Thursday, April 4, 2013

Query in box, what will you bring me today? post from Susan

It's been awhile since I posted about the kinds of projects I'm looking for right now, so without further ado, here's what I'd love to see in my query in-box.

In general, I’m looking for projects that skew literary, though not at the expense of great plotting – I want something complex and exciting to happen to the characters.

Contemporary, middle grade or YA
I’m a sucker for mother-daughter stories.
If a book makes me laugh, that’s a very good thing. 
I’m looking for a great mystery or thriller.  Give me a lot of creepy atmosphere; hold back on the bloody or gross.
Multiple view-points are hard to pull off, but so rich when they do work.
I’m probably not looking for a straight-up romance, but am not opposed if there are other elements to the story.

Historical fiction, for middle grade or YA
One of my favorite kinds of historical fiction has the main fictional character meeting up with a famous historical figure -- someone who spends time in the company of perhaps Nicholas Tesla, or Cleopatra, or Susan B Anthony, or Marco Polo (or about a thousand others...)
Another kind of historical fiction I enjoy is a retelling from the point of view of a famous (fictional) secondary character, think Dr Watson, as opposed to Sherlock.
Periods I’m interested in: the medieval period, India under British Colonial rule, World War I & II, the Jazz age, Berlin between the wars, Japanese and Chinese history, America in the 1960s and 1970s, Venice.

Fantasy, for middle grade or YA
Strong, unique characters are always important to me, and especially so in fantasy.
I’m a fan of fairy tale retellings, especially ones that use a lesser known tale, and that makes use of the darker threads in these stories.  Some favorite fairy tales are Tam Lin, the Twelve Dancing Princesses, the Six Swans, Beauty and the Beast, and Goose Girl. 
This is true across the board, but especially in fantasy, I'm really looking for original ideas.

Non-fiction, picture book, middle grade or YA.
Some subjects I’m interested in:
Women and girls in history or more recently. 
History of the labor movement in 20th century USA. 
History of K-12 education in US.
Picture book biographies, especially of artists.
The Black Plague and/or plagues in history.
Plant hunters, in history or now.
This is a small sample, and in general, I’d like to see topics and people that haven’t been covered (or covered much) before.

I think it's always helpful to know what I’ve been reading lately:
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness is excellent science-fiction.  I’m fascinated by the central idea, which feels very original, and the way it’s developed. 

33 Minutes by Todd Hasak-Lowey is a heart-breaking, true and very funny book about the way old friendships can change, and break, in middle school.

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope is an older book, published in 1974.  If you love historical fiction and haven’t read this re-telling of the Tam Lin story set in northern England during the reign of Queen Mary I, get yourself a copy quickly!  It’s delicious.


  1. Ok, I hate to be *that* person, but when you say, "a retelling from the point of view of a famous (fictional) secondary character, think Dr Watson, as opposed to Sherlock," I have to point out that all the Sherlock Holmes tales are already told from Dr. Watson's POV.

    Otherwise, this is a great list! I think I'd read just about anything you might acquire from it.

  2. Susan,
    Thank you for your thoughts. I, too, generally read more than one book at a time. Right now I'm reading Raising Kids Who Will Make a Difference, The Hobbit (with my family), and Summer of the Monkeys (I'll always love middle grade books). Happy reading (books and queries).
    Heather Villa