All The Kissing, please welcome adult historical author and #KissPitch success story Felicia Grossman with her new agent, Lane Heymont, founder of The Tobias Literary Agency.
#KissPitch Success with Felicia Grossman and Lane Heymont
Felicia Grossman is a historical romance author and RWA member (NEORWA chapter!). Born and raised in Delaware (first-stater-for-life), she now lives in Cleveland with her spouse, kids, puppy and perpetually disappointed elder-dog.
Lane began his career as a literary assistant at The Seymour Agency, making his way up through the ranks to literary agent. He went on to found The Tobias Literary Agency. He strives to bring incredible and thought-provoking books to the masses, culminating in reaching the number one spot on Publishers Marketplace for agents representing horror, and the Top Ten for women’s fiction and romance. Lane represents a broad range of commercial fiction including romance and all its sub-genres, fantasy, science fiction, horror, celebrity memoirs, pop culture, serious nonfiction, and true crime.
He is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, and the Association of Authors’ Representatives.
He believes what John Gregory Dunne said: “Writing is manual labor of the mind.”
Congratulations on your #KissPitch love match, and all the feels for your outstanding new partnership! Felicia, can you tell us about your premise and your inspiration behind it?
APPETITES AND VICES is a historical romance about a faux engagement between Ursula Nunes, the least popular heiress in 1840s Delaware, and Jay Truitt, a rich playboy opium addict. She wants to fit in and he wants a project (MAKEOVER!). They have amazing chemistry (obvi) and fall in love. My heroine tries to rehab the hero’s reputation and brings society’s glare onto herself, her family, and her own community (she’s Jewish operating in a mostly non-Jewish world).
This was the first romance I wrote with a Jewish heroine (#ownvoices…in so many ways…) and it was really important to me, especially since it touches on antisemitism, that Urs (my heroine) doesn’t come off as a sweet martyr (i.e., I didn’t want another Mirah from Daniel Deronda or Rebecca from Ivanhoe). I wanted her to be messy and, at times, her own worst enemy, and have a real arc. I feel like it’s important for women, including minority women, to be imperfect and make mistakes and still get a HEA.
As for Jay (my hero), I didn’t set-out to write an addiction book, but it just sort of happened. Jay is that “life of the party” guy that goes a little too far. He’s good looking and fun, but insecure underneath and sometimes makes the worst decisions. I’ve known SO many Jays over the years. He and Urs are good for each other. To paraphrase Rent (I’m a huge musical theater nerd), their baggage goes together perfectly.
Lane, what was it about Felicia’s writing/manuscript that made you offer representation?
I don’t feel like I’ll be able to adequately explain since these types of things are such gut reactions. What first attracted me, being Jewish, was a Jewish historical romance! You don’t see those often and I’m always on the lookout for #ownvoices projects. It’s cool to have an #ownvoices for my culture.
Then there’s the writing. Felicia created this whole world out of a time period I adore. The characters are eye-poppingly authentic, and like Felicia said before, messy characters are FANTASTIC. No one is perfect and even us screwups deserve a little happily ever after!
Felicia, did you work with critique partners or beta readers before querying? If so where/how did you meet them? What have you learned about your own writing process during this story?
OMG! Do I have betas and CPs? At least a dozen people read APPETITES before Lane and several others saw the synopsis and query (shout-out Tricia). I have been so, so, so, so fortunate to have lucked into an amazing CP/support DM group on twitter (shout-out to the RChat ladies and Taralynn Moore, my roommate for RWA nationals, who introduced me to the group). I met Tara through MJ Marshall, my absolute, ultimate writing bestie and CP extraordinaire (She’s the Vera to my Mame or I’m the Vera to her Mame—I think she’s Vera because she’s taller. Anyway, she read this manuscript like six times), who I met through #ontheporch. I met Tara Tsai through #cpmatch and Janet (may have read twice) and Victoria through #queryswap and I’ve just been so, so, so, lucky.
I also very much believe that you get what you give. And it’s just good manners to reciprocate and CP/beta-ing reading is super fun (I mean, it lets me answer Avenue Q’s age-old question: “what do you do with a BA in English?”). You get to see something no one else has seen—it’s like getting let in on a secret. And you can discover great writers and be like the first person to buy their book when it comes out. How cool is that?
Felicia, tell us about preparing for #KissPitch. What was the pitch that got Lane’s attention? How did you develop your pitches and query?
The pitch was: TRAINSPOTTING+CAN’T BUY ME LOVE: A faux engagement between an awkward Jewish heiress & a recovering addict/playboy designed to boost their social standings goes a little too well. Sex, drugs & gossip in 1840s Philly threatens the couples’ reputations for good. #HR #A #HOT #KISSPITCH.
MJ and I worked on our pitches together, breaking down the important parts of our stories and what made them unique to use in the body before adding comps. I’m a huge pop culture comp person for pitches because 1) I’ve clearly watched VH1’s I Love the ’80s, ’90s, 2000s, and even the ’70s (which happened before I was born and thus is my entire basis of knowledge for that decade) a trillion times and 2) because those sorts of comps do so much work-i.e., convey plot, tone, voice, and subject matter all at the same time, while being fun and memorable.
Lane, what was it about Felicia’s pitch that hooked you? Any advice for future participants about pitching and how to stand out?
There was SO MUCH that attracted me to Felicia’s tweet. First, it was clear she understood the dynamics of high concept since she pitched APPETITES as “TRAINSPOTTING meets CAN’T BUY ME LOVE.” Second, and again, Jewish historical romance! The time period is something different and one I have a fondness for as a history buff. Third, “sex, drugs, & gossip in 1840s Philly” is another great high-concept pitch. And last, but not least, it takes place in Philly! A place very close to my heart.
Felicia, tell us about the call with Lane!
My boss and co-workers at my day job were listening outside my office door during the entire thing! I’d talked to a bunch of friends and CPs who have both signed with and parted ways with agents (I have a really big tribe) to discuss what to listen for and what to ask and what is important. I had tons of notes.
I also had time to prepare. Lane emailed me on Sunday and the call got scheduled for Friday afternoon since he is constantly jetting around, working for his clients (or, as I like to theorize, because he represents horror in addition to romance, he is super into torturing prospective clients). But the time was helpful because I got to think about what is important in the author/agent relationship and why I wanted an agent.
Felicia, do you have any resources you’d like to share? Any words of wisdom for future #KissPitch participants?
For pitching? I like brilliant freelance developmental editor Jeni Chappelle’s way of thinking about pitches: that they are the smallest doll in a series of nesting dolls with the manuscript as the largest, then the synopsis, then the query, then the blurb, then the pitch. Each should be a smaller reflection of the others, comprised of the most essential elements.
In general? The writing community, especially the romance community, is amazing. Putting yourself out there is so hard, but it’s necessary and can lead to fabulous stuff. There are so many resources: All the Kissing, RWA (local chapters and online chapters, which offer support and classes, including craft ones), writing twitter, etc. Pick a few and have fun!
At the same time, remember to always be kind. Never read for someone when you’re tired or hungry or worse, hangry.
Also, find a tribe who are not only helpful re: beta and CP-ing, but who you can secretly complain to and who will talk you down and prevent you from doing anything dumb. No chair (or chafing dish) tossing. There are a ton of frustrations and hurt feelings in writing and you need an outlet—people who understand and can get you through the less-than-fun-times in private (with a lot of inside jokes and book boyfriends).
Lane, what are you looking for now—anything specific in romance? What’s on your wishlist?
My tastes are eclectic, so I’m looking for all subgenres of horror, all subgenres of romance, thriller/mysteries, women’s fiction, and general/literary fiction. I’m also after serious nonfiction in the fields of philosophy, science, history/politics, criticism, environmentalism, physics, cultural studies, true crime, and celebrity memoirs.
As for romance, specifically, I’m after romantic suspense, rom-coms, and romance with women’s fiction crossover appeal.