"You know what? The bastard blows me out of the water. This guy writes Maine like Ardai writes New York. If you're not reading him, you don't know what you're missing." --Chris F. Holm, author of The Big Reap, The Wrong Goodbye and Dead Harvest.

"Bagley's got the poet's eye, but that doesn't mean everything is prettier in his work. It means the ugly stuff is more vivid. More intense. Like a sudden switch from analog to HD. And that's a trait to very much admire in his work." --Anthony Neil Smith, author of Hogdoggin', Yellow Medicine, The Drummer and Psychosomatic.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Back in the Saddle

So, it’s back out there.

Bitter Water Blues, that is.

For the first time in four years, I have submitted the manuscript of that novel to a publisher. I didn’t think I’d ever send it anywhere again. In fact, I once swore that I wouldn’t.

But now that I’ve had enough time away from Bitter Water Blues, away from the well-meant but misguided influence of my former agent, I’m in love with it again. The writing of Bitter Water Blues took up five years of my life. That was just the first draft.

Then came my own grueling revision process. Then came my agent’s ideas for revision, every time the manuscript got rejected. Seven rejections? Seven re-writes based on each editor’s comments, until the novel was morphed into a thriller. Now, I have nothing against thrillers or those who write them, but I’m not a thriller writer. It just ain’t me.

Bitter Water Blues was conceived as a “down-and-dirty crime novel,” to quote James Patrick Kelly, one of my amazing mentors. Turning it into a thriller was painful. No, it was fucking traumatic. My agent was good at what she did, but she had no understanding of noir.

My panic attacks started around that time, the long autumn of 2009. Coincidence?

And seven rejections? Seven?

As no less an authority than John Connolly told me, seven rejections is nothing. His first novel racked up enough rejection slips to deforest the Amazon basin before it was finally published. So, after venting to Scott Wolven, David Anthony Durham and Jim Kelly, I parted ways with my agent. Yes, I’m dropping a lot of names here, but there a lot of writers for whose assistance and advice I will be forever grateful.

Not long after that, I put Bitter Water Blues into a file and told myself it was time to move on to something else. Five years of writing and two years of re-writing had soured me on that particular novel. I consigned it to “trunk novel” status. I had too many new ideas.

For various reasons, one of which concerns the state of my mental health, I wrote almost nothing from 2009 to 2014. There were a lot of starts and stops with nothing ever getting finished.

Lately, though, inspiration has returned. Both of my daughters are compulsive writers. I see them writing almost every day and it gives me a much-needed push. I’ve also gotten some words of support from Chris F. Holm, Michaela Roessner and John Florio—writers for whom I have tremendous respect.

I’m writing again. I’m working on a horror/crime novel. The process is slow, painful and frustrating, but it still feels good.

So, it’s back out there.

I opened up Bitter Water Blues—my Bitter Water Blues, not the Franken-novel it became—a couple of days ago and started reading. Guess what? I’m in love with it again. It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.

And it’s back out there. I submitted it to a small press that specializes in dark crime fiction. Noir is best served by small press. I love small press. I used to work for a small press. Small press is where I always thought Bitter Water Blues belonged. It should never have been submitted to Little, Brown or Scribner’s. Scribner's, for fuck's sake!

What happens next?

Acceptance or rejection, that’s what happens next.

Beyond that, I have no fucking idea. We’ll just have to turn the pages together.


David Anthony Durham said...

Good for you. Seven rejections is nothing. Nothing at all.

Jim Kelly said...

This is the test. You're still taking it, so don't put your pencil down until you're done.

Patrick Bagley said...

I'm holing on to that sucker!