And Finally – Some Good News!

Kate Flora here. Updating a post I wrote a year ago. When I wrote this, negotiations were underway for a contract to publish the true story of a murder up in Canada called Death Dealer.  Here’s what I wrote about the process a writer goes through when she’s selling a book:

The marvelous writer Kate Atkinson has a book in her Brodie series titled, When Will There Be Good News? I know how Jackson Brodie feels in that story, because sometimes, even though I am accustomed to the part of the writer’s life that means I may live with a book, and a cast of characters, for years, I never get used to the process on the selling and publishing side. On the fiction side, there’s the book itself, plus the synopsis, query letter and the sample chapters. In the nonfiction world, it is all of the above plus a lengthy book proposal including the potential audience and similar books, and a marketing plan. Then there’s the timing of it all–It’s a process of write and rewrite for years, then give everything to the agent, and wait.

From time to time, the agent will forward rejection letters. These can be ‘crawl under the desk, fold my paws over my head, and whimper’ moments. When I started writing, rejections came by mail, so there was a breather between send it out and get rejected; these days, they come faster, because submissions are electronic, and so are rejections.

Spin.Doctor.inddHere’s how Death Dealer came about. Back in 2006, we had a launch party for Finding Amy: A True Story of Murder in Maine. Lt. Pat Dorian of the Maine warden service, who had been instrumental in organizing the massive search effort that ultimately found Amy’s buried body, was at the party. Half way through the evening, he grinned at me and said, “When you’re ready, Kate, I have another one for you.” At the time, I’d sworn I would never write nonfiction again. Writing mystery or suspense fiction takes me about a year. Writing that nonfiction book took two and a half years. Along the way, I discovered it was too hard to write about real crime victims. I was never going to do anything like that again. But about two years later, having gotten some distance and remembering how fascinating it was to work on a real story, I called him up and asked him about that next one.

His response led me hundreds of miles north, to the small New Brunswick city of Miramichi, and to

The sentinel tree used to locate the hidden body

another police department and another missing body. Along the way, there would be endless appeals, a second full murder trial and a second guilty verdict. There would be trips north and the discovery of a marveous bed & breakfast, where one weekend, the proprietors left me in charge of the inn and went away. There would be the development of a deep affection for the people who spoke with me so openly. A deepened understanding of how terrifying it can be for ordinary people to come into court and testify against someone they know has killed a loved one.

In the midst of this journey, there was the New York agent who told me not to waste time on the book, because no publisher would ever buy a book by an American author about a Canadian crime, especially not a small town, not big headlines Canadian crime. And anyway, no one was interested in Canadian crime. But by then, I was attached to my characters, and to the story. I couldn’t walk away.

Sometimes research takes me in some strange directions, like to the shooting range.

Fast forward. Writing the book was a journey of more than five years. Death Dealer is a compelling story, and it is finally finished. Not being a marketing person, I found someone on Elance to tart up the book proposal and make it a real marketing document. I found a determined and talented new agent. And waited with the weight of many people’s expectations resting on my shoulders.

It has been a very long journey. But I am smiling, and feeling a huge sense of relief, because in a week, Death Dealer be in print. I will not be letting down the many who put their faith in me, both in Canada and in Maine. Instead, I will be embarking on another part of the writer’s journey–the part where it becomes my job to convince readers they want to buy this book. To convince reviewers and bloggers to review it. And to wait, with baited breath, for the reviews that matter most–those of the real people whose story this is.

And here’s an excerpt from the first review:

Edgar-nominated author Kate Clark Flora tells the story of the investigation into Maria Tanisichuk’s disappearance from the unique perspective of those who investigated it. It offers a deeply compassionate insight into the challenges faced by the dedicated officers as they raced against time to find Maria’s body. Their adversaries were the sheer scale of the area to be searched and the warming weather which would melt the deep winter snow and result in decomposition, animal interference and a devastating loss of vital evidence.

The meticulously researched book is beautifully written with many touching and insightful observations about the plight of both investigators and the family of the victim. One really gets a sense that the author cares deeply about the victim and others affected by the tragedy and this is a quality which I particularly like in a writer.

For budding crime writers like myself, the book also offers a wealth of fascinating and useful information about the work of cadaver dogs.

It is pacy and incredibly atmospheric (something which is often lacking in true crime books) and for this reason, I highly recommend this book to readers of both true and fictional crime.


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12 Responses to And Finally – Some Good News!

  1. Lea Wait says:

    Cheers! (Very quietly, until the contract is signed.) So much work, so much time … and you’re such a fantastic researcher and writer, Kate! Look forward to more on this subject from you in the (hopefully, near) future!

  2. Way to go, Kate! Stubborn . . . er, determination is an essential writer’s tool, too.


  3. Brenda Buchanan says:

    Terrific, inspirational story about tenacity and believing in yourself and the value of your projects, Kate. I hope the book is a huge success.

    Brenda B.

  4. Gram says:

    Finding Amy was such a gripping story. I am looking forward to Death Dealer. Dee

  5. Barb Ross says:

    Fingers crossed–and toes and eyes!

  6. Also a quiet congrats, Kate. Didn’t even us an exclamation point. I’m so impressed with you for being able to write this kind of book. These are certainly stories that need to be told. It’s one thing to make-up murders and mayhem, quite another to deal with the real thing.
    Good luck with this endeavor and thanks for sharing your news.

  7. John Clark says:

    Having heard bits and pieces as this project progressed, I understand how much you have invested and am thrilled this will soon be something I can offer my library patrons.

  8. Bob Thomas says:

    You rock, Kate Flora. Stick-toit-ive-ness, my father used to say was a secret of success. On top of brains, talent, and beauty you got it in spades.

  9. Linda Lord says:

    Finding Amy was heartbreaking, fascinating and a could-not-put-it-down read. I will certainly be reading this new book, Kate

  10. Peggy Ann says:

    Kate can’t wait to read it. I loved Finding Amy.

  11. sandy gardner says:

    Yay, Kate! Such a wonderful writer!
    Sandy Gardner

  12. Sandy says:

    Thank you sooooo much, Kate for your Good News, for sharing your journey (which gives us who are the middle of the journey perspective and hope and the message that persistence and gut instinct have such value…) and thank you for, in your previous Maine Crime Writers posts, being generous with advice and tips for us all. Looking forward to having you sign my copy. Sandy N.

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