• Jess Lawrence

Author Chat: Genevieve Puttay


Author Chat: Genevieve Puttay

I’ve interviewed a couple of authors on this blog about their publishing journey, including Bex Hogan, traditionally published author of the Isles of Storm and Sorrow series, and Katherine Macdonald, self-published author of more than ten books.


Headshot of Genevieve Puttay

In today’s post, we have Genevieve Puttay in the spotlight, a previous client of mine who has recently signed with an agent for her brilliantly spooky MG horror book. No word of a lie, I got real chills while reading this one, and I had to close the open door behind me while I worked because my imagination was running rampant!


Here’s what Gen had to say on her writing process and querying journey.


How long have you been writing for?

While books have been the love of my life, I didn’t muster the courage to write one until nine years ago. Depending on my mood when telling this story, I’ll either describe my decision to chase an impossible dream as bravery or foolishness. Honestly, I don’t know which one it was… More than likely, it was a bit of both.


Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a serial plotter and will usually take one to two months brainstorming and outlining a story. I spend a lot of time inside my own head and like to give my brain freedom to forage for the next plot. I love to watch a story grow and bloom; it’s one of the few times in life that I’m patient.


I also love structure and discipline. I find it comforting to have a framework, and milestones to hit, and an ending to aim for. Somehow, it works. I guess there’s something kind of orchestral about balancing freedom with structure, making music with words. At the risk of sounding a bit Mad Hatter-ish (if I haven’t already) drafting, for me, is this impossible blend where it’s sort of disciplined and gentle and focussed and dreamy.


Of course, at any given point my characters will laugh in the face of all that work and go rogue, but that’s all part and parcel of this wonderful writing gig!


Do you remember the inspiration that started this story? How the idea first came to you?

I’m a bit of a squirrel when it comes to book ideas. Random thoughts, character traits, strings of dialogue, half-baked ideas, all get buried in my writers notebook (which I call my book of haycorns) where, over time, they grow into something beautiful. Or they die. But that’s the circle of life, right?


The idea for this book crept up on me while I was visiting the catacombs under Rome. The place is so beautifully macabre and gloriously spooky, I just wanted to bottle it and use it as ink to pen my next manuscript. A few months later, I had an outline for The Gravedigger, a middle grade horror about a group of friends trying to save the family ghost tour business but find themselves lost in the catacombs on their island of the dead.


How long did it take from first draft to getting your offer of rep?

I started outlining The Gravedigger in November 2020 and began the first draft in the new year. Seven drafts, four beta reads, and one invaluable critique from Jess later, and I was ready to hit the trenches in time for Halloween 2021. The agent I ended up signing with was among the first batch queried. She requested a partial on January 1st 2022, which turned into a full on January 18th.


And then, on the most nerve-wracking Thursday afternoon ever, on April 14th 2022, I had the call and an offer of rep. Two weeks later, a dream nine years in the making came true and I signed with my incredible agent, Kaitlyn Johnson of Belcastro Agency.


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What was the hardest part of working on this book?

Okay, so by this book I’d got into a routine. I had a better understanding of story structure and writing craft, edits became easier to tackle because I had become more adept at laying the foundations of the story, and I was a seasoned querier.


The hardest part of working on this book was dealing with my self-doubt. And at times it was absolutely crushing. I don’t know when the switch happened. I’d already been writing and querying for years; I thought my skin was as thick as ever. But there must have been a moment, a kind of straw that broke the camel’s back, when my belief in myself all came crashing down.


Looking back, I think it might have been when I queried my sixth manuscript, which was my seventh year in the query trenches. Up until then, I’d always felt like I’d been on an upwards trajectory with my writing. Maybe I wasn’t winning, but I was improving. And book 6, well, I thought it was the best thing I’d ever written. I can’t tell you how excited I was to dive into the query trenches with it. I really thought it was The One. And then, 80 queries later with one full manuscript request and nothing else to show for it, I really broke down. My skin was gossamer thin. I wasn’t just going backwards, I’d boomeranged back to square one.


From that point, all through writing The Gravedigger, my self-belief was at rock-bottom. I disappeared within myself. I stepped back from social media, I didn’t feel like I belonged in the Writing Community, every day hurt. I was barely keeping my head above an ocean of crushing doubt and despair. Quitting wasn’t on the table, it never has been, because I can’t not write. But there were some dark times when I felt real contempt for the way writing had this hold over me and how the thing I love the most could torture me. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was write like none of that was going on.


Walk us through the numbers of your writing and querying journey.

I took the scenic route towards getting my offer of rep and made every mistake in the book along the way. Mine was a learning curve! In total, I wrote seven books and queried them over a period of eight years.


> Manuscripts: 7 (plus one rewrite)

> Years querying: 8

> Queries sent: 430 (an average of 60 queries per manuscript, though some were 40, some were 80)

> Full requests:

  • Book 1: 0

  • Book 2: 0

  • Book 3: 0

  • Book 4: 2

  • Book 5: 2

  • Book 6: 1

  • Book 7: 9


What advice would you give to querying authors?

Be kind to yourself. Take it at your own pace. Never give up your daydream.


Keep up with Gen’s journey

This book is definitely not one to miss, so make sure you follow her on social for updates and check out her website:


Website: https://genevieve.puttay.co.uk/

Twitter: @GenevievePuttay

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