I just finished reading Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’ Blog post: Thoughts on Sales and Art. Apparently TPTB within the publishing world told her that the books she wanted to write (after Dirty Girl’s Social Club) weren’t going to sell. It was explained to her that a Latina woman, now famous for writing a break-out chick-lit novel about other Latina women simply could not turn around and start writing literary novels featuring non-Latina protagonists.
Alisa went on to say that she regrets following this advice and is now writing the book that SHE wants to write not one she’s been told she HAS to write in order to meet the expectations of her pre-established target market
I read this and ALL I could think about was my November title, So Much For My Happy Ending. It was actually the second novel that I wrote. When I started it I had yet to sell Sex, Murder And A Double Latte and had serious doubts that I ever would. Everybody told me that authors rarely sell their first attempt at a book even if that book is good and I saw no reason why I should be the exception to that rule.
So with all this in mind I started So Much For My Happy Ending. The protagonist, April, has a similar sense of humor as Sophie, she lives in San Francisco and like Sophie, April has a Gay friend and a wild girlfriend. But that’s where the similarities ended. April is a young woman who is stuck in a career that she is ill-suited for. She craves the stability that was denied her as a child and she marries the first man who she believes will provide that for her. But when her husband’s moods become more erratic and his behavior inexplicably destructive she begins to understand that not only is he unable to offer her stability he is actually suffering from a mental illness that could devastate them both if left untreated.
I was a hundred pages into the rough draft when my agent called me with some wonderful (and totally unexpected) news. Two New York publishers had made an offer on Sex, Murder And A Double Latte. Furthermore they were both offering me multi-book contracts! Galvanized by this success my then-agent insisted that I send her the synopsis for So Much For My Happy Ending along with the little that I had written of it so far.
After reading it she was less euphoric. “Kyra,” she said, “it’s masterfully written, in fact it’s so well paced and compelling that I found myself agitated when I realized that I had reached the end of the sample pages…I was that eager to find out what happens next! But I don’t know that the publishing world is ready for a hip, chick-lit-like heroine who is dealing with such gritty and realistic problems. I’ve shopped it to a few editors and they agree. Could we make April’s husband’s illness a little more vague? Perhaps we could lighten her load a bit when it comes to her family life. And make April a little less flawed to ensure that she’s always sympathetic to readers. Just make the whole thing a little more fluffy.”
Despite my recent sale I was at that point still an unpublished author and I had an agent and two editors from two different high profile publishing houses telling me I needed to take the book in a different direction.
And I caved. I agreed to fluff it up.
And then I changed my mind. It only took me a couple of days to come to my senses. It is so hard to make a living as an author, if you’re not even going to be able to write what you love why not just choose a less demanding career that offers more job security and a better paycheck? I love writing the Sophie books and the fact that they fit into a genre that the publishing world has embraced is simply a fabulous coincidence. I loved writing So Much For My Happy Ending as well but it didn’t fit into a ready made box the way the Sophie books do. C’est la vie. I decided that if the publishing world didn’t want it I would have to accept that but I wasn’t going to sell April out by trivializing her plight.
And then two other New York publishing houses took note and made offers on the manuscript without asking me to compromise the story. So Much For My Happy Ending has a lot of humor in it, the characters are young hip fashionistas and they have the kind of problems that real human beings have. It is very loosely based on my life. April, like me, is not perfect. She doesn’t always handle things well and she is at least partially responsible for her own misfortune. It was both wonderful and gut wrenching to write and by publishing this book I am sharing a part of myself that I’m tempted to keep private. The reviewers could pan it. Readers could reject it. But no matter what I will always be proud of it.
Alisa feels she made an error in judgment (although based on the high quality of her books I personally think the error was extremely minor). Nonetheless I admire her renewed resolve to only write what SHE wants to write. There is little question that her next project will be a tour de force. I also want to assure you that every book I write, whether it be a Sophie book or something else, will be a book that I wanted to write. When and if my editors/readers decide that I am not offering them something that they care to be part of then I’ll respect their choice and find another way to pay my bills.
See, you can buy a piece of my soul but you can’t change it.
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For The Love Of A Dog--A fun online read