First off -- ta da! BARRETT'S HILL is now officially back in print after 40 years of possibly merciful rest. http://tinyurl.com/musrwz5 But I revised it, did the best I could. What I like about it is how entirely different it is from anything being written back then or now. Old gothic house? Check. Heroine's the ward of the house? Check. Mysterious murder? Check. Heroine in danger? Check. Hero a cowboy. Ch ... er. Check? Heroine a flaming bitch? Huh? Bad language? You can't do that in a gothic!
You can't imagine how restrictive books were back then. Even suggesting a hero had something in his pants was shocking indeed. Breasts were never touched, sex was a swooning kiss. It was all in the sexual tension. BARRETT'S HILL was no different. I set out to write a book that was better than half the books I was reading. I also accepted the fact that it couldn't be better than the other half. In fact, I'm guessing for the one and only time in my life I expected to be average. Instead it was original, unexpected, not brilliant, but fun. If you speak of this, and you will, be kind.
Winner of a free copy just needs to comment (and bonus points if you know where that last quote came from. And don't worry if the comments don't show up immediately -- I can't figure out how to automatically okay them.
So now we come to the Big Lie. A professional writer is someone who is paid for writing, yes? A published author is someone whose work is published by an accepted publishing house, right? Or at least, that's what it was like back in the last century. Well, folks, I have not been a published, professional writer for 40 years. It's been (gasp) almost 60 years.
Yup. 1955. Just a month after my seventh birthday. I used my massive royalty check (wonder what that's worth in today's money) for a Winky-Dink Kit (a plastic film you put over the tv screen and then drew things to help Winky-Dink cross bridges etc.) It was a how-to piece about taking a grocery cash register slip or the paper they used to separate ribbon on expensive spools of the stuff and write a story, then roll it up and unscroll it as you read.
Quite brilliant of me, given my age. And interesting that I wanted to write stories back then. I should also mention that my father worked for the Curtis Publishing Co., publisher of The Saturday Evening Post (where he worked) and Jack and Jill Magazine, so it was nepotism at its finest.
Oh.My.God. I just looked at the contract and the boilerplate refers to the piece as "editorial material." And here I've been so snotty that romance publishers called our words "editorial." I guess it's been going on since the dawn of time. Doesn't mean I don't still resent it.
But life's too short for resentment. It's a gray day in Northern Vermont, where Barrett Hill takes place. There's even an old house, still being worked on (with what we call "hippie labor" meaning they started fixing it up in the late 1960's and it still looks the same) that I based the house on. Maybe I'll go drive by today, just for grins.
I remember the morning I got the letter in 1973. Richie and I were on our way to Martha's Vineyard to visit my sister and her husband, and I called her and said "get a bottle of champagne ready" and wouldn't tell her anything else. When we got off the ferry my sister and BIL were there, and they assumed we were announcing our engagement. I scoffed. Anyone could get engaged. I was a published writer!