Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pacific Northwest Novelists

The Seattle area is peppered with novelists, some superstars in their genre like Cherry Adair (love this woman!), Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs, Jane Anne Krentz, Julia Quinn, Alexis Morgan, Jane Porter, Stella Cameron and Yasmine Galenorn. These women are celebrities at romance writing conferences, many having enjoyed the NY Times Bestseller List. Some even have movie deals under their belts. Jane's hit "Flirting with Forty' starred Heather Locklear.
Then we have the Bob Mayer, Garth Stein, Carol Cassella, Jamie Ford, Bob Dugoni, Stephanie Kallos crowd who write literary, commercial fiction and beyond. (I know I’m leaving out some mega writers and I'm sorry if I don't know you but I'm part of the RWA and we don't hang at Hugo House much). Last year 36 writers from the Seattle area converged on Hugo House, a writers’ haven and cafĂ©, to write a novel - live. I tuned in online, during those 3 days to watch Jamie and Carol write. I know Carol through a friend and was interested in how other writers actually come up with stuff to put in a book. Jamie smoked an unlit pipe.  Watching them was fascinating stuff if you’re a writer, or a voyeur. The result is the novel Hotel Angeline:
Thousands of us, (well maybe only six hundred of us in the Seattle area) have novels we hope to see published someday. These books are worthy of publication but for some reason there is an overabundance of writers in this decade who are competing with each other to secure an agent to get a publishing contract. We happen to be a dime a dozen, and because of that, agents are extremely picky about taking on a first time novelist. To get a literary agent interested, you must have a platform worthy of attention and a book that reaches out to grab the reader by the throat. My platform is still postage stamp sized and my books only grab a reader by the eyebrow hair, it seems.

When non-writer people hear I’ve written three unpublished novels, they usually ask why I haven’t had them published. I could answer that they’re not good enough but I’d like to think the truth is that getting an agent to take your book to a publishing house is like trying to get a starring role in a movie opposite Brad Pitt. Tres difficile.
Agents love to tell us writers that they get hundreds of queries a day asking for representation. And there are hundreds of reputable literary agents all over America, working to find the next breakout novel. You do the math. It’s grim statistics for first time novelists, especially in commercial fiction which is what I write. I am not a romance writer because I just can't put the words 'his burly chest filled the doorway' on paper and respect myself in the morning. Romance stories are slightly easier to get published because readers of romance buy on an average of three to five books a month, bless their hearts. They are the backbone of the publishing industry. And romance writers are some of the nicest, most friendly gals I've ever met.
Regardless of the genre, the process of getting published is the same: First you need an amazingly compelling subject matter - she's a human, he's a vampire and their love is forbidden. Then you need loads of believable conflict - her best friend is a werewolf and they hate vampires. After that, the story itself must be written succinctly with no typos, properly formatted and the agent must be in the right sort of mood that day to believe that the story might work. If they like the concept and ask for the first three chapters, you cross your fingers they’ll ask for the full manuscript. Now you can break open the Veuve, to toast your accomplishment. A rejection at this point is devastating, especially if you’ve made loads of revisions to please them. But if the agent takes the book to their buddies at a publishing house to read, it is hold your breath time. If the novel gets approved by the publishers, the editor steps in and money is spent trying to get your book on the shelves, in both the bookstore and at homes around the world, as well as sold and downloaded to e readers. The author must now do months of PR work both online and at bookstores to promote not only the book, but themselves. An author these days must also be a public speaker and a computer wizard. 
I love to read our local authors (Seattle area), support the peeps I meet at writing conferences and be fully entertained at the same time. Here's some good reads by local writers:  Healer, Oxygen (Loved both of these women's fiction novels) - Carol Cassella;  She's Gone Country (extremely entertaining) - Jane Porter; The Art of Racing in the Rain (Lovely story) - Garth Stein; Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - (just like it says - bitter and sweet) -Jamie Ford; The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever (fun historical romance)- Julia Quinn; Undertow - (super sexy fast read) Cherry Adair (check out her awesome website!) Breakup Babe - (a critique partner- fun read in blog/email style) Rebecca Agiewich; Broken For You - (complicated and beautifully written) Stephanie Kallos; Night Huntress -(paranormal roller coaster ride) Yasmine Galenorn; Lakeside Cottage - (beach read romance) Susan Wiggs; Undercover Stranger - (Pat got me started in the RWA) Sammamish author Pat White;

I have three finished novels and am in the Veuve stage this month with a dream agent reading my third book. I've been here before and needless to say, I have everything crossed that can possibly be crossed and am walking around with a four leaf clover and rabbit’s foot in my pocket. The likelihood of her representation is slim but I'm still excited. 
If you’re perusing the library shelves this summer, here’s some recommended beach reads: Castaways (or anything by this author)– Elin Hilderbrand; The Doctors Wife – Elizabeth Brundage; Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Neffenegger; Sleep Walking in Daylight - Elizabeth Flock; 
I like heavy subject matter in my reading material but the first author - Elin - combines the beachy feel of a fast read that keeps you up all night, with weighty topics. Kind of like Jodi Piccoult meets Jane Porter.
Regardless, enjoy your novels this summer when it's assumed you have enough time to read a few extra books by a pool, lake or any other body of water.

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