The Story is About + Steve Malk

Interview with Agent Steve Malk (Witchlanders)

Lena Coakley


  • Witchlanders
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High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.

It’s all a fake.

At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?

But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—

Are about him.

Today I have an interview with Lena's agent Steve Malk!

How did you know that Witchlanders was the right manuscript for you?

Although the manuscript has changed quite a bit from the initial version I first saw, I knew right away that it was a book I was interested in because it combined superb writing and incredibly skilled world-building and character development with a plotline that’s fast-paced and a complete page-turner. Lena really manages to give you the best of all worlds: you get top-notch storytelling , incredible atmosphere, and unique, well-drawn characters while also having a story that moves along at a great clip. It’s very rare to find a book – especially a debut novel – that has this many things going for it.

Was there a lot of work to be done initially, any changes in pacing, structure or character development?

I did a considerable amount of editorial work with Lena and it was during that process that I really knew she was someone I wanted to work with, simply because she was so thoughtful and smart in the way she approached her revisions. I really pushed her hard to rethink the book in certain ways and to sharpen the pacing and the characters, and what I loved was that rather than using my editorial letter as sort of a checklist or doing a quick, cosmetic revision, she dug very deep, used my comments as a springboard, and came back with things that I’d never thought of. Lena would make each revision her own in a really meaningful way and she consistently went far above and beyond what I asked for or expected. The whole process was a real pleasure and really just one of those dream scenarios that reminds you of why you got into this business.

Have you always been a fan of the fantasy genre?

As a kid, I read across all genres, with Roald Dahl and Lloyd Alexander being two of my favorite writers. I can appreciate just about anything if it’s well executed, and I’m always looking for a great voice, compelling characters, and, above all, a story that I’ve never read before. When it comes to fantasy, strong world-building is absolutely key for me, and it’s something that Lena does just about as well as I’ve ever seen from a new author.

What submission trends have you noticed lately?

My main observation is that so many people are still chasing trends; trying to figure out what they should be writing instead of thinking about what they feel most compelled to write. The best stories will never come from trying to hop on a trend. Sure, maybe once in a while someone will catch lightning in a bottle that way, but more often than not, the trend has long gone when your book comes out. The best and most lasting books succeed independent of place and time and those are the types of books that I’m looking for. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with keeping the corner of your eye on the market, and it’s important to keep up with what’s out there, but when all is said and done, you need to write the book that only you can write.

What do you love best about what you do? What are the highs and lows?

I honestly feel like I have the best job in the world. Getting to work with such amazing, creative people is inspiring on a daily basis. Because I grew up as the son and grandson of independent booksellers, and then worked as one myself all through high school and college, I developed an immense amount of respect for the authors and illustrators who would stop through on tour to sign their books. They were like rock stars to me. The fact that I now get to work so closely with authors and illustrators myself and be a close part of their careers still blows me away. I’ve had the opportunity to be part of some amazing books in my career, and knowing that I played some small role in bringing such great books into the world and getting them in front of children and teens is very satisfying to me. So, the highs are being constantly inspired by my clients and seeing the reaction to their work out in the world. I’d say that the lows are seeing books that I care dearly about not get as much attention as I think they should. There are so many different books – not to mention other kinds of media – competing for attention, and it’s difficult to see great work getting overlooked.


Answer the video question by filling out the Google Doc and then you are entered in the Kindle3 Giveaway. You can leave a comment as well, but it will not count toward your entry, the only entries will be taken through the Google Docs form! You can gather up to 15 entries by commenting on each Tour Stop!! You can find the full list of tour stops below!

Official Contest information:

  • to enter, please fill out the form below
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  • contest deadline is September 12, 2011
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  • One Entry Per Person
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Interview with Agent Steve Malk (Witchlanders) + Steve Malk