Lynne Murray says:
It’s been eight years since I had a new novel published. If I did “happy and proud” like normal people, I’d say I was thrilled to my new book in print. Bride of the Living Dead, a romantic comedy for women who love horror movies was officially published June 1 by Pearlsong Press. The actual emotion I’m feeling is closer to relief (whew! a book in print again) and anxiety (Eek! Must do book promotion again).
I’m still somewhat shy about promoting my own work. I have come a long way since 1994. That year I went to a women’s Fat Fest conference with the goal of attending Laurie and Debbie’s workshop on how they published Women En Large and body-positive books in general. When I got to the conference I froze and couldn’t bring myself to go to the workshop or even introduce myself to Laurie and Debbie, even though they were approachable and their workshop was designed to encourage. Such is shyness.
Over the years since I have got a little bolder. Women in the mystery world literally reach out through Sisters In Crime, an organization that that helps women writers to find our inner Brazen Hussy and dare to put ourselves forward despite conditioning not to shamelessly self-promote. I learned that people who may like your book are not mind readers. They won’t know your book exists if you don’t spread the word. I did that with my mystery series featuring Josephine Fuller, sleuth of size who doesn’t apologize, right up till it was cancelled.
I must have relaxed a little because I’m about to tell you how Bride of the Living Dead was conceived.
In 2002, for a raft of reasons I won’t go into to avoid ranting, most of the major New York publishing houses drastically cut the ranks of their so-called mid-list authors–i.e., non-bestsellers. I had a deadline to submit a fifth Josephine Fuller book for approval or rejection. I felt tremendous pressure to produce a book a year to stay in the publishing business and I ended up submitting a book that didn’t meet my own standards.
To give you an idea of that book’s flaws, I’ll just say that at one point in the novel a giant sinkhole opened up, swallowed several buildings and forced all the characters to run for their lives. Such things can happen in real life with enough rain, unstable ground, etc. But when they happen in a work of fiction, it says something about the author’s mental state.
I felt surprisingly relieved when St. Martin’s Minotaur rejected the book, even though it meant I had to get off the carnival ride of the publication biz with little hope of a return ticket.
My agent at the time made an interesting request: could I turn the rejected book into a women’s novel?
“What is a women’s novel?” I asked.
She pointed me to Jennifer Weiner’s Good In Bed, which I had already read and liked. It had a likably big, beautiful heroine. It was funny. No giant sinkholes.
The word my agent was trying to avoid saying was “chick lit”—the latest incarnation of romantic comedy. Humorous novels in general get little respect. Often, those of us who put humor in our books do so because we can’t help but do it, an irresistible compulsion. Romantic comedy has none of the intellectual allure that hovers around mystery novels. But I’m a hopeless humor addict, so I read a bunch of books reputed to be similar to Good in Bed. I re-examined my rejected book. It was resolutely wet and muddy and could never be retooled into anything sparkly, frothy or even funny.
But maybe I could write a romantic comedy if I could do it on my own terms.
Chick lit comedies revolve around a smart-mouthed, young woman dealing with self-esteem issues, snarkily competing with other women for a mate, shopping for shoes, and/or dreaming of an ideal wedding drama.
I get the self-esteem issues, but share absolutely none of the other obsessions.
The wedding idea made sense. Mating of one kind or another is the basis of comedy. “Tragedy you die, comedy you get hitched,” literature professor, Dustin Hoffman, explains when trying to puzzle out whether Will Farrell is trapped in a comic or a tragic story in the movie Stranger Than Fiction.
At last I wrote a book about a big, beautiful, rebellious heroine who gets dragged reluctantly through paths of rose petals when her wedding is planned by her perfectionist, older sister. I thought it was funny. It said some things about marriage and family and it contained no giant sinkholes.
No major publisher wanted to invest in the book. One editor from a publisher famous for its romances rejected it with the comment that they had just published a book where the heroine lost weight before the wedding and didn’t want another.
If even a casual reader could imagine that my book endorsed weight loss, serious rewrites were in order. I polished the book, then called A Guide for the Dysfunctional Bride, until I had it where I wanted it.
Every possible publisher in New York rejected Bride, but finally it found a home with Pearlsong Press, a publisher committed to Health at Every Size in fiction and non-fiction. Pearlsong’s founder, Peggy Elam, and I have established the kind of working relationship with that is only possible with a small press where every book is a labor of love. Brainstorming email sessions batting ideas back and forth led to a new title inspired by the indie film critic heroine’s love of monster movies: Bride of the Living Dead.
And now the book is born, the Bride is out in the world, now we’ll see where she goes. I’ll be available at during several telephone and on-line events on my virtual book tour, plus we’ll certainly be announcing another book tour stop right here at Body Impolitic. Come learn more about the book!
It’s really hard to do romantic comedy well. Lynne does it fabulously. I read the galleys of Bride of the Living Dead; It’s clever, funny, and I love the politics.