Mystery and fantasy writing

Posts tagged ‘manuscripts’

The Long Way Around

Hi, I’m Jane, and I’m a thirty-eight year overnight success. Yes, you read that right. It took me thirty-eight years to get published, and, as you can imagine, round about year twenty, I was getting a little anxious about my chances.
It’s difficult as a child to explain to people what you want to be when you grow up when you’re already what you want to be. I started sending out manuscripts when I was eighteen, having finally realized that this writing thing that was so much a part of me might become a career. This was back in the days before the internet and involved typing on a typewriter, making copies with carbon paper, and hunting for the right size boxes to mail the completed manuscripts off to New York. After many years of this, I finally got an agent! Woo-hoo! Fame and fortune awaits!
But no.
The book was Stolen Hearts, the first of twelve Grace Street Mysteries. My hero, David Randall, is a struggling PI trying to deal with the death of his little daughter. In this first book, Randall had come to live in his friend Camden’s boarding house at 302 Grace Street in the fictional city of Parkland, NC, where he met an array of colorful Southern characters and Kary Ingram, who was to become to love of his life. My agent was sure she could sell the book if I changed one tiny little thing. She wanted Randall to be a woman.
Now, my agent meant well. Female detectives had just become very popular. However, if I changed David to Dana, the whole universe I had created for the characters would have to be radically altered. The dynamic between Randall and his best friend and the woman he was trying to win would be, to put it mildly, slightly askew.
I couldn’t do it. I lay awake many nights, talking sternly to myself. Twenty years. I finally had an agent. She was telling me what to do to sell my book and fulfill my lifelong dream, and I couldn’t do it. So I looked through some other manuscripts, and thankfully, a male protagonist stepped up and agreed to have a sex change for the good of the cause.
Mac Tobrin became Madeline “Mac” Maclin, and his best pal Jerry Fairweather became Madeline’s love interest. Mac had been a con man, so that honor went to Jerry, and Madeline became an ex-beauty queen turned detective because I think beauty pageants are the goofiest thing ever invented. This book was A Case of Imagination. I sent it to my agent with very high hopes, and you can probably guess what happened. She didn’t like it. So I no longer have an agent, but after many more years, I did find a publisher. Two months after I retired from my elementary school media specialist job, Poisoned Pen Press took the book, as well as the others in the series, A Hard Bargain, A Little Learning, and A Bad Reputation.
They also took Stolen Hearts with everyone’s gender intact and its sequels, Mixed Signals, Now You See It, and the soon to be published Just You Wait.
I really wasn’t ready at eighteen, and neither was my work. I certainly didn’t plan on achieving my goal so late in life, but that has made the achievement even more special. It was the long way around, but it was the right way for me, and now I see it!

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