Ask Daphne! About My Query XIII

June 22nd, 2009 • Kate

empressActual shoes worn by an actual empress for K.R., who contributes today’s About My Query. As always, please chime in in the comments with your thoughts!

Dear Daphne,

Abigail – Gail, to anyone who wants to keep their teeth – has problems. They start on her sixteenth birthday when the only present she gets is an abduction courtesy of the Emperor’s Enforcers. But that’s only the beginning. She arrives at the Academy just in time to be enrolled – as if she has a choice – in a contest to win the hand of the Emperor’s only son, Dmitri. Sound archaic? It is. Not to mention embarrassing as the Stages require her to do things like walk onstage in her underwear and talk about her nonexistent sex life – hello, never been kissed, let alone done the horizontal tango.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Gail’s roommate – Yelena – is a homicidal zealot. But she’s not just your typical brand of crazy – she has plans to assassinate the Emperor using whatever means necessary and she’s decided that the best way to do that is through Dmitri. That wouldn’t be so bad if Dmitri wasn’t interested in Gail – and only Gail.

Things come to a head when Gail is informed that her mother – her only living relative – has committed suicide. Plagued with guilt, she makes a series of bad decisions that land her in hot water. That, combined with her blossoming relationship with Dmitri, is enough for several powerful people to decide to take matters into their own hands and ensure that she has no chance at winning the contest … or surviving the year.

Set one hundred years after a biological weapon has destroyed most of the world’s population, THE STOLEN ONES is complete at 72,000 words. Sample chapters and a synopsis are available upon request.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my novel.


Thanks for allowing us to review your query, K.R.! My first thought on looking at it concerns the number of asides, one in nearly every paragraph — “Gail, to anyone who wants to keep their teeth”, “as if she has a choice”, “hello, never been kissed, let alone done the horizontal tango”, “Yelena”, and “her only living relative”. I think you need to find a way to work this information into the query in a more organic way, or decide if it’s necessary to include. For instance, I think you can work Gail’s mother being her only living relative into the first paragraph, cut out the mention of “Abigail” so you don’t have to explain anything about “Gail”, and drop Yelena’s name entirely — for the purpose of the query, calling her “Gail’s roommate” ought to be enough.

That being said, there’s other bits of information you don’t give which leave the query-reading feeling like they have to struggle to keep up, like more details about the Academy or the Stages. Otherwise, it’s somewhat confusing. How does she get from being kidnapped to the Academy? The final paragraph is another example. The whole query is set in what feels like a sort of medieval or fantasy realm, and suddenly, you drop in the knowledge of a post-apocalyptic future? Whaaa?

As it reads now, it has a very conversational tone, very quippy, that should match the language of your book. Does it? Because the plot itself feels more serious, darker, than the way it’s currently told.

But maybe that’s me. What do you guys think?

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7 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query XIII”

  1. Rebecca (Fie Eoin) Says:

    I really have to agree with you on the final paragraph. That one threw me for a loop. And the kidnapped -> Academy thing is really confusing too. Was she taken to the Academy as part of the kidnapping? Clearing this up would help a lot.

  2. Jamie Harrington Says:

    I dunno… I am torn on this one. Part of me really wants to read the story, and the other part of me (the part that isn't into emperors, I think… so that has nothing to do with YOU or your book LOL) just isn't as in to this.

    I think my biggest issue with the query is that it's a little too long for me. I am not sure what agents are looking for, but I get bored after reading like the third paragraph of a query, so I want it wrapped up by then.

    But, I think the story has an interesting premise… and that is definitely drawing me in, so focus more on that 🙂

  3. Karen Says:

    I have to agree that all the "asides" throughout the query kinda kills the flow. As I read, I remember thinking that if everyone calls her Gail then let the fact that her name is Abigail be something we discover in the book. I'm curious about the abduction and how that ties into the school.

    The contest seems a little out of place to me. I'm not saying that it shouldn't be in the story, but maybe not in the query. I got interested when I got to the part about the homicidal roomate. I thought this was getting to the plot, but then her mother's suicide, her bad decisions, her relationship with Dimitri, and the powerful people who want to ruin her chances at winning the contest seemed to swing the story in another direction.

    On a side note, why is Gail guilty about her mother's death? Had she done something to make the woman sucicidal?

    Right now, I can kinda see an interesting story here, but I don't really know what it's about. The query seems to be telling us about the subplots and not THE plot.

    Hope that makes sense…

  4. Robert Says:

    Up until the paragraph where Gail's mother commits suicide and Gail is plagued with guilt, I thought the query was pitching a medieval comedy, ala Monty Python and the Holy Grail. So I definitely agree that the tone of the query seems a bit disjoint from the subject matter, particularly after reading the last two paragraphs. The post-apocalyptic setting threw me, as well. To be fair, I found the first several paragraphs, under the premise of a medieval comedy, entertaining and interesting.

  5. Susan Says:

    I felt the same way Robert did. It seemed funny, smart, light in a wacked-out way until I suddenly got to the suicide.

  6. Holly Bodger Says:

    I was lost at the beginning. How does she get from being abducted to being at the Academy? Who are the Stages and why are they both archaic yet asking her to talk about her sex-life (which seems more modern)?

    In the next part, I feel like I've jumped heads. The story was about Gail but now it's about Yelena. Then it switches to Dmitri's interest (or lack thereof, can't tell) in Gail. These both need to be re-written from the standpoint of Gail. How do they affect her and why do they matter?

    I agree with everyone about the mother comment. I thought I was reading YA chick lit until I got to this part. Having said that, this was the only part of the query that gave some insight into the character's motivation so I wouldn't eliminate it.

    Finally, the biological weapon reference completely threw me for a loop. Is this Sci-fi now?


    P.S. Oooo, this was fun. Can I be an agent now? 🙂

  7. ChristaCarol Says:

    I can't say much without being a repeat of others. Though I liked the voice of the query, I can't help but wonder if it matches the voice of the story . . . it certainly might, even with the mother's suicide. But I'm also confused about the biological weapons part . . . that seems important enough to put in the very beginning of the query, not at the end.