An online query writing course and hard work paid off for T.A. Maclagan, landing her a contract with Lucy Carson of Friedrich Agency, who contacted her three days later after receiving a full manuscript. THEY CALL ME ALEXANDRA GASTONE is published with Full Fathom Five.
Dear Ms. Lucy Carson,
Alexandra ‘Lex’ Gastone has a simple plan: make the grades, get into Princeton, work for the CIA, and serve a great nation. The plan was told to her at age eleven, back when her name was Mila Ponin.
Born with similar physical characteristics to the real Alexandra Gastone, Mila was taken from her family and trained in espionage by Perun, a powerful remnant of Russian communists. When Perun had Alexandra and her parents killed, Mila was given her identity and placed with Alexandra’s grandfather, Albert Gastone, a CIA analyst of strategic importance to the group.
Now, seven years later, Perun has decided they want more from Lex than a few CIA secrets. Lex is to be Albert’s plus one for the State dinner to honor Vladimir Petrenko, Russia’s President. Perun wants Petrenko dead and they want Lex to do it, framing Albert for his death.
With lives on the line, Lex begins to question Perun’s teachings and struggles to decide if her loyalties should lie with the ideal she was taught to love or with the surrogate grandfather she has grown to love. Whatever path she takes, Lex’s own life will be in danger as she navigates through a high stakes spy game.
Complete at 50,000 words, They Called Me Alexandra Gastone is a fast-paced, YA spy novel. Themes of identity, ideology, loyalty, and family are explored amidst a backdrop of international intrigue.
I have a Ph.D. in anthropology and have published within academia, but this is my first foray into young adult fiction.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
My stats: I sent out a batch of 10 queries and got one agent who asked for a full. He got back to me pretty quick with a rejection but did offer some helpful comments that I took on board and worked to fix—although doing so took about a month of hard work. In my next batch of 10 queries, I had two full requests and then an offer from Lucy, who got back to me three days after she got my full manuscript with an offer of representation.
Although my road to finding representation for Alexandra was a decently quick one, I had a lot of work to do once I was agented. They Call Me Alexandra Gastone morphed into a significantly different book from what I first pitched. Alexandra had a lot of growing pains that took place over an entire year as we got feedback from different publishers. Lucy was invaluable in helping mold the book into what I like to think is a topnotch YA spy novel. There’s now more of a spy vibe, more depth, more romance, more twists and turns and a whole lot less of the boring stuff like politics and communism. In fact, Lex is no longer a sleeper agent from Russia and is instead from a small ‘imaginary’ nation called Olissa.
One other thing I should mention is that I took CJ Redwine’s online query writing course and found it really helpful. I would definitely recommend it to writers looking to query. I’ve seen several of my classmates around the internet with publishing deals!