We are incredibly excited to be celebrating Gabriela Houston accepting John Baker’s offer of representation and becoming his first client at the agency.
“I can remember the first time I saw Gabriela’s pitch on twitter and I knew this was a book that I had to read, then once I read the sample, I was hooked from the first page. Gabriela writes such beautiful, atmospheric prose with settings you just want to get lost in and creates such incredibly relatable characters that you can’t help but root for. After meeting her I knew I wanted to start my list with her and it’s been a dream working with her over the past few months.”
See below for an exclusive Q&A with Gabriela;
1: When writing, do you come up with your character first or your plot?
G: I tend to have the opening scene in my head, usually as an answer to a question I pose myself. “What would a person do if placed in such and such situation?” I work in a very linear way so it tends to grow from there.
2. Any tips for writers block?
G: Go for a walk and talk to yourself. Ask yourself questions about your character motivations. When I’m stuck it’s usually because I haven’t answered some basic questions about what my characters want. And I mean all the characters. If the secondary character doesn’t have any wants of their own, then they can’t interact with the MC in a meaningful way. I don’t mean write it all down. But you have to know yourself.
3. What were your favourite books when growing up and why?
G: I loved everything by Lucy Maud Montgomery, especially The Blue Castle. I found it fascinating how Valancy, its main character, could present as this insignificant, timid nobody, and yet have so much fire and strength inside, which only needed a push to be released.
From the age of 7 onwards, I was also completely obsessed with James Curwood and Jack London. I found their descriptions of the hard life in the snow of the far north captivating. I especially loved Curwood’s Kazan and Jack London’s White Fang. The canine/lupine protagonists of both those books are a great study in the immediate emotion.
4. What made you choose to write in the genre of Fantasy? Did any authors inspire you?
G: I love the freedom of the Fantasy genre - as well as the challenge and the discipline of creating a world of rules different to ours, which still remain consistent and believable. The excitement of the “what if?” questions and the freedom to explore them unconstrained.
Big early fantasy influences for me were Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon and the comic book series Elfquest, created by the Wendy and Richard Pini team. The rich landscape of emotions, ambitions and desires of the former as well as the completely novel world of mindsets and cultures so completely different to most human ones of the latter, were both a revelation.
5. Have you always wanted to be a writer? Do you remember when you first realised?
G: My original life plan was to become Tarzan. The very next one was to create art. I dreamed of being a writer/artist, creating rich comic book worlds, as well as writing novels. As I got older I focused more and more on the writing, though art will always hold a special place in my heart.
6. Where would you like to set your next story?
G: I have recently completed a middle-grade Slavic fantasy book, to which I’m now writing a sequel. I also have a couple other ideas percolating, so will see.
7. Any tips or tricks for new writers?
G: Get yourself a community. I went to my borough’s writer’s club, which I scavenged for local writing buddies. We keep each other motivated and meet whenever our schedules allow for some writing sessions. Having friends with similar ambitions, with whom you can talk through the intricacies of plotting or consult with brings incredible value not just to your work but also to your mental health!
The only other thing I’d say is read. Read everything, read widely, read outside of your genre and within it. I’m yet to hear of a good writer who doesn’t like to read.
8. Do you have any working from home pets to cheer you on? What are their names?
G: I have two much-beloved cats, Grimalkin and Delphi. Both are extremely sociable and affectionate and they always sit next to my desk when I’m working. The pictures of their magnificence form the majority of my tweets/Instagram posts these days. (See Below)
9. How have you found working with an agent? Do you have any tips for authors trying to get an agent?
G: John found me through an online pitching event, PitMad, where he requested some pages on the strength of my Twitter pitch.
After he read the book we met for what turned into a three-hour conversation and he really impressed me with his enthusiasm and his vision for my book and my career as a whole. I think it’s really important to not just find an agent but to find one whose instincts you respect and who you feel comfortable working with. Agents are usually very open about how they work and what they expect from the relationship. There are also regional differences, where in the UK both agents and editors tend to have a much more collaborative attitude, whereas in the US, it tends to be a bit more top-down, both in terms of agent input and editorial relationships. Different modes of collaboration suit different people, so before you approach an agent, do your research and make sure you actually want to work with them, potentially for the entire duration of your working career.
10. When you’re not writing what are your go-to hobbies?
G: I paint and draw and play the ukulele (badly). I also read extensively. As I have two tiny kids, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for other activities, though I love hiking whenever the opportunity presents itself.