Today I am very, very proud and excited to be featuring my oldest online writer friend for her book tour, Justine Dell! We met in the forums at Nathan Bransford's blog and website, ages ago, and though our correspondence has risen and fallen over the years as both of us moved through our lives and our writing careers, she's never stopped being awesome.
So it's with great pleasure I give her my blog today, as another stop on her tour for the release of Recaptured Dreams, her debut novel, published by Omnific Publishing, on September 18th.
There have already been a variety of posts about the book, which you should definitely check out, but Justine and I wanted to do something different today, something QQQE style. So we decided to analyze together the query that won her editor at Omnific over. Justine has had a successful query analyzed over here before. It was so long ago, I'm almost loath to link to it, but I will, just for fun: BROKEN TIES THAT BIND.
So anyway, here is the query for Recaptured Dreams, along with some necessary redaction, my thoughts in blue, and Justine's in green. Enjoy!
Ten years, the Atlantic Ocean, and several rungs in the society ladder have kept Xavier Cain from having Sophia Montel. Their teenage tryst was forbidden and xx xxx xxx xxxxx xxxx xxx xxxxxxx. Now twenty-seven, he’s spent his entire adult life building a fashion empire that would prove his worth to her family. When he finally sees Sophia again at London’s premiere fashion show, one problem lodges in his path: Sophia doesn’t remember him.
I don't want to break up these paragraphs, so I'll just put my thoughts after each one. If you read my query critiques, you'll know that this query doesn't fit the rules I often refer to, but it doesn't matter. The important thing is that it worked. What I like about this query, or at least this paragraph, is the way it builds the world (yes, even contemporary romance novels can do with a bit of world building, or at least region building) at the same time it clues us in to both the backstory, and some of the character of at least one of our protagonists. And that's all just the first sentence!
The rest seems standard fare for romance, but I like that it almost hints at epic family piece, like a Ken Follett novel.
The only thing that has kept Sophia from Xavier is a horrific car crash that erased her memory at seventeen. She’s spent the last ten years fighting to reclaim a sliver of her past that her mother refuses to help her remember. When Sophia meets Xavier at the London show, all her fantasies come to life in one night of passion. When she discovers he is the missing link, she is determined to find all the pieces to their love story and her memory.
Now, I'm not a big romance reader, so I'm not entirely aware of the cliché Justine mentions below, but this seems like an excellent set-up for conflict and tension to me. They meet again after ten years, they make love, he remembers, she doesn't, but then maybe she does. It's all right out of a tragic opera, and that seems perfect for a romance novel to me.
They journey back to America to find and salvage their long-ago love. The trip jolts Sophia’s memory and she learns xxxxxx xxx xxxxxxx xxx xxxx xxxxxx for xx xxxx: xxxxxx’s xxxxxxx is xxxxxxxx xxx xxx xxxxxx’s xxx. Facing the shock of a lifetime, they must decide if their rekindled love is enough to gap to lies they’d been told.
Obviously this is a little hard to analyze with such a large and important detail missing, but we can't give everything away for a novel that's actually published, can we? And don't try highlighting that text, you tech-savvy smarty pants, I've taken care of that workaround.
Let's leave it to Justine.
I had an uphill climb with this book (and the plot). One, it’s on the shorter side and two, it has amnesia in the plot. Cliché, anyone? Yes, I’ll take one! I didn’t realize that an amnesia plot was one of the ten plots that were no-no’s in romance. Overdone, they’d said. Well, thankfully, mine has a wee bit of a twist and I think that publisher saw that in the query. Which is why you don’t see some of the words. Sorry! Didn’t want to spoil it! J
Plus, let’s face it, who thinks a strong male lead would be a clothing designer? I broke the mold in stereotyping there, peeps, and I think that helped with the originality of the story. That (and the twist) is why I think this particular query worked.
Thanks so much for sharing this with me, Justine! I'm so happy for you. Enjoy the rest of your tour, you've earned it!
NOTE: I've updated this post so that my reference to historical romance is removed. Justine agrees that she could have made the contemporary aspect clearer in the query, but we both decided it was important for everyone to see that even queries that work often have room for improvement. If I was going to change one word in this query to clarify the contemporary setting, I would change "[t]hey journey back to America ..." to "[t]hey fly back to America."