Like many of us writers, I’ve finished more than one novel — if by “finished” you mean there are files on my hard drive with lots of words in them.
I’ve also done what “they” advise writers to do: after failing to secure agents for my first two novels, I wrote them off as learning experiences. The fact is, writing novels is a tricky business. It takes practice. I don’t even have a copy of novel #1, and I’m glad, because I’m sure it would be painfully embarrassing to read. The second complete novel, Loose Dog, has a wonderful premise IMO (the protag is an animal control officer who gets into trouble when she stumbles onto a dog fighting ring) but also has some serious weaknesses; I was oblivious to them at the time, now they’re glaringly obvious.
I won’t pub Loose Dog unless I rewrite it.
When Libby Met the Fairies and Her Whole Life Went Fey (yes, I know the title is way too long) is a different story.
Libby, on a personal level, was a breakthrough experience: I felt that I knew what I was doing as I was writing it.
I finished it in 2006 and began shopping it to agents. I was hugely confident that it would sell. I mean, c’mon:
Libby Samson has figured out the perfect way to rebuild her life after her divorce: invest her settlement in a 10-acre piece of property and start an organic vegetable farm.
But then, as she’s walking across one of her fields one evening, a two-foot tall man stands up out of the shadows and greets her by name.
It’s hard enough for Libby to come to terms with the fact that “little folk” exist, that she’s able to communicate with them, and that they’re giving the advice she needs to make her farm a success.
Then word of Libby’s experience leaks onto the Internet, and things get crazy. Her property soon swarms with curiosity-seekers hoping to glimpse fairies. Her sister thinks she should turn the farm into a New Age retreat (“It’ll be bigger than Deepak!”) The media show up. And hiding all this from her boyfriend — who never liked the whole farm idea anyway — backfires as well, and he insists she see a shrink.
Libby finds one person she can confide in: her next-door neighbor. Granted, Dean Milbrant’s a bit odd: withdrawn and taciturn. But her attraction to him is powerful—and he seems to feel it too.
But what if trusting Dean is a huge mistake?
How irresistible is that?
But after querying a good 60 agents (no exaggeration — I kept records in a spreadsheet) I had to face the fact that the book just wasn’t going to find a champion.
I know why, now. Libby can’t be pigeonholed. It for instance lacks the fashionista-in-the-city tropes that would mark it as chick lit; it’s too romance-y to be women’s fiction or literary fiction; it’s got Little Folk but isn’t by any means a paranormal. I weave in topics and themes that interest me, from organic farming to rebuilding after divorce to questions about privacy in the Internet Age. Yet it’s not a “heavy” book book by any means — far from it.
The writing style itself might be part of the issue. My voice as a writer isn’t easily pigeonholed either — and even worse I break rules — the rules against authorial intrusion, against maintaining consistency in tenses, against incomplete sentences. And maybe that doesn’t work. Maybe people will find that off-putting, think I’m doing such things because I’m a bad writer or ignorant — or that I’m trying to pull something off without the skill or authority (!) to do so.
But for what it’s worth, my rule-breaking is very much intentional: I want the story to “sound” like a fairy tale: like I’m sitting down with you, girl friend, over a cup of coffee and telling you this fantastical story I’ve heard — and when we tell stories we don’t worry about tense (in fact we jump tenses a lot in spoken English). We don’t always speak in complete sentences.
Of course I could rewrite it and make it all grammatically correct, but then it wouldn’t be my novel any more — and if the self-pub e-book revolution means anything I should hope it means I can at least try to sell a book that breaks rules.
What’s the worst that could happen, right? Nobody reads it? That hardly makes things worse!
Anyway. I self-pubbed Libby a month or so after I self-pubbed Can Job (my most recent novel).
Neither one has sold many copies.
I have no idea why not and no way to figure it out. The kindest (and probably most likely) interpretation is that nobody knows I exist. There are a zillion self-pubbed e-books now and a will be a zillion more next week. But at least mine are available and maybe will find an audience with time.
In the meantime, I continue to write — slowly, as I have to squeeze it in between work and being a mom . . . but I am writing, because that’s what I do . . .
And thank you, btw, if you buy a copy of Libby or Can Job or anything else I’ve self-pubbed. I appreciate it so much! And please feel free to drop me a line — in the comments or use my contact form — to tell me what you think . . .