Literary Agent Spotlight: Latoya C. Smith

Happy Monday Everyone!

I’m trying to have an upbeat attitude; otherwise, I will start bawling, and I won’t stop. Today is September 11th, and while it’s a day that impacts our entire nation, as a New Yorker, it hits me particularly hard. I remember the events of that morning sixteen years ago as if it were yesterday. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones. They are gone but never forgotten.

I also want to wish the people recovering from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma continued strength. It’s like we’re living in an alternate universe these days. Climate change is the real deal, and if we don’t acknowledge it and be proactive about combating it, I fear for future generations.

Anyway, enough with me being Debbie Downer. You know what keeps people happy during tough times? Books. So keep reading folks. Dive into those HEA’s and find your place of joy! #teamromance

Today’s spotlight features one fierce and fabulous lady. I first met Latoya at RT earlier this year. It was a brief interaction, but she later came to speak at my RWA NYC chapter meeting and of course I talked her ear off afterward (I can’t help my social butterfly tendencies, sue me). She’s also the recipient of the RWA NYC Chapter’s 2017 Golden Apple Award for Agent of the Year! Go, Latoya!!! *claps wildly* 

Get to know a little about this fantastic lady!

Everyone is asked this question. Librarians, bloggers, authors, no one is immune. *cackles

Since you’re my first agent/editor to be interviewed, you get the honor of being put on the hot seat too! I always find author interviews kind of boring. We only get to see one side of an author, the polite side. I’m sure the same can be said for editors/agents. If you had an evil doppelganger, what detail would they enjoy revealing about you to the public that people would find surprising and possibly questionable?

I have OCD, so I obsess about EVERYTHING, sometimes to the point where I have to sing or chant to get whatever the thought is out of my mind.

What attracted you to the literary world?

I’ve always been an avid reader since I was a child. A Scholastic kid all the way! Then Goosebumps, Babysitter’s Club, and on and on. So when I got the chance to be the assistant of a New York Times bestselling author, I jumped at the chance.

I know reading isn’t big on your list since you spend so much of your day staring at a computer screen but when you have time for leisure reading, whose writing do you fangirl over?

I am a fan of so many writers, styles, stories, etc. I am a true lover of BOOKS! However, yes, I do read a lot for work. So when I have time to read for pleasure, I try to shoot for anything in audio. Mostly fictional stories, particularly women’s fiction, romance, and thriller are my go-tos.

What are three quick tidbits of wisdom you’d give to a new writer beginning the query process?

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH. You should always know your market better than anyone else; know what your competition is doing and taking notes; and assessing the analytics of your social media, sales, information, promotional efforts, etc. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially from publishing professionals and other authors. And be ready to spend money to hone in on your craft. It’s worth it in the end!

What’s the funniest query you’ve ever received? You can give as much or as little detail as you’d like. 

I had someone query me as Jesus incarnate…

The first concert you ever attended?

Jodeci and Mary J. Blige!

Describe your first kiss in two words. 

Really short.

What do you think people misunderstand most when it comes to the romance genre?

They don’t understand its value–call it fake writing or not real literature. And yet romance outsells MOST genres in fiction.

If you could assume the identity of any living person before 1920, who would you choose? 

Madame CJ Walker. She made women feel beautiful and made a lot of money while doing it!

In life, we get caught up on significant events and never really take the chance to appreciate the little things. Is there a “little thing” you wish you had celebrated a bit more? 

Me! We often are so busy complaining or looking at the things that are not working out that we rarely take the time to appreciate the things that we love about ourselves and our lives. I am working on celebrating myself more and focusing more on the things I love, not the things that bother me.

**Bonus Question**
Ever tried BDSM? If not, would you? 

Not exactly. Not big on pain. However, I have tried handcuffs and candle wax. *There was a smirking emoji here* LOL, I felt you all should know that tidbit of information.


Latoya C. Smith started her editorial career as an administrative assistant to New York Times bestselling author, Teri Woods at Teri Woods Publishing, while pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree at Temple University. She graduated Cum Laude from Temple in August of 2005. She then attained a full-time position at Kensington Publishing in March of 2006. In October 2006, Latoya joined Grand Central Publishing, an imprint at Hachette Book Group. For the span of her eight years there, Latoya acquired a variety of titles from Hardcover fiction and non-fiction, to digital romance and erotica. She was featured in Publishers Weekly and USA Today, as well as on various author, book conference, and book blogger websites. She is the winner of the 2012 RWA Golden Apple for Editor of the Year.  In early 2014, she appeared on CSpan2 where she contributed to a panel discussing the state of book publishing. From August 2014 to February 2016, Latoya was Executive Editor at Samhain Publishing where she acquired short and long form romance and erotic fiction. Now, Latoya provides editorial and consultation services through her company, LCS Literary Services. She is also an agent with the L. Perkins Agency.

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Author Spotlight: Heidi Cullinan

Happy Tuesday, Peeps! 

Because of Labor Day, I delayed posting the author spotlight. I’m sure everyone was too busy enjoying BBQ’s and relaxing to miss it, LOL. In any case, I’m baaaaaack! ;-) 

Today’s spotlight features a lady I’m incredibly lucky to know. I first met Heidi last year at the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference. In the year since we first met, she has taught me so much in regards to the business and marketing side of being an author. It’s rare to have someone be candid about their failures and successes. We’re all very guarded when it comes to displaying vulnerabilities, but Heidi has been amazing! Authenticity is an attractive trait to me, and I usually flock to other writers who don’t mind sharing their highs and lows. In the end, we all want to succeed and spreading knowledge helps us to reach our goals. Not to mention, she’s so damn supportive of me and my career. She gets massive ♥ for that!

Take some time and read a little bit about Heidi, she’s freaking fantastic! 

I always find author interviews kind of boring. We only get to see one side of an author, the polite side. If you had an evil doppelganger, what detail would they enjoy revealing about you to the public that people would find surprising and possibly questionable?

Um…well, since I’m not the evil doppelgänger, I’m not going to reveal that…

Honestly I don’t know that this is much of a surprise, but there isn’t much to reveal about me. I’m pretty straightforward, and I’m not full of secrets, interesting factoids, or even hobbies. For fun I’m a hermit and I work or research things. I’m bad about keeping my house clean, I’m behind in my correspondence, I don’t call my family or friends enough—normal, boring, and horribly uninteresting. My books, however, are a different story. I hope.

What’s one piece of advice you wish you received before you began your writing career?

I don’t feel like I’m missing anything, and I received good advice that I wasn’t able to hear until I’d lived enough live to implement it. The thing I crave most now is silence and space to explore my ideas, and it’s the thing I don’t have. This week, for example, what I want most is to not answer any email or be on social media and to just be in my own space—I want so much for a week like that, just a week, but it will be months, maybe a year before I can afford something like that. Just seven days! When I was unpublished, published authors told me to cherish that silence and that space to explore my ideas, but all I could see was the emptiness it held. I think this is one of those things where space is different depending on who you are when you try to fill it, but that’s the advice I think of a lot lately, to take advantage of that lack of activity and cherish it, not hate it so much, when you don’t have it. Yes, you want the activity, but if you have enough success it will eventually eat you too. Someday you will miss that silence you hate so much.

What are you most passionate about?

My readers. I’m not always good at talking to them, because I feel self-conscious, but my patrons have taught me a lot about how to behave, how to be gracious and comfortable with compliments (I would rather just talk about the work and the story, not myself) and have allowed me to give back too. But this year especially, with my wacky production schedule and so much upheaval, has taught me how much I value producing story for my readers. I always want to welcome new readers, of course, and this is my living, I want to make money, but I am grateful for and cherish forever the community which has somehow grown up around me. It makes me excited, and I want to keep making more story for them. But they’re so good, they yell at me to slow down and eat and sleep and watch anime too. I don’t deserve this, but I got it anyway.

If you could eat one food for the rest of your life what food would you choose?

CAKE. Cake forever. I mean, I’d be sick of it in an hour, but I’m assuming this scenario fixes that issue. Honestly I just love food, so I’d want to be able to eat without getting sick or fat, but if I’m picking one and not getting sick on it or of it, CAKE.

You write gay romance, and you also live in Iowa. Big city gal here! Born and raised in NYC. Are you open about your profession in your community? If so, how do you think you’re perceived? I ask because I have a skewed perspective. I doubt life in NYC is the same as life in Iowa. I’m curious as to what your experiences have been like. Romance writers already get slack but does writing gay romance add additional obstacles? Am I way off base here? School me, Heidi!

Well, Ames is pretty liberal, being a college town, and I’m basically a hermit. I think I know twenty people here well enough to have them over. But people receive me well when I tell them. They’re curious and excited. My piano tuner found out (I write under my legal name) and now gets excited whenever he sees me. I let it slip at Target to an employee (I forget how it was relevant, I was tired at the time) and since half the staff there is queer suddenly I’m the gay celebrity whenever I shop, which is actually disconcerting. There are a few other people here and there who know, but it’s fine. 

You’ve been a super fangirl when it comes to Yuri on Ice! Tell the people out there who aren’t familiar with the series what you find appealing about it.

Oh my god. How many hours do you have?

There’s so much going on. It’s the first major anime to have a queer romance in the story and then have a satisfying ending, to start. There’s another, No. 6, which also had a romance and a kiss, but the end was not as hopeful and I can’t rewatch it because the whole show is a little darker and the end matches. I don’t blame it, it’s the show, but it’s not Yuri on Ice. YOI is a sports anime, and it’s about overcoming your limitations, working with your rivals and coming to love them, meeting your heroes, falling in love, traveling the world—it transcends so many things, and it makes me so damn happy. I was in such a funk last winter, to the point I couldn’t write or even function, and that show pulled me out. It’s twelve episodes of joy. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Also, the POC quotient? There are a mere handful of white people in this show, and they’re all minor characters except for Victor and Yuri Pliesetsky, the love interest and rival respectively. The Asian characters, especially the lead, actually look Asian, not westernized. Plus you travel to China, Russia, Spain, see the food, the sights—the show runners traveled to all these places on their own dime and modeled everything off of photos and memories. They bled into this show, and this is the result. It’s just so amazing. You have to watch!

Favorite cartoon as a kid?

Probably Scooby Doo.

First car you ever drove?

Family car. It was some horrible station wagon.

Describe your worst date in three words.

Back of a bus. (Sorry, it’s four.)

Finish this sentence: If I could retire tomorrow I would _____.


**Bonus Question**

Ever tried BDSM? If not, would you?

Um, maybe? I did have someone flog me once, lightly, so I could know how it felt. It was over clothes, in a bar. I enjoyed it! I think I would be into it, but it’d have to be carefully done as my partner is not, and so it would take a lot of conversation and consent. And right now I am too busy and overwhelmed with life for fun, alas. I also worry because of my EDS (a condition from birth) it would be too easy for someone to hurt me without meaning to, or me knowing, so it would take a lot of research, which seems like more work and then I get tired thinking about it. I could be on the other end too, but that seems like even more work, and so, probably no. There’s no siren call, I’m just curious and always open to trying things.  


Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at

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Looking to activate your one-click finger? Pick up Shelter the Sea

Author Spotlight: L. Penelope

Hey, Folks! 

First, before I begin the weekly spotlight, I want to extend my thoughts and well wishes to those who were caught in the path of Hurricane Harvey last week. Since I’ve tuned out of social media except for Instagram, I have NO IDEA what the hell is going on in the world (and I like it). I just found out last Friday Steve Bannon is gone from the White House. Crazy, right? I’m delayed when it comes to news updates, and it’s wonderful for my mental health. I’m supposed to rejoin the social media fray in September, but I can say for certain, moving forward the time I spend on it (except for Instagram) will be limited. I get ragey and antsy doing casual scrolls, and that’s not healthy. When the world is overwhelming, you have to bury yourself in things that make you happy. I have been in such a good place since tuning out two weeks ago. My happy is out of control! YAY!

Anyway, I hope you and your loved ones are safe and sound. Sending those impacted by the storm virtual hugs and tons of positivity. ♥ 

This week, I have the honor of featuring one of the coolest authors I’ve come to know in this business. We first connected earlier this year at RT where I shouted her name across the bar. I was totally sober! LOL, that’s how I introduce myself, peeps. I YELL YOUR NAME IN A CROWDED BAR TO GET YOUR ATTENTION (I don’t really) I was just super excited to meet Leslye in person. Luckily, she didn’t curse me out. If paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy are your go to romance subgenres, you’ll definitely want to give L.P.’s work a whirl. Did I mention she’s super cool? I did, didn’t I? It can’t hurt to give you a gentle reminder. ;-)

Get to know a bit about L. Penelope!

I always find author interviews kind of boring. We only get to see one side of an author, the polite side. If you had an evil doppelganger, what detail would they enjoy revealing about you to the public that people would find surprising and possibly questionable?

I go to the gun range with my husband regularly, and I’m a pretty good shot (better than him). Originally, my reasoning had a lot to do with a potential zombie apocalypse, but these days, being prepared just makes a lot of sense.

What state were you born in?

New York. The Bronx specifically. My father was a Secret Service agent and worked undercover in the city. But we moved to DC when I was still a baby.

What are three words that describe your first sexual experience?

That’s a difficult one because my first sexual experiences—everything from making out as a teenager to first having consensual intercourse as an adult—were all very fraught. Maybe that’s why I love romance novels, you can disappear into a world full of happily ever afters. And I was very fortunate eventually to find my own, hard earned, HEA.

How old were you when you learned to ride a bike?

I don’t remember, 6 or 7, I think. I do know that I never figured out what all those gears were for on my 10 speed, and the whole bike riding thing lost its luster after around sixth grade.

What inspired you to write paranormal/sci-fi romance?

I began writing stories when I was about five years old and everyone always told me how weird they were. I would start out trying to write something simple and straightforward and then poof: a talking baby back from the grave or an invisible fear monster would show up. At one point my parents really thought something was wrong with me. I blame my steady diet of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Tales from the Darkside, Amazing Stories and any other weirdly speculative show I could devour. I watched Twin Peaks in middle school and The X-Files in high school and experienced a catharsis. These were my people.

I read very widely since I was a kid, and had a brief flirtation with Harlequin as a teenager, but my love for romance didn’t really come about until my mid-twenties. I discovered Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh and JR Ward, and they led me down the rabbit hole of paranormal romance. I’d always loved writing about love, so it was only natural for magic and mythical creatures to creep into my work.

You recently signed a deal with SMP. On a scale of 1-10 how grueling was the entire process of getting your series picked up? Based on your experience, what advice would you offer to an aspiring author regarding queries?

My experience isn’t super helpful to other authors as I didn’t actually query. I started out knowing I was going to self-publish. As a web developer, I’m fairly tech savvy and had plenty of DIY experience with other projects (indie filmmaking and co-founding a literary journal), so I just did a bunch of research on indie publishing and started putting my work out there. Along the way, people kept telling me about Monique Patterson, an editor at St. Martin’s Press, and I really needed to check her out because she loves paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy. I was like, “okay, sure, I’ll add that to my monstrous to-do list,” because self-publishing is no joke.

As it turns out, Monique came across my books online, read them, and contacted me, initially about pitching new projects, and eventually about republishing the Earthsinger Chronicles series, and bringing it to a wider audience. That was the start of a very long process that was probably an 8 on the grueling meter, just because I’m an impatient person. Working with traditional publishing has forced me to exercise my patience muscles. From the time she first contacted me until I actually signed the contract was about nine months. And as of now, it’s still nearly a year until the book comes out!

I would encourage authors, regardless of what publishing path they’re aiming for, to do as much research as possible. Put out the most polished product you can, whether you’re querying or going indie.

Vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate?

If we’re talking ice cream, then vanilla.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Absolutely. At least on one side. I’ve had several, long term, one-sided love at first sight non-relationships that were very meaningful to me, LOL. Reciprocal love at first sight I’m not so sure about. But my gushy, romance-loving heart wants to believe.

What would you say is the most difficult thing about being a writer?

Being a writer is like taking all your clothes off in front of an audience, then ripping open a few veins and hoping they appreciate it. The self-doubt has been the toughest for me. I can both know I’m a good writer and think all my words are trash at the same time. That dichotomy is exhausting. Pushing through it to the other side requires the type of self-work that is never easy.

What’s your favorite childhood toy?

I had a pink, stuffed elephant named Penelope (because I was the type of kid who named toys after myself) that I adored. You wound it up and it played Yes, Jesus Loves Me, which, in hindsight, sounds pretty bizarre, but at the time I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

**Bonus Question**

Ever tried BDSM? If not, would you?

I don’t think my husband would like me putting our business in the streets like that, haha.


L. Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She is the author of new adult, fantasy and paranormal romance. Her debut novel, SONG OF BLOOD & STONE, won the 2016 Self-Publishing eBook Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. The fantasy series was picked up by St. Martin’s Press for publication starting 2018.
After living on both coasts, she settled in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependents: an eighty-pound lap dog and an aspiring feral cat. Sign up for new release information and monthly giveaways on her website:

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Get your paranormal romance fix with Angelborn, Book 1 in the Eternal Flame series! This is an older cover but it’s still gorge! 

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