Hello from Pamela Meyers
I’ve been asked to write a series of blogs about how my debut novel came to be and what was entailed in its ultimate publication last November. Especially how the conceptualization relates to marketing the book once it was published. Like a proud mama, I’m always pleased to talk about the birth of my baby. Isn’t that how we authors come to think of our stories, be it your very first novel, or your hundredth?
What better combination is there than a good romance coupled with a who-done-it mystery written cozy style? At least to my point of view, that’s always a dynamite combination. Since I was a girl, I loved reading mysteries. Think Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. As I grew into my teen years, I started reading romance stories. One of my favorites was called Geneva Summer, which was set in my home area of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I devoured that book, not only because it was fun to read a story set in places I knew well, but also because I couldn’t wait to see if the hero and heroine ended up together at the end. Of course they did, as all good romances go.
Soon after I began plotting, I realized that if I wanted to write the story the way it was coming together, it would best take place in a fictitious setting. In order to keep the marketing opportunity alive, I decided to locate Canoga Lake, Wisconsin within about a ten-minute drive of the town of Lake Geneva. Close enough to include it in some scenes.
All stories start with a “What if question,” and the question I asked was, what if right after my heroine is hired as an in-house chef in a large mansion her boss is found dead, and what if when she first comes to the mansion to interview for the job she runs into her former fiancé, a man she hasn’t seen for eight years who has secrets he’s not willing to share.
Although I’d written several unpublished romances by this time, I had never written a mystery before, which was evidenced by my initial plotting mistakes. Fortunately, I had a crit partner who had written many mysteries, and she took me under her wing. We soon had April set up with her new job and a cast of zany characters, including a cowboy who competes in bull riding events on weekends, a fortyish woman who would love to be a teenager for life, and a retired show bird parrot named Pedro. All to keep April wondering and guessing who had killed the boss.
As for the romance part of the story, I loved writing April and Marc’s tale of love, forgiveness and second chances. Bringing them into my hometown for lunch at Popeye’s, a favorite hangout for tourists and townspeople, or to hang at the Riviera dock where they first met during college was a blast. I also gave them both backstories that had roots in Lake Geneva. He worked for the Water Safety Patrol there, and she had the unique job as a mail jumper on the Walworth, an excursion boat that circles the lake every morning, delivering mail to lakeshore mansions. The jumpers leap off the slow-moving boat onto private docks, deliver mail to a mailbox there, and hop back on the boat before it moves past the pier. This is a huge attraction during the summer months that is unique to the area.
About the time the story was ready to be pitched, the line I had targeted closed down. I soon learned that cozy-type mysteries are a difficult sell in CBA markets. Thus, the story, which at the time was called Murder for Breakfast, languished in my computer for several years. On occasion, my agent or I would come across a publisher whom we thought might like it, but we had no nibbles.
About two years ago, I decided to emphasize the romance thread of the story, and repackaged the book, from title to character names. April Spencer became April Love, and the title changed to Thyme for Love. I soon learned that anyone under the age of forty had no idea that April Love was a very popular song and movie back in the late fifties. Therefore, in order to help younger readers “get” the uniqueness of the name, I had the older people in my story start humming the song Pat Boone made famous upon their meeting her.
Once the repackaging was complete we started sending out the proposal again, and the full ms. was sent to Ramona Tucker at OakTara Publishers. Last May, she told Terry that she was reading my story and loving it. Several days later, my phone rang and Terry shouted into my ear, “She wants the book!” A few weeks later, I was able to personally meet with Ramona and Terry at the Write to Publish Conference in Wheaton, IL, which is in my home area. While they looked on, I signed my first publishing contract. The book released on November 14, 2011.
But the fun won’t stop there. Thyme for Love is book one of a three-book series called On the Road to Love, all featuring April and Marc. Book two, Love Will Find a Way, will hit the shelves sometime in 2012, followed by book three, Love’s Reward. The picture is of me and Ramona at a recent ACFW chapter meeting as I signed my contract extension for the three book-series
Next time I’ll share about my foray into marketing my debut novel.