Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Friday, November 02, 2012

Friday Night at the Question Emporium

I'm a writer from New Zealand currently in the process of sending out queries to agents in the U.S. I am a realist, so I know I can expect to see a lot of rejections before I (hopefully) receive a yes from someone. The only thing that concerns me is the fact that my story is set in New Zealand, and I am concerned this could be a deterrent for a lot of agents. Is place setting an important thing for agents, or do they generally tend to overlook where a story is set in favour (or favor) of a well-written novel?




So, if I tell you it's a deterrent what are you going to do? Set it on Mars? New York?

Well, no, you're not.

Because, it is to be devoutly hoped, a novel set in New Zealand is there for a reason and to move it would change the novel to something else. Setting should not be interchangeable anymore than characters should be.

Can you imagine the movie In Bruges remade to In Paris? No you cannot, because Bruges is an integral component to the theme of that movie.

I'm looking for good stories. If they're set in Kiwi country, no problem. If they're set in the Reef, no problem.

Just write something so blisteringly wonderful that if I don't know where it's set, I believe it's real and start looking for it on the map.

10 comments:

Gary Corby said...

Ngaio Marsh was a kiwi who set four of her excellent mystery novels in New Zealand. She's surely the most successful mystery writer NZ ever produced, and she sold far more overseas than at home.

It's hard to imagine Colleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds taking place anywhere other than in Australia. It was a runaway bestseller worldwide.

Janet Reid said...

I hope Ngaio Marsh hears the fast and furious stride of excellent mystery novelist Gary Corby coming up behind her!

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

I personally love reading books set in other places and times. Some of my favorite books take place in settings that the author invented out of thin air!

Reading about other places, when the place is vital to the story, inspires wanderlust. I love the idea. :D

Kate Larkindale said...

This is interesting because I'm a New Zealand writer too, and I tend to be very non-specific about where my books are set for that exact reason. In my latest people move to 'the city' but I never name it because if the book sells in the US it could be New York. If it sells in the UK it could be London. If it sells in Australia it could be Sydney.

Mister Furkles said...

We read to experience alternate lives. A setting in a place out of our experience is a huge advantage if you make it an integral part of the story. It needs to feel genuine. I'd love to visit New Zealand. I can only do so in books. Write on New Zealand.

Michael Seese said...

Hmmm. Maybe I should move my cop novel from New York to Mars. The lower gravity would be an interesting plot device.

Melinda Szymanik said...

As a fellow kiwi (writing for children) I have heard it said that publishers think American children aren't interested in settings outside the States and this is a reason they are reluctant to take overseas titles. I grew up on UK and US titles and managed to figure out unfamiliar places and unfamiliar phrasing, spellings and meanings as well (just thinking about your post 'Nos Wener yn y Emporium Cwestiwn' here as well). I agree the setting must fit the story but it is confusing when we hear our books are knocked back from the outset because they are set outside the US.

Elissa M said...

I've seen an awful lot of award winning children's and middle grade books set in foreign locales. I think anyone saying US kids won't read books set outside the US must never have heard of Harry Potter or Narnia.

Scribble Orca said...

Um...well...Momentum Books is the new Pan Macmillan ebook imprint and they specifically do not want books set in one recognisable location.

I've heard from literary agents (very thin on the ground) in Australia that a book set in Australia (the Reef to be precise) will have a very hard time breaking the US young adult market. Nice to hear otherwise from Her Sharkliness.

Leah said...

I've been struck by a sudden urge to write a children's tale about a literary shark set in a dangerous, terrifying coral reef...

I'll send you the query when I have it... ;o)