I am seriously beginning to think that I should never mention to an agent I have a blog. I said this would be a journey about writing, and it is, if writing suddenly became all about racism. I admit that’s what the series is about. I promised the query letter previously this week. Since I am not going to let everyone know I went out and asked Jane Smith to represent me, I have redacted the name of the agent this letter was sent to.
First, the query I sent out before realizing I’m an idiot.
I have just finished writing my first novel, The Early Years, about how one person’s hate can affect everyone in their life. The Early Years follows a neo-Nazi named Hans Zeidrich and his children and grandchildren for several years. It is set in 1980s through 1990s West Texas on a compound that doubles as a ranch. The Early Years includes the death of some of Hans’ children and the murder of his second wife. His youngest child, Heidi, dies from leukemia after a Jewish doctor attempts to save her life. He loses four sons in confrontations with the federal government. The Early Years also includes the choices Hans’ children make about their father’s beliefs. It explores how those choices affect not only them, but their relationship with their father. Some chose to follow their father. Others decide Hans is wrong. One of the main plots is how Hans’ beliefs keep him from being in a position to help his granddaughter, Alexandria Houston. Due to Hans’ beliefs, Alexandria goes through the foster care system after the lose of her parents. While in the foster care system she receives physical and emotional scars Alexandria will keep through her adult life. It is while Alexandria is in foster care that Rachel Atkins, a Holocaust survivor, enters the Zeidrich Family’s life. Rachel not only is Alexandria’s best foster mother, but becomes a mother to Hans’ motherless adult children. Rachel’s simple act of caring for the Zeidrich Children without regards to their beliefs causes all of Hans’ children to question their beliefs. The Early Years concludes with Alexandria, at sixteen, facing a very adult decision as she ages out of the New York child welfare system.
The Early Years is a fiction novel that explores hate’s affects. It looks at how hate affects the person who actively hates. It also explores those around the hater and how their lives are affected.
The Early Years centers on the interaction of the family members more than the beliefs of neo-Nazis. It is my hope that I have cast the beliefs of neo-Nazis in an unfriendly light. I am hopeful that the book will lead to discussions on the damage hate causes. Hans Zeidrich is the one with the binding hate, but his children and grandchildren pay the cost. The Early Years will hopefully be a novel that speaks to generations to come.
Wanna go out and buy that book? Yeah, figured as much. It stinks. Hey, at least I can admit when I stink. “Bad, Amanda, sending out a letter like that. And sober, too! Bad, Amanda! Bad!” Okay, enough hand slapping.
A couple of books and a few websites later, I revised my letter to the following:
Dear (Agent’s Name),
What would you do if you were the son or granddaughter of a nationally known neo-Nazi? Could you come through the skirmishes with the federal government and the hate unscathed? How would your upbringing influence who you became? Could you ever forgive the man whose hate was the catalyst for the events in your life?
Those are the questions facing Peter Zeidrich and his niece, Alexandria Houston. The Early Years is the story of ten year old Peter and new born Alexandria growing up. Hans Zeidrich, their father and grandfather, is a national leader in the neo-Nazi militia movement. His decisions and hate affect Peter and Alexandria as they grow up; eventually causing the State to keep Alexandria from her home and the people she loves. Peter is forced as a young man to make a decision to ride the rodeo circuit, or go back and help his father with the organization.
The Early Years is something that just wrote itself. I know you probably hear that a lot. I was playing around with a novel on a different topic. As I sat down to write, The Early Years suddenly began to appear on the screen. Perhaps it was me subconsciously working through some of my parents’ families issues with race. The more I tried to go back to my other novel, the more I found myself stuck on the Zeidrich Family. I could not help but think that Alexandria’s story needed to be told. Day after day, Alexandria’s story kept appearing on the screen and in my head. I’d be in meetings jotting down lines of The Early Years. I think if you read the whole manuscript you will agree with me.
My hope is that I can influence the world through writing. I realize that is probably the hope expressed in every query you read. If somewhere in the 167,138 words of The Early Years one person finds something to think about, then perhaps I have. I also have just started a blog, if you’d like a further example of my writing. It is at https://antrisdale.wordpress.com.
I hope we will be speaking in the future, (Agent’s Name). I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I did send a query letter to another agency, but they have not contacted me.
Thank you for your time.
(In defense of the one person I was thinking of on my dad’s side of the family, The Early Years also has people coming to grip with their racism and realizing it is wrong. I used to listen to my great-grandma talk about “savages” and I’m pretty sure she was the type to join the KKK during its heyday in the 20s. (After all, everyone seemed to be part of the KKK during those days. The rolls read like a Who’s Who of politicians and industry leaders.) Funny thing, though, the woman who from her own stories was racist was against having a non-white great-grandchild until non-white great-grandchild came along. Suddenly, my great-grandma swung the other way and believed in equal rights. What makes a person do a 180 like that? Now back to your previously scheduled blog on query letter.)
Better, but still probably not great. Next book I picked up on the business seemed to think I am being once more very stupid in my letter. And I included this blog where twice, TWICE, in one week I have decided to talk about racism. (Okay, so that’s what my books are about, and this week sure has been that type of week in the news. Maybe agents hear the news.) So, bets on that query letter interesting the agent who currently has it? Anyone? Yeah, I’m a pessimist. It’s one of my better qualities.
Alright, let’s pretend for a moment that I haven’t messed up to badly again. What if this agent picks up my book? (Yes, Mom & Leslie, this is when both of you comment that it will happen. Come on, cheerleaders!) Well, if this agent picks up The Early Years we all celebrate for five minutes and get straight back to work. Well, at least I get back to work. I’ve got a base to build up that wants to go pre-order my books. (Please remember that Amazon pre-orders are really, really, really good for a new author. It shows someone out there wants to read me enough to pre-buy my book.) That build-up includes getting more people to visit the blog. Rachael was sweet enough to post a link on her Facebook page and Tweet about me. (Thanks, Rach.) Heck, I don’t care if your friends respond like Rachael’s friend that my blog is boring. I’m okay with criticism. I’ll use the good and ignore the bad.
Subscribers, I need subscribers. As an added bonus to subscribers, I will promise your email will not be used to make a third-party money. You guys might get an email from me when Amazon starts pre-selling to let you know before it goes on the blog. Since I have the ability to know who subscribed when, I am gonna have a little contest. The 20th person to sign up for the blog gets a nice little prize. How about an autographed copy of a short story of mine? Interested? We are at 11 right now. I figure by the end of the week we can get that up to 20 people. And don’t forget to click through the email to the blog so it shows you read the blog. Sign up today.
-Amanda Nicole Trisdale