Well, I have to admit it was easy. I’m sorry. That’s probably going to offend a lot of young novelists. But I promise you, it was a complete surprise to me, something I never expected in my wildest dreams.
Here’s the background: I’d already written more than a dozen nonfiction books when my first novel showed up in my head like an uninvited guest. It was a complete surprise. The thing about writing all those other books is that it’s like learning to play the piano: the more books you write the better you become. I don’t think of myself as an “artist.” I think of myself as a tradesman who, over many years, has honed his craft. It’s like that joke about the guy walking in Manhattan who asks a passing pedestrian, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” and the pedestrian says, “Practice!”
Still, I had never written a sentence of fiction until this first story demanded to be written. I had never taken a single class in “creative writing,” though I’d been writing for years. But that story had such control over me that it was done in ninety days. Truly done. I sent it to my long-time agent in New York and he shopped it around to the major publishers. I expected nothing.
Just under two weeks later, I was sitting in the reading chair in my living room and my book was in the midst of a heated auction in New York among several so-called “legacy” publishers. My agent would call every hour or so, as the bids rose for the publishing rights to my first novel, “The Long Walk Home,” a love story set in the mountains if North Wales, in Britain. It was surreal. The bids topped out at a very high number and my reaction wasn’t, “Wow!” It was, “These people are crazy!”
And it turned out I was right.
Here’s the ugly truth about selling a book to a major New York publisher: no matter how much they have paid the author to acquire the rights (this is called an advance against future royalties), they seldom spend more than five percent of the amount they’ve advanced on actually marketing the book. Let’s say you hit it big and get a $100,000 advance (virtually unheard of these days). Your publisher is unlikely to spend more than $5,000 on marketing that book. $5,000? That buys you nothing. The publisher of my first novel bought a big ad in a newspaper circulated in libraries. In libraries? Where people don’t actually buy books? Hello?
See what I mean? Some years back, when he was President, I ghost-wrote a book for Bill Clinton (it was great to work with him in the Oval Office). When the book was published I learned that its publisher was being supported by only two big bestsellers: “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and “Primary Colors” (which was fictionally about the Clinton Administration). Everything else this major corporation had published that year was either break even or losing money…like Clinton’s book eventually did.
My second novel, “Water, Stone, Heart,” was nearly still-borne: the division of Random House which published it was shut down, overnight, soon after it was released. It was orphaned and because, as a result, sales were tepid, the industry orphaned me.
That’s why I’ve given up on the “legacy” publishers and signed on with a Seattle publishing startup, “Booktrope.” Their business model is brilliant. They’re all about creating teams for each book—editor, proofreader, designer, marketing manager—talented people who receive some percentage of my royalties. In short, everyone on my team has a financial stake in the success of the book. We sink or swim together.
I think that’s way cool.
Every summer for generations, three families intertwined by history, marriage, and career have spent “the season” at their beach cottage compounds on an island in Puget Sound. Today, Martha “Pete” Petersen, married to Tyler Strong, is the lynchpin of the “summer people.” In childhood, she was the tomboy every girl wanted to emulate and is now the mother everyone admires.
Colin Ryan, family friend and the island’s veterinarian, met Pete first in London, years earlier, when she visited his roommate, Tyler. He’s loved her, privately, ever since. Born in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, son of a bar owner, he’s always been dazzled by what he sees of the sun-kissed lives of the summer people.
But this summer, currents strong as the tides roil: jealousies grow, tempers flare, passions clash. Then, on the last day of the season, a series of betrayals alters the combined histories of these families forever.
As in previous novels, The Long Walk Home and Water, Stone, Heart, with Seasons’ End, Will North weaves vivid settings and memorable characters into a compelling tale of romance and suspense.
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Genre – Women's Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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