Kate Flora: Recently, I was asked, as writers often are when we identify ourselves as
writers, if I was published. I replied with modest, down-cast eyes, that I had published eighteen books. Thinking about the eighteen published books, and the short story collection, novella, and ninth Thea Kozak mystery that I am putting the finishing touches on, made me wonder. Including the books that are hiding in my files, how many books have I written, as opposed to those I have published?
Since I spent ten years in the unpublished writer’s corner before my first book appeared, and since I am very serious about the fact that what writers do is write, whether published or not, I have quite a stash of unpublished books. Books we sometimes refer to as “books in the drawer.”
So what is in my drawer? To begin with, three books that I describe as being in a safe which is wrapped in chains, encased in cement, and at the bottom of the sea. These are my practice books. Two books in a series about a law student–representing, I suppose–the oft said idea that all early works are autobiographical. Another book about a New Hampshire school teacher with an irresponsible ex-husband, who moves her sad child to Florida and becomes a dog groomer.
When I first started writing my Thea Kozak series, I alternated those books with a series about Ross McIntyre, a Maine high school biology teacher. So the drawer contains three Ross McIntyre mysteries.
Around the time that my New York publisher dropped the Thea Kozak series, and before another publisher picked it up, I tried my hand at writing thrillers. The only one that got published was Steal Away, published as Katharine Clark, about a child who gets kidnapped. The other thrillers, still collecting dust in the drawer, include Spring Break, about a college student who learns she’s the child of a politician running for President, and has to go on the run when she becomes a potential pawn for the candidates. Spring Break shares drawer space with Teach Her a Lesson, about a school teacher trying to defend herself she when’s unjustly accused of seducing a student, and Runaway, a romantic suspense story about a girl on the run and a man who needs to get married.
No. That drawer still isn’t empty. There’s also the first book in a planned series about a female architect. Alas, this book is missing the ending, and the file is lost so many computers ago that I can’t find it. Of course, there’s also half a sequel, in which her rat of an ex-husband is found nail-gunned to the floor in a house she’s designed, and he’s the prime suspect.
I think that’s all. I believe we’ve come to the bottom of the drawer, but after thirty-five years in this writer’s chair, there might be another that I’ve forgotten.
This past weekend, I pulled out the manuscript for Spring Break, and it was just like reading someone else’s novel. I couldn’t put it down. I have a zillion things I need to be doing, but I needed to know what happened next. It’s my favorite part of writing–this need to get back to the story to see what happens next. This week, I got to entertain myself with my own long-neglected book. Yes, it’s a hokey book and too much bad stuff happens to my brave heroine, but it is still fun to read what I was writing almost twenty years ago.
Writers who are reading this–do you have a drawer full of unpublished books, too?