It’s been ten years since I sold my first book to Simon and Schuster. “Loaded” was the first book I tried to publish, and I know now that it was no small feat to get that done. There wasn’t the self-publishing craze that there is now. You couldn’t whip up a few hundred mediocre pages, peruse the stock photo sites for a cover, and throw it up on Amazon to see if it would stick like spaghetti on the ceiling. In fact, they didn’t have Amazon. Ack! Egads! Life in a vacuum! Cats and dogs living together! How did we exist in such chaos?
They did have something called the Palm Pilot, the first electronic book distributor, I believe. Loaded was in the top 50 for that when it came out. I guess it was a big deal, but I don’t really think anyone had any idea of how the ebook world would eat the hard cover book publishing industry, with ketchup and onions. Burp. Excuse me!
On Christmas day I re-released Loaded as an ebook with a new look, and I’m curious to see how this big ol’ electronic publishing monster works out. It’s all new to me.
It got me thinking about what’s gone down in ten years. My girls have grown up, one is in college, I re-married, and found joy in a relationship that is co-supportive instead of giving 85 percent of my energy to someone else, as far too many working moms do, my values have changed as a result, I want what I have now, not what other people think I should want, and my writing has matured considerably, how could it not?
That said, I had to re-read and edit all four Callaway books, (yes, there’s a fourth, it will be released after I get the other three up and running!) and it was…interesting.
Ultimately, I liked them, but I wouldn’t have written them now. Here’s the opening paragraph of Loaded—
I was staring down the vocal end of a forty-four magnum. Any second now, it would scream at me, shout, blow my fucking head off. I was scared, pinned down, trapped. In spite of being overcome with terror, I noticed how the night wind felt on my face; it made me feel alive and I wanted to stay that way.
Clearly, I was going for a big opening. I wanted the reader to see it, if you know what I mean, and then feel the moment as well from my character’s point of view. The Callaway novels are noted for their pace. I would literally read back what I had written, and if there wasn’t something exciting happening for more than say, two pages, I’d make sure it did.
Loaded wasn’t the first book I wrote, mind you, just the first one I tried to get published. First I wrote two others, as exercises. Oh, I didn’t know they were exercises, I thought they would be brilliant best-sellers, but they are still somewhere in a closet. As my fabulous first editor Amy Pierpont once said, “I believe every book should be written, but I do not believe that every book should be published.” That’s a philosophy that has vanished along with the independent bookstore, and I say a book is like a painting or a shirt. If you like it, buy it, who cares if anyone else thinks it’s good. I did, however, learn a lot from my ‘practice novels,’ and here’s what I can share about that with you.
There are two basic types of books, in fiction, anyway. Feminine and Masculine. Now that doesn’t mean that the book is about men or women, the sex of the characters doesn’t matter, but a Feminine story is one that is character based, in which, we experience a character’s feelings and watch them work out relationships, or learn to love, or deal with old wounds, or find the healing power of family, or…well, you get the idea. A Masculine story is about a briefcase, everyone wants the briefcase, the briefcase will save the world, or make someone the richest SOB in history, everyone chases the briefcase, the briefcase falls into the wrong hands, we think we have the briefcase, but it’s the wrong briefcase! Things explode, cars are crashed, and then…okay, you get it.
So, I wrote one book about people feeling and communing with nature and their inner selves, (Yawn for everyone but them). That was my Female novel. And then I wrote another book where everyone wants the precious object, which triggers a chain of events in which everyone chases, loses, and rescues the precious object. That was my Male novel, busy, and kind of heartless. (Lots happens, about which, we feel nothing in particular.)
I haven’t read either of them for years, but I’m pretty sure they’re both dead rotten. Not to say they didn’t have a couple of good ideas for characters in them or the occasional clever metaphor, but in my quest to produce a deserving, well-rounded book, I’m confident that I actually created something closer to ready fuel for a beach bonfire. (They were written on paper, remember that?)
So I set out to write something that I would want to read. Something with big fat characters who have an emotional ‘arc,’ meaning they grow and change, and a twisted, skidding plot, with humor and action, a book that would be as much fun as a triple loop roller-coaster, with hooks at the end of every chapter and no waiting to get on it.
And now, reading it back, ten years later, I see that Loaded is what I would call a bi-sexual book. It has both Feminine and Masculine elements. Someone overcomes a personal obstacle, and a murdering SOB is brought down.
So…fun, and, I hope, a hell of a ride.
Any way, Happy tenth, “Loaded.” Take a deep breath, close your eyes little book, make a wish, and blow out those candles.
I’m not sure, because if you tell, it won’t come true of course, but maybe, Loaded wished that a new generation of e-readers will choose to take a ride, strap themselves in and scream with their hands in the air. Provided they have a Kindle or Nook stand, of course, otherwise, they have to hold on.
Shari December 27, 2012