Thursday, December 30, 2010

Guest Blog: We love it! We can't use it! What is it?

It was a long, strange journey from my final draft of Haunting Blue, my first novel, to its eventual publication through Damnation Books. Nothing proved stranger than the series of rejection letters and emails the book collected during the hectic three years my then-agent (she’s such a sweet woman) sent it off to pretty much every major publisher on the planet, and seeing the various “reasons” for its rejection. What follows is a fictionalized conversation with a character representing all these various publishers.

Pub: Haunting Blue is well-written, tightly plotted, and I couldn’t put it down until I finished. We love it!

Me: So you’re going to publish it?

Pub: We don’t love it THAT much!

Me: Oh, sorry for being presumptuous.

Pub: I love the book, I just don’t love it…for our readers! You understand me?

Me: Yes. Uh….no.

Pub: For us to use it, you’d have to change it.

Me: What parts?

Pub: Well…all of it. We wanted an edgy thriller for young adults.

Me: I can edit the adult language if that’s the….

Pub: No, we can do that. The biggest problem is that it gets too exciting at the end.

Me: I was going for mundane, but I got a bit carried away.

Pub: Look, kid, books with strong female protagonists are flying off the shelves, but then your punk girl’s not girly enough. The tweens won’t relate to her.

Me: You want me to make Blue a girly rebel punk?

Pub: And what’s with all this arguing with the parent? What teenager can relate to that?

Me: When you’re right, you’re right.

Pub: And if you alienate teenagers, who’s going to read it? Our marketing clearly shows that adults won’t read books about teenagers.

Me: What about Carrie and Christine?

Pub: Are you comparing yourself to Stephen King?

Me: I’m sure it would be career suicide to compare myself to Stephen King.

Pub: Besides, this is a supernatural thriller, but all this “stuff” happens before it gets supernatural.

Me: it’s a slow burn. Like Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. The town itself is kind of a character.

Pub: So this is like Ray Bradbury?

Me: I’m sure it would be career suicide to compare myself to Ray Bradbury.

Pub: And what the hell is up with your structure? You swap back and forth between first person and third person. That’s going to confuse the reader!

Me: William Faulkner did it in As I Lay Dying.

Pub: Who? Listen, is this Bill Fauker or Folker or whoever a current bestseller?

Me: I defer to your expertise.

Pub: I was so excited when this hit my desk.  Teenage girl! Monster! Like Stephanie Meyer with a ghost instead of a vampire! Now she knows how to write bestsellers!  Why’d you make that face, kid? Don’t you like Stephanie Meyer?

Me: It would be career suicide to compare myself to Stephanie Meyer, but for a vastly different reason than the other two.

Pub: Look, you’ve written a young adult too dark for tweens, but not dark enough for  horrorreaders, a chick lit novel not particularly girly and a southern gothic that takes place in the Midwest. Who the hell cares about Indiana, anyway? What exactly is this thing you’ve written?

Me: It’s a damn good story, sir. I’m sure we’ll find a terrific home for it elsewhere.

And eventually, my agent punted it back to my control with her regrets, and I found a terrific home for it through Damnation Books. Please enjoy this edgy urban punk chick-lit Midwestern gothic Hardy Boys for Big Kids ghost story novel, also known as Haunting Blue.

R.J. Sullivan and his family live in Heartland Crossing, Indiana, south of Indianapolis. He’s published short fiction in Midnight Graffiti and Strange Weird and Wonderful eZines. He’s composed dozens of articles for local magazines and newspapers, and “ghost” writes newsletter content for several companies. Join the R.J. Sullivan fan community at 

No comments:

Post a Comment