AMÉRICA! - Query - Historical Fiction

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dgaughran
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Re: AMÉRICA! - Query - Historical Fiction

Post by dgaughran » October 8th, 2010, 9:15 am

Quill:

The anonymous was there because he actually retired to France to avoid getting drawn into the Argentine civil war that followed independence. Not sure if it is redundant or not. I had "anonymous farmer in France" before. Not sure what is best.

Regarding the meeting, it's an interesting and extremely contentious question, in South America at least.

All of the available research is very partisan. Argentine historians contend that Bolivar was a vainglorious bully, willing to threaten the entire independence movement, unless he San Martin was removed from the picture, and he could be top dog. Venezuelan historians argue that San Martin was a paper tiger, an opium-addled lily-liveried closet monarchist who was tired, and spent as a political force, just waiting to hand everything over to a real man. Nobody knows for sure, as there were no witnesses to the meeting, and neither of them spoke much about it afterwards. It’s fascinating to me – the most momentous moment in South American history, and there are no witnesses, no record.

I suspected at the start that the truth may lie somewhere in the middle. I have read numerous books and articles on the subject, but, as a novelist, I had to take a stand. I decided to rely almost exclusively on the comments of the men themselves, most particularly on a letter San Martin wrote to Bolivar after the meeting, complaining about the stories Bolivar was spreading.

I think it was Hilary Mantel who said that the historical record is always imperfect and that a novelist’s real job lies in these cracks.

There is no way I could say that what I wrote is what happened with any surety. It's what I think happened, based on evidence. I have a long conversation between the two men at the end of the novel, only parts of which are things I know they said to each other. The rest is the kind of things I think they would have said to each other, given the situation, and their respective personalities, such as we know.

Dave
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Down the well
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Re: AMÉRICA! - Query - Historical Fiction

Post by Down the well » October 8th, 2010, 10:25 am

dgaughran wrote:I think it was Hilary Mantel who said that the historical record is always imperfect and that a novelist’s real job lies in these cracks.
Mantel is wonderful, and speaks the truth. I can't imagine how dry Wolf Hall would have been if she had stuck to just the facts recorded in history. The novelists job is to fill in the gaps where the history is unknown. As long as you don't ignore the record, you can write whatever you want in the interstices between what is known and what is not. Make it as dramatic as you can.
dgaughran wrote:Argentine historians contend that Bolivar was a vainglorious bully, willing to threaten the entire independence movement, unless he San Martin was removed from the picture and he could be top dog. Venezuelan historians argue that San Martin was a paper tiger, an opium-addled lily-liveried closet monarchist who was tired, and spent as a political force, just waiting to hand everything over to a real man.


This is conflict. Any way you can get a little of this flavor in your query? Thought I'd throw that our there just to muddy the waters. :)

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Quill
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Re: AMÉRICA! - Query - Historical Fiction

Post by Quill » October 8th, 2010, 10:30 am

Yup, some of what you wrote in your last post might well be worked into the query, as being more intriguing than, say, the list of followers (which carries little weight).

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Re: AMÉRICA! - Query - Historical Fiction

Post by pollymilton » October 10th, 2010, 5:24 pm

All of the available research is very partisan. Argentine historians contend that Bolivar was a vainglorious bully, willing to threaten the entire independence movement, unless he San Martin was removed from the picture, and he could be top dog. Venezuelan historians argue that San Martin was a paper tiger, an opium-addled lily-liveried closet monarchist who was tired, and spent as a political force, just waiting to hand everything over to a real man. Nobody knows for sure, as there were no witnesses to the meeting, and neither of them spoke much about it afterwards. It’s fascinating to me – the most momentous moment in South American history, and there are no witnesses, no record.

I like your new version very well. It's much clearer and more enticing. I do like this blurb from your comments - and like Quill, I'm not sure about the ragtag army.

Nice and careful work!
Polly

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Quill
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Re: AMÉRICA! - Query - Historical Fiction

Post by Quill » October 10th, 2010, 5:37 pm

Yes, interesting subject matter, to be sure. One thing is, though, that it is not clear from your query whether the book is mainly focused on the dynamic (and the mystery) between Bolivar and San Martin (and possibly the interaction, if any, between their two efforts to defeat a common enemy), a good premise in itself, or if it is mostly about the gathering and exploits of the seven named compadres. In one paragraph you speak of one, and in the next you describe the other. They seem different enough from each other that I'm not sure if one is a subplot of the other, or if they are actually two different books. The effect is like that of having two main characters and not showing whether or not they are equal, and not really showing how they work together within the book.

I really like the mystery of the meeting angle, with it's seeming larger picture as well as dramatic up-close personal meeting stuff. I also think the adventures of the seven could be good, though it's a bit more sketchy in your description (not sure a query is the place to introduce them all) (maybe better to show how the exploits are unique and interesting, with the available space). I think each would make a good movie. I just can't picture how the two work together.

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Severus Lawliet
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Re: AMÉRICA! - Query - Historical Fiction

Post by Severus Lawliet » October 10th, 2010, 6:48 pm

I have a few comments.

Around the second paragraph, things get kind of confusing for me. I don't think you should necessarily change it, just thought you should know.

And I think you should start out the query with your characters name and age. For example, "Twenty year-old Billie Jean" yada yada. Just my opinion, I like queries like that.

Other than that, it looks pretty good to me. :)

I'm no agent. Just my opinion.
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dgaughran
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Re: AMÉRICA! - Query - Historical Fiction

Post by dgaughran » October 12th, 2010, 7:06 pm

Hey Quill,

It's about both - the adventures of the seven (one of which is San Martin, all of which come together one way or another because of him) - culminating in the meeting with Bolivar.

2 movies for the price of one!

But on a serious note, it has been a juggling act trying to keep at all together and all relevant - those seven strands, weaving them together, keeping it all coherent, making sure each character arc is satisfying and so on, I often felt like I was spinning plates.

Dave
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