I’ve been a reader all my life. And I’ve been a writer for fifteen years now—a decade and a half. That sounds like longer than it feels! I’ve been very lucky that during that time, I’ve been in the midst of a contract more often than out of contract. But having a contract means that most of my books have been geared to a particular publisher/line’s specs. I’m a working writer. A nose-to-the-grindstone sort of writer. And because of that, sometimes business shapes the story I write.
An example? I once sent in a proposal for a book called, A Day Late and a Bride Short. The editors were disappointed that it wasn’t a marriage of convenience story. That’s what they’d thought it was when they read the title. And as a working writer, I said, “Okay, it’s a marriage of convenience.” I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to make that happen. (I’ve been married a lot of years, and I still love my husband like crazy, but let’s face it, marriage isn’t always convenient.) In the end, I twisted the story, made it an engagement of convenience and frankly, I really loved how the story turned out. My editor’s comments pushed me in a direction I might never have gone in and a lovely book grew out of it. And readers seemed to like it, too. It was an RT Top Pick and a More than Magic Award.
So, I want to be clear…I love what I do. Working with an editor (well a good editor, and I’m lucky enough to have very good editors) makes for a strong book. And it sometimes takes me in directions I’d have never gone otherwise. But sometimes, I have an idea that no matter how I twist and turn it, won’t fit into a publisher’s mold. Maybe it’s too long, or too short. Or, there might be a dead body, or even nicer, a pint of Guinness. Or maybe I want to try a book to experiment with content or with style.
And that’s where the idea of Sunday Books comes in. I wrote an article on them (Romance Writers Report, April 2014). But here’s some thoughts on the how and why.
First, let me say, I don’t write my Sunday Books on Sundays, but rather I write them around contracts, or after a contracted book’s pages are finished for the day. The term comes from a friend, Delores Fossen, who actually does write her Sunday books on…well, Sundays. That’s thehow they came about. I am a working writer, so after my work is done, my Sunday Books are my play. I experiment and try new things.
I guess the bigger question is why do I write them? After all, I’ve said I’m a working writer (and very pleased to be) and that I’m in the midst of a contract more than I’m out of contract. So why bother with Sunday Books?
For me, it’s about stretching my writing, about trying out different kinds of stories. My Maid in LA Mystery series was my first attempts at moving into the cozy mystery market. I’ll be honest, they’re comedies built around a small mystery and a bit of romance. They’re not really one thing or another. And speaking of one thing… Just One Thing was another Sunday Book. It was such an act of love. It’s a romance, but it’s also very much a woman’s journey. I experimented with language (its eventual editor called it ‘impressionistic’…I love that description). I unrolled Lexie and Sam’s story one thing at a time. He’s a bartender, and she visits every Monday, has one beer and tells him one thing about herself and her life. Every week, in exchange for her drink she shares Just One Thing. I loved watching their story unfold and playing with the language I used to tell it.
That’s the why.
I wrote both the Maid in LA Mystery series and Just One Thing, along with other unpublished books in their entirety, without knowing if they’d ever be read by anyone other than me. Some will stay under the bed, the four Maid in LA books I published independently, and Just One Thing will be released by Montlake Romance in June.
But no matter where the books ended up, they were such a wonderful journey for me as a writer. There was a sense of freedom that reminded me of those first books I wrote, back when I didn’t know what I was doing. With more than fifty books under my belt, I do (sort of) know what I’m doing, but with my Sunday Books, I don’t worry about it…I just tell my story the way I want to tell my story.
I think the idea of Sunday books can be a boon for working writers. They’re an opportunity to grow and experiment…and play. The ones that make it out from under the bed are also (hopefully) a treat for readers, who can find books that maybe are a bit out of the box.
So what about you? Have you written or read a book that you think would fall into the Sunday Book category?
Holly Jacobs writes for Montlake Books and Harlequin SuperRomance. Her four Maid in LA Mystery books (Steamed, Dusted, Spruced Up and Swept Up) are available now and her Just One Thing will be released June 10 from Montlake Romance. You can find her atwww.HollyJacobs.com
PS Dusted: A Maid in LA Mystery (http://amzn.to/19mAQgj) is on sale 99¢ for Kindle today!