Monday, April 27, 2009

Covenant Hall

Our moderator Karin has kindly assigned me this date, April 28, because it coincides with the release of the ninth Bay Tanner mystery, COVENANT HALL, by St. Martin’s Press. The cover, as you can see above, is lovely, probably the best one they’ve ever given me. And the reviews have been wonderful. Kirkus—yes that Kirkus—said CH was “. . . tense, introspective and hard to put down.” You better believe that’s going on all my promo material. Our own Jackie Cooper was equally kind. And even after nine books, it’s still a thrill to hold the real product in my hands at last, to walk into our Hilton Head B&N and see a stack on the Local Authors table.

For the last few books, I’ve tried to create a vivid mental image of the day I actually began a manuscript—date, time, weather, what I was wearing (if it wasn’t my pajamas)—so I can appreciate the entire journey from that moment to this. Those who don’t write full-length fiction may not realize how daunting it is to sit down in front of a blank screen with that vast emptiness staring you in the face, knowing that a deadline looms, eight or twelve months down the road, and knowing also that it’s your job to fill those yawning spaces with letters, pages, chapters. Something others will want to spend their time and money on, an experience they’ll find not just entertaining but worthwhile as well. And then 90,000+ words and all those months later, there are the editorial letters and discussions, rewrites, revisions, more rewrites, copyedits, galley proofing, etc, etc, etc. Often by the time the last version is returned to New York, I feel as if I don’t ever want to lay eyes on the damn thing again.

Obviously, that feeling goes away.

I’m always proud of every book. I know I’ve worked my *** off, not only in the writing, but in the preparing of e-blasts, postcards, bookmarks, signing schedules, appearances, and all the rest of the promotion process that comes with each new entry in the series. I’ve answered countless e-mails, talked it up at groups to which I belong, and hopefully done everything in my power to send my little girl out into the world with the best possible chance to succeed.

Which is why I’ve found the articles here about “getting the call” so interesting. By the time I got it, I’d self-published the first Bay Tanner mystery, IN FOR A PENNY, and had the second, AND NOT A PENNY MORE, picked up by a small regional press. I’d spent the better part of two years playing the query-submission-rejection game and had decided it wasn’t for me. Since I didn’t begin writing seriously until I was nearly fifty, I figured I didn’t have time to waste—The Home was looming larger on my horizon with each passing year. Or at least that’s how it seemed at the time.

So when the phone rang on a spectacular May afternoon here in the Lowcountry, I let my husband pick up. I was on the back deck, overlooking the lush tidal marsh, working on the next manuscript. (Back in the day, I used to write longhand and transcribe to the computer as a first edit.) When he came trotting outside, waving the handset, I thought something was terribly wrong, probably because he could barely speak. “It’s someone from New York,” he gasped in a hoarse whisper. “About your books.”

My first reaction was, “Yeah, right.” But it was, in fact, my first editor at St. Martin’s, who, while visiting family in nearby Beaufort, had chanced upon my first two books. She liked them. So did the editorial committee. And the rest, as they say, is history.

When I finished THE MERCY OAK, the eighth Bay Tanner and the last one in that contract, I’d pretty much resigned myself to packing it in. The precarious state of the publishing industry, along with the rest of the economy, did not bode well for us mid-list authors. Predictions abounded about the death of the printed book, the collapse of the distribution system, and the demise of countless independent booksellers—and some big chains as well. But then I got another call, this one from my agent, saying they wanted at least two more in the series.

So, as you read this, I’m feverishly typing away on the next manuscript while ramping up for the madness that comes with each new release. My husband calls it “putting on our track shoes.” COVENANT HALL is out in the world, and I’m off to do what I can to launch it with all due pomp and ceremony. It’s been a long haul from those first keystrokes to the exhilaration of today.

But that’s my job.

And it’s a damn good one.

Kathy Wall grew up in a small town in northern Ohio. She and her husband Norman have lived on Hilton Head Island since 1994. Her 9th Bay Tanner mystery, Covenant Hall, is officially on sale today from St. Martin’s Press.

1 comment:

Feeding the Grey Cells said...

Can't wait to read the fruits of your labor.