My YA manuscript is loosely based on a classic Charlotte Bronte novel, and although some of the characters and plot lines are similar to the original, the characters’ motivations and relationships have been updated to reflect modern values, choices and issues. I believe my novel and query letter are both good enough to stand on their own, but I was wondering if it would be an advantage or disadvantage to mention that it’s loosely based on a classic. Right now, I mention it in a short sentence at the end of the query, but do I really need to include it?
While I caution writers against relying too heavily on comparing their books to modern literature, I don’t think in this age of “let’s remix Jane Austin just one more time” you can hurt yourself by letting agents and editors know that you are basing your book on a classic. This might be a personal bias because I’m always intrigued by books that either tell the story of a classic secondary fictional character or retell a classic or a fairy tale, but I say go for it, and I say move that line up to the beginning of your letter. Who wouldn’t want to read a really great, modern retelling of Jane Eyre (in fact, I feel inspired to read the original right now) or Wuthering Heights (yes, I know that was written by Emily)?