Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #29

Dear Ms. Sarver:

Because of your interest in contemporary YA, I believe my novel VIOLENT DELIGHTS would be a good fit for your list.

Sixteen-year-old Jenna and her boyfriend Cass think a suicide pact is the only way out. Between Jenna's friends thinking Cass is a freak, her dad running away with his skanky secretary and their parents trying to keep them apart, it's the only answer. But when the day comes, only one shot is fired.

And Jenna is left alone.

Alone and alive.

Now stuck in therapy, she begins to realize what really went down her junior year.

Why Cass killed himself.

Why she didn't when she promised she would.

And how maybe she hadn't seen Cass for who he really was until too late.

Complete at 67,000 words, VIOLENT DELIGHTS is told in non-linear chronology. I think it will appeal to fans of HEATHERS, HATE LIST by Jennifer Brown and BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver. I am currently an intern for XX agency, and an intern at Entangled Publishing, LLC. I am a regular attendee of Book Expo America, the American Library Association conference and have volunteered for the past two years at the Boston Book Festival. Per the submission guidelines, a sample is pasted below. The full manuscript can be sent upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Day Zero

Today’s the day.

I can feel it in the pulse that sings through my veins, in the way it rings all the way up to my ears.

I drum my fingers on the desk as I hone in on the ticking hands of the clock.

G**, could it go any slower?

My eyes are instantly drawn to Cass. His dark hair shakes as he grins at me, tapping the edge of his pocket. My eyes land on the bulge there. I can’t stop my smile as he winks. Mr. Garrison coughs in our direction, but I ignore him. Nothing matters to me anymore, nothing but Cass and our plan.

I can’t wait to prove them all wrong. Just me and Cass versus the world, showing them that nothing will keep us apart. Nothing.

I flick my wrist back and forth, stopping for a moment when I realize that this is one of the last times I’ll ever feel my pulse.

The bell rings, sending everyone scattering out the door. I raise my eyebrows at Cass, but he just shakes his head. “Timing is everything, Jenna.”

As we file out into the hallway, Cass grabs my hand in his sweaty palm. How can he be nervous? He’s the one who suggested this. Is he having second thoughts? Should I be having second thoughts? My heart thumps and I swallow, trying to erase all the fear building up inside me. But when he squeezes my hand, reassurance flows through me, and all my doubts fly out the window.


E.L.S. #25 said...

I was definitely intrigued by both your query letter and your 250 submit.


You had me with your first line, "Sixteen-year-old Jenna and her boyfriend Cass think a suicide pact is the only way out." This sentence immediately piqued my interest and spurred me to read on.

You kept me hooked, when Jenna decided to stay alive...but Cass didn't.

And you tied it off with solid book comparisons and interesting writing / publishing experience.


You did a solid job dropping me right into the classroom and as I read, I found myself asking - they're not going to do this at school, are they?

Which of course, makes me want to turn the page to find out - so I think you did an excellent job here.

Net/net: You've done a great job hooking me in and I would definitely read on / request pages. I really enjoyed this entry - best of luck in the contest!

Veronica Bartles said...

This is very interesting. I'd definitely read on.

The only thing that really tripped me up in the pitch was in the list of reasons for the suicide pact. I'm not quite sure why "her dad running away with his skanky secretary" is a factor in deciding to end it all. I'm not saying that this isn't necessarily a believable reason for her to agree to suicide (maybe her dad used to be the one who she felt was supporting her, but when he ran off, the only person she had left to lean on was Cass), but I think it needs to be tied in better here, because as written, I don't see the connection. Especially since it appears that the suicide pact was Cass' idea, but this "reason" seems to be unique to Jenna. I just don't get a sense that Cass would really care about her dad running off. Perhaps, if you clarified this point, it would make the whole pitch stronger.

rlynn-solomon said...

Chills. Such a dynamic query, and I felt like I absolutely needed to read on. The voice in your first 250 is really lovely -- way to take a typical classroom scene and turn up the tension. Good luck!!

A. E. Welch said...

This query and 250 immediately draw me in. I may be a little biased as someone who is a HUGE Heathers fan but if I saw this blurb on a jacket cover, I'd scoop it right up. It gives me enough information to make me want to read more without giving everything away.

The first 250 had me anxious and holding my breath, wondering when and where the "pact" was going to take place. I could feel her anxiety intensely.

Great job on this entry!

yrjones said...

I was instantly drawn in from the very beginning and that last line in your pitch--"But when the day comes, only one shot is fired."--forced me to keep reading.

Your first 250 offers a fresh and original beginning and left me wanting to read more.

The things that did bring me pause:

1) The internal questions. One question is fine; a series of them can risk annoying a reader. I'm a huge fan of 1st person present and I know how easily those questions can sneak in there. But using them sparingly won't disrupt the flow and will keep a reader engaged.

2) While the pitch drew me in w/ that lovely tease and I LOVE the premise, once again, I don't like the questions. The questions don't tease me. If anything, they're questions that I am already asking based off of the pitch alone. It seems redundant, IMO.

But overall, like I said, the premise is great, and you succeeded at reeling in a non-YA reader. 8-)

Ru said...

I would totally read this.

Sarah Diviney said...

Other than the line about the "skanky secretary," the query was nicely done. I understand you are using the format to create urgency, but i'm not sure it's necessary for the first three lines.

Consider it this way:

And Jenna is left alone. Alone and alive. Now stuck in therapy, she begins to realize what really went down her junior year.

Why Cass killed himself.

Why she didn't when she promised she would

And how maybe she hadn't seen Cass for who he really was until too late.

The first page was nicely done, as well. There was one part that got me. Bulge. Yes, my mind is often in the gutter, but the word bulge right after the word pocket made me think of something other than a gun. lol. Perhaps some clarity regarding the location of the pocket. Was it on his backpack?

I'd definitely read more! It kind of reminded me of Jodi Picoult's book "The Pact."

Good Luck

Connie Mayo said...

Great hook in the first line. I don't necessarily agree with previous commenters about the questions - I do think having each one of them on a separate line leans toward the melodramatic, but I liked their content.

I was concerned that it was too much like The Pact, perhaps could be perceived as a rip-off of that book, but the stakes are certainly high and I think your idea has a lot of appeal for the potential audience.

Agree about the skanky secretary. Also, does the fact that Jenna's friends think Cass is a freak really a reason for their suicide? Perhaps that whole para could use a bit of retooling as to their reasoning - if it's about their parents keeping them apart, maybe focus on that and exclude the secretary and Jenna's friends.

Jessica Peterson said...

Well done! You had me wanting to read more. I have to agree with some of the previous comments though. I think it reads better without the questions. I think you need to clear up the reasons for why these two are going through with this. And I also thought when I read bulge, that it was referring to something else. Otherwise, great query and great 250!

Stephsco said...

One of my favorite teen movies of all time is Heathers, I can quote half or more of the movie. BUT, I'm not sure that comparative work is necessary in your query. It seems to be a trend to compare books to movies, but you already list two books, and I think those do your story more justice than a 20+ year old movie (as much as I love it). I also recently saw a very well-known agent pick on this movie-as-comparative-title-in-query issue on her blog, so maybe consider that piece.

AS for the rest, the premise is excellent, and I think the tone of the writing fits the seriousness of the subject. Something I tend to mention when I see 1st person present tense POV, is to watch how many times you describe physical movement, it can slow the pace and read a little awkward: I drum my fingers on the desk as I hone in on the ticking hands of the clock.

Since you are in an immediate 1st person POV, you don't always need the I+verb because the reader knows they are in their head, close to that character. You could just show how the hands on the clock tick rather than stating the character is honeing in (although hone is a great word!). Just something to watch for in a larger scope; if you notice many paragraphs with I touch, I do this, I do that, I feel this, etc.

Best of luck to you!

Mim said...

This is a great premise. You do a really good job setting up the story in the query, and you have a very impressive bio.

The one thing I would work on is trying to remove all of the "I"s in the writing. I think this story is strong in first person present, but too many "I"s can be off putting to the reader and pull the person out instead of drawing them in. Also take out the I feel, I realize, I sense, just cut straight to the thought or emotion.

This looks like a really promising story! Good luck!


Ann Noser said...

Wow! This one really grabs you. Two suggestions below. The rest was good as is.

Sixteen-year-old Jenna and her boyfriend Cass think a suicide pact is the only way out,*** but when the day comes, only one shot is fired.

OKay, now it doesn't quite work with everything removed, but the skanky secretary part and the comment about Jenna's friends thinking cass is a freak detracted from the pull of the rest of the query. I'd keep it tighter and shorter and hit it hard. What's the worst thing for Jenna? That her father left? Then just leave it as that. Don't say with who, just that he left. More powerful.

This one is picky:
I am currently an intern for XX agency AND Entangled Publishing, LLC

(just tighten up the sentence)

otherwise...I want to read it. And, yes, I loved Heathers! haha

Judy DaPolito said...

The story description worked for me. I’d definitely read this book. That said, I think the tone of the first description paragraph is too light for the subject matter. The reasons are believable, but the tone trivializes them and makes me wonder why she’s so ready to commit suicide. In your bio paragraph, I think you could leave out the sentence about attending and volunteering for book festivals.

The tone works for me in the first page because it’s coming from Jenna. Love the detail of her realizing it’s one of the last times she’ll feel her pulse. The two “second thoughts” sentences slow down the last paragraph. His sweaty palm and her attributing it to nervousness might be enough to let you cut his “second thoughts” sentence.

Hope the book sells--I’d love to read it.

tarak said...

Loved the query and your excerpt. The only sentence that tripped me up was the one that listed the reasons. I briefly wondered how her father, as one of the parents, was trying to keep them apart if he'd run off with his secretary? Pretty nit picky, though. I'd absolutely read on.

Melissa Sarver said...

I think this is a great concept and I was intrigued to read the pages - EXCEPT, the reasons you give in your query for the protagonist wanting to kill herself don't seem serious or compelling enough. If you're going to tackle a serious issue like suicide for the teen audience, your characters need to be grappling with very serious and terrible circumstances in their lives that are leaving them feeling like suicide is the only answer. I'm not getting that here. The tone overall feels a bit too lighthearted for the subject matter.

I liked the 250 words and think you do a decent job of setting up the narrator's voice right away; but I'd be careful of overused lines like "God could it go any slower?" when thinking about a clock. I love the fact that the story isn't told in chronological order.

Anonymous said...

I think this query is pretty great and the background and work in publishing definitely helps. the first 250 words are awesome, I would keep reading for sure.