Genre: Speculative Fiction
Word Count: 63,000
As a slum rat beneath the futuristic mega-city of New York, 16-year-old Leo has never seen a sunrise. Just when he’s expected to become a slave to NYC’s totalitarian power, Authority, he busts out into the chaos of an overpopulated city at rush hour. News of the breakout gets leaked to Authority, spurring a citywide manhunt that could leave the only home he knows in total ruin.
Question 1: In your MC’s voice, what costumed character do you relate most to and why?
Are you kidding me? I’ve spent the last week sprinting all around NYC—which spans about a hundred miles, if you haven’t looked at a map lately—so I’d take about any costume to hide me from Authority’s expansive army.
Question 2: As an author, what makes your manuscript a tasty treat (aka unique/marketable)?
CROWDED is a wild take on the issue of overpopulation—totalitarian city-states, collapsing cities—but it’s believable and real. I’ve taken an underdog story and thrown it into a setting, inspired by the present-day slums of Dharavi or Kibera, that will make readers wonder: when will they see themselves experiencing 130-degree heat; dense, polluted streets; and open burial pits for cemeteries?
First 250 words:
I have a name passed down so many times it’s worn out like the shirt on my back. Ever since New York City Authority restricted the number of kids a family can have to one, it became customary for the citizens in our underground zone to pass both their first and last names down to their child. My name is Leon after my father. Just as my twin sister shares my mother’s name, Annabelle. After years of confusion, our parents resorted to calling us by our shorter names, Leo and Anna.
Today is our sixteenth birthday, where we’ll soon endure the last of our yearly commencement ceremonies. We should’ve left for the zone square by now, but Mother still frets to make us as presentable as possible.
She buttons a black suit jacket over my old stained t-shirt. My outfit feels much less special this year—I wear this drab top all the time. In previous years, I wore a crisp, albeit oversized, white collared shirt that buttoned all the way down under the jacket. After the ceremony last year, I bent down to pick up a couple of pennies and split the back straight in two.
“Looks like you’re getting a bit too big for this jacket,” my father says with a smirk, looking me up and down.
My face flushes, and I tug at the sleeve to make it cover my wrist. He glances up at Mother as she frantically combs my hair. Like every other year, my mother fails to hide her stress.