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I’m telling, I’m asking

How is it that I have gone nearly a year of writing for this blog without once letting you know what types of queries I would like to receive? Glaring oversight, but not without a purpose. Receiving a wide variety of material has educated me in a way that nothing else could. I’ve read all sorts of letters, samples and manuscripts. I’m finding my bearings and discovering the types of projects I’ve gravitated more towards as well as those that do not interest me. And it’s paid off! I’ve learned a lot about myself, my tastes and what books I would be both more willing and more able to work on extensively.

I’m not the girl you want if you have an amazing business book or a brilliantly crafted horror story or thriller—no matter how great the premise is, I want to be interested enough in the subject matter to be able to give the project its due. That’s also not to say that in the future I won’t have learned that these are excellent prospects, but currently, I know far too little about finance or corporate management and still faint at excessive gore.

What do I love? I really, really would love to see a great historical fiction. YA, literary, commercial—I don’t really care as much about that as I do about the story itself. I’m not even going to limit it to particular eras (though you can always get me with a really good Edwardian or WWII story). It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a query that really gets the historical voice down. I’ve written about it before, but there’s nothing more frustrating than an interesting plot, well conceived characters and realistic setting that’s all told in some stuffy approximation of what the author believes the people of that time would sound like. If I wanted to read Jane Austen, I would read Jane Austen. If I want to read about a fictional contemporary of Jane Austen, it wouldn’t sound natural if the narrative and dialogue were completely antiquated. The characters should suit their time, but the writing doesn’t need to.

I could rant for paragraphs more about the number of historical novels that could be SO GOOD if it wasn’t for the awkward writing style that clearly isn’t the author’s customary way. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll just ask that if you have a super intriguing plot (Family drama? Government conspiracies? Love affairs?) with a kicky heroine or bumbling hero please send it to me!

I’m also a sucker for a good eerie story—paranormal in a human way. Witches, ghosts, mind reading. In a similar vein, magical realism in a subtle way can be really beautiful—I’m thinking similar to Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake or The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff. Any writer who can insert the tiniest elements of the wondrous unreal into what is otherwise a very normal world and make it work is a writer whose books I want to read.

These are just the first on my list of Books I Wish Existed, so if this isn’t your style, don’t give up on me yet!

3 Responses to I’m telling, I’m asking

  1. I love when agents write these posts. I have a book in progress that might be right up your alley, but I wouldn’t have known that before.

  2. Becky Levine says:

    Rachel,

    Thanks so much for this description of what you’re looking for in historical fiction. It’s a long way down the revision road, but I’ll keep this all in mind for my WIP. And just to pass on something you might like that’s coming–I was just lucky enough to read an ARC of Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s upcoming A DIAMOND IN THE DESERT, which is brilliant historical fiction that–to me–breaks all the “rules” about what historical fiction has to do. Tight, sparse structure, NOT heavy with details. The book will be out in February, I think.

  3. emily says:

    Thank you for asking and telling! Like Becky and Rachel, I too have a historical WIP. My story themes are women’s empowerment, the folly of war, and survival. Yeah — my girls get in a lot of trouble in war time, learn faith in themselves as they act with power, and most survive. Althought, it would not be DRAMA if they all survived. So nice to know someone out there wants this kind of story.

    As for my ability to render dialog that captures the essence of the time in a contemporary voice? Who knows? It remains to be seen. :)

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