Friday, February 29, 2008

A Voice of Her Own

Little could be more scandalous for a sixteenth-century shopkeeper’s daughter than selling her body—unless it is selling her words. Jollande Carlet, the protagonist of my novel The Measure of Silence, knows publishing her poems will compromise her reputation. She never imagines it will endanger her life.

Educated beyond her station through her godfather’s generosity, Jollande intends to publish her poems in tribute to her mother, whose verse vanished at the time of her death. But before she can convince her godfather to print them on his press at the sign of the Fountain, Jollande’s husband dies defending her honor from a stranger’s insults. Overcome with guilt, Jollande destroys her manuscript, vowing never again to set pen to paper.

But Jollande’s muse cannot hold her tongue. Neither can Nicolas Vernier, the Fountain’s flippant new typesetter, an unconvincing heretic who scoffs at the very notion of a woman poet. Nicolas’s jibes—and his discovery that a member of their literary circle has plagiarized her poems—goad Jollande past her shame. Yet as soon as she sets to work reconstructing her manuscript, the cycle of destruction begins anew. Scandalmongers deface the printing shop; the family fabric business goes up in flames. When the city guard accuses the Fountain of distributing Calvinist tracts and seeks her arrest on suspicion of heresy, Jollande can no longer deny that someone is determined to silence her at any price. Caught in a personal vendetta that encapsulates the cultural and religious tensions of Renaissance France, Jollande must find a way to save herself, her family, and her dream.

The Measure of Silence is currently under submission to publishers. I hope to have good news to share about it soon!


Jennifer said...

Hi Julianne --

This is a fantastic synopsis/hook for your novel. It really makes me want to read it! I'm going to have to come back and study this when it's time for me to come up with my own hook.

Looking forward to your inevitable good news {s} --


Julianne Douglas said...


I'm so glad it sounds interesting to you! {s}

This actually was not the hook I used in my query letter. It's close to the original, but I've streamlined it even more. The important thing to remember when writing the query is that you don't have to touch on every subplot in the novel. Choose the most important thread and work to make it sound as intriguing as possible. The point is not to summarize the entire novel, but to entice the agent to ask for more.

For a long time I was pulling my hair out trying to condense the novel's three subplots into one paragraph. When I realized I just needed to talk about the main plot and didn't even need to reveal the resolution, it made things a lot easier!

Catherine Delors said...

Your query letter must have been great because it landed you several offers of representation.

I posted mine on my website, and other writers seemed to like the idea. Some told me they were amazed by the fact that it didn't reveal much about the book. That's exactly the idea: wet people's appetite. Don't you hate it when you watch a movie trailer, and everything is there: the best lines, the plot, the subplots, the ending?

Have you talked to your (our) agent about posting your query here, and also posting an excerpt?

Julianne Douglas said...


I'm waiting a bit to post things too specific to TMOS's route to publication. I will speak with Stephanie about doing a query letter post in the future, though, if readers find that useful. I'll check with her about an excerpt, too.