HISTORY OF THE NOVEL

Did I Expect Angels? was loosely inspired by a September 11 story. I lived in New York when it happened and was deeply affected, like everybody, by the tragedy and its aftermath. In December 2001, newscasters talked extensively about how difficult this Christmas was going to be for the families, and in fact I read about one widow who committed suicide right around Christmas. As I read and listened to all these stories, I thought, "What about next Christmas? Is that going to be any easier? And the one after that? Will the newspeople talk about it next year?"

I wrote the book from about June 2002-February 2003. Actually, I started it in December 2001, wrote about 15 pages, and quit. Then in June a friend told me she too was writing books, and wanted feedback. We decided to form a writer's group. We each recruited a friend, and began the group that actually made me finish the book. We set up a schedule, and every Monday one of us would email the others a certain number of pages, usually around twenty. Each of us had a week to read and write up a critique, and then we sent everyone comments the next Monday, when the next woman would post. This group is the reason I finished my book. It is also the reason it was any good at all. For anyone who wants to write but just can't find the time or motivation, I highly recommend forming one of these groups. I finished in February 2003.

Desperately seeking representation, or something

I looked for agents through most of 2003, and got a lot of nice responses: "You're a very good writer, but I'm afraid I'm not the right person for this manuscript." Then in September 2003 I went to grad school and didn't have the time to pursue an agent aggressively. I sent it to a small, regional publisher. They had it for five months and informed me that it had made it to their "top level of consideration," and one of their executives said that I had a "ninety-percent chance of getting it published." But, one month later, they informed me that they weren't going to publish it after all. I sent it to their chief competitors, and after five months (the end of 2004) they actually accepted it for publication. Unfortunately the contract they sent me was a thieves' bargain. I had an agent and an attorney look at it, and both advised me, unequivocally, not to sign it. (This had nothing to do with the money offered, and everything to do with rights.) I tried gently to negotiate with the company, and the company was offended. I pointed out that I wasn't asking for more money, just more rights, and they were more offended and rescinded the publishing offer. They saved me a twenty-one-year headache.

At this point I was discouraged enough that I gave the manuscript up for dead. I was still in grad school and that was sucking up all of my energy and strength and courage. I decided, well, I learned how to write a book, and I was proud of myself for having done so, but that was it. It was over.

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