Thursday, September 18, 2014

Query Question: setting

Does it matter if my roots are showing in my query? Will American agents and/or publishers see my Canadian setting as a drawback? So many agents claim they want fresh settings, but I've been told this might be a bad idea. I can't write a mystery that takes place in America unless it's at Disney World. What say you?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Here's my four-thousand word essay:

If you haven't read the lovely, luminous novels of Louise Penny, stop reading this drivel, and get to the library RIGHT NOW. And my real point here is that it doesn't matter if your books are set in Canada, Canadia, or Freedonia if you write a novel that grabs me by the throat and doesn't let me draw a full breath until I've read through to The End.

It's your voice and your story that will draw me in. Your setting will be important if it's material to the story, not if it isn't.  But no agent rejects a manuscript because it's set in Canadia.  That would be rejecting something because it's set in Alaska. I mean, they're practically the same place, right?***

**stop spluttering with outraged geographical hand flailing. I know where Canada is. Up.


AJ Blythe said...

Interesting, and good to hear! At conference in Australia over the last few years the agents I've spoken with have implied an Aussie setting is a negative. One even refused to consider my ms soley because it is set Down Under (without knowing anything else about the story other than it was a cozy).

And dagnabit, now i'm going to have to get Louise Penny's books. *sigh* I think I spent my book budget for the year about 6 months ago. Any chance your time goblins have a sideline in book trading Ms Shark?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Meaning no disrespect to amazing writer Louise Penny,(! preceding the word amazing) I just ordered The Long Way Home.

Janet, now that you have written the essay, how about a book.

Seriously Janet, do you realize how many of us would shell peanuts for a book written by you. Hell girl, I's weep a week to have you sandwiched between my Strunk and White and stolen Gideons.

I know a few agents that might take you on, hell we could help you with your query, we've learned from the expert. As I see it the only problem would be profanity. You don't use enough profanity. I could help with that part.

Anastasia Stratu said...

Dear Ms. Reid,

Hello! I hope my comment finds you well.

Thank you for helping me discover Louise Penny. I personally cannot wait to start reading those novels... and the covers are exquisite.

As for geographical hand-flailing... that would be my mother 40 years ago when she was a young teacher in a village school... and she would probably ask you what was the difference between Oromocto and Kahnawake :) Very severe woman.

Me, I just enjoy sharing classical Chinese poetry with you and your readers. Your servant, ma'am.


Steve Forti said...

Okay Carolynn, thank you for making me laugh this morning. And yes, I'm sure many of us could help boost those profanity numbers.

Sometimes I enjoy the setting being a character to itself (Greg Iles' Natchez, Steve Hamilton's Paradise), or sometimes just because I actually live in those towns (hat tip Steve Ulfelder). But mostly, I don't give a quarter damn where it is if you entertain me.

Although, in defense of a Canadia book, I do like to be immersed in an unfamiliar setting. Somewhere I'd never in a million years want to live, but like to visit for a bit while reading. (Bonus points if your Canada story can actually deliver me some Tim Horton's!)

Anonymous said...

I remember some Alaskan writer-- maybe it was Dana Stabenow? --got a rejection from an agent who said he only represented US authors.

Ellipsis Flood said...

Refusing to take on a book because of its setting sounds incredibly stupid.

I personally don't care where the story's set, as long as it intrigues me.

Also, Canada has bears.


Julie said...

I agree. It could be called, "Trolling in the Deep." By Janet Reidcher

Elissa M said...

@Ellipsis: The U.S. has bears, too. I even saw one run by my house last winter. And I live considerably south of Canada (by about 1000 miles). But I digress.

I, too, can't imagine why anyone would pass on a book just because it wasn't set in the U.S.. One of my very favorite mystery/thriller authors was(is) Dick Francis. It's possible he used a U.S. setting at least once (he was very prolific and I haven't read all his novels yet) but certainly the vast majority were not set here.

What's that you say? He was British? So what makes Britain okay and any other "foreign" country not?

Bottom line, readers want good stories. Many, many readers are especially intrigued by the unfamiliar. Any agent who rejects because of setting is someone you're probably better off without anyway.

Michael Seese said...

"I know where Canada is. Up. " That depends on which way you drive.

On that topic, and building on alaskaravenclaw's comment, I had a friend in college from Alaska. He brought his car to Virginia. He told me someone asked him how he got the car there.

"I drove it."

"No, but how did you get it HERE? Across the water?"

LynnRodz said...

I second Carolynn...we're waiting!

As for settings in foreign places, to me it's a plus! Right now I'm reading Maeve Binchy's final novel, A Week In Winter. Sixteen of her 17 novels were set in Ireland. It didn't stop her from being translated into 37 languages and selling over 40 million books.

Julie said...

Hm. I took "Up" to mean "Get Up Right Now And Go Get The Durn Book."

Julie said...

And also, don't we read precisely BECAUSE of where a book will take us? To whit: to new and different places? If we wanted to sit in our chairs staring at the same old laptops day in and day out, never leaving our own settings, just melting into our own little internal worlds... we'd be writers, not readers!


Julie said...

@Michael & @LynnRodz - perhaps the car to which Michael was referring actually originated in the book which Lynn was reading!

Gingermollymarilyn said...

Hello down there!

From Canada, the land of bears. In my little city, they're actually a common sighting.