As a fiction writer, I’ve found through attempts at marketing, a need to better refine the genre in which I create most of my work. To do this, I’ve had to read work in several different genres and determine what’s the best fit for me. In my case the key drivers are finding a theme which has a strong emotional pull, create relevant characters who gradually come to life as I write and take them on a journey which means there needs to be a plot. The authors who resonate for me therefore also have these characteristics in their stories. I can therefore define my writing style into the genres of upmarket fiction, women’s fiction and/or psychological suspense.
I’ve been an avid reader since grade school and annually purchase numerous hard copy and eBooks but I’m disappointed to say that over the past year I’m buying less and less. The market has been taken over by thriller after thriller or crime fiction with the latest in boutique detective or policeman or policewoman. My genres seems to be pushed more and more to the back shelves. One of my favourite authors, Jodi Picoult, creates compelling psychological suspense stories, an example of which would be Mercy. It caught my attention since we recently amended the criminal code in Canada to allow for medical assistance in dying (2016-06-17). In her story, the protagonist, Allie Gordon’s husband who is the local police chief, Cameron MacDonald, has to arrest his cousin, James MacDonald for killing his beloved wife, Maggie. As the story unfolds, the reader learns that James loved his wife, in fact, he loved her even more that she loved him and he killed her because she begged him to since she was dying with metastasized cancer and was in great pain. For those of you who haven’t read the book, I don’t want to spoil the story but the intrigue for me was how differently all the key characters looked at this event and decided whether or not James was guilty of murder.
Another favourite author is Margaret Atwood who through her recent novel, Hagseed, takes us on a gripping and emotionally rich journey of revenge. Her main character, Felix, is the artistic director of Makesheiweg Theatre Festival where he’s completed the production of a new version of the Tempest and is ready to stage it. With no explanation, he’s fired by head of the board and finds out its part of a plot crafted by an underling whom he’s been mentoring. He ends up in exile in the backwoods haunted by memories of his young daughter, Miranda, who died and is focused on plotting his revenge on the group who fired him. After twelve years, his opportunity arises as he’s hired to direct theatre in a nearby prison. He pulls together a motley crew of inmate actors to use to trap his enemies. Will his revenge save Felix? I don’t want to spoil the surprise so will leave it up to you to find out how the drama ends.
I apologize for my absence from this blog due to preparation for writers conference, Branch and National AGMs as well as marketing two novels and beginning the outline for a third. Now that I’m back, I want to tell you about what a wonderful opportunity the Canadian Writers Summit in Toronto in June this year was for all local writers from many genres. It was jointly hosted by a cohort of Canadian writers organizations including my own Canadian Authors Association.
The first day was dedicated to a Canadian Book Summit and included exciting panels of agents, editors and publishers and presentations from authors and key note speakers. There was a good discussion from experts about the pros and cons of e-book subscriptions as an addition or an alternative to hard copy books. Representatives were from HarperCollins US, Scribners, and Coach House Books. The general observation was that the long term success of e-books is still undetermined and that hard copy books still dominate the market.
The next panel showcased a group of professional editors from McClelland & Stewart, The New Quarterly, HarperCollins Canada and House of Anansi Press. They discussed the importance of the relationship between the editor and the writer and stressed the fact that editing although invisible is still enormously influential in the success of the book. New eyes can help shape the winning product.
The next panel with Penguin Random House Canada and House of Anansi Press focused on marketing and encouraged partnering with a con-competitive, like-minded business or organization to stretch your marketing budget and expand your audience. One of the examples used was to negotiate a Wine and Books series with your local library to showcase writers. Besides, the wine and networking can give the writer a social life.
A panel of writing experts including an award winning author, and representatives from HarperCollins US, Penguin Books Canada, Zola Books and House of Anansi Press discussed a range of issues currently concerning to members of the book industry. They generated a list of emerging trends and predictions for 2017 and beyond including the need to include more diversity in writers, the balancing of e-books against continued publishing of hard copy books and the ongoing interest in memoirs or narrative non-fiction books.
The session which affected me the most was called First Page Challenge and required writers to submit from their work to a Expert Panel in advance, the first page of their novel or memoir for critique. The panel of agents and editors provided critiques verbally for a full audience of writers. Even though I was well aware of the importance of a first page and chapter, listening to the critique of experts showed me the impact it can have when a writer is hoping to attract an agent or editor. I will use the skills I picket up here when I start writing my new novel this fall.
The greatest pleasure from the conference was spending four days with a great group of talented and committed writers. We can learn much from each other and the enthusiasm of each writer for her own creation is contagious making me want to read them all.
I’ve been described by many in the industry as a storyteller and write both Mainstream Fiction and Women’s Fiction. I’m continuing to market these two manuscripts seeking the best possible placement in today’s publishing world.
Celeste Unraveled at 81,000 words is Upmarket Women’s Fiction suitable for book clubs. Celeste opens her eyes to blue sky and a circle of bare legs and black boots, the noise of a siren in the background. When she tries to move her head, every part of her body hurts. Blood streaks across the bodice of her silk dress, down her arm and over her fingertips. How did she get here and what’s happened to her life?
The novel follows Celeste, a high profile nurse manager in a busy urban hospital after she is left reeling in despair when restructuring hits her personally. Like her peers, she has dreamed of retirement as a time for herself, to explore other parts of her personality, but not now. When her husband, Adrian, loses his job and embarks on a new career, they leave the city for the sophisticated small town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Their new social life includes two like-minded couples who like them are new to the town.
I’ve been described by many in the industry as a storyteller and write both Mainstream Fiction and Women’s Fiction. Both novels are character driven with strong settings and focus on relationships. Based on positive feedback received from a number of agents, I’m continued to market these two manuscripts seeking the best possible placement for them in today’s market.
Differences Between Us
My novel, Differences Between Us, at 91,000 words, is Mainstream Fiction, a story about a mixed race couple who find love while surviving in a city which is still coping with the ruin from a natural disaster.
For Jerome Decarie, life is playing in a jazz band. That’s why he relocated to New Orleans. But then he befriends a young black woman, Lara Jackson who is desperate, after the storm of the decade, to find the aunt and uncle who raised her.
Intrigued, he agrees to accompany her in the search to an old mansion in the Garden District, owned by her uncle’s brother, Phillip Devries. She’s warned him he’s into drugs and gangs. Jerome is accepted by Noreen and Henry when he arrives with Lara for the reunion but agrees with her, there’s something strange about Phillip.
When I’m asked what kind of writer I am, which happens more often than I would expect, I respond that I’m the kind of writer who dreams large. It reminds me of the quotation from Walt Disney, All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. Aren’t all writers dreamers? Otherwise, we would give up long before we saw our names in print for the first time.