Thursday, May 22, 2014

Behind The Book -- A Man With Doubts

“I got one!” “Great kid, don’t get cocky.”

Who can forget those words from Star Wars when Luke announced he brought down a fighter and Han reminded him it’s not always good to think you’re great.

Words I learned to live by.

I was one of the lucky ones. I sold my first and second books right away. There weren’t mountains of manuscripts gathering dust in a closet and I felt pretty damn good. Then several months later, I sold my third book.

Wow! I was on a roll. The girl felt invincible. She saw her words as pure gold and writing was proving to be a lot easier than she expected. She had sold three books in about six months. Where else to go but further up.

All she had to do was type up a 200 plus page manuscript, send it off, and she got a contract in return.

Piece of cake, right?

On to book four. The idea was fun and what could be considered typical category romance fare at the time. A soap opera actress who played the evil cunning woman now killed off from her show, lost her money, and she’s in need of work. Trouble is, men think she’s an easy mark and women are convinced she’s the character she played on TV.

It was a fun book to write, words flowed, and I sent the manuscript off.

Then the call from my editor. “I liked the book, but I really feel the last part needs work.” Her idea of work meant rewriting the second half of the book. We discussed what she wanted to see and I sat down at my typewriter – yes, typewriter. An IBM Correcting Selectric that I purchased with part of my first advance.

After I rewrote the 100 odd pages, I sent the revised manuscript off and then worked on another book while waiting. Any writer worth his/her salt will tell you not to wait around waiting word. You get to work on something else.

Then my editor called me. “You know, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think the book worked better the original way. You need to put the other version back in.”

One good thing I did was keep those pages. Otherwise, I would have slit my wrists. She did ask for some minor revisions. I did them and sent the book off once again.

Now, each time meant a trip to a copy shop to have copies of the manuscript made. And each time I had nightmares of the copy shop burning down with my manuscript still there!

After a few months, I learned my editor had had surgery and was recovering at home, but she was working there. I talked to her, mentioned the book, and she said “I never got it.”

Insert scream here.

I sent her another copy – that copy shop was making good money off me! :} I also said if there were any more problems with the book to not say a word. By then, it would have been easy to kill off the main characters.

A couple months later, I got another call. “Linda, I love the book! In fact, no more revisions if we release it as a traditional romance, but we’d love to bring it out in our new line starting up next year. It’s called Special Edition.”

Naturally, I said yes. And my editor said “Great! All we need is 10,000 more words” and she hung up.

I screamed.

Since we’re still talking a typing job there were page numbers such as 59ZZ and so on. Luckily, no revisions and the book would be released the following June.

Christmas, 1981. My editor called, irritated with the Production Dept. That they were wrong. What were they thinking of. It went like this.

“We’ve got a problem with A Man With Doubts.”

“What problem?”

“We need ten more pages. I can’t believe they didn’t see this before!”

“Leslie, it’s Christmas. Parties, my anniversary.”

“And I need it early next week.”

Remember what I said? Typewriter and Internet hadn’t been invented.

“What am I supposed to do with them unless I send them out of town?” By now, I was wailing.

And that’s what I did. I actually ended up writing a full chapter, about 25 pages, and getting it to NYC in time.

When I saw the cover for A Man With Doubts, I knew I wanted the original and I have that hanging in my office.

It took over a year and a half to sell the book and it turned out to be my best seller in all the Special Editions I wrote and an excellent reminder to not get cocky.

Below is the new cover for A Man with Doubts and underneath is the original artwork. It keeps me honest. Well sort of.