Discover more from An Aging Author's Daily Diversions
My Indie Author Journey: Beginnings
Posts that can be found in the Authors Corner are those posts that I think are of particular interest to other writers who are curious about my journey as an indie author, and what advice I have to give from what I have learned along the way. I also hope that those of you who have come to this newsletter because you are fans of my fiction will also find something of interest in these posts, as they are, to a degree, giving you a peek at what goes on behind the creation of a published book.
But, let’s start at the beginning, and my desire to become an author.
As seems true for most authors, my desire to become a writer was rooted firmly in my childhood as a voracious reader. By third grade, I embraced the title book worm; it seemed preferable to being a shy nobody, but it wasn’t exactly a career choice. In fact, for a girl growing up in a Pittsburgh suburb in the fifties and early sixties, there didn’t seem to be very many interesting career choices, period, for women. I had no desire to be a nurse, school teacher, or a secretary—which were the only jobs women I knew held. In contrast, the women who were writing the books I loved at the time, like Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, and Kate Seredy, seemed a lot more interesting. As a result, I did my “future career” paper as a high school freshman on a local author of historical fiction, and I went off to college with this still as my dream. I had even refused to take typing in high school, completely missing the irony that good typing skills would be useful in my chosen profession.
However, like many would-be authors of either sex, as I entered adulthood, the dream of being a novelist was shunted to the side as I pursued a career that had a stronger chance of paid employment. In my case, I got a doctorate in history from the University of California: San Diego and became a professor of history. Yet, while I spent the next 30 years writing-–a dissertation, articles, lectures-–I never lost the desire to write fiction. Ten years into my career as a history professor, when a move back to San Diego for my husband’s job offered me only part-time teaching jobs, I decided to resurrect that dream. I took a class on novel writing, joined Sisters in Crime, helped found a local mystery writing group, and wrote the first draft of Maids of Misfortune. My plan was that this would be the first book in a series that featured the working women I had researched and written about in my dissertation.
At the start, my experience with traditional publishing was quite promising. The first agent I contacted read the manuscript, signed me up, helped me polish the manuscript, and began to send the manuscript out to a number of large New York publishers. To no avail. All the rejections talked about feeling the book had promise, but that they weren’t sure that their publishing house needed another historical mystery with a female protagonist, because they believed the market for such books was limited. This seems absurd now, but in 1990-1991, when my manuscript was being circulated, there were only a few successful series of this type, for example, Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia PeabodyVictorian/Egyptian series (1975), Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Victorian series (1979), and Carole Douglas’ Irene Adler/Sherlock Holmes series (1990).
I was disappointed, but vowed to keep trying to get the book published, starting to outline the second book in the series. Then I got a very demanding full-time job as a professor of history at the local community college, and my writing career was put on hold.