Ask Daphne! About My Query XIII

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.

Sincerely,
K.R.

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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