I am pleased to have Margaret Wurtele, author of The Golden Hour, to do a guest post here at Melody's Reading Corner today. I enjoyed reading The Golden Hour, which has a WWII setting and if you haven't read my thoughts on it, here's the link.
Without further ado, please give her a warm welcome.
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I’ve been asked to share a little about my writing life and to talk about the process of becoming a published author. My first two books were non-fiction (memoirs) and The Golden Hour is my first novel.
First, let me say that I’m afraid I’m the opposite of a writer. I am an extroverted, action-oriented person, who is loath to sit still at a desk. I am easily distractible, and any available alternative to writing will do: a ringing phone, accessible email, a hunger pang, and the neon to-do list that flashes in my brain. I say yes to far too many community projects, lunch and bridge invitations, and social events. Still, after a day spent writing, I feel more satisfied and complete than after anything else I do.
So writing three books required wrestling myself to the ground, and the novel was the toughest of all. In fiction, the blank page is especially daunting. While writing the memoirs, I had journals and the raw material of my own experience to draw from. In writing The Golden Hour, the characters and their interaction had all to come from my imagination. Finally, I came up with a firm personal rule: Nothing could be scheduled on Mondays – nothing at all. I would begin the day with cups of coffee, wandering about the house, going through mail – anything that attracted me. But all the while, the story was brewing in my head. Finally I would sit down about 2 or 3 pm and write furiously in longhand for a couple of hours. Whew! Then, the rest of the week, I could type, edit, and fiddle with it to my heart’s content. Then, I would wait in dread for the next Monday. It took me three years to complete a draft of the novel I could live with.
I sold my first book, Taking Root, without an agent. It was a spiritual and gardening memoir, and (with the help of a friend who owned a bookstore) I chose five or six publishers of spiritual and religious material and sent them the manuscript. St. Mary’s University Press called and wanted to publish it! I was lucky.
For my second book, Touching the Edge, I did find an agent, one who worked both in my home state of Minnesota and in New York. The manuscript was a memoir about parenting and the recent death of my 22-year-old son in a mountain climbing accident. It took at least a year of receiving one turndown letter after another, but finally John Wiley & Sons bought the book. My editor there had a beloved aunt who had lost her son, and he felt a particular resonance with my story.
That same agent was enthusiastic about the draft of The Golden Hour, and he eagerly offered me a contract. But after a few months, he disappeared. Something troubling must have happened in his life, because he was unresponsive and out of communication for many months. At last, reluctantly, I severed our contract. I took advantage of the break to hire an independent editor, who worked with me on the manuscript for several months. She was excellent, and it was the right thing to do. The revised manuscript was accepted by the first new agent I tried. She has Minnesota roots like mine, and I know a few of her other clients.
This is a terribly difficult market, and my agent kept my expectations very low. Her in-house editor made a number of suggestions, and finally they sent the manuscript out to a first round of five or six publishers. She was more skilled than lucky. The interest was there, and NAL/Penguin was chosen to publish The Golden Hour.
In the last few years, the world of marketing books has changed. This time around, it’s a new ball game: a website, a Facebook page, a blog tour. I am excited to have people begin reading The Golden Hour.