Kate Flora: Some years ago, while I was working on a book, I decided that I needed to create a playlist to listen to that would help me get into the mind of my central character. It was a long time ago. If I actually made that playlist, I’ve long since lost it into the innards of a now-extinct iPod, a former computer, or the cobwebby vastness of my brain. All I remember is sending out an e-mail call for help to the young women in my family asking about what they listened to when they were angry. Then, when I was working on Finding Amy, and living every day with the tragedy of her death, I learned that Dante’s Prayer, by Loreena McKennitt, was one of her favorite songs. I listened to it then, and I listen to it now, and remember the lovely young woman I never knew. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDw3CyOmj20
As you know, from reading this blog, listening to writers, or from your own writer’s life, the journey from idea to publication can be a long and sometimes painful one. I have some “anthems” that I play when I’m angry and frustrated about how hard it is, even with a track record of good books, to get published and stay published, among which is Freddy Mercury and Queen’s, “I Want It All.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFDcoX7s6rE
A long, strange journey has certainly been the case with my newest book, Led Astray. First of all, I wasn’t planning to write another Joe Burgess book. When I envisioned the series, my plan was to write a quartet spanning the four seasons. The series began on an icy February night in Portland, when Burgess is called to the scene of a doctor murdered in his Mercedes, in Playing God. That was followed by the steamy heat of summer, and a dead child in a city park, in The Angel of Knowlton Park. Redemption, the story of a Vietnam veteran who came back damaged and never quite got it together, takes place during a glorious Maine October. The series was going to end with spring, and Burgess’s hopes for a more normal life, in And Grant You Peace, as Burgess tries to balance caring for his family with investigating a complicated crime among Portland’s Somali immigrant community.
If Joe Burgess, a lapsed Catholic, with a strong moral compass and deep compassion for people who can’t defend themselves, has a playlist, it’s going to veer between the music he listened to in Vietnam, and the hymns I listen to while I getting in touch with who he is. Like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SV7znC9TWYs or this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLV4_xaYynY And Joe Burgess, being an Irish-American cop, loves this song, which I play for him from time to time: Mary Black, Song for Ireland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbRuLOfHYfw
After the publication of And Grant You Peace, people started asking when they could read the next Burgess. I said I’d done the four seasons and I was done. And people reminded me that Maine has more than four seasons. For starters, there’s hunting season, mud season, blackfly season, and tourist season. So I e-mailed the publisher and asked if they’d like another Burgess, and stuck myself in a chair and wrote what my husband calls the 5th book in a 4 book series. The working title was: And Led Them Thus Astray. I met my deadline, delivered the book, got roundly and soundly beaten up by my editor, and after revisions was told the book was in the queue for a contract, and would be published in the fall of 2016.
Months passed. No contract appeared. No virgin in the publishing industry, I saw the writing on the wall, and sure enough, in January, instead of a contract I got the news that the publisher was discontinuing their mystery line. Poor Joe Burgess was an orphan. I consoled myself with endless repetitions of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which is truly music one can get lost in, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrLk4vdY28Q as I pondered whether to look for another publisher.
In the end, after playing some music a bit more upbeat–Cher’s Just Like Jesse James (dreaming of the publishing industry going down in flames) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeWN4Zr10kM and Cindi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIb6AZdTr-A because I DO want to have fun with this writing adventure, I decided to take control of my own destiny, and release the book myself. The title got shortened to Led Astray to fit on the cover, and Joe Burgess finally gets his day in the sun. The e-book comes out on the 8th, the physical book and other e-book platforms in a few weeks.
Now I wait to see what happens.
(Note: all of the books except Led Astray have new covers in their e-book and paperback form. These are the original publisher’s versions)