Thursday, August 20, 2009
Now that I've signed my publishing contract people ask, "So, what's your novel about?" Because this book has been more in my head than out in the world, I usually end up hemming and hawing like I don't know or can't remember what I have been working on for a good chunk of my life . Truth is, it's hard to summarize any novel in a few words. However, one of the skills writers who want to be authors have to learn is how to pitch their novel succinctly to agents, publishers, booksellers and, of course, readers.
The one sentence pitch for my novel Act of Grace sums up the essence of the novel and offers a taste of the conflict. It's the no frills explanation I give when I'm asked about my work. This is usually all people want to hear. It's enough to make them go, " OH, that's interesting." :
When Grace Johnson a bright, perceptive African American high school senior, saves the life of a Klansman named Jonathan Gilmore, everyone in her hometown of Vigilant Michigan wants to know why.
The longer pitch is below. This is from the heart of the query letter I sent to agents :
When Grace Johnson a bright, perceptive African American high school senior, saves the life of a Klansman named Jonathan Gilmore, everyone in her hometown of Vigilant Michigan wants to know why. Few people, black or white, understand her act of sacrifice especially since rumor holds that years ago a member of the Gilmore family murdered several African-Americans including Grace’s father. Grace wants to remain silent on the matter; however, she discovers the decision to speak is not hers to make. Ancestral guides emerge in visions and insist she bear witness to her town’s violent racial history so that all involved might transcend it.
With hindsight made telescopic by suffering and the wisdom found in African myths, Grace recounts a story of eye-for-an-eye vengeance that has blinded entire generations in her hometown. Haunted by anger and trauma she wonders if she can do as the spirits have asked and lead Mr. Gilmore, the town of Vigilant and her own soul on a journey toward reconciliation and redemption.
Writing about Grace, has been a powerful journey into the meaning of forgiveness and redemption. True to her name, my character has tested all of my assumptions about race and community. She has also reshaped many of my attitudes about the nature of good, evil, love and hate. I love Grace for all the hard and wild places in my soul she has forced me to explore. I hope with all my heart that readers will come to love and appreciate her as well.