Once upon a time, after Irregardless of Murder had been published, I was actually able to find a real literary agent. She was a well-respected professional whom I met at a writing conference. I queried her (as we say in the biz) and she liked my manuscript.
The new book was a stand-alone, entitled Another Think Coming, and was a semi-serious, semi-comic novel about a Texas grandma, Hester MacBride, who blames the death of her only grandson on a local drug dealer. Deeming herself “hopping mad at God,” she decides that she is the only one who can bring justice to this evildoer, since law enforcement seems hamstrung.
But how does a law-abiding, God-fearing woman do such a thing? Her efforts are sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious. In the course of her efforts, she finds herself assisting at a revival service, where she prays with a contrite stranger. The stranger in question turns out to be the very criminal she has been stalking. What happens next lands Hester in serious hot water.
My agent loved my character’s feistiness, her faith and her courage. Secular publishers, unfortunately, found my book too religious. Christian publishers, while they complimented my writing, seemed to find my book too gritty or something. Anyway, after a good long try, the agent and I decided to call it quits. She’s a wonderful agent, and I’d recommend her to anybody. She just couldn’t perform miracles.
DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB—YET
So I—in agricultural terms—lay fallow for a while. I wrote a sequel to my first book, Irregardless of Murder and planned a third. I contributed short pieces to a couple of devotional books and gave talks locally on writing and mysteries, which went over well. I became a grandmother and that took up a lot of my time. But I never stopped wanting my Miss Prentice series to get another try.
THE LILIAN (sic) JACKSON BRAUN STORY
Most cozy mystery writers know who she is, the author of The Cat Who… series. Years ago, she published the first three or four of her cat mysteries and then cozies supposedly fell out of fashion. Noir mysteries were what sold, according to her publisher. So she went back to her day job, and hoped for a comeback, which came about 15 years later. Her first few books were re-published, and subsequent The Cat Who books have been top-sellers ever since.
I took Lilian’s story seriously. Miss Prentice could make a comeback, I was sure. And she has. My new publisher has done a wonderful job of getting things going again. Irregardless is expanded and updated, has a new (and more striking) cover, and actually is available in ebook form, which didn’t exist when the book first came out. The sequel is scheduled to come out next year, and the third is in the pipeline. Thank you, Lilian, for the inspiration!
So, if you know your audience and understand their passion for your favorite genre, don’t give up. If you literally (and I use the term deliberately) can’t stop writing, and love what you’re doing, keep at it. Amass a large collection of work. Set things aside. Come back to them after a brief hiatus and edit the stew out of them. Then get busy finding an agent or a publisher.
It can happen.