I’m the author of a novel, Hearts Upon a Fragile Bough. It was the first novel I ever wrote but not the first to be published. My first published novel, Dancing Backward in Paradise, gave me far less headaches, it was a funny book and I thought it would catch on a lot faster than a book about gangsters, prostitutes and nuns. But that really wasn’t the issue, the issue is the length of the book. Hearts Upon a Fragile Bough is really twice as long as the published version because it was originally written as one book, not as two.
I was advised as a first time writer not to publish such a big book, a dramatic saga about three generations of women that originally went on for six hundred pages, so I didn’t publish that book. I made a sequel out of the last part of my novel. Problem is, I never felt right about it, it was like cutting off a limb. Now I have to generate enough interest in the first book to get readers hooked into the second. Of course, I’m rewriting the second book so it will stand on its own, but I still have a problem with this severing of my saga.
So be it, life is a compromise. I’ve become a salesperson so I can make a enough of a living to market my books. What did I compromise? My free spirit, my artistic nature, my distaste of structure, dysfunction and sameness. Yes, money excites me because it holds a purpose beyond ordinary survival. Yet the scent of green grass, the laziness of a sunny day and the freedom to create … now we’re talking excitement.
But there are obstacles all around me. My contemporary heroine is no longer contemporary. She wasn’t raised on computers even though she winds up making a living selling technology. My contemporary heroine would have barfed at the idea of a tattoo anywhere on her body and her idea of good lyrics comes from the lips of Joni Mitchel, Bob Dylan and James Taylor, and let’s not forget Ella Fitzgerald and Cole Porter, two incredible artists who so many people under thirty-five have never even heard of. But life goes on, makes a journey towards it’s end and catches up with everyone. As time lures me into a stupor of denial, I ponder the future of a book I wrote in the 1990’s, compromising no more, I would hope, and publishing the book in this millennium, God willing.
In any event, I don’t doubt that people will relate to Fanny Clark, my heroine, however they might judge her. I tend to write sequels anyway, maybe because I get hooked on the lives of my characters and I need to bring closure. And maybe my sequels will be published before my teeth fall out and my hair turns white. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Vera Jane Cook
Award Winning Must Read Women’s Fiction. Dancing Backward In Paradise was published in November 2006 and received rave reviews from Armchair Interviews and Midwest Book reviews, as well as an Eric Hoffer and Indie Excellence award in the Literary fiction category for notable new fiction in 2007. Hearts Upon a Fragile Bough, Ms. Cook’s second novel, was published this year and will be followed by its sequel, At the End of a Whisper, in 2011. To learn more about her books you can visit her web site at www.verajanecook.com
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