The Optimistic Novelist

Part One 2013

The website guru who runs Mostly Mystery, Linda, has given us several topics to write about this month, two of which are the past year and the present year in our writing lives. I can do that. However, my 2013 writing year needs a little prior information leading up to it.

I had so much fun writing my memoir in 2010 that I decided maybe I could write a novel. The fact that several of my friends and acquaintances have unpublished novels in their attics and basements did not slow me down. But what kind of novel should I write? I love mysteries and have always read them. Maybe I could write a mystery. I just had one problem: I knew nothing about murders and corpses. But did that stop me? No. I researched and I talked to the local coroner, fire chief, and chief-of-police.  People in a small town are always ready and willing to talk about what they do and that helped me tremendously.

I named the book Three May Keep a Secret. The title is from Poor Richard’s Almanac, one of my protagonist’s–Grace Kimball’s–favorite books. It concludes, “…if two of them are dead.” And, indeed, a few people will die before the book ends. I’ve decided it is fun to write books where you murder people. I  find it highly therapeutic.

I finished my mystery in the fall of 2012 and asked Lourdes Venard, a New York freelance editor, to be my editor. We worked on it together and I found her collaboration a wonderful experience. She was always so encouraging. This is where 2013 begins.

During the 2013 winter I searched for an agent and a publisher. I did a great deal of reading about how to do this. As many other new authors have done, I sent query emails to sixty or seventy agents. I meticulously checked them out, found out what they published, and spelled their names correctly. Then I waited. And I waited. And I waited. As you may guess, they were pretty busy but a few of them wrote nice replies starting, “Dear Author.” I even wrote a post about this procedure here.

While I waited…and waited…and waited, I decided to refurbish my website and add some social media so I would have a platform for my novel. See, I was optimistic. Besides, I have no basement and no attic in which to store my unpublished novel. I added quite a bit of information to my website, joined Goodreads, continued my own blog here, and established an Author Facebook page here. I also began a Pinterest page here to help spread the word about my not-yet-published novel. Now this IS optimism.

In April, I decided that maybe I should take matters into my own hands and not wait for an agent to contact me for my fabulous mystery. It seems they could not tell–in one to three pages–that it was a masterpiece. Undaunted, I set out next to find a small press. I sent my whole manuscript to a mystery publisher. Miraculously, I heard from an editor almost immediately. She loved my mystery, loved my characters, and loved my little town of Endurance. She wanted to acquire my book! She represented Five Star Publishing (an imprint of Thorndike/Gale/Cengage).  When I saw the email on my phone I almost fell off my chair. Despite my optimism, I cried tears of joy. I felt like Sally Fields at the Oscars. I have now signed a contract and Five Star is producing my first novel in November, 2014. Yes, I am excited. The editor also suggested I start on novel # 2. I have.

2013 was a fabulous year where someone else—an expert—actually decided that I had written something people would want to read. I have always been a bit sheepish about saying, “I am an author.”

Now I can.

6 thoughts on “The Optimistic Novelist

  1. Thank you, Terry. I should also add that other writers–like you–were very generous with your encouragement. My son even said, “Don’t worry, Mom. It only takes one to say ‘yes.'” You were all right.

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