The Agency Series and YS Lee: Behind the Book Interview

Behind the Book is an exclusive feature at Muggle-Born that gives readers an inside look into the editorial process of some of our favorite books. Plot changes, lost characters, and many more interesting topics are tackled in an interview with the author.

The Traitor in the Tunnel (The Agency, #3) by YS Lee

Did You Know?

  • The Traitor in the Tunnel was written quicker than the two previous novels
  • Mary’s name was originally Mary Lockett
  • Read on to find out more Behind the Book info about The Traitor in the Tunnel and the rest of the Agency series!

How many months did it take for you to write the original draft of THE TRAITOR IN THE TUNNEL? How does this compare to the other Agency books?
I can’t tell you how long it takes to write a true rough draft because I tend to write simultaneous drafts – that is, I keep reworking earlier bits even as I write new sections. By the time I type “The End”, the first half of the book is semi-polished. But it took about 13 months from starting my research to submitting the ms to my editor. That was quicker than either of the first two Agency novels.

THE TRAITOR IN THE TUNNEL released in the UK in August 2011. Can you explain to us the reasons why there is a difference in release dates?
Each title comes out first in the UK because we (my agent and I) sold World English rights to Walker Books UK, and Walker arranged for their sister company, Candlewick Press, to publish in the US & Canada. But specific release dates are set in-house. While I don’t know the specific reasons for the gap, I’m sure they’re complex.

Did any of the characters in the Agency series ever go through name changes when you first started writing?
Yes! Mary Quinn’s name was Mary Lockett, until a friend pointed out that it sounded like a homage to Sally Lockhart, Philip Pullman’s Victorian heroine. I hadn’t read the Sally Lockhart quartet at that point, but I quickly did! As great as I think they are, I needed to rename my Mary after that. And in the very first draft, James’s name was Frederick. Really.

What was the most challenging part of writing and the editorial process?
The editorial process is so straightforward, from my end. I’m lucky to be edited and proofread by extremely smart, insightful, passionate people and I love that their involvement makes the books stronger. The most challenging part of writing, for me, is when the first draft is halfway done. All the best ideas are worked out, the first flush of excitement is gone, and lots of hard work remains. Writing the second half of a book is pure discipline – until you get to the very end, of course!

Is there anything else that you could tell us about THE TRAITOR IN THE TUNNEL that we wouldn’t know unless we were part of the editorial team at Candlewick?
The number one question I get from readers is some variation on, Will James Easton be in Traitor? Will he change his mind? Will he and Mary EVER get together? I’d hate to give away too much, but James is definitely back. Also, I’m really looking forward to showing you some behind-the-scenes snapshots from the cover photo shoot! They’ll be up at my website in the next few weeks.

For more behind the book information, check out this post at Ying’s blog to read about the cover’s photo shoot!

About the Author

Y. S. Lee was born in Singapore but brought up in Canada. She also lived briefly in the United Kingdom. An academic with a PhD in Victorian literature and culture, she wrote MASCULINITY AND THE ENGLISH WORKING CLASS IN VICTORIAN AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND FICTION. She lives in Ontario, Canada.

Find the Author

Website | Twitter | GoodReads


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