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Monday, April 21, 2014

The Reality of an Author’s Legacy – What We Will Leave Behind

Ramona Richards
Pam Meyers here with my monthly post. This month, I'm honored to have guest poster, Ramona Richards, Senior Acquisitions Editor-Fiction at Abingdon Publishing, share a behind-the-scenes look at a new release from Abingdon , Scarlett Says by Julie L. Cannon.


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.

We had a blast, and I was astonished at how much energy she had, how far she and Tom could walk in a single evening, exploring Nashville’s downtown streets. And I still have the umbrella she left in my car when she and Tom headed back to Georgia.

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.

What would Scarlett say, for example, about Charles, one of Joan’s first and most devoted blog readers, who suddenly has Joan dreaming (and worrying) of a life—and love—outside of make-believe? Joan digs into her heroine’s mind, searching for something to calm her rising insecurities but discovers that Scarlett is surprisingly mute on the topic. Abandoned by her sole source of security, can Joan look elsewhere—even to God—to uncover the inner confidence she so desperately needs?

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.


Susie Finkbeiner said...

Oh, what a beautiful way to honor a talented author. I'm so glad Abingdon carried on with this novel.

I guess I have had a challenge that was similar to this one. Last year, as I was writing a novel about Funeral Directors, a friend of mine committed suicide. It was so difficult to continue on with my novel in light of his death. However, I pressed on, hoping that what I wrote would be a small memorial to him.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

What a lovely cover and great blurb on this book. Julie was always so friendly in all her online dealings; I was so saddened to hear of her passing. I would love to win this book.

Karen Barnett said...

I've always wondered what happens in a case like this. I think it would be intimidating to rewrite and edit a story without infringing on the author's voice. I respect you for taking on the challenge. What a beautiful tribute to your friend!

I haven't been in a situation anything like this, but I do remember going through a rewrite on a novel about cancer/grief just as a close friend's 12-year-old son was dying of osteosarcoma. Suddenly the story became a little too real.

Lori Benton said...

Thank you for this lovely tribute, Ramona. And for your hard work, dedication, and devotion to seeing Julie's final book into print.

Ramona Richards said...

Thank you, Susie. What a challenge you had! I'm glad you continued, however, and I'm sure the book wound up being a great tribute.

Ramona Richards said...

Julie was a jewel. Thanks for your kind words.

Ramona Richards said...

Karen, I would have cried throughout that edit. It's amazing how close to home our words can hit sometime.

Ramona Richards said...

I appreciate that, Lori. While it was a challenge, it was also a joy.

Michael Ehret said...

Ramona, this shows much about Julie's heart, but it also illuminates yours as a friend and an editor. I love this about you!

My legacy? Very hard to think about, but if I knew I was going to be gone in a year what would I want people to remember is as good a way to approach it as any. And I would want people to say about me that he loved well and cared (encouraged) others: God, spouse, family, friends, of course, but also the people I merely come into contact with.

Such a challenge sometimes. When a clerk is short with me. When another driver cuts me off. When someone I admire lets me down. All of it. Because if I loved well, I consider that a success and a life well-lived.

Ane Mulligan said...

I'm reading the book now and it's wonderful! It's fun, it's heart wrenching, and it's heart warming at the same time.

Kathy Harris said...

Kudos to you, Ramona, and everyone who worked to make this happen! The book sounds and looks great (love the cover). Please don't include me in the drawing. I've already purchased a copy in Julie's honor.

Paula Mowery said...

I pray that everything about me leads people to find the truth in Jesus Christ. I love that song Steve Green sings, Find Us Faithful. "May the footprints that we leave, lead them to believe and the lives we live inspire them to obey." Right now, I've been working on being intentional about leaving a godly legacy. In the world today, we can't leave it to chance.
What a wonderful legacy you are leaving in your own way, Ramona. A faithful friend who completes a dream.

Ramona Richards said...

Michael, I think that's the perfect aim for a life well-lived, and says much about your heart and soul. Thank you.

Ramona Richards said...

Thank you, Ane! I really, REALLY want folks to enjoy this book, more than anything.

Ramona Richards said...

Bless you, Kathy. Your own path is an inspiration to me. I hope you enjoy reading the book.

Ramona Richards said...

Paula, I LOVE that song, which speaks of the witnesses who've gone before and the legacy we will leave to those who follow us. It's a beautiful look at the lives of the faithful. What a goal to pursue! Thank you for your kind words.

Molly Carroll said...

I have one child, his name is Caleb. He is a bright but challenged 7 year old boy. He has faced several minor, but hampering medical and educational challenges in his life. He is my Legacy. I invest my love, my time, my knowledge, and my money in him. He is my Magnum Opus. I pray that God gives me wisdom and strength to guide him. My prayer to God is "Make him Your man"I care not if he is a doctor, lawyer, preacher, missionary, or ditch digger as long as Caleb is God's man.

Ramona Richards said...

Molly, that is AWESOME. My daughter is severely disabled, and I used to pray for a way to show God's love to her. When that door opened, it never stopped. I just know God will answer the prayers of your heart.

Cindy Thomson said...

I have turned in mss that needed lots of revision and if I hadn't been around to do it I'm not sure someone would have stepped in like you did. It's a ton of work, as some of us know. I really admire you Ramona, and Jamie, and everyone else who worked on this book. What a lovely tribute. God will surely bless your efforts.

Kellie Coates Gilbert said...

Clap, clap, clap . . . enough said!