Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Next Big Thing

"The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. " ~James Bryce

Donald Maass, one of THE literary agents in the biz, has been running a neat little feature on his agency's website the last few months: What We're Looking for this Month.

It's not literal, of course, but every month the agents toss out ideas for what they'd like to see cross their desks as the next "big thing" to hit the best-seller lists. Here's Jan/Feb:

1. A literary SFF novel as original and well-written as Tim Powers’s classic The Anubis Gates or Gordon Dahlquist’s recent debut The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters: not a traditional quest adventure in a quasi-Medieval world, but a cross-over from our world with mystery, romance, historical allusions and literary references.

2. A thriller in which the unlikely doom scenario is made utterly believable with 300 pages of careful, point-by-point elimination of all the reasons why it wouldn’t happen…PLUS, featuring a protagonist of unshakeable principles whom we cheer for from their first moment on the page.

3. A multi-layered romance in which every element is as romantic as the relationship itself: setting, secondary characters, etc…PLUS, a plot in which the driving conflict is not a manufactured antipathy between heroine and hero, but the inescapable malignancy of outside forces.

4. A brilliantly written, page-turning novel with the psychological twists and turns of Donna Tartt's A SECRET HISTORY or Patricia Highsmith's THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.

5. A romantic (not romance) novel in the tradition of Peter Beagle's A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE with highly emotive characters and a compelling depth of texture and description.

6. A historical mystery or thriller that in addition to mystery plot, gives us a new or controversial look at a well known historical figure. For example, a mystery set on and around the new high-rises of New York that shows us a more generous side of Robert Moses than we see in THE POWER BROKER.

7. An alternate history like Philip K. Dick’s THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE or more recently, Sesshu Foster’s ATOMIK AZTEX or Michael Chabon’s latest, where, for example, the Native Americans were ceded territory in what is now the state of Nevada. When strange murders start cropping up, an outsider must enter the territory to investigate with the help of a young Native American who has something to hide.

8. A mystery or thriller with a bike messenger as the main character or villain,
like Tami Hoag's KILL THE MESSENGER, or maybe a bike mechanic main character, or some other character who makes their living with bicycles.

9. A work of narrative nonfiction that does for competitive video-gamers what Ben Mezrich did for the MIT card-counters in Bringing Down the House. I’d especially like a story that follows an American gamer trying to reach the top in South Korea, where audiences pack stadiums to observe Starcraft matches and top gamers earn six-figure salaries.

10. A genre-bending novel for the adult suspense market, one that functions like Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men – overturning clich├ęs of the genre, challenging ideas we hold dear, and creating suspense not through the unknown but through the sheer audacity of the villain.

Interesting, huh? So do any of you writers have a WIP like that just looking for a home?? Or would any of you pick up a book like one of those to read?

And along those same lines, a writer-friend on another loop posed this question to her blog readers, and I'm passing it along to you:

As a reader what specific kinds of books do you most enjoy but have trouble finding? Please be as specific as you can and describe any kind of book distinguished by any quality such as sub-genre, non-fiction subject, time period, length, writing style or anything else that is important to you as a reader. I am looking for the kinds of book you would buy more of, if you could only find them.

The more responses, the better, so chime in!


Buffy said...

New to the blog, and really enjoying it.

Thanks for the link.

Mel said...

There is one book that I've read in the past few months that's given me an itch. It was Sophie Kinsella's Can you keep a secret? It was funny, it had angst, but it was a darn good novel. So I'd want a fresh turn on a plot, something that is laugh out loud funny, but not detrimental to the story. It could be anything historical, women's fiction. I'm not discriminatory. But I guess for me that is just a good book.

windycindy said...

Hi, I used to read only non-fiction books. Then, I decided I needed to read lighter types of books. The books I enjoy the most are historical in nature, but don't have to be strictly true to the time period. I need an escape when I read a book. Characters who are so interesting that I actually feel I am in the book! Thanks,Cindi

Anonymous said...

Thanks Allie that was interesting. I just got done reading Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen which I enjoyed very much. Liz

Ruth said...

I seem to be going through an alternative history phase right now. Your suggestion #7 sounds really interesting. I just finished Conspirator's Odyssey: The Evolution of the Patron Saint by A.K. Kuykendall, which was smart, thought-provoking, and entirely believable. I certainly wouldn't say no to more -- lots more -- like it.