Not much to report about the book since I last posted about it. I am now in the purgatory known as waiting for agents to reply. Also known as collecting rejections.
Two of the rejections that arrived in recent weeks were form letters (well, one was a form note card) so I learned nothing from them. Two more rejections hit my inbox in the last 24 hours. One that arrived last night was the first discouraging one. The agent said that the voice sounds like an adult writing down, that it doesn’t sound like a boy’s voice. Yikes!
I’m trying to shrug this one off. A lot of people, including a few teenagers, particularly praised the book’s voice. And there are a few factors I’m not sure the agent took into account. Brian Parker is supposed to be mature for his age, otherwise he would spend the whole book in captivity, and most of the time he is dealing with adults, not his peers. While he does share adventures with Larissa, she is French so Brian isn’t entirely comfortable talking with her because he is never certain she will understand his words. Of course, 99 percent of the time she does because French teenagers have a better command of English than American teenagers have of French, and moreover it would be a very slow moving novel if my two main characters kept pulling out phrasebooks to communicate with each other. “Oh, you thought I meant ‘how many are there.’ I meant ‘how much do they cost.’” By the way, at no time does Larissa say anything like, “It is all — how do you say? — dangerous.” I couldn’t do that to my readers.
Plus, I just finished reading Anthony Horowitz’s latest Alex Rider book, Russian Roulette (in actuality it’s about Alex’s Rider’s nemesis, Yassen Gregorovich) and I didn’t notice an alarming gap between Horowitz’s voice and mine, not that I’m emulating him. We’re both emulating Ian Fleming, really. I am aiming for the same audience as Horowitz, and he’s clearly done something right given the major success of the Alex Rider books.
Still, it’s hard not to feel defensive about the agent saying Brian doesn’t have a boy’s voice. My first reaction is to say, “But, but … that’s how I talked when I was 15.” My second reaction is to make another sweep through the book and dumb down Brian’s dialogue. But if I lose respect for the character, I lose respect for the reader.
It was a scary, depressing email, though. Because if my intended audience feels the same way as this agent, it’s the kiss of death for The Boy Who Knew Too Much. In this case, I think I would have preferred another form letter.
However, I have to shrug it off. I have not heard back from the publisher that requested the full manuscript. If they like the book, I won’t have to worry about agents anymore. And in the meantime, I have to get back on the horse and query more agents. More will reject me, but I have to find the one who won’t.