Katy Rose Pool dreamed of writing professionally since age eight. “I taught myself to type so that I could write stories,” she recalls. “I would go out and play pretend and then come inside and write down what had happened.” As an adolescent, she tried her hand at novels—mostly long-form fanfiction and contemporary YA that she wrote “for fun, kind of to get all my teenage angst out.” But it wasn’t until she was working full-time as a web developer that she finally got serious about writing for publication.

“The characters came first,” Pool says of her debut fantasy, There Will Come a Darkness (Holt). “There was no outline. I did not know how it ended. But I just fell in love with their stories.”

Pool concedes that she made things harder for herself by electing to tell the tale from five different points of view, but she says there was something about the book’s protagonists—paranoid fugitive Anton, exiled prince Hassan, conflicted knight Jude, single-minded assassin Ephyra, and Ephyra’s terminally ill sister, Beru—that compelled her to persevere. “I was particularly drawn to write that strong bond between Ephyra and Beru because of my relationship with my own sister,” she says. She describes her older sibling—an aspiring sci-fi author who is studying to become a therapist—as her number-one brainstorming partner, and declares that, like Ephyra, she would kill for her sister if necessary. “Luckily, I’ve never had to do that,” she says with a laugh. “But still!”

For a year and a half, Pool eschewed plans with her friends to focus on her writing. “I really neglected a lot of other aspects of my life,” she recalls. Her dedication paid off, though; by 2014, she felt confident enough about the manuscript to query agents, and in 2015, she garnered representation from Alexandra Machinist and Hillary Jacobson of ICM Partners.

Pool readily admits that Machinist and Jacobson had a huge impact on the version of the book they shopped to publishers. The duo helped her focus the plot and fine-tune the worldbuilding, and they told her that There Will Come a Darkness—which she initially pitched as adult fantasy—would make a great YA novel.

“Truthfully, we didn’t have to do a lot of edits to make it YA—it already kind of was,” Pool says. “But I’m super grateful that she nudged me in that direction, because I love writing YA, and I love the whole YA world.”

Given that sentiment, it seems especially fitting that Pool was on her way to a YA book festival, Yallwest, when she learned that Holt editor Brian Geffen wanted to buy her novel. “It was so tough!” she says. “I had breakfast with other people who were represented by my agent, and I couldn’t say anything about the deal. It was so much fun when we finally got to announce.”

Getting to know her fellow debut authors has been a joy for Pool. “I feel like all of the triumphs are doubled by having those people with you who are cheering you on, and all of the setbacks are lessened because you have those people who you can commiserate with, who really understand what you’re going through,” she says.

When asked to identify her favorite part of the process, however, Pool doesn’t hesitate: “Meeting readers has been amazing,” she says. “That feeling of, ‘Oh, you’ve read words that I wrote and that are important to me, and now you’re telling me that they’re important to you.’ That’s such a magical moment of connection.”