Thursday, February 4, 2010

Do We Live on the Same Planet?

For most authors, finding a publisher is the point of writing a book. Sure, we find the actual writing the most pleasurable and satisfying part of our profession. But most of us anticipate the reward of seeing the book published, holding it in our own hands, seeing it in the hands of others, and, hopefully, having it sell.

Once I finished my latest novel, Tenderfoot, a romantic suspense with a sub-plot of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption, I thought I’d try casting it in the daunting ocean of New York publishers. I didn’t go through an agent, thinking I’d just try it on my own.

To my surprise, I received a telephone call from a New York publisher. Oh, my! She felt the story was well written, but found it confusing. “If this mountain was going to erupt, why would anyone be on it?”

“But, it’s true, fifty-seven people lost their lives as the result of that eruption.”

“Why would anyone be on a mountain that’s going to explode?”

That’s a tough question to answer. Many of those who died were scientists, some were reporters, some loggers, people who had business on the mountain. But many more were people who just wanted to be where the action was, wanted to see for themselves what all the commotion was about, people who didn’t want to miss out.

“Well,” the New Yorker replied, “I don’t understand that mentality and I personally don’t think the story is believable.”

My mind whirled. There seemed to be nothing I could say that would convince this lady that my story, although fiction, was based on the actual incidents surrounding the blast.

“Then,” she continued, “you mention ‘sheriff.’ This isn’t a western. If this story takes place in 1980, you wouldn’t call law enforcement ‘sheriff,’ it would be ‘police'."

I tried to keep out the incredulity from my voice. “Where we live in Washington State, our local law enforcement is conducted by the Sheriff’s Department.”

She sighed. “I guess I just don’t understand you people.”


M. M. Justus said...

Oh, I know that one. I received several similar comments on aspects of my book set in Yellowstone (yes, actually, it can snow any month of the year there [wry g]. One does wonder if she's ever seen the movie Dante's Peak, or if she just shook her head at that one, too.

Carolb-MT said...

Talk about a clueless New Yorker, Mary! Your novel is better off with someone else. Good luck!


Linda Sandifer said...

I really enjoyed this post, Mary. I can't believe the editor thought sheriff is an old west term. Sounds like she needs to get out of New York and see what the rest of the country is all about!

Pauline B Jones said...

"you people?" Excuse me? We have sheriffs in Wyoming, too. And my husband wanted to BE on that mountain! LOL! I guess we don't understand her either. LOL!

Pauline Baird Jones

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

We only have sheriff's deputies where I live too in California. The problem is these editors are babies and don't have a clue.


Maryann Miller said...

That is too funny. Sometimes I wonder if the pros in NY have any clue about the rest of the U.S. A friend once had an editor object to the heroine in my friend's book throwing a diamond ring in the ocean after a nasty break up. The editor thought the ring was too valuable to throw away. That somehow in the midst of her anger and hurt the heroine should realize that and not throw the ring away. That editor totally missed the dramatic moment there.

Barbara said...

Mary, we have sheriffs too here in California. In fact the county sheriff is also our coroner, that would probably really confuse her.

Eunice Boeve said...

That is so funny and so not funny. That book publishers would have editors that are that misinformed is scary. How many good manuscripts are passed by because the editor's education is so limited? We have sheriffs here in Kansas. In fact my father-in-law was the county sheriff for 10 years. A darn good one, too. Eunie

Joyce4books said...

So funny, but a little sad. I suppose this same person would accuse Westerners of being unenlightened. Talk about an insulated outlook. Your book is beautiful, by the way. -- Joyce