I have a special feeling in my heart for this Moment by Carolyn Rose for two reasons. One, it’s a story eleven years in the making, and as most of you know, I can relate to one of those. And two, Carolyn hails from a part of the world I just love. Read here about the novel that pulled itself up by its bootstraps–with more than a little help from its author, of course.
With an innocent sense of optimism about its future, I began writing Hemlock Lake in 1999. Had I known it would be such a “hard luck” book, I might have taken a hammer to my keyboard, turned my monitor into modern art, and embarked on a career creating something easier to sell, like broken umbrellas or failing dot.com stock. But I didn’t have a crystal ball then—still don’t—so I forged on with a story that, from the start, felt like it wanted me to write it.
Confident about my first 100 pages, I sent a few chapters to a friend. They returned with gallons of green ink flowing between the lines and into the margins. If I’d laid the pages out on the ground, they might have been designated a wetland.
I’m sad to say that I didn’t handle the situation like an adult. Although I told myself that criticism is subjective and there was nothing vindictive about comments that I had solicited, I raged about the house repeating that she, “just didn’t get it,” and, “wasn’t much of a friend.” My husband, meanwhile, cowered in an upstairs room checking for an expiration date on our marriage license. Eventually I slammed the manuscript into a box (we were in the process of moving from Portland to Vancouver at the time) and ignored it for several months.
When the small TV station I worked for folded its tent and laid me off, I had time on my hands to consider her comments once more. But, practicing avoidance is one of my hobbies, so I painted the interior of our house, changed out the electrical sockets, and organized the garage before I unearthed the manuscript.
Time had given me emotional distance and I found that her comments weren’t as cutting or extreme as I’d first thought. In fact, most of them pointed to the need for material that had never made it onto the pages I’d sent her—descriptions and character details I’d carried in my head but never got down on paper because they were so obvious to me.
With a sense of mission, I went back to the keyboard, revised, and took second place in the 2000 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Competition and was a finalist in the Colorado Gold Competition. Emboldened, I began a search for agents. I soon found that no one wanted to touch Hemlock Lake for a variety of reasons, most of which will be familiar to any writer who has ever sent out queries:
· client list was full
· didn’t feel committed to the project
· couldn’t relate to rural setting
· couldn’t successfully market it
· had found editors were intent on potential mega-hit novels
· wasn’t wild about the premise
· was transitioning to a film management agency
· enthusiasm just not great enough
· not completely confident about this endeavor
· overbooked at present
· wanted a hefty fee for representation costs
And then I received the ultimate rejection: “agent has passed away.”
I remember opening that letter and dropping into a chair in stunned silence. Would someone rather die than represent this book? Was Hemlock Lake destined to spend the rest of my life in a box at the back of the closet under the stairs?
Stay tuned for part two…
Carolyn J. Rose grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She has published a number of mysteries and lives in Vancouver, Washington, with her husband, radio air personality Mike Phillips, and a motley collection of pets. Her hobbies are reading, gardening, and not cooking. Surf to www.deadlyduomysteries.com for more information. And watch the book trailer for HEMLOCK LAKE at http://www.trailerspy.com/trailer/10179/Hemlock-Lake