Friday, May 14, 2010
Firstly can you tell us a little bit about your novel ‘Crown Island' ?
Crown Island, the most beautiful of the Granite Islands ranging out from Quarrytown, a harbor community in Connecticut, is the magical world of Marie Wainwright and Peter Chello. Their love defies their differences in class, status, age, and culture. They are fated by the Gods to follow a challenging path. While married to others, they keep their love alive for thirty years. Marie, a famous writer who has always lived on Crown Island, brings a world of knowledge to Peter, while Peter brings the muse back to her after the loss of her family in a boating accident. Marie's novels become celebrated and Peter, an artistic stonemason and builder, discovers a richness in life that could never have been his had he not fallen in love with Marie. His path leads him to an understanding of how to share the gifts of love and life that he receives from his Idyll on Crown Island while staying true to his roots and his affection for Quarrytown. An adult story in an adult novel.
What is your writing background up until now?
I published quite a bit of poetry and many short stories when I was in my twenties and thirties, and in my forties I had several plays produced in showcase settings in NYC and NJ. I have published a number of scholarly books and university level textbooks with major publishers such as McGraw-Hill, St. Martins Press, Bedford Books, Oxford UP, and others.
What inspired your idea for your currently published novel?
Primarily an affection for the Connecticut harbor community that is the setting for my book. I lived in or next to it for more than 20 years. The Jamesian “germ” of the novel, though, was the vision of a woman standing on one of the islands looking out to sea one summer evening. From that everything else seemed to spring.
Do you have any specific daily writing routines you stick to?
Yes, it is essential to write every day. I set myself a minimum and maximum number of pages: never fewer than two; never more than five.
So now that you have published ‘Crown Island ’ are you planning a next novel we should be looking forward to?
Yes, “Crown Island” is the first of a series of Quarrytown Novels. Its subject is romantic love and the social context of Quarryton. The next, “An Alligator Ministry,” is essentially a comic novel whose basic theme is religion. A part-Seminole preacher comes into town and sets up his alligator ministry, which then polarizes Quarrytown. The third book is “Sins of the Fathers,” which examines a university professor’s painful relationship with his father, who felt he had made all the wrong choices in his life. Indirectly, one of the issues of the book is the significance of real estate and conducting a business, as opposed to choosing a life of the mind.
After you completed ‘Crown Island ' how difficult was it for you to land an agent?
Extremely difficult. I tried more than 50 agents and while some were interested, none felt that they could make any money with the book. It doesn’t have that commercial dazzle one needs in the first 10 pages. Only three agents asked to see the first three chapters.
The moment you got a positive reply with an offer for representation, what were your initial thoughts? I never got one from an agent. However, I had sent another book, “Volcanic Jesus: Hawaiian Tales,” to a major press and got a quick positive response. The Editor asked to see the novel I was working on, Crown Island, and helped me reshape some of the beginning of the novel and things looked great, but she left the house and no other editor there wanted the book. My original editor essentially disappeared.
How many rejections did it take for you to finally land that agent?
As I said, at least 50 and probably more.
Would you have any advice for aspiring writers?
First, write every day. Second, be sure to read constantly, especially the work of important writers. Read Publishers Weekly, Poets and Writers, but center yourself in the kind of writing you respect most. Then, before you query an agent, have your book professionally edited. After that, go online to an agency and see what the recommendations are for preparing a prospectus for your book.
Would you have done anything differently?
As it is, I along with three other published writers, formed an artists’ co-operative press, Hammonasset House Books, and then learned how to produce our books, get them up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and other online sellers, and also with Ingram, the largest book wholesaler in the country. We learned more than most writers do about the business of publishing. Some very prominent well published writers are following this path because they have been rejected by their own publishers on the basis of slack sales. It’s tough out there. The basic point is that we now know we can get our books out to the public and that we have complete control over design and editorial issues. And our books will be in print as long as we wish. At this moment they are moving onto the Kindle, and we are learning how to market our books online.
Thanks so much for your interview! I agree, that the key is to keep writing and keep trying. You can visit Lee's website and blog, make sure to leave a comment and follow. Have an awesome day!!!