Friday, April 6, 2012

Missouri Author Carol Carr Sheds Light on Author/Agent Relationship

After a career as an attorney and corporate executive, Carol K. Carr decided she’d had enough. She turned to writing.  Her first book, INDIA BLACK, was published in 2011 by Berkley Prime Crime.  A sequel, INDIA BLACK AND THE WIDOW OF WINDSOR, appeared in October 2011.  Carol is currently at work on the third book in the series.  She lives in Springfield, Mo., with her husband and their German Shepherd dog. 

Carol is represented by Ann Collette of the Helen Rees Literary Agency. She and Ann will be presenting a combined breakout session during the “Write Time! Write Place! Write Now!” Conference that will address the agent/author relationship. Attendees will receive inside knowledge from this agent/author team about various topics including how an author gets an agent, how an agent chooses a client, the expectations each has of the other, and what it takes to develop a successful author/agent relationship.

Sarah: Carol thank you for visiting the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference blog today. We’re excited to learn more about you and hear about your upcoming appearance at the “Write Time! Write Place! Write Now!” Conference.

Carol:  Thank you, Sarah.  I’m really pleased to be invited to speak at the conference, and I’m looking forward to meeting fellow authors from Missouri.  We’ve got quite a literary tradition to keep alive here, following in the footsteps of T.S. Eliot, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and of course, Mark Twain.

Sarah: To get us started, can you tell me where you are right now?

Carol: I’m originally from Summersville, a small town in Texas County.  I attended Missouri State University and then law school in Washington D.C.  After a couple of decades in Texas and California, I returned to the thriving metropolis of Springfield.  I love being back in the Ozarks.

Sarah: It seems like every author follows his/her own unique path to publication. Yourself included. First you became a lawyer, then an HR Director, and now in the past couple years, an author. That is a very windy path to becoming a national best-selling author! How did you find yourself writing a novel? You didn’t just sit down one day and decide to write one, did you?

Carol:  Well, yes, I did.  Like most writers, I’m a reader.  I can’t recall the book I was reading at the time I made this decision, but I do remember putting it down in disgust and thinking, “I can do better than that.”  Ignorance is bliss.  I had no idea how difficult it was to pull off.  I wrote one really terrible novel, which I’m glad to say has mysteriously disappeared from my computer.  I’m sure a few agents rolled their eyes when they read that submission.  Those rejection letters fired my competitive spirit, though.  I wrote two more novels which were much better, good enough to get an agent, in fact, although no publishers were interested in them.  I finally scored with India Black.

Sarah: Do you think that working in those previous jobs has helped you in the long run? Why or why not?

Carol:  Oh, yes, they’ve helped tremendously.  Being a lawyer is almost perfect training for writing.  I was a transactions lawyer, working in real estate and finance.  There were always deadlines and multiple projects to handle.  You have to work when you’d rather not.  You spend a lot of time at your desk, staring at a computer screen or reviewing documents.  You must learn to express yourself concisely and accurately.  Writing fiction is a bit of relief, actually.  You’re not likely to be dragged into court over the meaning of a sentence in your novel, but you could very well end up before a jury trying to explain what you meant by the use of the word “reasonable.”  I can’t say I enjoyed the Human Resources gig; I was dragged into that.  I had no idea anything could be more stressful than practicing law, but dealing with 120,000 employees (average age – 24) most certainly was.  The one benefit I derived from that experience is that I am virtually shock-proof with respect to the things people do and say.  You learn a lot about human nature in H.R.  I usually include several scenes of India’s management issues running the brothel.  I have great fun imagining those episodes. 

Sarah: You’ve said this will be the first time that you and Ann have met in person. How does your working relationship….work, then?

Carol:  Our first contact was by email.  I’d submitted a query and writing sample to her and she sent a very nice email asking to see the rest of the manuscript.  After reading through it, she wrote once more and asked if I’d be interested in having the agency represent me.  I played it cool.  I waited approximately ten seconds before I emailed back to say I would.  Then we had a conversation on the phone which went well, in which Ann explained the terms of representation, how the submission process would work, and which editors she would be approaching.  She also discussed the kind of deal I would likely get from the publisher.  During the submission process, she kept me apprised by email of publisher’s reactions and when the manuscript was picked up by Berkley, she called to tell me.  We have periods when we email each other frequently, over contract terms or new deals from the publisher and months when I’m writing and we don’t communicate much at all.  It’s worked well.

Sarah: What has surprised you the most about working with Ann?

Carol:  The best surprise is that there have been no surprises.  When Ann says she’ll do something, she does it.  She never fails to answer a question and she always responds to emails.  She’s a straight shooter, too.  Publishing is a business and she understands that aspect of it and makes sure that you do as well.  I’ve heard horror stories from other authors about agents who disappear before the ink is dry on the contract, so I feel very fortunate to have found an agent who is dedicated to her clients.

Sarah: During your breakout session, you’ll be addressing what a good author/agent relationship looks like. What are some signs that maybe an author/agent relationship isn’t good?

Carol:  I’ll have to wing this one, as my experience with Ann has been wonderful.  So, I’ll take the way she operates and assume the opposite of that behavior is bad agenting.  Here’s my list:
The agent is difficult to reach.  The agent is evasive and dances around issues.  You have to
contact the agent to see where you stand in the submission process.  The agent doesn’t even start the submission process.  You have to contact the agent regarding payments.  The agent is unrealistic about the kind of deal you’ll make.  The agent will not provide specific information about which editors she’ll be approaching.  The agent keeps poor records.  The agent is disorganized.  The agent will not provide you editorial feedback during the submission process.
I think that’s how a bad relationship would look.  There’s the personal factor, too.  If the agent is aloof or arrogant, I don’t think I’d be happy working with him or her.  An agent may not be your BFF, but you should share a mutual respect for one another.             

Sarah: What’s the most important thing an author should expect from the agent/author relationship once a book has been published?

Carol:  At that point, I think the agent’s work is finished with respect to that book.  Prior to publication, your agent may solicit blurbs for your book from other writers she represents.  She can suggest some marketing tips or point you in the direction of some opportunities to get your name out to the public, but that’s really not her job.  One thing I do think is important, though, is that your agent keeps your name in front of your publisher.  When Ann meets my editor, Ann will email to let me know how the editor feels about sales, or the possibility of another book, or anything else that’s pertinent.  An agent should be promoting her author when she has the chance.   

Sarah: You’ve written 2 published and one soon-to-be-released mystery novels featuring Madam India Black. How did you come up with the character?

Carol:  I’m a history buff, and particularly like the Victorian era.  I wanted to write my own historical adventure with a female heroine, but that was such a restrictive period for women that it was difficult imagining a woman who was free to chase after assassins, who was street-wise and tough, and who didn’t care at all about polite society.  After a little thought, I concluded that a madam would be just the ticket.  India is self-employed, knows how to use a gun and has fought her way up and off the streets of London.  Authority doesn’t intimidate her.  Indeed, not much does.  I’ve never liked women who swoon.  Protagonists with flaws are so much more interesting, and India has quite a few.

Sarah: Can you tell us a bit about India’s upcoming new adventure?

Carol:  India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy will be published by Berkley Prime Crime in February, 2013.  India and her cohorts, the luscious government agent French and the odiferous street urchin Vincent, infiltrate a group of anarchists, with explosive results.  In January of 2013, I’ll be publishing an eSpecial describing how India acquired Lotus House, her brothel.  I’m also pleased to say that I’ve just signed a contract for the fourth book in the series, and for a second eSpecial to be published in conjunction with it.

Sarah: That is exciting news! Congratulations! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on the agent/author relationship. For more information about Carol and her books, you can visit her online at

For those who have signed up to attend the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference, please consider volunteering. This is an excellent way to get to know our featured faculty a bit better. For more information e-mail MWG President Deb Marshall at


  1. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for a great interview. I love Carol's remark that the best surprise about working with her agent is there are no surprises.
    Carol's series sounds intriguing.

  2. Sarah and Carol, I enjoyed the interview. Thanks for sharing. More books to add to my list!

  3. Lynn and Donna,

    Thanks for stopping by.