I was catching up on posts over on Pub Rants and found a link to this in the sidebar. I thought it might be fun for you to see the query letter and comments that caught the eye of his agent, Kristen Nelson.
HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET
As promised and with Jamie’s permission, here is the query he sent me for his manuscript which was originally entitled THE PANAMA HOTEL.
For me, that title didn’t really capture the essence of the manuscript so we spent a lot of time kicking around alternatives before we went out on submission. It was quite a process but after sharing several forerunner titles with a variety of reliable sources, we agreed to HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET.
One of the fun things about this submission is that many editors loved the title and couldn’t imagine the novel being called anything else.
That means we did a good job. Random House hasn’t mentioned changing it so as far as we know, this will be the title for the book.
Dear Ms. Nelson:
I must admit I hate Asian stereotypes. You know the ones. Good at math. Hardworking. We all look alike. Come to think of it, that last one might hold water. After all, my father once wore a button that read “I am Chinese,” while growing up in Seattle’s Chinatown during WWII. It was the only thing that separated him from the Japanese, at least in the eyes of his Caucasian neighbors.
Sad, but true. Which is probably why my novel has a little to do with that particular piece of history.
I was really caught by his personal connection to the history he plans to explore. I’ve never heard of the “I am Chinese” buttons, which is kind of fascinating.
Anyway, the working title is The Panama Hotel, and when people ask me what the heck it’s all about I usually tell them this:
“It’s the story of the Japanese internment in Seattle, seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old Chinese boy, who is sent to an all-white private school, where he falls in love with a 12-year-old Japanese girl.”
I’ve never seen a novel about a Chinese boy falling in love with a Japanese girl during such a volatile time period. I have to say that I was pretty much hooked by this story concept. Simple but there’s a lot of weight behind it. I did happen to know that the Chinese and the Japanese had long been at war before the advent of WWII so I knew of the general animosity between the countries–but I knew nothing of how that might have played out on American soil.