May has come and gone. CHARMED BONES has been released into the world and the response has been really heart-warming! Thank you all for your kind words and support.
It takes me almost a full year to write a Bones book. That’s counting the time for a few friends to read over it and make sure I haven’t left a thread unfinished before I turn it in. I am terrible about putting the wrong character’s name in a story. I’m thinking Cece and I write Tinkie. Why? Because I am a prankster and I prank even myself. But those errors are ones that truly make me angry at myself. I’m not careless, I’m just moving on with the story.
Each Bones book is almost 100,000 words. That’s a lot of words, ha ha. There are days on the farm when I am writing hard that I don’t talk to anyone but the dogs, cats, and horses. I “talk” with my characters. I’ve been writing Sarah Booth and the Zinnia gang for two decades now. The first book, THEM BONES, was published in 1999. A GIFT OF BONES, which comes out this October and is Christmas-themed, is the 19th book. This month I just finished the first draft of the 20th Bones book, which will be published in May, 2019.
I love it when readers write me or comment on FB to say that the Bones characters are like their friends and family. That reading one of the books is like a visit with people they really care about. That’s exactly the way I feel when I’m writing. As eager as I am to get to the end of a book (because, after all, it can’t be published until it is finished) I find myself dragging my feet at the last few chapters. The story must end so it can be sent out into the world. But it is emotionally difficult. It’s like saying goodbye to people I care about—even though I know I’ll be back for a visit soon! I pretty much suck at goodbyes.
I don’t know if this will interest you or not, but the process of publishing a book with a publisher like St. Martin’s goes like this. The manuscript is turned in almost 12 months before pub-date. Prior to this, the synopsis (or outline) of the book has been turned in and approved. The synopsis is sent to the art department so the design team can get busy. Covers are generally in hand six or so months before the book is actually published. This allows advertising with the cover, placement, pre-orders—the stuff no one thinks about but the publisher.
The manuscript also goes to a top-drawer editor. She (in my case) makes the first pass to be sure the structure of the book holds up—the plot is good enough. The bigger picture problems are ironed out here. I work on the book some more, then send it back. Line edits are done. This is looking at the smaller details of grammar, spelling consistencies, the application of house rules of punctuation, etc. It comes back to me to make any changes. Then it goes back to the publisher for the final copy edit. I receive galleys (or Advance Review Copies, which are actually printed and bound books sent out to reviewers. Remember, the review magazines and outlets work 6 months prior to publication). This is my last chance to be sure I’ve caught the errors.
The next time I see my book, it will be as the finished mystery, all wrapped in a beautiful cover and ready to go on book shelves in stores (and in your homes!). This whole process has taken almost a year. And in the meantime, I’m writing the next book for the next year. So the editing process begins on that book as I again start a new book.
Because Sarah Booth is such a long-running series, a lot of people come to the books midway or with the latest book. They always ask how I started writing about these characters. Here’s the tale: I had finished two books with Dutton and I didn’t know what I would write next. I was sitting at my computer looking out the window at my horses grazing in the pasture and I heard two women talking. Turned out it was Sarah Booth and Jitty—bickering away. I started writing because I had to know who they were, what they were about, why they were in my head yammering along.
I wrote the whole book, THEM BONES, never even thinking about what kind of story it was. It was just a story I felt compelled to tell. My agent read the manuscript and sent it out to a bunch of publishers. In the end, there was a bidding war and THEM BONES was sold at auction on a 3-book contract. It was then I realized that I’d actually written a mystery—and that it was going to be a series. And that changed my life.
I’m not particularly good with change. I don’t think many humans are. But Sarah Booth and Jitty were such a lucky change for me. I’ve been fortunate to live in a world with characters who are as close to me as family. And I have plans for many more Sarah Booth adventures! I will grow older each year—and she will age about 2 weeks a year. Not fair! But that is the world of fiction.
Thank you all for your support. Remember, if readers don’t read my stories, there’s no incentive for the publisher to publish them. So we are all part of a team. It’s a very good thing!
Don’t forget to enter my Freebie-of-the-Month Contest.
Here at Casa Carolyn, I’m thinking up the 2020 adventure for our amateur detectives. Until next month…
P.S. While I’ve been crazy busy, some of my writer friends are also kicking up heel dust with their new books. Check out Margaret Lashley, a writer I consider a friend and potential cohort. (I believe she can be coopted into mischief!) This is her latest book.