A few years ago while I was struggling to sell my second print book (it took a handful of years) I had a conversation with the wonderful writer, Deborah Cooke. I remember it very well because I was whining: about the business, about “what do they WANT”, about the inconsistencies in rejection letters. i.e. I love your voice, but I don’t connect with the characters… I love your characters, but the voice isn’t right for the line… LOVE the idea, but the voice is too old for the characters… And one there’s just no figuring out how to fix: LOVE it, but can’t see how to market it…
Midway through the conversation, Deb suggested I buckle down and just write the last book I’d want to be remembered for. Yes, that’s right. The last, meaning final, meaning I’d be dead and gone book.
“What book would that be?” she asked in a brisk tone that said she’d tired of the whining.
I had no answer because I was struck dumb with fear. I wasn’t ready to write THAT book. I wasn’t a good enough writer yet. I didn’t know what it could possibly be about.
I was writing romances: sexy, contemporary, fun romances.
Not important books to be remembered for. Not books that gave my writing life meaning.
Hell of a question, isn’t it?
I think that conversation occurred about 10 years ago, give or take. I’ve skirted the question ever since. Sometimes I pull it out, give it a sniff like a cat with new-to-them food, poke it with a long pole, and sneer at it (especially when I’m contracted).
But mostly, I ignore it.
It still scares me a little.
A few weeks ago, I sent my agent a proposal for my newest work-in-progress, The Truth about Mercy. This story had been requested by more than one house and in these strange days, a professional writer looking for a contract doesn’t throw away requests from editors.
This book has morphed from a fun, contemporary romance with a catchy opening to something different. It’s hard to pin it with a label, which may hurt the chances of going to contract with those people in publishing concerned with marketing.
All I know is that I woke one night with the firm conviction that if I never wrote another book, this one would be the one I’d be happy to be remembered for.
Not that this is my last book…it’s just the one that represents the deeper meaning of life events. Maybe it morphed into this because my children have no grandparents left now. Maybe it came to me because I’m a newly-minted grandmother. Maybe I want to right some wrongs I witnessed as a child.
Maybe there’s something in The Truth about Mercy that brings out my inner philosopher.
If you had to answer that “last book” question, would you have an answer?