2009/05/08

A Gift for the Sultan: query

Here's the reworked query I plan to send out to literary agents:

A GIFT FOR THE SULTAN is a 100,000+ word historical novel that simultaneously tells two stories, the actual world-shaking clash of Christian Constantinople and the Islamic horde of Sultan “Thunderbolt” Bayezid in 1402, and the (fictional) relationship between a Christian princess and the Islamic warrior who is supposed to deliver her to the sultan when the acting emperor tries to surrender the city. The desperate conditions inside the walls as nobles, merchants, clergy, juvenile street fighters and foreign mercenaries prepare to die for the greatest city in the Christian world, and the contrasting conditions in the mountains of Anatolia as Bayezid’s horde moves to combat the invading horde of Timur (Tamerlane) are made vivid through both historical and fictional characters. The unexpected defeat of Bayezid by Timur upsets the chessboard and changes the destiny of all them, and of Europe and Asia.

The novel will appeal to readers of International Booker Prize-winner Ismail Kadare’s The Siege (about 15th century Ottoman-Christian conflicts in Albania) and all those eager to understand Christianity’s complicated relations with Islam. It treats respectfully Orthodox Christian, pre-Islamic Central Asian and early Islamic beliefs and practices, attempting to understand rather than condemn behaviors that, although they often led to extremely violent confrontations, at other times permitted intercultural understanding and tenderness.

I am the author of six books of nonfiction with HarperCollins, the University of Arizona Press and other publishers, and of a book that the New York Times Book Reviewer called a “frequently powerful collection of short stories.” (Full review attached.) My other short stories have appeared in Milk magazine, Exquisite Corpse, In Posse, The Copperfield Review, Small Spiral Notebook and Linnaean Street (all online), and in print in Ink Pot, The Threepenny Review, Yellow Silk and Fiction International. I am currently co-writing a book on Latin American architectural history for W. W. Norton.

Image: Sultan Yildirim ("Thunderbolt") Bayezid (1362-1403) in his glory days

5 comments:

Fran said...

Interesting, and concise. But surely a little long?

Dirk said...

Seems to me an excellent query, but if I understood queries better, maybe some big publisher would have taken a chance on me. But it reminds me that we discussed this book when we were both attending a Writer’s Union Executive Board meeting in Los Angles. Was that this century? Yes, I think it was 2003. You write as slowly as I do.

gef said...

Thanks, Fran. I like your art blog -- your stuff seems as whimsical as Tara's. As for length of query, I dunno. What should I leave out?

And Dirk: Yes, I've been on this project for longer even than you remember. I first got the idea in 1997, I think. Read everything I could on the period and people. I tried to sell it in 2004, failed, put it away, then pulled it out again last year and did extensive rewrite. I decided its problems were (1) confusing sequence (too many stories seemingly going in different directions) and (2) lack of a satisfying conclusion. I think I've got the right ending now.

RD said...

It sounds like a wonderful epic worth of a delighted reader. I would like to see this book in print with all its glories and sorrows with the times laid bare for the reader

gef said...

Me too, RD (i.e., like to see it in print). Thanks for your support.