A #DVpit Success Story:
Interview with Farah Heron and Rachel Brooks

** UPDATE: Farah’s book has found a publisher! We are so delighted to have Farah back to answer a few follow-up questions about the deal, the book, and the experience since #DVpit.

Farah, first of all, congratulations on your book deal! We’d love to hear how the submission process was for you, from editing to polishing, to going out on sub to publishers, to getting news of your book deal. Catch us up on what’s happened since #DVpit!

FARAH: Thank you so much! It’s been such a whirlwind since signing with Rachel. We went on sub about a month after Rachel and I started working together, and it was so nerve wracking! Rachel made the process as easy as she could for me, keeping me informed of which editors were reading and giving me their feedback as it came in. The process took longer than I would have hoped, but I was over the moon when HarperCollins Canada made an offer to publish! As a Canadian author it meant the world to me to have an editor from my own country who really understands my work.

Tell us about your editor! What was it like speaking to them for the first time? What is your relationship like?

FARAH: Jennifer Lambert at HarperCollins Canada is so great to work with. I spoke to her on the phone even before we had an offer, and I could tell right away that she understood what I was trying to accomplish in this manuscript. And after going through two rounds of edits with her, I can see that my instincts were right. My book is better developed and stronger than I could imagine. I love working with Jennifer. And it’s such a great bonus that we live in the same city, and I had an opportunity to meet her and others on her team in person.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you knew or prepared for when you were first entering #DVpit and getting ready to pitch agents?

FARAH: I wish I had understood that getting ‘the call’ from an agent is really only the first step. There is a lot of uncertainty and you won’t get everything you want out of your publication journey. I’ve been so lucky to have a supportive agent and editor, but I’ve had to learn to manage my expectations about what my path will look like. This is an intense experience, but the rewards are so worth it!

Are there any updates you can share about your book? Pub date, hints about the cover, finalized jacket copy, pre-order links, etc?

FARAH: THE CHAI FACTOR will be released by HarperCollins on June 11th, 2019.

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Pre-order links: Amazon CanadaAmazon USKoboIndigo, Barnes & Noble

What’s next for you?

FARAH: I’ve been staying busy with PitchWars and new writing projects.

Congratulations once again, Farah! Thank you for sharing your journey with us, and best of luck with the publication of THE CHAI FACTOR. We’re all excited to see it hit shelves!

[The original interview follows.]

Farah and Rachel, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Farah, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.

FARAH: I find it funny that despite having many false starts, this was the book that attracted an agent. It’s the silliest book I have written! But it’s also the most heartfelt, and the book that was the most cathartic for me to write. I came up with the premise at a workshop on writing comedy, where we were given a few minutes to come up with an idea for a rom-com. I thought of a love story between an engineering student looking for a quiet place to finish her thesis, and the tenor in a barbershop quartet who is rehearsing in her basement. As I fleshed out the story, it became about so much more than its silly start.

This book is about tolerance and family acceptance. It tackles topics like Islamophobia and homophobia, as the protagonist struggles to navigate career success in a STEM field and tries to live up to the expectations of her immigrant family, all while unexpectedly finding love with someone completely different from her. And most of all, it’s about the struggle to thrive in our modern world as a visible minority, Muslim woman.

Rachel, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?

RACHEL: Is EVERYTHING an answer? Farah's voice shined and had me LOL-ing from chapter one (hint: garden gnomes). Her protagonist was complex and compelling, yet relatable and someone I was rooting for through the ups and downs. Farah tackled important, current topics that are balanced with the comedy and romance within the story, bringing it great depth.

Farah, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?

FARAH: It was a very short timeline for me. I was still working on the manuscript when I decided to pitch it, because I knew this was the perfect opportunity for this book. I found beta readers in a hurry and pitched it on DVPit day while I was still hammering out my edits.

And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?

FARAH: I had participated in Twitter pitches before DVPit, but I loved that with this one, the agents who would respond to pitches were specifically looking for diverse voices. Once the day was underway, I did feel a little dismayed to see how many amazing pitches I was up against, but I was happy with the responses to my pitches.  It was so amazing to read about all the great work that writers of diverse backgrounds are producing. It was humbling to be among them.

How was the experience for you, Rachel?

RACHEL: Fantastic, once again! There is so much talent flying through the Twitter feed on #DVpit days. Not to mention, lots of dedication behind the scenes too. I'm thrilled there is another #DVpit in October!

Farah, did you receive pitch help or tips? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?

FARAH: I didn’t get any help but played around with pitches for a few days before the event. One word of advice I would give is to have different pitches that focus on different aspects of your story. You never know what aspect an agent will be drawn to. Also remember that every path is different, and every voice is different. Don’t get preoccupied looking at how many 'likes' other writers are getting, you only need one agent.

And Rachel, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?

RACHEL: #DVpit and other Twitter pitch events are great opportunities to possibly find your agent match. However, querying is a great way too. I've signed new clients both ways, so if one way doesn't work for you, try the other.

Tell us about The Call, Farah!

FARAH: I had several requests for full manuscripts immediately after DVPit, but I took a bit of a gamble and decided to revise my manuscript at that time, taking it from a contemporary romance to a commercial women’s fiction, as my story seemed better suited for that genre. I had no way of knowing if the agents who requested full manuscripts wanted to wait around a month for my revisions, but Rachel told me to take my time and send it to her when ready. By the time I was done, she had changed agencies! I tracked her down and sent her the new manuscript, and she called me less than a week later. I was ecstatic! I’m still ecstatic!

Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!

FARAH: “Amira's tired of fighting Islamobhobia. Only someone like her could understand her. Not the redneck singer w/ a ginger-beard. #DVpit #OWN”

Rachel, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?

RACHEL: Can I say everything again? Fighting Islamophobia? YES. The complexities of two main characters from different backgrounds, religions, and cultures? YES. Redneck singer w/ a ginger beard? Laughing and curious at how this factors into the story, while seeing a peek at her voice already, so YES. And the cherry on top, #OWN. YES!

What else are you looking for these days? Is there anything specific on your wishlist that you’re hoping to find, maybe at the next #DVpit?

RACHEL: I'd love to find an #ownvoices f/f YA romcom and/or an f/f YA retelling (both with a happy ending, please).

Warm congratulations to Farah and Rachel for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same! 

Farah Heron (@FarahHeron) was born in Toronto, where she currently lives. Her varied career history ranges from selling yarn to selling bikinis, and from hiring in the high-end fashion industry to counselling high-risk youth. An unapologetic, outspoken feminist, Farah Heron tells stories that reflect the diversity in her own life and explores how women thrive in an uncertain world.

Rachel Brooks (@RachMBrooks) joined BookEnds Literary in June 2017, after three years as an agent at the L. Perkins Agency. While at LPA she established a mix of romance, young adult, and cozy mystery clients. Prior to that she was apprentice to agent Louise Fury. Fiction is still Rachel's focus, and you can find more details about what she's looking for on the BookEnds Submissions page.