Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Harper Lee and Me

By the time you read this post, Harper Lee's new book, Go Set a Watchman, will be unboxed and on the shelves at a bookstore near you. Yep, it only took her 55 years to follow up the success of her Pulitzer prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird (actually, she wrote Watchman prior to Mockingbird). And now rumor has it that Atticus Finch, who we all love, was a bit of a racist in earlier years. Harper Lee has enough clout to insist the book be published with NO editing whatsoever!

Fifty-five years! And here I was feeling guilty for taking six years to complete and release my third Christy Bristol novel, A Snitch In Time. With fans nipping at my heels, waiting for the next installment in the life of my underachieving astrologer, I felt like a slacker. One of my closest friends warned me I would lose my fan base if I didn't feed them another books. That didn't happen. In fact, I increased my visibility. How did I do that without anything to market?

There was no Internet when I started my career. Social media hadn't been thought up yet. I was typing on a word processor. Prior to that innovation, we all thought electric typewriters and Wite Out were cutting edge technology. No more carbon paper!

Next came print on demand and the surge of independent presses. No longer were authors at the mercy of Big Publishing and the agent system. Even self-publishing had respect.

When I volunteered to do acquisitions for a small house, it was a labor of love. My own career fell by the wayside as I helped others get published. What I didn't anticipate was the loyalty of those new authors. By giving freely to the writing community I reaped enormous rewards. And a fresh fan base.

Along the way I discovered I loved promotion, but others were clueless or struggled. Why not lead them to sites I was already monitoring to make it easier? I created the Posse and audaciously told them I could cut five years off their career path. Why didn't anyone think of this before? Reach out and help people who simply didn't know where/how to find information. Train them.

My fan base continued to grow. I revived a column called Coming Attractions that I'd done for a mystery newsletter. This time it was on a widely circulated mystery ezine, Kings River Life. Coming Attractions I highlight books just before they hit the marketplace. Response from readers and authors was overwhelming. My fan base exploded.

They say necessity is the mother of invention. I might not have gone in this direction if life hadn't thrown me a curve ball. I'd been poisoned (cat flea medicine), lost a kidney, one parathyroid was removed and lactic acid in my muscles put me in physical therapy. Basically housebound, I had to find ways to keep my career going. Now in dialysis (and waiting for a transplant) I work around restrictions.

Along the way, I lost faith in my talent. I lost interest in writing. Did the world need yet another mystery?

Who knows why Harper Lee disappeared from the scene for half a century and why, at 88, she's decided to release a new book. Was the spotlight too soon and too much? Did she think she couldn't top her literary masterpiece? Maybe she wants back in the game just one more time.

Just as my fans waited patiently for me to retain my traction, the world has waited for this icon to reappear. Whatever her reasons for making us wait, we will never know. And, it doesn't matter.

Welcome back, Harper Lee!


Charles Gramlich said...

Well said!

Marja said...

Excellent post, Sunny, and I can't wait to read the new Harper Lee book. We do the best we can to market and promote, and we don't always make the right choices. You, however, have set the bar for some of us. Thank you!
Marja McGraw

Sunny Frazier said...

I've always hoped authors will succeed. I backed you from the beginning, Marja.

Susan Oleksiw said...

You're absolutely spot on about helping other writers find a foothold in this business. Plenty of people helped me along the way and I'm glad to repay them by helping others. I'm curious about Lee's new book but not sure when i'll be brave enough to read it. Great post.

Susan Oleksiw said...

You're absolutely spot on about helping other writers find a foothold in this business. Plenty of people helped me along the way and I'm glad to repay them by helping others. I'm curious about Lee's new book but not sure when i'll be brave enough to read it. Great post.

Liane Spicer said...

It always comes back to you, Sunny. Karmic law. :)

Looking forward to the new Harper Lee book. Whatever the truth behind the allegations that she never wanted the book published and her manager is taking advantage of her declining faculties, I'm a fan for life.

Gloria Getman said...

I think Harper Lee's book will stir a lot of discussion, and that will be good. I'll bet her publisher thought "Whoopee. I can sell 2 million copies of this before it's ever published."

James R. Callan said...

Thanks for sharing some of your life with your fans. And Snitch in Time was a good reason to get back into writing. It is a good read, and your fans appreciate it. As for Harper Lee, I read she had actually written this book years ago. Why is it coming out now? Who but Ms. Lee knows. But I'll tell you one thing - about me. If I get a Pulitzer, then that's it. I won't write another book since I know I would only go down hill - fast.

Vickie Fee said...

The world always needs another mystery! Harper Lee's legacy is assured -- another book from her is just a bonus for fans and readers!

Sandra Gardner said...

Hi Sunny,
hope you're feeling ok these days.
great post! -- thanks!
ps what's the Posse?
sandy gardner

Kathleen Kaska said...

Thanks for sharing, Sunny. It was nice to know that you didn't lose readers during your six-year hiatus. The fifth mystery in my Sydney Lockhart series will be very, very late. I'm working on two others.
I plan to read Go Set a Watchman as soon as I can get to my local bookstore, if the book isn't sold out.

Sunny Frazier said...

Jim, the P-prize does set the bar very high, but I'd just turn around and write a crappy book under another name. You know publishers would publish anything from me at that point!

Sandra, I'm doing just fine. I'm on the transplant list, the VA is taking care of everything (I'm a Navy vet) and I love dialysis. Yeah, I know that sounds strange, but I have a great tech team and they even want a party at my house (they are half my age but think I'm cool). I'm making plans already. I haven't rocked out since I left the Navy.

Linda Thorne said...

This takes me back in time. I think it was between 2005 and 2007 that I remember you going somewhere in Fresno (may've the library)and staying up to 3 a.m. or so with a group of people reading To Kill a Mockingbird.

Jack Everett said...

God bless you Sunny for having a heart in the right place.

Sunny Frazier said...

I posted to Sandra G. privately, but for the rest of you: The Posse is a group I created (I'm the sheriff). I try to post something to expand their career daily, unless health disrupts my flow. I generally send them to blogs where they can learn something useful. It's also intended to be an intra-supportive group. If you blog, and if it's worthwhile, the Posse will go over and make comments. This enhances your profile and makes you valuable to site owners. 5 of the people making comments above are Posse. We are a subversive bunch. We INFLUENCE.

If you would like to join, just contact me privately and I'll add your email addy to my list. It is not shared, unless you want the others to know. What you should do is "friend" them on FB when you get replies to your posts; chances are, they are Posse. You can even ask if they are Posse (we had paper badges at one time). I'd start with the people who have made comments on this post.

My email is sunny69@comcast.net