Emilie Richards on The Iron Lace Saga

Writers talk a lot about “the book of our hearts.”  It goes without saying that every book we write should be one, but truthfully, some books are just more special to their authors than others.  These are the books that diverge from what we normally write, which seem chancy but ultimately worthy of risk.  Some books are so dear that we go out on a limb and write them, even without the support of agents or publishers. We toil away, not knowing if the novel will see the light of day, and we do it because we have to. The book begs to be written, and we comply.

For me, Iron Lace was such a book. When I began Iron Lace more than ten years ago, I had already written a massive number of series romances for Silhouette and Harlequin. I was proud of my romances, thrilled I had publishers who allowed me to work in serious themes and social issues. I was never told “No, you can’t do that.”  I was never told, “Gosh, you need a lot more romance or sex or repartee.” I was told to write good novels about a man and a woman falling in love. I found that a joy.

Eventually, though, I realized my story ideas were becoming too long, too involved, and too unromantic to fit easily into the series romance format. I wanted to explore other relationships, and I wanted room to grow.

Nora Roberts once said (paraphrasing here) that writing series romance is like dancing “Swan Lake” in a phone booth. No one’s said it better. But like some of my colleagues, I realized I needed a different stage, because my personal phone booth was now too crowded.

The first book I set in motion to twirl unimpeded was Iron Lace. After years of thinking about it and watching my fledgling story grow and change in my head, Iron Lace, had moved south to become the book of my heart.

I would love to tell you that the experience of writing Iron Lace was painless, freeing, thrilling. I would love to tell you that the path to publication was easy. I can’t. The proposal was purchased with great enthusiasm by the senior editor at a large publishing company. She loved it, had big plans, then she lost her job. Meantime I had struggled with the novel, screamed, prayed, and wept, until I had a thousand (!) page manuscript. Only there was no one left to read it. My editor was not replaced; her only colleague was on maternity leave, and at best, Iron Lace was heading for a free-lancer. It would not be published well.

After months of wrangling with whomever could be cajoled to wrangle, I bought back the novel. Suddenly I had a thousand page manuscript to sell.

Iron Lace made the rounds. Too long. Too different. Too controversial. At last a new, upstart single title imprint, Mira Books, from my very own publisher looked it over and said, Yes, we can do this one justice.  Only, there was a wee problem. I had to cut 400 pages.

400 pages? Which part would that be? The beginning, the middle or the end?

My husband, who had been telling me all along that I needed to make this manuscript TWO books, just lifted an eyebrow when I reported my new dilemma. Suddenly, with a 400 page cut staring me in the face, I could see, for the first time, how to turn one book into two, which eventually became Iron Lace and Rising Tides, both of which are now available as trade paperback reissues with wonderful new covers. In fact many of the scenes I’d already cut, as well as a character who hadn’t seemed to matter, quickly found their real home. I’d had two books all along, only I just refused to see it.

Now I had two books of my heart. Is there anything to complain about there?

More than ten years later its a joy to know both books have been republished for a new audience. The two novels take place between two historic hurricanes in Louisiana, and the storms mirror the upheaval in the south during the Civil Rights era. They were written, of course, before Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. For the record I lived in New Orleans while researching the novels, and while not unaware of its problems, was immersed in a love affair with the city that continues to this day.

After publication, the reviews were wonderful. Publishers Weekly called Iron Lace:  “. . . intricate, seductive and a darned good read. The New Orleans TimesPicayune called it a “page turner.”  Rising Tides did equally as well.  I hope you find it a page turner, as well. When we write the books of our heart, that’s exactly the outcome we hope for.

Emilie Richards began her writing career with a baby on her lap. Emilie, who has a master’s degree in family development, finds family interaction fascinating and through the years, in many different ways, her four children have shown up in her books. Emilie believes there are stories everywhere. Frustrations abound for a novelist, just like in any other profession, but at the end of the day, when a story is finally beginning to unfold, she still thinks she’s one of the luckiest people in the world. Visit her at www.emilierichards.com.

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Comments ( 2 )
  1. Kelly
    November 22, 2010 at 3:13 pm
    Reply

    Emilie
    Congratulations on getting your own stories out there. Was it harder to get a story like Iron Lace published vs a Harlequin series? Do you have any advice for a writer just starting out
    Kelly

  2. Emilie Richards
    November 23, 2010 at 6:18 pm
    Reply

    Iron Lace was a long, complex saga, so the sheer writing of it was more difficult. How hard it is to get something published depends on the market for what you’ve written and how many authors are already writing in that genre. There’s always room for a good book, but it’s not always easy to find the right home for it. That takes perserverance and a knowledge of the market, along with some luck.

    Just read whatever you can on the book market, practice your writing skills, and be willing to keep trying. So many people quit much too soon. Rejection’s part of the business, but sometimes the advice an editor gives you when they reject you is exactly what you need to sell the next book.

    Good luck, Kelly, and happy Thanksgiving.

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