Many sites I post my books on have a question and answer component – the readers ask the authors questions. I’ve never actually asked a question of any author whose work I’ve read, though sometimes I pose them in my reviews, and I’ve never received a question from a reader.
Most of these are stock questions generated by the site. The questions that aren’t I’ve come to believe are also bogus – asked by a friend or even the author themselves with hopes the answers will spark some sort of dialogue or?
We are a desperate lot, aren’t we.
Here’s a question I often ponder and so I asked myself and am sharing the answer with you. If you find this exercise slightly distasteful than consider yourself partly to blame for not asking me your own questions.
How’s that for rationalization?
QUESTION: How did you come to write your first novel, Saving Spirit Bear?
I had a plan to become a successful, published author.
I would begin writing romance novels because they have the most readers of any kind of fiction and are the easiest to get published. This is not to say authors of genre fiction aren’t good writers. I have subsequently learned that writing within the confines of genre is more difficult than doing otherwise.
Back to the plan.
Once I had a bit of a publishing track record traditional publishers of mainstream, literary fiction would be more likely to consider me. Right?
Saving Spirit Bear was my first novel. The theme I wanted to explore was whether the end ever justifies the means? I wanted to present real moral dilemmas for both the protagonists and the antagonists, not just the desire for profit or power. For example, is it all right to compromise your integrity if the goal is just and noble?
As well as presenting a satisfying romance, I hoped to address this issue by introducing a subplot about an environmental issue, in this case endangered species and destruction of their habitat, something I feel strongly about.
The story’s about Kimberly James, an ambitious, young, junior executive in a New York corporate relations firm who sees an opportunity to advance her career by doing whatever’s necessary to push through the development of a mega ski resort in Canada.
Jonah Baker is part owner of a lodge on the land of the proposed ski resort. He’s an ardent environmentalist and not about to permit a development that threatens ancient rainforests and the habitat of the rare and endangered Spirit Bear for any price.
Kim begrudgingly respects his principles before profit, but cannot allow a tree-hugging, bear-loving zealot to derail her fast track to success. Jonah admires her determination and worldliness, but will fight to the end to stop a materialistic corporate climber from destroying something rare and unique.
You likely know the rest of this story because genre literature is formulaic and if you read romance you know what’s going to happen. If you don’t and you want to find out go to my Amazon Author’s Page at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and buy a copy.
Anyhow, after striking out with agents and traditional publishers I sent Saving Spirit Bear to three e-publishers. All of them wanted to publish it. I chose one and rationalized my failure to attract any real publishers by saying e-books were preferable – less impact on the environment.
It would be an overstatement to say sales were mediocre. Reviews were almost non-existent. No agents or traditional publishers came knocking on my door.
At the time I was a member of the local chapter of Romance Writers of America (eighty-five women and two men). Since I wasn’t getting any significant reader response I asked the published writers in my RWA chapter what they thought the problem(s) was?
Saving Spirit Bear, I was told , was not popular with romance readers for a number of reasons. I didn’t introduce the love interests soon enough. My ‘Happily Ever After’ was lukewarm or not at all. I needed to ‘sex it up’. My subplots overshadowed the romance. My heroes lacked testosterone. My heroines didn’t show enough vulnerability. My words were too big, my plots too real, my characters too unlikable. My stories were out of control.
However, I was encourage by my publisher who dubbed the book Eco-Fi (environmental fiction) and asked for two more with a similar theme for a series entitled Eco-Warriors.
There was never any question about letting the lack of success of my first novel defeat me. I love to write – successfully or otherwise and during the process of writing Saving Spirit Bear I experienced glimpses of something very exciting – the story following it’s own course and the characters taking on lives of their own.
I eagerly set about writing my second novel but I was worried. Would I find my next story and it’s characters restricted by the confines of this genre?
Next Question: Did you find your next story and it’s characters restricted by the confines of this genre?
The answer is forthcoming.
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs