Guest post by Laurie McLean, Partner at Fuse Literary. Laurie represents the wonderful REUTS author, J.M. Frey.
When I first read The Untold Tale by J.M. Frey, I was amazed at both its audacity and its storytelling energy. The characters were like none I’d read about in an epic fantasy novel. The hero was the spymaster for the king masquerading as a fuddy-duddy second son whose older brother was a hero of legendary proportions. The heroine did not fit into preconceived notions of women in this fairy tale world. There was also something very mysterious about her background that we don’t find out about until mid-way through the book, so I won’t spoil it here.
Suffice to say that I loved this book and I set about trying to sell it to eager science fiction and fantasy editors in New York. I pitched the book and they all wanted to take a look. Months passed, as they do during the submission process. Then the rejections began to amass. It was too “meta.” The hero was not “alpha” enough. It was too long. It was non-standard. And the always popular and very general, “It’s not right for my list.”
I don’t know about all of you, but I am tired of reading the same old tropes in my sword and sorcery or quest fantasy novels. I search for new tales and new ways of telling them. I look for diversity in both characters and setting. I want the thrill of the adventure, but in a new way. That’s why I loved J.M. Frey’s The Untold Tale, as well as the second book which is launching in December 2016: The Forgotten Tale.
Frey strives for the diverse and unexpected in her books. This made it difficult for me to sell it to mainstream publishers who wanted more of the same that had sold so well in the past.
Frustrated beyond belief that I was unable to sell this series, I was giving a keynote at a writers conference in Seattle, and I mentioned that everyone’s path to publishing was different. I urged the hopeful writers in the room not to compare themselves to successful authors who had come before them (although everyone does), and I told the tale of my difficulties in selling a book of my heart.
Afterwards, as I was getting coffee (it was cold in Seattle that fall), two young women approached me and said that they appreciated my speech. They wanted to know more about the book I was having trouble selling. So we sat down and I waxed on and on about The Untold Tale and why I thought the quality of the writing and storytelling was superb, and how I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been able to sell it. One of them asked for my card, and as we exchanged information, she told me that she was an editor at a small-but-growing publisher in the Pacific Northwest called REUTS Publishing.
Bottom line: At that very conference, Kisa Whipkey asked to read The Untold Tale. She saw what I saw in that manuscript and bought not only book one, but all three books in the series plus several additional novellas, short stories and other bonus material in that world that would accompany the main event. Not only that, she also liked the second series J.M. Frey had shown me, about the first female pilot in a mechanized society reminiscent of World War I, The Skylark’s Song, and she eventually bought that as well.
The Forgotten Tale, the middle book in the series, is one of those rare breeds of middle books that actually carries its own weight. It is a rousing story in and of itself, and a worthy sequel to The Untold Tale. It deals with an apocalypse most of us readers would surely find horrific: the classic stories of our world are disappearing, and Forsyth Turn and his wife Pip must solve this mystery before all stories are erased forever. THE HORROR!
I hope I’ve intrigued you sufficiently that you’ll pick up a copy of The Untold Tale and its successor, The Forgotten Tale. J.M. Frey is just about done with the final book in the series, The Silenced Tale, and I am sure it will be equally enthralling.
‘Til then, I will remain a champion for all tales, comfortable and itchy, magical and harshly realistic, epically long or quickly consumed. To the bookshelves!
-Laurie McLean, Partner
Fuse Literary Agency