We’re always happy to have return visit from author Lea Wait, here today to talk about her newest Antique Print Mystery and one of her biggest frustrations. Learn more about Lea and her books at her website where you can also find a link to a prequel of Shadows on a Morning in Maine.
I’m convinced that being an author is, by definition, one of the most frustrating jobs in the world. (And – yes – it is a job.)
When I was writing my first book – a mystery rejected by forty of the best agents around – I would have said repeated rejections were the major frustration.
When my first book (Stopping to Home) was accepted by a major publisher (yippee!) I was frustrated that it got fantastic reviews but didn’t sell more copies, let alone (yes, I was fantasizing) win any awards.
By the time that first mystery (Shadows at the Fair) was published, despite positive NY Times reviews, I was frustrated by conflicts between writing two books a year (they want my books!) and caring for my mother 24/7. (She repeatedly told me I should “stop playing with that computer” and start doing whatever it was that she needed or wanted me to do.) A no-win situation.
After she died, I had more time – wonderful! I married the guy I’d loved for more years than anyone can believe. Life was perfect.
But my publisher wanted me to do more appearances, in more places. That took time – and money. (No – publishers don’t pay for travel or promotional items or conference expenses for most authors.) I went into debt promoting my books, which were doing fine, but not “breaking out.” An investment in the future,” I told myself. And, after all, Simon & Schuster was publishing two of my books a year. I was really an author!
And then within a few months it all ended. My mystery editor retired, and my series was discontinued. Historical novels for children went out of fashion.
I was beyond frustration. And, yes, tears were involved.
But I kept writing.
No one wanted to continue my mystery series, so my agent suggested I write an historical mystery.
It was rejected.
I wrote two more historical novels for children (I’m stubborn) that were rejected. So was my contemporary mystery for ages 8-12.
And the nonfiction book I wrote for teachers.
And I won’t even mention that dozen manuscripts that were researched, partially written, then dropped because my agent said selling them would be “doubtful.”
I changed agents. More than once. It didn’t make a difference.
Yes, I’d had eight books published in under six years. But then – for another six years – nothing.
Frustration? Oh, yes. And – an important side effect of frustration: publishers may not know this, but authors are addicted to housing and food, too. I was in debt (that book touring and promotion that was supposed to pay off) and, to top it off, the market crashed. I looked for a day job but couldn’t find one.
And then … gradually … the clouds began to part. A small publisher on the west coast decided to pick up my Shadows series. The fourth book in the series (Shadows at the Spring Show) was published in 2005. The fifth, (Shadows of a Down East Summer) in 2011. I was being paid a tiny fraction of what I’d previously earned, but somehow my readers found me. Hurrah! The eighth in that series, Shadows on a Morning in Maine, was just published.
A small Maine publisher decided to take a chance on Uncertain Glory, one of my historical novels for children. It was published in 2014.
And through a writer friend who knew an agent (not mine) who knew an editor, I was offered a contract for a new mystery series. Much less money than my first series but more than the small press. The fourth in my USA Today bestselling Mainely Needlepoint series (Dangling by a Thread) will be published in November. It will be my eighteenth published book.
So—is my life perfect? Not exactly. Yes, I’m back to writing two (or three) books a year that are being published. I have supportive friends in the writing community. I now know my story isn’t unique – authors have “down years.”
I’m working with a credit consolidation firm. I’m doing few appearances out of my home state. My husband and I don’t eat out often, don’t travel, and keep the temperature in our home down in winter. It will take another four or five years, I estimate, to work our way out of debt.
But my (new) agent is excited about a project I’m working on. I’m hoping my Mainely Needlepoint contract will be renewed. I do a lot of library and craft show gigs, to let people know about my books.
I think -- I hope -- there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
But now I’m a realist. I know how rewarding being an author can be. But also how frustrating.
And – by the way – my wonderful supportive husband understands, because he’s an artist. Don’t get me started about the frustrations of that job!
Shadows on a Morning in Maine
Antique print dealer Maggie Summer's making big changes in her life. She's taken a sabbatical from her college teaching job and moved to the coast of Maine to run an antique mall with Will Brewer, her significant other, and is finally hoping to adopt the daughter she's been hoping for. However, the troubled girl referred to her doesn't want any part of the plan, showing affection only for harbor seals, which remind her of her "real mother." Maggie's distraught when someone starts shooting the seals -- and the a young fisherman is murdered. When Will then confesses a secret from his past, she begins to wonder if moving to Maine is the biggest mistake of her life.