1. Chapter 1.
THE MOST IMPORTANT EMAIL THAT DARCY PATEL ever wrote was three paragraphs long.
The first was about Darcy herself. It skipped the trifling details, her dyed blue-black hair and the slim gold ring in her left nostril, and began instead with a grim secret that her parents had never told her. When Darcy’s mother was eleven years old, her best friend was murdered by a stranger. This dis- covery, chanced upon during an idle web search, both shocked Darcy and made certain things about her mother clearer. It also inspired her to write.
The second paragraph of the email was about the novel Darcy had just finished. She didn’t mention, of course, that all sixty thousand words of Afterworlds had been written in thirty days. The Underbridge Literary Agency hardly needed to know that. Instead, this paragraph described a terrorist attack, a girl who wills herself to die, and the bewitching boy she meets in the afterworld. It promised skulking ghosts and the traumas that haunt families, and little sisters who are more clever than they appear. Using the present tense and short sentences, Darcy set the scene, thumbnailed the characters and their motivations, and teased the conclusion. This was the best of the three paragraphs, she was later told.
The third paragraph was pure flattery, because Darcy wanted very much for the Underbridge Literary Agency to say yes to her. She praised the breadth of their vision and paid tribute to their clients’ genius, even while daring to compare herself to those illus- trious names. She explained how her novel was different from the other paranormals of the last few years (none of which had a smoldering Vedic psychopomp as its love interest).
This email was not a perfect query letter. But it did its job. Seventeen days after pressing Send, Darcy was signed to Underbridge, a flourishing and respected literary agency, and not long after that she had a two-book deal for an astonishing amount of money.
Only a handful of challenges remained—high school gradu- ation, a perilous decision, and parental approval—before Darcy Patel would be packing her bags for New York City.