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Author & Agent Interview: Makana Yamamoto and Keir Alekseii

Today, we are thrilled to be interviewing Makana Yamamoto, Kanaka Maoli author of forthcoming Hammajang Luck, and their literary agent, Keir Alekseii. More about Makana  can be found on their website and more about Keir can be found on her website.

You can add Makana Yamamoto's adult science fiction novel, Hammajang Luck, to your Goodreads here, or to your Storygraph here.

We started this Author & Agent blog series to spotlight Pacific Islander creators and their agents for Asian and Pacific Islander month. Our hope is that this series will inspire other Pacific Islanders interested in pursuing traditional publishing as creators or as agents! As we learned in the creation of our website, there is not a single Pacific Islander agent, and we hope to see that change.

Thank you for joining us!

Makana's Interview

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and the project for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?

I'm Makana! I am hapa haole and kānaka maoli, born on Maui and raised for half my life on the Mainland and the other half in Hawaiʻi. I'm also a māhū lesbian, living with my wife and two cats. I live in Massachusetts right now, but I still consider Maui home. Outside of writing I love to read, play video games and board games, DM tabletop roleplaying games, and cook (especially all my favorites from home).

I found representation with what is now my debut novel, Hammajang Luck. It's a cyberpunk heist featuring a misfit crew of lesbian thieves trying to take down a trillionaire tech god (think Jeff Bezos but he's a cyborg). My original inspiration was a tweet about childhood friends-to-enemies-to-lovers, and from there it morphed into a story about two backstabbing thieves. It started off as a fun heist with a crew of sexy lesbians, but grew into a story about family, blood and found, home and culture, and love and betrayal. The setting is hugely inspired by my upbringing in Hawaiʻi, where the Hawaiian diaspora has been scattered to the stars. I wanted to see more sci-fi with lesbians and Hawaiians, so I wrote a sci-fi about a Hawaiian lesbian!

What resources did you use to compile your list of agents to query? What criteria did you use to build your list? (If you didn’t query traditionally, please share how you and your agent signed together instead)

I used a couple of different resources! I searched agents that rep'd sci-fi on the Literary Agents of Color database, browsed Query Tracker, and looked up the agents of some of the authors that had similar books to mine. I ended up with sort of a hybrid approach between cold querying and pitch events on Twitter. Ultimately I signed with Keir through APIpit.

Did you tailor your query to each agent?

I did! I included details from their manuscript wish lists that I thought matched my manuscript and included any additional information that might be of interest to that particular agent.

What about Keir made you query her?

Keir's MSWL had a lot of overlap with Hammajang Luck, and I really liked her description of her agenting style. I also have enormous respect for Azantian Literary Agency, so that was a plus!

What advice would you give creators looking for representation?

My advice is to try and not take rejection personally, or as a reflection of your talent and hard work. There are so many factors that go into an agent's decision to request or offer, and it's not necessarily because you did anything wrong. Don't pick apart every rejection, because rejection is just part of the industry. Try to send it and forget it as much as possible! Keep working on your other projects, and hele on.

When Keir offered, what made you decide to sign with her? What criteria did you consider?

Keir and I hit it off immediately--we were on the offer call for 2 hours! Keir was so enthusiastic and effusive about the book, I really got the sense she cared about it and loved it. She also had invaluable insight and a rock solid plan for submission, which made me feel confident in her ability to get the MS into shape and pitch it to editors. I was looking for agents who were passionate about the book, aligned with me in their editorial vision, and had a plan for sub. All of which Keir had in spades!

What advice would you give to Pacific Islander creators looking for agents?

Don't be afraid to lean into your experience and culture! I really thought that I would be pressured into watering down the Hawaiian elements of my book, but ultimately it was what my agent and editors loved most about it. If someone tries to change your story or police your voice, that's a sign you don't want to work with them anyway! There are people out there that are hungry for stories like ours, don't compromise your vision just to fit into "marketability." Your authenticity will be rewarded!

How long have you been signed together? What’s your favorite thing about Keir?

I signed with Keir in July of 2022, so almost 2 years! I love that Keir is such a fierce advocate for me. She never lets me settle for less than what I deserve, and I appreciate that so much about her.

Keir's Interview


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