Thursday, July 20, 2006

My Beard

I currently have a partial—that is, a synopsis and several chapters—submitted to over half a dozen editors in New York. This particular partial is for a political/spy thriller. It has gone out under a deliberately WASPY-sounding male pseudonym. Why? Because according to the current wisdom, the big New York editors won’t take a thriller seriously if it’s written by a female. As for a former romance writer? Forget it.

Given my long-standing feminist principles, you might think I’d find that offensive, and to a certain extent I do. But only up to a point. No one likes to be prejudged, whether it’s because of the color of their skin, their religion, or their sex, and I certainly bristle when people make assumptions about my writing based on the fact I used to write romances. Yet I myself won’t pick up a thriller written by a woman unless I know for a fact she’s competent. The reason? I’ve been lured into buying too many stinkers produced by former romance writers who have taken to writing thrillers in the last few years. And so my thriller proposal has gone out with a male pseudonym.

Actually, while I’ve always loved political/spy thrillers, I never felt competent enough to write one. This current book is being written in collaboration with my husband, who knows the spy business pretty well, having spent 21 years in it. He understands all the things I knew I didn’t—and I don’t mean just obvious things such as weapons specs and how an operation is run. A novel is always a balancing act between reality and make-believe, and he has helped to make sure this book balances out well.

So how is the proposal doing? We got our first rejection yesterday. The editor said, “It’s well done, with interesting characters, timely themes, and expert pacing, but as much as I enjoyed it, in the end I felt it was a bit commercial for us and I just don’t think we’re the best house to publish it successfully. I know another editor will snap it up, though, so I’ll step aside with best wishes.”

A disappointment, obviously, although it definitely qualifies as the best rejection letter I’ve ever received. So now I’m holding my breath, waiting to hear from the others.


Charles Gramlich said...

That is a nice rejection. Good luck with the book.

Dave Budge said...

That is a great rejection letter. I would frame it. I got a rejection the other day from a poetry journal that said smugly;

Dear Mr. Budge,

We find your work to be unsuitable for our journal.



I think I'll frame that one.

Good luck with the book.

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