Thursday, August 11, 2016
Good Time Coming
Almost every writer I know has what we call a "book of the heart." It's a story idea that grabs our imagination and won't let go even though we know there's something about the story that will make it really, really hard to sell to New York. Sometimes that "hard sell" aspect is setting (Outer Mongolia, anyone?); sometimes it's subject matter (say, American atrocities in WWII).
The book of my heart is called GOOD TIME COMING. It's a story idea that possessed me way back in 2001, when I was writing my Civil War mystery, Midnight Confessions. As I did the research for that novel, I found I wanted to write a different book: the story of the war in Louisiana as seen through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old girl. I wanted to write about the war the women and children lived; how they survived increasing hardship and danger, and how it changed them.
I started reading diaries and letters and memoirs by the hundreds: I visited Civil War battle sites like Port Hudson, Bayou Sara, and Camp Moore. And then, in the autumn of 2012 when I finished Why Kings Confess comfortably ahead of deadline, I seized the moment. In a white heat of 18+ hour days, seven days a week, I wrote GOOD TIME COMING.
I'd never written anything like it before and I was more than a bit worried about my ability to pull it off. But I can honestly say the manuscript exceeded my wildest expectations. I sent it to my agent, and she was over the moon. It quickly found several editors who waxed poetical about it. One called it "a women's Red Badge of Courage"; another said it was like To Kill a Mockingbird meets Cold Mountain. But in the end, no New York publishing house would buy it.
Why? Because of the subject matter. The Civil War in Louisiana was not pretty. U.S. soldiers did terrible things here, things that most Americans would rather not know about. At the same time, Southerners did things their descendants would rather forget. Look at those days through the unblinkingly honest eyes of a thirteen-year-old, and you have a story that terrifies New York.
For three years that manuscript languished in my cupboard. To say I was heartbroken would be a massive understatement--I mean, this was the book of my heart, right? But I can now tell you that the book no American house had the courage to print has finally found a publisher--a British publisher. It will be released in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa in September, and in the U.S. in December.
I've been sitting on this news for a while now and I've been about to burst. The last time I felt this giddy was back in 1997, when I sold my very first novel. I am really, really proud of this book, so you'll be hearing more about it soon.