Ask Daphne! About My Query LVII

1970sshoesWelcome back to another edition of About My Query! Today’s contestant is the adorably-named Chumplet. Won’t you give her a warm welcome?

Dear Daphne,

I am seeking representation for my novel THE YEARBOOK, a character-driven women’s fiction that alternates between present day and the transitional seventies.

Sixteen-year-old Rebecca is sick of her nomadic life. When her busy father relocates the family to Mallorca, Spain in 1974, her already shaky self-esteem takes a downward turn. Not only must she help her ill equipped, hard drinking mother handle family matters in another unfamiliar place, she also has to learn Spanish.

The beauty of the island holds little allure until she sees Luke for the first time. She falls hard for the handsome and aloof boy, but he already has a girlfriend. Desperate to get his attention, Rebecca fights off her debilitating shyness. She dives into student life at this small, tightly knit American school with the help of her new friend Katie, a girl from Iowa with a big heart and a filthy mouth. Rebecca’s infatuation leads to heartbreak when she inadvertently sets off a chain of events that sends Luke away, presumably forever.

Thirty years later, Luke had been moving from city to city to escape the pain of losing his wife to cancer, much to the chagrin of his son who wants only to stick to one place and maybe get a dog. He meets Rebecca by chance in Toronto and she recognizes him immediately, but he doesn’t remember her at all.

When he discovers Rebecca’s son suffers from Neuroblastoma, a deadly childhood disease, Luke readily offers to help the single mother. She seems to appreciate his support but sometimes she pushes him away. He doesn’t know what he did in the past to cause her animosity. If he can repair the ever-shifting rift between them, perhaps she’d give him a reason to stop running from his grief and set down roots for the sake of his son, and himself.

THE YEARBOOK is complete at approximately 70,000 words. My previous publishing credits include [NOVEL1] ([Publisher], 2007), [NOVEL2] ([Publisher], 2008) and [NOVEL3] ([Publisher], 2009).

I would love to send you sample pages or the entire manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,
Chumplet

To start with, the opening line doesn’t do much for me in hooking me with the story. It’s all about the setting, and for a novel that you tell me is “character-driven”, I want the hook to be about the characters. Something like, “In my novel THE YEARBOOK, Rebecca is given a second chance to correct a childhood mistake and win again the love of her life.”

The wording of the phrase “When her busy father relocates the family to Mallorca, Spain in 1974,” is also confusing. It seems as if Rebecca’s father moves the family to Spain in 1974 from somewhere and someWHEN else. How important, and how BIG is the section of the book set in the 1970s? Is it an introduction, or a full half of the story?

But those are tiny, nit-picky things. Before I go deeper into that level, I have a bigger picture question: Would you consider using the query to just sell the present-day story? Of course, you’d have to mention that part of the story is set in the 1970s, but it seems to me that the events of the past are influencing the actions of the characters in the present, but that the main PLOT happens in the here and now.

I’m also confused as to how much is meant by Luke not remembering Rebecca. Are we talking a blank slate, or just that he didn’t place as much import on whatever Rebecca thinks she did in the past that caused him to leave Mallorca? And what can you tell me about their current relationship? Why does Luke offer to help Rebecca when he discovers her son is sick? Is he a doctor? It is because of his wife’s recent death?

For me, this query doesn’t quite provide enough of a hook to really stand out for me. If it’s women’s fiction, I want to spend less time in the past with Rebecca and Luke as teens than in the present, dealing with adult issues, both of them struggling to open up and have a relationship.

Readers, what do you think? How would you rewrite the hook, and what would you focus on in the query? I look forward to reading your comments!

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