It’s a thrill to welcome the lovely Laurel Corona to Book Drunkard today to help celebrate 2 years of blogging. I am so lucky to be able to review the books of such talented authors. The last two years have been a dream! And now, without further ado…
Happy Birthday Book Drunkard
Two years. It’s both a long time and like yesterday. To honor Book Drunkard’s second birthday, I thought I would write about what I was doing as an author two years ago, and how what was in progress has worked out since. In this way, perhaps readers can get a sense for what the writer’s life is like.
I don’t keep a diary, except the public one on my website, www.laurelcorona.com, but from there I can see that two years ago right now I was in France researching my third novel. My first novel, THE FOUR SEASONS had come out the previous fall, so I was still getting used to being a published novelist. At the time I was maybe halfway through writing novel number three, FINDING EMILIE, and had not yet sold novel number two, PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER (more about that later).
So my first point about being a published writer is that what is going on in our writing life is very, very different from what you see as a reader. It may take months from the time it’s finished for a publisher to buy it, and then it takes about a year more for it to come out, explaining why Martina just reviewed the recently released FINDING EMILIE, which I was in France researching when she was launching her blog.
What this means is that on publication day, the book that is brand new to others is often a rather dim memory to us. In my case, on the second anniversary of Book Drunkard, my fourth novel is presently being marketed, and I am well into novel number five. I can say with absolute certainty that even if everything works out beautifully, it will not come out until late 2013 at the earliest, and by then–more than two years from now!–at the rate I am writing, I will have finished novel number six and be well along in number seven.
What I remember most about that summer, though, happened a little later. My second novel, PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER, had been turned down by the publisher of THE FOUR SEASONS, which was quite a revelation to me. I had thought that once you had one novel published, it would be smooth sailing, but indeed the rejections have continued fast and furious ever since. The reason in my case is that I never do the same thing twice–not the same era, not the same writing style. Whereas THE FOUR SEASONS was a chronologically-told story in third person past tense, the most straightforward and common narrative structure, PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER was told as flashbacks in the first person. Where THE FOUR SEASONS was lush and romantic, PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER was stark. Think about the difference between an eighteenth century ball gown and a Greek chiton (the white pinned cloth they draped over their bodies) and you’ve got the picture.
Two years ago I was hearing the term “branding” for the first time. “People need to know what to expect when they pick up a book by Laurel Corona,” I was told, and I wasn’t cooperating. It was a bad idea to be all over the place with my subjects and style, and it was likely to hurt a promising career. I have to say, that was probably right. I could have kept writing women-centered books about music, but I didn’t want to. My interests are all over the place and my books are going to follow. Having the luxury of a day job, I can afford to ignore even good advice at least sometimes. So I’ve continue to go with my heart and my personal curiosity, and I am happy with that, although probably less famous and with a smaller bank account than might be the case if I had set out to become the grande dame of music-based historical fiction.
Now here’s where two years ago got really interesting: Two of the publishers who turned down PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER wanted to buy FINDING EMILIE, still far from complete. I could see why. It was set in Europe in the same century as THE FOUR SEASONS and revolved around the stories of two girls–maybe a little inadvertent branding going on? The rub was that both publishers made the sale contingent on my not publishing PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER, at least for a while, since they didn’t want another book by me coming out around the same time.
Since they weren’t going to buy PENELOPE themselves, this would have meant shelving a work I truly loved. Hard as it was to turn down a sale, that’s what I did, both out of confusion and principle. First, I loved my child (yes we do see books that way) and wouldn’t abandon her. Second, if they didn’t want PENELOPE, I had no confidence I knew what they would want from EMILIE, or from subsequent books. I didn’t want to worry about an editor while I was writing, and I have kept to that since. I want editors to know exactly what they’re getting, and I’d rather lose a sale than have an editor who wanted something other than what I had written.
I recall driving through British Columbia as I was agonizing over this problem. Ironically, the place my partner and I were headed for was a small town on Lake Okanagan, where he had grown up. And here’s how small the world can be. Just a month or so before, on the shores of that very lake, Martina was launching Book Drunkard from her own town.
It worked out fine in the end for me–both books were sold and are now published. Who knows what the future holds? I just spend my days being grateful for what I have, and try to stay braced for the next surprise. Happy Birthday, Book Drunkard! May our paths continue to cross.
Melissa from Simon & Schuster has very kindly put up TWO copies of Finding Emilie for giveaway! It is open to Canada and the US and will end on June 30th.
Comment with your email address to enter. You can get additional entries by doing the following –
+1 – Comment on my review of Finding Emilie HERE.
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