Another Very Special About My Query Post!

January 1st, 2010 • Kate

cavalli-strass-sandaloHappy New Year, y’all! I hope you rang it in with friends and loved ones. Rexroth and I enjoyed our now annual celebratory viewing of Denethor taking a flaming header off Minas Tirith in Return of the King. It’s like watching the ball drop in Times Square, but with more flaming death. But let’s take another look at a query that worked, shall we?

Dear Ms. Schafer:

In Hunted, my 65,000-word YA suspense novel, seventeen-year-old Albert Morales has one goal: find his missing girlfriend, Lily.

Albert and Lily have been dating for just a matter of weeks, but in that time they’ve formed a connection that, in the way of first-love intensity, feels like forever. From the day his family moved to town, shy, awkward Albert has been hung up on Lily, a complicated and confusing girl—and he is subsequently consumed with her after the night she leaves her bedroom after a tryst and doesn’t come back.

Things are complicated by the fact that Lily’s stepfather and the local police are looking for her, too. Egged on by Lily’s stepfather, the authorities are convinced that Albert, the last known person to see Lily, may have had something to do with her disappearance. But Albert, with Lily’s sister, Olivia, makes two big discoveries. First, Lily wasn’t abducted; rather, spurred by emerging memories and a sudden, violent confrontation, she takes the course she knows best: She vanishes. Their other discovery: Lily’s secret record revealing her stepfather’s compelling reason to want her to stay gone.

Soon after running away, Lily reaches out in a frustratingly cryptic manner to Albert for help, but at the same time, seems afraid he won’t be able to help her. She acts as if wants to be found by him, but makes him hunt for her. So, reconstructing events in Lily’s recent past, Albert and Olivia, pursued, set out to find Lily and help her understand and reveal the truth before her stepfather gets to her first and silences her for good.

Hunted is told from Albert’s perspective (third person limited POV) in thirty-one short chapters. Alternating between the past—the days after Lily’s disappearance—and the present—Albert and Olivia on Lily’s trail—these thirty-one mosaic pieces form a complete picture of what’s happened and suggest what’s to come for Lily and those whose fates are tangled with hers.

A brief (but relevant) bit about myself: Though I was late getting there, I graduated from Albertson College of Idaho in 2003 summa cum laude with a double major in Philosophy and Creative Writing. Professionally, my publishing credits have been in the journalism arena with Boise Weekly, where over the past few years I’ve penned numerous articles ranging from feature to arts to news writing. Some months ago, I gave up journalism and my job as BW’s Arts Editor—the place was sucking up all my time and creativity—in order to devote my energies to my first love, fiction writing.

If you’re interested in taking a look at Hunted, I’d love to send the manuscript for your review. In any event, thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Sara Beitia

This gives us a lot of compelling information. I wanted to know Lily’s stepfather’s reason for keeping Lily gone, and the idea of the time shifting chapters seemed really intriguing. Put it simply, this was more than enough to pique my interest!

And I liked what I read. Sara and I went through a couple of revisions, and I went out with the manuscript shortly after I started kt literary. Following find my cover letter to editors:

Dear [Editor]-

As promised, I’m delighted to attach Sara Beitia’s YA debut, HUNTED. I can’t stop thinking about this novel, the characters, and what happens to them. The moment I finish it, I want to read more. Like “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” this ends almost in a freeze frame (to steal a cinematic metaphor), allowing the reader free rein to draw their own conclusion.

Getting to that point, we follow new kid Albert Morales through three timelines, all interconnected by his relationship with girlfriend and town wild child Lily Odilon — from the moment she disappears from the bedroom they’re sharing; to his search for her with her prickly younger sister Olivia; and back again to the moments in their shared past that revealed the clues behind her decision to run away, and the “Last Good Place” to which she may have run. To throw a few more cinematic allusions at you, this strikes me as “Memento” meets “Brick,” a Hollywood noir set in a high school, this time in the barren cold of Idaho, from where the author hails.

Sara has followed a motley career path—including field worker, legal secretary, store clerk, newspaper editor and bookkeeper, with a college degree in creative writing and philosophy from the College of Idaho — to her first novel. With the voice she displays in HUNTED, I can’t help but believe she has a great career in front of her. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Cheers,
Kate

I don’t usually compare novels so heavily to films, but something about the style of this one seemed to call for it. Each movie I mentioned is one I enjoyed, and that I thought editors would be able to take a touchstone for this novel — placing it within a framework of references.

This one worked. Brian Farrey at Flux started reading this shortly after his promotion there, and made an offer Sara and I were thrilled to accept. After a title change to make the book stand out even more, THE LAST GOOD PLACE OF LILY ODILON will be published by Flux in Fall 2010. I hope you all will look for it!

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed Under: About My Query, Ask Daphne!

Tags: , , , ,


10 Responses to “Another Very Special About My Query Post!”

  1. Casey McCormick Says:

    Happy New Year!

    This sounds amazing. I'll definitely be buying a copy when it comes out. Congrats to you both!

  2. dust Says:

    Hrm. All movies that I like, too.

  3. Amy L. Sonnichsen Says:

    I brought in the new year watching The Two Towers. Good stuff! Thanks so much for sharing these queries with us. They've been so interesting and educational.

  4. Sylvia Says:

    I'm really enjoying the chance to see successful queries and contrast them to your pitch.

  5. ChristaCarol Says:

    Thanks for sharing what has worked in the past! Happy New Year!

  6. Kristi Says:

    Happy New Year! This premise is intriguing and sounds like it would also make a great movie – congrats 🙂

  7. Stina Says:

    Thanks, Kate, for another great example. I'm looking forward to reading this book. 😀

  8. laura diamond Says:

    That's fantastic! What a great success story! Congrats!

    Looks like we all had the trilogy covered–I watched The Fellowship of the Ring! LOL!

  9. Carrie Harris Says:

    I loved seeing the query plus your letter, and this makes me only more excited to read The Last Good Place!

  10. Suzanne Casamento Says:

    I'm with Carrie. I loved reading Sara's query and then your letter. Interesting to see how each of you positioned it. I'm already dying to read it!