“So you’ve written a novel!”
“What’s it about?”
I’ve had that conversation innumerable times in the last few months. My instinctive response is to handwave and dodge. “Oh,” I say, “it’s a sort of steampunky fantasy novel, only there’s no steam. It’s alchemy and stuff”.
Which is accurate, but it’s like saying The Lord of the Rings is about trees. It’s tree-heavy, trees play a key role in the plot, there are rather more discussions of trees than you might have in the average novel, and if you delve into the deep backstory, trees are really important. Guerdon’s alchemical weirdness is absolutely integral to The Gutter Prayer, but it’s not what the book is about, and it doesn’t convey much in an elevator pitch.
“Three thieves in a fantasy city try to overthrow the corrupt master of the thieves’ guild.”
Better, but it’s a little bland.
“A thief finds a magical weapon and decides to use it to overthrow the corrupt master of the guild, but she doesn’t realise that it’s the key to the godswar that rages across the seas.”
Getting there, but lacks something.
“It’s about seeking revenge when the world’s falling apart. About getting everything you want, and then burning it down. It’s about what happens when the gods go mad. It’s about monsters made of wax, and a city of bells, and the taste of corpse-flesh and ashes.”
Better, but if you actually pitched that to someone on an elevator, they’d back away into the corner and start hammering the “open doors now now now” button.
“It’s about three thieves – a woman who ran away, but doesn’t know what she’s running from. A dying man who wants to leave a monument behind. A cynic who’ll survive at any cost. And what happens when they’re given a weapon they don’t understand and can’t control.”