Pub Rants

Editor Letter For The Pain Merchants

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STATUS: Just survived my first crushing London rush hour Tube commute on the Piccadilly line. Talk about being up close and personal with my UK compatriots…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WAKE UP CALL by Maroon 5

I’m having lunch all week with different UK editors—some in the children’s world and some in the adult world. I’ll start blogging about any interesting tidbits I discover tomorrow. I didn’t want there to be too much distance between when I discussed Janice’s original query and the letter I submitted to Donna. We had actually talked about this project a month or two before I submitted it. If memory serves, I was sitting at Donna’s table at Book Expo when I first pitched her this project.

As you can see from my letter below, I always like to pull out what is the most interesting facet to me. How I think this work is different from the multitude of fantasy titles already in existence. For this novel, it’s grappling with the question of whether the ends justifies the means that really stands out for me. So often, middle grade doesn’t focus on that gray area much and I think it’s handled beautifully here.

Also notice that I pulled in some pieces from Janice’s original pitch blurb—especially sentences that I thought captured the tone/voice of the story.

Hello Donna,

As promised, I’m finally submitting to you THE PAIN MERCHANTS by Janice Hardy. What I love most is the ethical question at the core of this novel. At the most basic level, this novel is about whether the ends justify the means and the main character Nya is more than willing to sacrifice a principle or two in order to save her sister.

But then where does one draw the line? Nya is already pushing the boundaries of what could be considered the “gray” area between right and wrong. Is it possible to slide across that line and down a path that will have too many consequences to allow a return to goodness?

That’s at the heart of this children’s fantasy. Here’s a peek at the storyline:

Fifteen-year-old Nya is one of Geveg’s many orphans; she survives on odd jobs and optimism—finding both in short supply in a city crippled by a failed war for independence. Then a bungled egg theft, a stupid act of compassion, and two eyewitnesses unable to keep their mouths shut expose her secret to the two most powerful groups in city: the pain merchants and the Healer’s League. They discover Nya is a Taker, a healer who can pull pain and injury from others. Trouble is, unlike her sister Tali and the other normal Takers who become league apprentices, she can’t dump that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it from person-to-person, a useless skill that’s kept her out of the league and has never once paid for her breakfast.

When a brutal ferry accident floods the city with injured and the already overwhelmed Takers start disappearing from the Healer’s League, Nya’s talent is suddenly in demand. But what she’s asked to do with her healing ability is beyond wrong and she refuses until her sister Tali goes missing. Finding her sister means taking on the League and to do something that stupid, she’ll need what only her “useless skill” can get her. As her papa used to say, principles are a bargain at any price, but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?

The author Janice Hardy is a member of the Georgia Writer’s Association and is active in several workshops and critique groups. Her fiction has appeared in Dimensions (A local lifestyle magazine), Predictions (a local genre magazine) and Air Currents (The In-flight magazine for Continental Connection). She’s also an instructor with Writer’s Online Workshops—teaching Essentials of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing and Fundamentals of Fiction. Besides being a writer, she also has seventeen years of experience as an editor. Currently, she’s the editor of The Bahama Out Islands Destination Guide, and works closely with editors and authors on a variety of travel and lifestyle publications.


All Best

15 Responses

  1. MeganRebekah said:

    I love being able to get a glimpse inside the publishing world.
    And your letter is a great example of how to properly and accurately present a novel.
    I loved it!

  2. Anonymous said:

    Lol – the Picadilly at rush hour! Now THAT’s a proper introduction to London 🙂

  3. Vicky said:

    Is the event in Picadilly? If you can get away for bit, I recommend a visit to Hatchards (opened 1797) – *Love* this bookstore.

  4. Kristin Laughtin said:

    I found it interesting that commenting on the themes played such an important role in your editor letter, even being placed first, because so many agents tell us aspiring writers to not tell about the themes, only about the plot. Not that I’m criticizing you at all for this! You’ve already taken on the client; I think it’s assumed at that point that she has the technical writing skills and has written a cohesive story, so elaborating on the themes is the next logical step. It’s just interesting.

  5. Marie said:

    Each additional post you make about Pain Merchants makes me want to read it more–and I agree, the ethical question is the most fascinating part of the story! Thanks so much for posting this, and hope you’re having a ball in London.

  6. Kat Harris said:

    I’m with Kristin on the comments here.

    I was fascinated by how much theme came into your pitch to the editor, but then again, stories that make the reader think are the ones that stand the test of time.

    This sounds like a good one.

    Congrats on representing it. (And congrats to Janice for coming up with it.) Good luck.

  7. Krista G. said:

    Kristin (or anyone else who knows the answer),

    I’m wondering (as I often do) what the difference is between middle grade and young adult fiction. Often it seems as if the age of the protagonist, the themes, and the length of the book dictate whether something is middle grade or young adult, but in the case of THE PAIN MERCHANTS, it looks as if most of those indicators would tend to sway it young adult.

    Several agents have blogged within the last few months about how editors are requesting more middle grade fiction, so I’m wondering if perhaps you gave it a middle-grade bent so that it would appeal to a wider range of editors. Might something like that have anything to do with it, or is it something else entirely?

  8. Anonymous said:

    The Piccadilly line at rush hour – just remember that this week lots of people are on holiday. It’ll be even worse next week. Welcome to London!

  9. HeatherM said:

    Wow Kristen, you write a brilliant ‘letter to the editor’. It’s very engaging. The first two paragraphs pulled me right in. Enjoy London!

  10. Nancy Kay Bowden said:

    Thank you for sharing your editor letter–it gave me lots to think about. I’ve been to two query workshops you’ve presented, the first at National RWA in Dallas, and the second in Chicago… Excellent advice! A belated thank you!

    If you really want to see the Piccadilly line REALLY crazy, try and get on a train at Piccadilly Circus late at night after the theatres let out! Missing London soooo much… Who said cream tea?? Oh my… now I want a taxi ride… and lunch in Covent Garden. Have a wonderful time. See The Tower and Hampton Court Palace.

  11. Anonymous said:

    What I found the most interesting was how the introduction spent lots of time on the theme (right verses wrong) and not on the actual plot.

    I wonder if this is acceptable format for writer’s to use when pitching to agents? After all, sometimes it IS the theme that sets a book apart.

    Have fun in London.

  12. Chantele said:

    I just wanted to tell you how amazing your blog is! I stumbled across it a few days ago, in my search for an agent, and I love it! You have such good advice, and I love your “rants” on the fun job of finding editors and such. I hope to maybe work with you in the future, when I am ready to get my novel out there!;)