The Reality of an Author’s Legacy – What
We Will Leave Behind
By Ramona Richards
|Julie L. Cannon|
Julie L. Cannon cared, deeply, about many things. Her family. Her God. Her art. In fact, she cared so much for God and the depth of her faith that she refused to take them out of her art. This cost Julie far more than many people realized, as she turned from releasing best-selling books with mainstream publishers to books written from her heart for the Christian market.
For instance, long before Nashville became a hit show, helping to turn the city into one of America’s “it” places to be, there was Twang, Julie L. Cannon’s delicious love song to the city. It’s a book I’m extremely proud to have edited. I’m also honored to have played a small part in its creation—in 2011, I squired Julie and her husband, Tom, around the city. I got her into the Bluebird Café so she could describe it accurately, fed her and Tom barbecue, and walked with them through some of the city’s landmarks. We toured the Opry House, and I requested that she include the effects of Nashville’s May 2010 flood in the book.
Accuracy was important to Julie, whether she was writing about the heart of a singer or a young woman on the brink of changing her life. This was the topic of her second book for Abingdon, Scarlett Says. We talked about the nature of a woman trapped behind her computer screen and the steps it would take for her to emerge, finding hope for love and new opportunities. Julie’s research into social anxiety issues wound deep, and her heart broke at some of the anguish she found. She wanted that on the page.
On August 31, 2012, she delivered the first draft of the book, just short of her September 1 deadline and ready for my review. I glanced through it, then sent it to an editor for more thoughts and feedback. Julie ALWAYS “overwrote” the first draft, knowing she’d revise it. The manuscript was 20,000 words too long and revealed more about the main character, Joan, than needed to be on the page. But we knew it would all work out.
Then, on October 9, 2012, I got a frantic e-mail from one of Julie’s friends with a horrid rumor that turned out to be far too real. Julie was gone. The traumatic brain injury she’d suffered years before had taken its toll, and she’d died from a seizure.
I cried, off and on, for more than three days. She had been one of our authors, yes, but she was also a friend. When the grief settled, however, I had a problem on my hands—a manuscript that was too long to publish and would take more than editing. It needed a complete revision.
The easiest answer would have been to cancel the book, and that possibility was on the table from the beginning. No one had Julie’s voice; she wasn’t around to coach a coauthor. But I asked the editor, Jamie Chavez, not only to complete her task but to be as tough as she could. Because SHE would have to be the coach, detailing what worked and what didn’t. And she did an incredible job.
But now what? After much debate, we decided that I would do the rewrite. It took time I didn’t have, to be honest, but I knew exactly how much of Julie’s heart and soul went into Scarlett Says. This would be her final book, her legacy book, and I wanted it to shine. I carefully set aside my own writer’s voice and did my best to step into hers as I trimmed away paragraphs, rerouted subplots, and polished passages.
Sandra Bishop, Julie’s agent and friend, approved the manuscript, and I sent it off to the typesetter. Then my production editor, Susan Cornell, turned her eagle eyes on it, and we sat in her office for hours, reading sections and double-checking everything we could. SEVEN proofs later (we usually do a max of three), Scarlett Says was off to the printer.
Losing Julie is still a painful thorn in my soul, and I’ve had many folks ask me why we went through this, when canceling the book would have been simpler. I only have one answer.
It’s because of who Julie was. A writer—who put her heart, mind, and soul into everything she wrote. A Christian—who put aside worldly success to focus on faith and God. A friend—who listened and cared and prayed.
No one knows how well Scarlett Says will sell; there’s no author to interview, no champion hitting the streets with media and the gatekeepers. And while publishing is a business, it’s not always ABOUT business.
This time publishing was about the legacy of a woman who loved deeply and changed more lives than she realized. And I hope her last words live forever.
Pam again: Ramona has graciously offered two copies of Scarlet Says to give away. If you'd like to have your name dropped in the hat, make a comment answering either of these two questions. Have you ever faced a writing challenge like Ramona faced? Or... what would you like left behind as your legacy?
Leave a comment with your answer by Friday, April 25, 2014, to win a copy of Scarlett Says!
Scarlett O’Hara has an answer for
everything . . . right?
Gone with the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara isn’t perfect, but as far as 30-year-old literature lover Joan Meeler is concerned, Scarlett’s outspoken passion, strength, and 17-inch waist make up for her other shortcomings. In fact, Joan has grown quite fond of writing her advice blog in Scarlett’s devil-may-care tone. It gives her a voice and confidence she otherwise couldn’t muster. Never mind that her writing muse is a fictional character.
A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago, an hour's drive away from her hometown which she visits often to dig into its historical legacy. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love Will Find a Way, contemporary romantic mysteries and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva,Wisconsin, released in April, 2013. She is currently working on a new historical romance set in her beloved Lake Geneva area. She can often be found speaking at events around southeastern Wisconsin or nosing in microfilms and historical records about Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas.