Sarah Burnes

YA Contemporary

THE DEAD QUEENS CLUB (January 29, 2019)
HarlequinTEEN/Inkyard (Harper)

I live in Tidewater Virginia, and my debut YA novel, THE DEAD QUEENS CLUB, comes out in January 2019. (Mean Girls quotes, Anne Boleyn quotes, anti-slutshaming rants: DQC has it *all*!) I earned my bachelor’s degree from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and my master’s from Columbia University. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me sailing, singing, or pulling marathon gossip sessions with my girl squad. My patron saints are long-dead teenage girls with unfair historical reputations, and I specialize in Katheryn Howard and Abigail Williams.

In my first round of traditional querying, I found representation with Logan Garrison Savits of the Gernert Company. We received revision requests but no offers on our first batch of submissions with my first manuscript. By that point I’d finished THE DEAD QUEENS CLUB, so we dropped the earlier project and went on sub with DQC. After revisions, we accepted an offer from Harlequin Teen/Inkyard Press (Harper) in the summer of 2017. Shortly thereafter, Logan left the industry and I began working with Sarah Burnes (also at Gernert) and Mary Pender (at UTA). We optioned DQC for television to UCP (Universal) at auction in winter 2018. I currently have two projects in revision (a contemporary revenge/horror retelling of MACBETH and a mystery I’d categorize as Instagram Southern Gothic), and I’m writing a dark comedy retelling of HAMLET. Next up: an atmospheric contemporary about a girls’ summer school on a lake.

I’ve worked as a writer and editor in a wide range of contexts–from academic to commercial to fiction, as well as for cultural and historical institutions. I’m part of an active writing community in my region, and I’ve taught craft and YA classes through writing centers and summer programs. My critique partners include writers who are querying, writers who are agented and on submission, and writers who have published through both independent and Big 5 houses.

I love everything about writing–from the first scrap of an idea to the last round of fine-tuning. There’s not much I’d rather do than dig into a great story and make it even better! If you’re ambitious and driven and you’re looking for a mentor who will push you to refine not just your current manuscript but your writing as a whole, I’d love to work with you. I’m 50% overcaffeinated cheerleader and 50% brutal Russian ballet mistress, so if you want enthusiastic all-caps screeching and also unrelenting perfectionism, I’m your girl.

All tropes, genres, and comp titles aside, my number one wish is a strong and unforgettable voice–so if voice is your thing, send your project my way no matter what. From bitchy and sarcastic (like PRETTY LITTLE LIARS or DARE ME) to lyrical and literary (like WE WERE LIARS or ALL THE RAGE) to hilarious and irreverent (like ME & EARL & THE DYING GIRL or HEATHERS), a voice that holds me captive from the very first line is everything I want.

  • Contemporary
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Historical
  • Own Voices
  • Romance
  • Horror
  • Retellings/adaptations.

Don’t send me anything where the twist is “multiple personalities”/DID.

Don’t send me anything where one character’s rape or suicide serves only to motivate another character.

Don’t send me “savior” tropes.

Don’t send me incest.

Don’t send me “scared straight” stories (in the vein of GO ASK ALICE).

Other than that, I’m open to any trope that’s handled in a creative, interesting way. I especially love revenge stories, girl gangs, villain protagonists, and Southern Gothic anything.

For historical fiction, I’m open to early Tudor England (1485-1547) as well as colonial and revolutionary British North America (1607-1783). I also adore contemporary retellings of history and literary classics.

I’d love to work with #ownvoices writers, but I’m not #ownvoices myself, so if you’re seeking a mentor with a specific marginalized experience, I’m not the best fit for you.


  • Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
  • Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
  • Skype or phone call
  • Freestyle in chat

I’m straightforward and thorough. If we work together, I’ll provide a full line-edit with an edit letter, and we’ll chat on the phone after you’ve had a chance to absorb everything in my critique. Once you dig into your revisions, I’ll be available to touch base by phone, text, or chat: whatever works best for you (and our time zones; I’m on the East Coast of the US). With the right mentee, I’d love to continue the partnership beyond the scope of AMM R5–if I fall in love with your story and your voice, I’ll be in for the long haul!

You’re ambitious. You’re passionate. You’re willing to slash, burn, and rebuild. You’ve already worked hard to polish your manuscript as much as you can on your own: there aren’t pervasive typos, unrevised scenes, or major plot holes. You’re willing to do whatever it takes to make your story the best it can be–and to make yourself a better writer with every draft and every new project.

I’m looking for vigilante justice, girl squads, complicated friendships, twisty romantic relationships, revenge, ambition, and villain protagonists.

I love atmospheric, literary stories–but I also love witty, fun, sarcastic narrators who don’t take themselves too seriously.

If your narrator is a girl who’d usually be the mean queen bee, the “slut”, the class clown, the villain, or all of the above, send me your manuscript right now!

I’m open to stories that deal with mental health issues and/or sexual assault, but ONLY if you’ve handled your content thoughtfully. If you use rape or suicide as a convenient plot device, look elsewhere.

I love anything set at an all-girls’ school or on an island.

I love stories told by girls who are restless, angry, dangerous, or all of the above.

If your manuscript’s film adaptation would be directed by Quentin Tarantino, Sofia Coppola, or Wes Anderson, I want it.

Bonus points if you can tell me which Instagram filter your protagonist would use.

Don’t send me anything where the twist is “multiple personalities”/DID.

Don’t send me anything where one character’s rape or suicide serves only to motivate another character.

Don’t send me “savior” tropes.

Don’t send me incest.

Don’t send me “scared straight” stories (in the vein of GO ASK ALICE).

Favorite books: LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding, WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart, ALL THE RAGE by Courtney Summers, A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith, DARE ME by Megan Abbott, TINY PRETTY THINGS by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES by Mindy McGinnis, THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma

Favorite films: HEATHERS dir. Michael Lehmann, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES dir. Sofia Coppola, CRUEL INTENTIONS dir. Roger Kumble, BLAME dir. Quinn Shephard, FINAL GIRL dir. Tyler Shields, KILL BILL VOLUME 1 dir. Quentin Tarantino, BLACK SWAN dir. Darren Aronofsky, THE BEGUILED dir. Sofia Coppola, THE LIFE BEFORE HER EYES dir. Vadim Perelman, LOST AND DELIRIOUS dir. Lea Pool


Dream roles: Lady Macbeth from Shakespeare’s MACBETH for straight plays, Velma from CHICAGO for musicals, Carmen from Bizet’s CARMEN for opera, Kitri from Petipa’s DON QUIXOTE for ballet, Kathryn Merteuil from CRUEL INTENTIONS for film, Lucille Bluth from ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT for television