GUEST BLOG POST: The Call by Karen White (author of THE LOST HOURS)
Posted Apr 30 2009 1:49pm
Since I've been so sporadic in MY posting as of late, decided to call in some reinforcements. Or I should say some reinforcements found me. A fellow writer. Kathy White has a new book out and she wanted some action on the blogs. I am a kind writer and obliged--especially because I'd love to read her book myself (adding it to my Amazon Wishlist right now!). And I just love her story about getting "the call." For those not in the writing world, this is when your agent calls (or and editor) and you get a book deal. And it's an ever-waited moment (I am still awaiting my own CALL). So, without further ado, read Kathy's story below.....
GUEST BLOG POST: The Call
In mid-December, 2003 I finally received the call from my agent that I’d pretty much given up hope ever getting. She left a message on my answering machine saying that she had a two-book offer on the table from my dream publisher, Penguin Publishing Group.
I stood listening to the message about a dozen times, holding heavy bags of groceries, wanting to believe in her sincerity while the whole time picturing my long-suffering husband standing behind her while she made the phone call with a weapon pointed at her head.
Let’s back up three years to explain how I got to that point. Granted, it wasn ’t technically my ‘first sale’—but for me, it was the first sale that counted. Most people who know me know my story—how I entered the first book I ever wrote into a contest and it ended up not only winning, but also garnering the attention of a literary agent who offered to represent me. My first sales were to two small publishers. At the time, I would have worked for free (and I just about did!) for the privilege of being published. My advances were small, my print runs and distribution even smaller. Still I was grateful, and pumped out four award-winning books of which I’m still very proud.
I was at least climbing the ladder of success, although my paltry print-runs and publisher non-support kept me firmly planted on the bottom rung. I felt as if I were going to the prom. Sure, my date was the dorky boy with pimples, but at least I was going!
And then even my foothold on that bottom rung was shaken loose and I crashed to the floor. My publisher dropped me, stripping me of confidence and pride. I couldn't sell a book for 2 ½ years. Even the dorky boy didn't want to take me to the prom anymore. I was humiliated, devastated and heartbroken. It no longer mattered to me that I’d published four really great books (as friends and family kept reminding me). At the time, all I could do was point out Tom Petty's song, Even the Losers (Get Lucky Sometimes).
I was inconsolable. St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases, became my close companion and we'd talk every day. I even thought seriously about making voodoo dolls of certain New York publishing personnel and holding them over hot flames.
I gave myself until December 31st of 2003. If I hadn ’t sold another book by then, I was hanging up my word processor. I simply couldn ’t bang my head against the wall any longer. On the day I received the call from my agent, my husband was on a business trip in New York . Before he’d left, he asked, “Is there anything I can get you while I’m there?” My despondent answer, “A contract.”
They had her at hello. From her first moments in Charleston and Savannah, and on the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, novelist Karen While was in love. Was it the history, the architecture, the sound of the sea, the light, the traditions, the people, the lore? Check all of the above. Add Karen’s storytelling talent, her endless curiosity about relationships and emotions, and her sensitivity to the rhythms of the south, and it seems inevitable that this mix of passions would find its way into her work.
Known for award winning novels such as Learning to Breathe, the recently announced Southern Independent Bookseller Association’s 2009 Book of the Year Award nomination for The House on Tradd Street, and for the highly praised The Memory of Water, Karen has already shared the coastal Lowcountry and Charleston with readers. Spanning eighty years, Karen’s new book, THE LOST HOURS, now takes them to Savannah and its environs. There a shared scrapbook and a necklace of charms unleash buried memories, opening the door to the secret lives of three women, their experiences, and the friendships that remain entwined even beyond the grave, and whose grandchildren are determined to solve the mysteries of their past.
Karen, so often inspired in her writing by architecture and history, has set much of THE LOST HOURS at Asphodel Meadows, a home and property inspired by the English Regency styled house at Hermitage Plantation along the Savannah River, and at her protagonist’s “Savannah gray brick” home in Monterey Square, one of the twenty-one squares that still exist in the city. Italian and French by ancestry, a southerner and a storyteller by birth, Karen has lived in many different places. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she has also lived in Texas, New Jersey, Louisiana, Georgia, Venezuela and England, where she attended the American School in London. She returned to the states for college and graduated from New Orleans’ Tulane University. Hailing from a family with roots firmly set in Mississippi (the Delta and Biloxi ), Karen notes that “searching for home brings me to the south again and again.”
Always, Karen credits her maternal grandmother Grace Bianca, to whom she’s dedicated THE LOST HOURS, with inspiring and teaching her through the stories she shared for so many years. Karen also notes the amount of time she spent listening as adults visited in her grandmother’s Mississippi kitchen, telling stories and gossiping while she played under the table. She says it started her on the road to telling her own tales. The deal was sealed in the seventh grade when she skipped school and read Gone With The Wind. She knew—just knew—she was destined to grow up to be either Scarlet O’ Hara or a writer.
Karen’s work has appeared on the South East Independent Booksellers best sellers list. Her novel The Memory of Water, was WXIA -TV’s Atlanta & Company Book Club Selection. Her work has been reviewed in Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine and by Fresh Fiction, among many others, and has been adopted by numerous independent booksellers for book club recommendations and as featured titles in their stores. This past year her 2007 novel Learning to Breathe received several honors, notably the National Readers’ Choice Award.
Now a near fatal riding accident has shattered Piper’s dreams of Olympic glory. After her grandfather’s death, she inherits the house and all its secrets, including a key to a room that doesn ’t exist—or does it? And after her grandmother is sent away to a nursing home, she remembers the box buried in the backyard. In it are torn pages from a scrapbook, a charm necklace—and a newspaper article from 1929 about the body of an infant found floating in the Savannah River. The necklace’s charms tell the story of three friends during the 1920s— each charm added during the three months each friend had the necklace and recorded her life in the scrapbook. Piper always dismissed her grandmother as not having had a story to tell. And now, too late, Piper finds she might have been wrong.