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Maass: "What We're Looking For This Month"

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Matt Phillips
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Maass: "What We're Looking For This Month"

Post by Matt Phillips » Thu December 16th, 2010, 8:12 pm

Although it's no longer October/November, they still have this up on their website: http://www.maassagency.com/thismonth.html

"This fall, the Donald Maass Literary Agency is feeling a bit nostalgic, so we're focusing on The Past. In real life, the past shapes everything, from someone's personality to an entire government to the landscape itself. It is no different in great books. The past can create vivid settings, shape the momentum of the plot, or come back to haunt the main character. Even all three. We're looking for books with worlds built so deep that their pasts resonate."

They go on to mention ideas for historical novels, "fantastical histories," and "haunted pasts."

Just FYI for anyone considering querying them right now ...

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Thu December 16th, 2010, 9:14 pm

Interesting that they list an idea for a story set in the Incan empire.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu December 16th, 2010, 9:20 pm

Yes, I jumped on that. To no avail, but it's always good to practice.
They often leave that 'what we're looking for' up for months at a time.
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Thu December 16th, 2010, 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Thu December 16th, 2010, 11:19 pm

Historical fiction is pretty hot right now. Visitor numbers at HistoricalNovels.info keep going steadily up, and most of my visitors come from Google, so it's largely because more people are Googling "historical novels" now than they did a year or two ago, rather than from the website becoming better known, I think, though the latter is also probably true.

In any case, I'm sure the Maass agency is still looking for historical fiction. Another thing to keep in mind is that they're most interested in stories with fast-moving, "high concept" plots - i.e., plots that can be boiled down into one- or two-sentence teasers that will get a lot of readers' juices flowing. Donald Maass's books on writing (Writing the Breakout Novel in particular) are well worth studying, even for writers working on more theme-driven literary novels, because they include lots of tips on how to make a story more engaging for readers. It even gets into the nitty-gritty level of how to choose one's words so that a purely descriptive passage (the weather, for example) feels like it has a lot of movement in it and evokes a sense of suspense for the reader.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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Alisha Marie Klapheke
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Post by Alisha Marie Klapheke » Fri December 17th, 2010, 5:02 am

First, I have to finish my rewrite. Then I have to learn how to write a query letter. Yes, I've read dozens of how-tos--but I guess I'm not objective enough with my own project. Everytime I think I've got a good letter, my editor pals tell me "no way." Any additional advice? Also, I've been thinking that the term "historical fantasy" fits my ms better than just "historical fiction". Is that an appropriate term to use in a query?

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Margaret
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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Fri December 17th, 2010, 6:48 am

Yes, if your novel is historical fantasy, you should definitely say so in a query letter. If your friends are all giving you pretty much the same advice about your query letters, it's good that you're paying attention. Check some back issues of The Writer or Writer's Digest - either or both have run articles in the past featuring successful query letters and why they worked.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Fri December 17th, 2010, 2:15 pm

There should be a half-genre between historical fiction and historical fantasy; for those who write non-history in a historical setting without magic.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Fri December 17th, 2010, 4:06 pm

If the novel features a major character doing something that was really done by someone else, the term is 'Alternate History'. although plenty of straight Historical fiction deals with fictional characters in a historical setting, and plenty of it includes a fantastical element -- it is perfectly period, considering the beliefs of the time, like contemporary novels that included a question about UFOs.

I think to really be an 'alternate history' category, the novel's premise needs to be some major switch, like 'Britain puts down the American revolt'.

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Margaret
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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Fri December 17th, 2010, 7:22 pm

I would still call a novel "historical fiction" if it is set in a recognizable historical setting based on historical research, even if the characters and the events of the novel are all fictional. For example, Ann Baer's novel Down the Common is based on thorough research. It's about a peasant woman in a small medieval village. All the characters and the village is fictional, but it's a wonderful portrayal of what life must have been like for medieval peasants. I would call it historical fiction, because it offers an enlightening perspective on a time and place in history.

To me, the term "historical fantasy" does imply some type of magical events. Mists of Avalon, for example, would be historical fantasy, with a heavy emphasis on the "fantasy" and a fairly slight nod to "history" with its use of the 5th or 6th century Glastonbury setting and the transition from pagan to Christian religion. Or Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell would be historical fantasy, with a fair amount of history worked into the fantasy, and a well-researched historical setting in England at the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

As MLE says, if a novel takes off from a historical setting to show events taking place differently from the way they actually did, as with Newt Gingrich's Civil War novels which imagine what might have happened if the Battle of Gettysburg had been won by the South instead of the North, it is "alternate history" not "fantasy," because even though the events are not factual, they are presented in a realistic manner.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Fri December 17th, 2010, 7:40 pm

I know the differences between fantasy, HF and alternate history.

I was thinking more of a story that takes place in the real world, in a time past, in a fictional country with its own culture, but contains no elements of traditional fantasy and poses no questions about altering actual history. Doesn't fit neatly into any of the above categories.

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