I finished the contract for my six romances at Kensington. My wonderful editor, John Scognamiglio, told me that I could write three more romances for him, or I could try my hand at a mystery, because he thought I’d do a good job on those, too. How lucky can a girl get? My wonderful agent, Lauren Abramo at Dystel and Goderich, told me that it would be smarter to write more romances and build an audience, but being the true lover of WRITING that she is, she told me to do what I was most passionate about. She’s more than a gem. People who disparage editors and agents don’t realize how overworked they are and how committed they are to writers and the written word. Yes, they’re the business side of writing. But they still LOVE writing and words and books.
Anyway, I’ve always loved mysteries, so I decided to go for it. Which means that I was starting over…again…and I needed to write a proposal. And that’s when I remembered how HARD it is. John Scognamiglio spoiled me. As long as he thought I had enough ideas to come up with a whole book, he gave me a thumbs up and said Write Away. He trusted me to figure things out as I went. Lauren has a more critical eye. She has to. She’s the one who shapes a synopsis and proposal so that a publisher might want to buy a writer’s book. And Lauren and I are very different, and that plays into things, too.
Lauren never gives me a Free Pass. We hash over how she sees a character, compared to how I see that character in my mind. If she thinks something’s not clear or a plot point is soggy, she makes me rethink it and rewrite it. And every book of mine that she’s touched is better for it. If we can’t come up with a compromise with e-mails, she’s happy to pick up the phone and let me know what she thinks, but she always ends with “It’s your book. You have to make the final decision.” Which sounds tempting, but she’s always so freaking right.
I don’t think I’ve ever rewritten, rethought, any book as much as The Body in the Attic (the working title). I didn’t like the girl who becomes a dead body. Lauren REALLY sympathized with her. I sympathized with the person who stuffed her in the attic, and Lauren sent paragraphs about how she considered him sinister. There’s nothing that makes you learn more and stretch more than a good, healthy disagreement about how you see your book. We’ve both compromised. And I’m happy with the changes I’ve made. (I think Lauren would have liked more changes, but she’s satisfied with what we came up with). The things that really bothered me about Lynda didn’t bother Lauren. The things that really bothered her weren’t such big deals to me. Different world views. Different experiences. No right. No wrong. Just different. And that’s just plain interesting.