  I read that you’ve always been an avid read. What books did you love as a child and how did those books influence your later reading preference?
I’m happy to be here! Thank you for having me. =)
As a child, my first really influential read was a book called My Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt. After that, I went on to read Angel of Hope by Lurlene McDaniel, and then I found the love of my middle school life in Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer. Eventually, I went on to read Harry PotterUnearthly by Cynthia Hand (HIGHLY RECOMMEND), and even the Rosamund series by Bertrice Small! In all honesty, I didn’t find my love of fantasy until much last in life. Even though I read fantasy after Harry Potter, I wasn’t what I would call really “in love” with it. After college, I picked up Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone and I was done, though.

I think that it’s influenced my preferences now a lot because I still long for some old school middle grade where adventure is really the heart of the story. I think Jacki Faber’s character in Bloody Jack really left an impact on me just with how adventurous she was, and able to take risks, and live and love without a man by her side. I now look for that in just about every book I find. She really set the tone, and I found that love again in Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. If you have a character quite like them, I highly suggest you send it to me! But I still love all of those characters and genres, and I think a lot of people forget that I’m such a sucker for a great YA contemporary and an amazingly well-written romance. I mean, I was reading highlander romance by the time I was fifteen!

LS: You began your post-college career in education. What made you want to transition into publishing and how did you go about it?

 Okay, small promo here before I start this: teachers are amazing people. Many school districts are filled with amazing people and such incredible talent for teaching our kids, and I never want to say that I have anything against them. However, I had such a horrible experience in one of my first teaching jobs that I was waking up every day in tears because I didn’t want to go to work. The politics, restrictions, and miserable atmosphere were too much for me and I just knew I had to get out. I love teaching, and probably always will, but I couldn’t handle teaching the way I was forced to.

I knew I had to do something different, so I started reading again, plotting out my own book, and writing it. This eventually lead to me getting on Twitter for some reason and becoming a book blogger. I had my summer free, so I ended up looking at publishing internships just for the heck of it. I found one with Corvisiero from months ago, asked if it was still open, and it was! So I applied, had a phone call with her the next day, and I was hired on the spot. I’ve been with Corvisiero ever since and have been slowly making the transition over to full-time agent after demoting myself from teaching.

LS: You mention in your bio that you have a special place in your heart for YA Fantasy. What books in this genre have you read in the past five years that made you wish they would have hit your slushpile first?

 Oh my goodness, Laini Taylor all the way. I love her writing and everything about her books. She made me fall in love with fantasy all over again. I also have a huge soft spot in my heart for Susan Dennard and would have loved to work with her. I also would have loved to work with Paige McKenzie (Sunshine Girl), and am still hoping to one day see Elise Kova’s query in my inbox! I do love my clients now though, and I’m really selective with the people I work with. Even if you have the best manuscript in the world, there’s a good chance I won’t ask you to be my client if I feel that we wouldn’t get along. My current clients are all wonderful people and we have a great family forming. I’m constantly looking for the right people to join it. =)

LS: A lot of writers make many mistakes when querying. What do you recommend they assure their manuscripts and queries include before they even begin the submission process?

 A lot of times people are so afraid of spelling errors, but I feel like those just happen naturally sometimes. Our brain skips over them, and that’s okay. If you have a lot of them, maybe not, but if it’s one or two random ones, I don’t think you need to worry. I’m more concerned with your voice. As agents, we can help you change literally everything in your book, but the one thing we can’t do is change your voice. Your voice is fully yours, and if you don’t own that, work with it, and develop it, it won’t capture our attention. On top of that, if an agent loves your voice, then you know that that agent will probably love your voice in your other stories too. Voice is so, so important and I highly recommend you do your best to develop and perfect your voice in your manuscript, queries, and synopsis before physically querying an agent.

LS: What are some elements that make you fall in love with a manuscript?

 This kind of goes along with what I said above, but VOICE! Please, all the voice! I’m also more partial to slower paced writing, higher stakes, strong character development, and more action. A little bit of grit is a good thing, of course, strong female characters. Any diversity and aspects that can make a manuscript different than the current market usually help to capture my attention, whether it’s a strong hook with diverse aspects, or a plot that I’ve just never seen before. The most important part is the writing though. Even if I feel like I can’t sell a book, if I love your writing, there’s a good chance I’ll come back and tell you this, asking for your next project right off the bat.

LS: Girls today are growing up in a very different environment in terms of women of strength and independence and how they have been accurately portrayed in books and films. What strong female character that you’ve read recently has had the greatest influence on you?

I’m actually currently reading When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, and I’m loving Dimple. She’s such a force! She knows exactly what she wants and is willing to basically defy all odds and everyone around her in order to achieve it. She’s such an outspoken, honest, and passionate go-getter, and I love that in a character. I also feel like I see a lot of myself in her, just in her determination and knowing what she wants to do with her life. Even if she’s a little more outspoken than me, I feel her with me a bit when I have to force myself into agent mode and become this extra outgoing persona. If she can do it, I can too, right? =)

LS: What are you reading right now and what has been your favorite read this year?

 I’m currently reading When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon and The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova! Both awesome authors and great stories! My favorite though, has actually been a book that hasn’t been published yet, and one that unfortunately got away from me. I can’t talk about it yet, but know that when it does get a publishing deal, I’ll be screaming about it from the rooftops! It’s a really amazing YA Fantasy that I’m still madly in love with, even if the author didn’t choose me!

LS: Finish this sentence: “I’d love to represent an author who writes like___.”

 Laini Taylor! Ugh, I really love her writing. Some of her similes and metaphors that are hidden in there are so lyrically beautiful that it hurts.
Thank you so much for having me! =)

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