Thirteen years ago when my twin babies were 3 years old and starting preschool, I sat down to write my first novel. I didn’t know what to write so I did some research and came across a small, start up company that wanted to publish “wholesome romance.” I ordered a couple of their books, read them and thought piece of cake. Of course, the cake was much more difficult to digest than I had thought, but after many afternoon preschool writing sessions, I completed my first book and sent it off to Ponder Romance.
The editor called me. She loved my book, but it wasn’t right for them. We talked for nearly ninety minutes and our conversation went something like this: You don’t read romance, do you? You should write what you love to read.
I’d always loved mysteries. When I was in middle school I tried to read every Agatha Christie I could find. As an adult, I loved Elizabeth George, PD James, and Laurie R King and I watched PBS Mystery every Sunday night. So, I wrote mysteries. Three of them, which doesn’t seem so onerous until you consider that the first one took me three years. (Alright, I admit I was the mother of six children who attended five different schools, participated on a host of athletic teams, and played four different instrument. Plus I was the first counselor in a young women’s presidency, which doesn’t sound so bad until you consider that the young women’s president was dying of cancer and didn’t want to be released. In short, I was very busy and so it took a very long time for my librarian to discover the piano teacher had killed the insane aunt.)
And then I became a Relief Society president. And my eyes were opened to a grittiness I‘d never encountered before. The world became a darker, scarier place. I stopped watching Mystery and I stopped reading them. I still enjoy novels that present a puzzle and a mental challenge, but I’ve stopped reading and writing mysteries.
Once one of my writing instructors looked me in the eye and said, you are a mystery writer, you are not a romance writer. Well, I can be whatever I decide. And I’m lucky because I’ve a good friend who has not only published more than a hundred novels for Harlequin, but she also teaches. So, I hired her to coach me for the Golden Heart (the Romance Writer’s of America contest).
Stealing Mercy is my attempt at romance. I had so much fun writing it. I love my story, heroine and hero. Still, although it’s sad to say, I think that very first kindly editor from Ponder Romance and the well intended writing instructor were probably right. I’m really not a romance writer, because I’m not a romance reader. Stealing Mercy was probably best categorized as a historical romaction until I threw in the contemporary genealogist. Now, it can probably be put under that huge umbrella of women’s fiction. When Covenant Books requested it, they asked me to take out the genealogist and, to my beta reader’s dismay, I did. Ultimately, Covenant Books wasn’t interested in Stealing Mercy, which doesn’t surprise me. After all, it’s about a brothel.
But, since I intend on self-publishing, I can define the genre, write about brothels and genealogists if I so choose. And only hope that someone (anyone at all?) will choose to read it.
Somewhere in the history of this blog I posted its first chapter. My goal is to publish Stealing Mercy before my Dad’s birthday bash this summer so that when my cousins "ask what do you do?" I can say, I write stories. Please read my book and tell me what you think.
(I love large families.)