One Person’s Idea Only Has Value Through Teamwork
As I contemplate the multitude of directions my words have taken me over my career, I have a bit of envy for those who stick to a single genre and solitary focus for their novels. There is a thread of continuality and stability in their work that I can’t claim. In the past year I have written a book, Reich of Passage, that combines action, adventure, political intrigue with a touch of medical science fiction, a novel, Darkness Before Dawn, that examines the rage of a woman whose husband is killed by a drunk driver, The Cutting Edge, a tale of model who is unknowingly being stalked by a man who slashed her face and ruined her life, a whodunit, The Yellow Packard, that has a car driving a plot of murder and kidnapping set in the Great Depression and, The Christmas Star, a book involving a sixteen-year-old boy dealing with the death of his Medal of Honor winning father in 1945. In a very real sense, each of these novels is vastly different from the others. These books are looking at life from completely different point of views, have vastly different settings and employ themes ranging from saving the world to seeking justice to simply finding a reason to live. And, as I study my next likely projects, this eclectic mix of subjects, settings, periods and themes continues. I’m even throwing in a devotional book into the mix. So, why am I all over the place when so many others stay on the same page? The answer is obvious.
I learned a long ago that I am wired much differently than most people. I seem to have an interest in everything. I want to know the story behind each person I meet. I can’t watch a classic movie without checking on the history of the actors, why the script was written and the locations used in filming. I do the same thing with sports, books and even the Bible. I have to know the backstories. That is really how Reich of Passage was born. I dug into the history of an actress after watching one of her films. After reading three biographies and seeing all her movies, I began to wonder, could someone like this deal with life in a modern world. How would she fit in if she had a “Rip Van Winkle” experience that transported her from 1937 to today? That idea grew in my mind to becoming a challenge for a book. To create the plot I had to find a way to take someone who had died at the age of twenty-six and bring them back to life in today’s world. That led me to exploring everything to do with her era including language and fashion. Then, as just having her come to life was not enough to create an interesting story, I had to dig into the past to find a plot that would give her life meaning in the future. What resulted is likely one of the best things I’ve ever written and maybe the most fun I’ve ever had at a keyboard. But is a finished book that is never published really a book? In my mind it isn’t and that is where the solitary nature of a writer is left behind and as give my work to someone else.
Considering all the different genres I like to use and all the different ideas that are constantly floating in my head leads me to the reveal the most important element in advancing my career. I have an agent who encourages me to go in whatever direction I am going at that moment. She doesn’t limit me or force me to confirm to a specific mold. She lets me be me. And when I am finished with my work, I have to have faith in her ability to sell what I have created. Thus, I must trust her enough to let her be her.
Writing might well be a solitary experience in its beginning stages but it is a team sport. Successful writers have to have an agent who believes in their ability to tell a story. That agent has to accept us for all our quirks. Then that agent has to find a publisher or publishers who recognize the potential of our work and that agent has to convince those publishers our books have value. Then come the editors who show us the holes in our manuscripts, put us back to work fixing our books and link us to some incredible folks who do everything from design covers to securing sellers who’ll caring our product. When you consider all the people it takes to produce the book it is overwhelming. Yet it is that team that brings one idea to life. It is that team, beginning with the agent and ending with the readers, that allows my unique way of looking at the world actually go from curiosity to concept to book. This past week at ICRS, I was able to meet some members of one of those teams and it was an exciting and humbling experience. I am still amazed that have faith in an eclectic person like me.