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About My Query: THE PHOENIX

boots-flameAs promised, a special About My Query with comments by new wonderful new assistant Renee. Let’s go:

Dear Kate Schafer Testerman,

After the disastrous reanimation of Jenny Lee, Jenny’s Law made resurrection attempts illegal. Then how is it possible that 16-year-old Brielle Linley could wake up to a dead boy tapping at her window? It wouldn’t be the first time she’s hallucinated. Ever since her mother’s self-inflicted coma seven years ago, Brie hasn’t been able to trust her own eyes. Which is why she wants more than anything to be a photojournalist—cameras never lie.

And now, the biggest scoop in history has just climbed up to her window. But why would he pick her? Brie and 16-year-old Evan Tanner were best friends once, but haven’t spoken since The Blowout in elementary school. Until he was murdered a year and a half ago, he was a handsome and popular football star, dating the prettiest girl in school. The girl who also happens to be Brie’s stepsister, and whose window is only a few feet down from Brie’s. Before, he was too busy being the Big Man on Campus to bother with Brie, but now, Evan shows up at her window scrawny, bald, and scarred. He has no memory of his disappearance, his murder, or who’s responsible. All he knows is that he woke up on a metal table with a knife hovering over his body. Someone’s out to kill him. Again.

The Phoenix is a speculative young adult thriller set in the not-so-distant future. It’s complete at 74,000 words, with a fast-paced tone similar to Megan Miranda’s Fracture. The story is told from Brie’s point of view as she sets out on the ultimate photo story. Who killed Evan? Who reanimated him? Who wants to kill him again? Can she trust her eyes to tell her the truth? Together, Brie and Evan must stay alive long enough to solve the mystery and navigate their unresolved feelings. The stakes continue to rise as one-by-one Evan’s family members start to get sick. The killer’s after the whole family this time. Ultimately, Brie will have to answer all of these questions by answering the question that birthed them all: What really happened to Jenny Lee?

I am a member of the SCBWI and a freelance writer and photographer. My published writing credits include commercial work writing corporate newsletters, website content, and blogs. Below you’ll find the other materials requested in your submission guidelines. I’d be happy to send over the full manuscript at your request, and appreciate your time and consideration.



Generally, this query is strong. I would absolutely read any sample pages sent along. Brie seems driven without being too focused on the romance, which, in my opinion is the fastest way to bog down pacing in a thriller. That said, you’re giving me a lot of background on your characters when what I’m interested in is your actual plot. I want to know about the journey the characters take. How they got there isn’t as important to me. Not important enough to warrant an entire paragraph. What causes Brie to start investigating Jenny Lee’s death and reanimation? What does she discover about herself in the process?

Several small points in the query caused me to raise an eyebrow. You reference a “blowout” in your second paragraph. Is elementary school too early for anyone to have a severe fight? It seems a little dramatic for such a young age.

Also in your second paragraph: A disembodied knife? Floating? Of its own volition? Probably not what you were going for here.

In the third paragraph you refer to Brie’s journey as “the ultimate photo story” and I don’t know what this means. Is photojournalism a thing of the past in your world?

Well done on knowing where your book would fit in the market. I love seeing a specific genre listed like “speculative young adult thriller” and the comp title is solid.

Photo above by Flickr user Aidensdame, used under a Creative Commons license.

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