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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Making of a Novel...

Although my first love has always been writing fiction, a couple of years ago, I set out to write a memoir about my experience with adoption and raising kids with HIV. About half-way into it, I realized that I just wasn't ready–my family and our story was still growing, still evolving and far from complete. I decided to take it off the burner (so to speak) and I packed it away in a desk drawer where it will no doubt stay for at least the next few years. The same week that I packed away the memoir, my husband and I made a trip across the bridge into Madison to attend an arts festival. While we were sitting on a grassy bank looking out over the river, a story began to take hold of me; a story about a young woman I didn't know yet, but who, over the course of a year would become a friend and character I won't soon forget. When we returned home from Madison, I immediately sat down at the keyboard and began to craft the outline for a novel that I titled The Silence of Mercy Bleu.

I love the freedom of fiction, the freedom to create characters and story out of thin air, and because I was writing about a subject that I'm so passionate about, it didn't take long for the words to fill the page. What began as just an idea, soon grew into a compelling story–a story about secrets, second chances and strength through adversity as told through the eyes of Mercy Bleu, a young HIV positive mom-to-be.

Once the first draft was finished, I immediately started in on the edits. I'd work each page, over and over and over again, until "Mercy Bleu's" story began to unfold. It wasn't finished yet, when I came across the William Faulkner "Novel-in-Progress" Contest. I entered my novel and low and behold it was chosen as one of the semi-finalists! That was the kick that really got the ball rolling. And roll it did.

I'd been working on my novel, day in and day out, for over a year at this point and I still wasn't sure if it was ready, but I had to at least try. I began pitching my novel to a few "big city" agents. Months passed. There were some encouraging words, but no takers. I was heartbroken, but I didn't give up. I just couldn't. I knew that if I could just get someone to actually read it, Mercy would soon be on her way. I re-worked the pitch, crossed my fingers, and sent out 10 more queries. It worked! Within a month, I received 7 requests for the full manuscript...and two rock solid offers of representation. I chose wisely. I knew that my agent, Jeanie Pantelakis, would be the perfect champion for my novel. Her sensibility and insight has been invaluable these last months.

We are now out on "submission," which is the process of pitching publishers and waiting for them to request a read. This could take days or it could take months. I honestly have no idea, but whatever happens, you know I'll certainly be posting it all right here for all those interested.

One thing I do know for sure is that I love this story and am ever so eager to share it with readers. This novel tackles some difficult issues and pushes the envelope (in more ways than one) and don't you just love when a book does exactly that?

2 comments:

courtneywrites said...

I didn't know the story of how you began writing MERCY BLEU. So incredible! I want to read it more than ever!

Writer, AIDS Advocate, fuzzy animal lover, and soon to be debut author–represented by Jeanie Pantelakis of Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency. Visit: www.SuzanStirling.com said...

Courtney,
You've been SUCH a wonderful friend and supporter from day one and I thank you for that!