Q & A
Q: At what point did you realize
that your plot had changed to become women’s fiction
instead of romance? How did you feel about this? (Carol
TW: A few things happened that made
me feel less secure about my future as a romance author.
The first was that several writers who’d been keeping
up with my storyline’s convolutions suggested it wasn’t
a romance. They didn’t know what it was, to be honest.
I stubbornly insisted that it was a romance, partly
because I had a friend who was a big fan of the genre,
and I wanted to write something she’d like.
The nail in the romance coffin for me was when I submitted
the story to agents specializing in romance and received
comments like these (reaching into the rejection file
premise of your book is compelling and the writing
evocative, but the tone and
set-up make this novel a bit difficult to categorize.
scope of your novel is too broad for a contemporary
heroine is much stronger than the hero.
It wasn’t until agent Deidre Knight came along, read
the full manuscript, sat on the fence with it for a
while, and then rejected it with a detailed accounting
of why, that I really understood. She’s
graciously agreed to let me share her notes here.
grief issues might not work with editors. For me,
personally as the reader, yes— definitely
resonated big time. I actually cried there at the
end, as everything
came out about Moira. But I worry that editors
would say it’s too heavy
to make this commercially viable. I could be totally
wrong, but it almost has a kind of women’s fiction
feeling to it, and yet it’s a romance. My gut tells
probably have a part of you that either wants to
write women’s fic, or that ultimately
*will* write women’s fic. How could you morph this
into women’s fic? Not entirely
sure. But you’re close. Writing is a frustrating
game. All I can tell you
is be true to what burns inside you. My gut tells
me you need to write something
bigger than romance.
I sat with her note for a long time. I felt sick about
the rejection, because she’d connected with the story,
a story I’d worked on for two years. The truth of the
matter—that it just wasn’t working, that it was a bigger
story than I’d let it be—started to resonate with me,
though. There’s also something fueling about someone
in a power position telling you that you have potential.
I felt challenged.
Did I ever consider dumping the story altogether and
moving on to another? Absolutely. I’d already started
writing another story—a sequel to this one. I set both
stories aside for a while and started a third, something
completely different. But the thought of abandoning
Maeve’s tale knotted my guts up, so in the end, I went
back to it. Ironically, a romance agent did express
interest in the story later, if only I tightened some
plot threads, made it less about Maeve, more about
the romance, etc… But I chose to listen to Deidre and
my gut, and make the biggest change of all—scrapping
99% of the work and starting over with the women’s
fiction market in mind. I will be forever grateful
to her for taking the time to tell me what wasn’t working
and more importantly, what was. Her foresight
and guidance altered the trajectory of my career.
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