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.”