Today I’m thrilled to interview the amazing and energetic Ashley Herring Blake. You may remember reading about her here previously when she talked about being an author of middle-grade novels.
Recently, Ashley became an agent at the Rees Literary Agency, and I was delighted to speak to her about her new venture.
To learn more about Ashley, her books, and her new position as an agent, visit her at her website: http://www.ashleyherringblake.com
Dorian: You’ve been a prolific writer of middle-grade novels such as Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea (published in May of this year), Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, and The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James. You’ve also written for young adults, and I noticed you have an adult romance coming out next year. What made you want to add agenting into your busy schedule?
Ashley: That’s an excellent question! I’m also a teacher for my day job, and last year, I was really wanting to think about how I could move my whole career into publishing. I’ve always been a big reader, and I love helping bring stories to life. My own agent has been so integral in my life—a support, an advocate, a pseudo-therapist—and I wanted to be that for other authors.
Dorian: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the Rees Literary Agency?
Ashley: Rees Agency has been around since the 1980s. They represent nonfiction and fiction, everything from literary to the very commercial, kid’s books, and romance. I’ve been with them as an author since 2014, so I knew joining them professionally as an agent was a smart move—I’m comfortable with them and I know they take care of their authors.
Dorian: Sounds great! How did you decide to specialize in the field of literature for children and teens?
Ashley: I actually didn’t! While I do rep middle grade and YA, I have more clients right now who write adult. I’m most interested in romance and contemporary fiction for all ages (sweet crushes for the MG set), and am really looking for queer stories more than anything right now.
Ashley: Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. Something about that book wrapped itself around my heart and squeezed tight! While my love for the story didn’t translate into me writing ghost stories, I’ll always adore that book.
Dorian: I remember enjoying that book, too! What are some of your favorite middle-grade books now?
Ashley: There’s so much great middle grade out there right now. I love anything by Kacen Callender, Nicole Melleby, Kathryn Ormsbee, Karen Strong, Akemi Dawn Bowman, Erin Entrada Kelly, A. J. Sass, and more.
Dorian: I know our writers who are readers will want to know: What would you like to see in your submission box?
Ashley: As I mentioned above, I’m mostly looking for queer stories right now, mostly in the realistic fiction realm. I’m looking for MG, YA, and adult, and I’m a sucker for messy characters, super voicey writing, and a smidge (or a lot) of romance.
Dorian: Can you tell us about a special interest, hobby, or obsession you have that isn’t listed in your bio or wish list?
Ashley: I’m very into planners. I don’t create my own like bullet journalers, but the one I do use, I make look pretty with colors and washi tape and use it as part planner, part journal. When the mood hits me right and I’m not annoyed at all the frizz and effort, I’m into curly hair care as well. I’ve had curly hair since adolescence and am just now starting to really understand how to take care of it.
Writing and Query Tips
Dorian: What are two of your best writing tips?
Ashley: Write a lot and read a lot. That’s really the crux of it. You have to be willing to write badly, a lot, in order to get better. And reading widely will teach you what good writing is. It’ll also teach you what good writing isn’t. 🙂
Dorian: How about putting your agenting hat on now, and telling us your two best tips for querying?
Ashley: Keep your query letter about the book. The agent doesn’t need to know why you wrote a book or the themes they may find therein. That won’t make them want to read further. Stick to the book’s character and plot—what do they want, why can’t they have it, and what do they plan on doing about it? Secondly, follow the agent’s sub guidelines. I know we’re all busy and it’s been a wild couple of years, but that’s a basic professional courtesy, and one which, if not followed, is a red flag in my opinion.
Dorian: That’s great advice. Thank you! How can writers query you?
Ashley: They can query me at this link: https://querymanager.com/query/ashleyblake
I ONLY take queries through query manager. 🙂
Dorian: How can people follow you on social media?
Ashley: My handle is ashleyhblake on both Twitter and Instagram.
Thanks so much for taking the time out to talk to us today. Best of luck with your writing and agenting!