Our new page that I mentioned earlier this week — http://www.maassagency.com/thismonth.html — seems to have provoked some discussion. The Absolute Write thread has some wildly varied reactions. When we were discussing this addition to the website, the intent behind it was to assist writers in getting another peek inside DMLA’s collective mind. Many of these concepts probably come up in reaction to discussion of queries that pass through the office. This is by no means meant to be an exclusive list. It’s meant to be a brainstorming launch. Or a helpful hint at what kinds of projects would stand out. It’s also not a guarantee that if you submit a book that fits the list, you will get representation. After all, it still has to grab us and not let us go with the writing, the characters, the plot, etc. We want to match ourselves up with writers that have stories with strong ideas behind them; ideas we can sell. And we want to see well-written books, of course. 99% of what we see gets rejected (remember Slushkiller? — read the context of rejection section). So, our aim was to try and improve the odds for both sides.
The “ghost story that’s truly contemporary” seems to have netted some interest but people are confused about what was meant by that. I asked Donald Maass for clarification and with his kind permission, post it herewith:
So, what do I mean by a “truly contemporary” ghost story? Remember the Amityville Horror? When Jay Anson’s novel hit in 1977, it shocked in part because it introduced a haunting into a contemporary (then) suburban home. What, then, in 2007 would be a contemporary setting in which one would not expect to find a haunting? I would love to read a (well-written, of course) novel about a malevolent spirit in a mall, perhaps with a night security guard protagonist? Can you see the ghost animating toys, mannequins, shopping carts, etc? It’s always a challenge to frighten jaded readers. There are tricks to it, including long and deep build up with bridging conflicts to keep us reading until we’re thoroughly sucked in before the horror starts. (Read Jaws.) Once hooked, the unexpected can help overcome the yawns induced by old houses, fog and other clichéd devices.
What about a high tech office building? A house-techno nightclub? A NASCAR track? What about ghosts that manifest through iPhones, JPEG’s, California closets, etc.? Also, what about living protagonists who aren’t ghost hunters (yawn), suburban moms (yawn) or other obvious choices? What about skateboard dudes, ska musicians, hip-hop grrls…people you wouldn’t have met ten years ago? I wonder if there are any ghost novelists who’ve got the personal knowledge or research dedication to make such things detailed, credible and genuinely frightening?
One thing I’m not anxious to read is yet another conventional haunted house novel. Although there are wonderful classics (e.g. Hell House), the job of making that sub-genre fresh and chilling is going to be next to impossible. It would take Richard Matheson pull it off.