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!