Pub Rants

Editor Letter for HOUSE OF MISTS

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STATUS: I have two more things that absolutely positively must be accomplished today and if I succeed, that will make my day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER by Smithereens

Helen actually came my why via a referral from an agent friend who doesn’t handle middle grade projects so alas, I have no query letter to share with you.

However, I can share my letter to Jean Feiwel who bought the project. In an interesting tidbit because it seems to be the way of things for me lately, I didn’t know Jean before I submitted this book to her. I had to ring her up to introduce myself.

I’m making a habit of this in the children’s realm! My last three children’s sales were literally to editors I was meeting for the very first time. Makes me wonder what I’m going to do when I finally know every children’s editor out there.

Hello Jean,

This is what I love about this novel. First, I think it’s really hard to capture the thoughts and talk of 12-years olds so that it sounds authentic (without adult intrusion). My author Helen Stringer is a master of getting that element just right. I also love this novel because Helen manages to poke fun at many stereotypical middle grade fantasy archetypes while telling a really good story where those ingenious pokes work perfectly (when you hit the scene with the Oracle, you’ll know exactly what I mean). And lastly, I can’t believe I’m representing a children’s fantasy story with a portal (something I swore I would never do) but alas, here I am with the HOUSE OF MISTS with a perfectly clever portal.

So what is this fantasy all about? Belladonna Johnson is a survivor of a Tragic Event. Since the accident, the outside world believes her to live with her grandmother but in truth, Belladonna lives with the ghosts of her parents in their house on Lychgate Lane in the north of England, just like they have for all twelve years of her life. According to her mother, all the folks from the Nightshade side of the family can see ghosts. It’s just something Belladonna has inherited—the way that some people have red hair. If given a choice, Belladonna would have preferred the red hair but mostly, she’s just happy to have her parents at all—even in their slightly translucent form.

Life goes on much as it always has for Belladonna until one night, while watching the night-time soap opera Staunchly Springs, the ghosts of her parents mysteriously disappear leaving Belladonna alone on Lychgate Lane with only a warning that “all the doors are closing.” But it’s not just her parents but all ghosts who are disappearing. It’s up to Belladonna and the slightly rumpled, always-in-trouble classmate Steve Evans, along with the ghostly Elsie, victim of a freak tennis accident in 1912, to find out why. If they can’t, Belladonna might just lose her parents again—only this time, it will be forever.

The author, Helen Stringer, grew up in Liverpool, England and currently lives in Los Angeles where she works for an entertainment law firm. Here in the U.S. she studied film, winning several student film awards, including a student Emmy and the National Federation of Local Cable Programmers award for Best Entertainment Program for a Western version of A Christmas Carol, called A Fistful of Holly (subsequently bought by CBS), and was a Directing Fellow at the American Film Institute Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies. She also worked as Director of Development for a Los Angeles television production company. Outside of film, she has written for the food section of the Los Angeles Times and Victoria magazine and founded and edited the eclectic web magazine The Mediadrome.

I’m very excited to share my very first middle grade project with you. Enjoy!

All Best,

11 Responses

  1. Deanna said:

    That book sounds fabulous. I’ve been gorging on middle grade books since I finished one myself a few weeks ago, studying other characters and plot arcs. The most fun part is reading them with my 8-year old. We’re having great fun! I look forward to Helen’s (it’ll be a long wait, I know!)

  2. Anonymous said:

    Hi Kristin,

    Very nice letter.

    I’m wondering if you wrote this letter–? Or, did your client-or was it a combination? Typically, do you work together on it?

    Thanks. Love your blog-

  3. pizzadiavola said:

    The book sounds very interesting and I’m looking forward to its publication! The inexplicable, single remaining ghost has me intrigued.

    On a side note, I ran across this article about self-promotion social networking sites for authors and thought you might find it interesting.

  4. Janny said:

    This whole package sounds enchanting–but I also found myself thinking, “Heck, if I had a paragraph of credentials like this woman has, I’d probably be able to sell the phone book.”

    I’d love to see more examples sometime of someone without heavy media experience, without any household names in her resume (so to speak), and without what’s clearly going to be a “sales platform” make a major sale like this. (OK, maybe except JK Rowling.) Yanno, someone like the majority of us.

    I know they’re out there, but I have to admit, I can’t remember very many of them. Inevitably, one reads about a major sale, an auction, or a pre-empt, looks a little deeper at author credentials and finds media or other “name” experience out the wazoo.

    Makes me wonder if most of us don’t have the cart before the horse, and shouldn’t be getting other jobs in writing first before we even TRY to sell a novel…especially if we have any idea of actually making any money by doing so. Is there really much hope for great story trumping a lack of “street cred”?


  5. Domitype said:

    I have known Helen Stringer (and the rest of her family) since about 1980 – that “paragraph of credentials” is 100% fact! There is a lot that was left out.
    I have read some unproduced scripts and other works by her and I am so happy she finally getting some recognition.
    Check out – there are still a few bugs in the site, but it is good!