A story with sea legs

For those of you who regularly read our blog, you probably know I’m a sucker for a good, inspirational publishing success story. With so much uncertainty in the industry that sometimes swirls into negativity, for me at least it’s like a breath of fresh air to read something wholly positive.

I loved this piece from today’s New York Times about Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat, which has a fantastic premise and a great back story of finding its way to print. I’m very much looking forward to reading the book, which is generating good buzz and positive reviews.

I’m drawn to Ms. Rogan’s story personally because she has college-age triplets. As a mom of twins, parenting multiples is an area of great interest. I hear the word triplets and my ears perk up.

From a publishing perspective, I’m intrigued by her story because of how long it took her to seek a publisher, and how she came at writing from a hobbyist’s perspective – taking classes here and there, finding time when she could, working when the kids were in school. I love at the end when she says that there were times when just the writing of it was enough (with the day-to-day of parenting triplets, I’m guessing it was a pretty good escape at times). It’s wonderful to see an example of a passion that satisfies without the promise of a book deal or lucrative career as a published author. That’s refreshing.

I am also impressed with the ways in which she found and researched her topic. As idea generators it’s interesting to me to see how people come up with their ideas.  I am always looking at a story with an eye to whether it might translate to a book. For Ms. Rogan, when she saw an old case in one of her husband’s criminal law texts, it served as inspiration for the book that followed. Then she drew on research and personal experience to flesh it out.

I wonder if some of our readers might share their stories of how they came to their book idea. Every story has a story behind the story, right? Sometimes those are as interesting and enlightening as the book itself. Do tell. We’d love to hear

6 Responses to A story with sea legs

  1. Tracy Clark says:

    I wrote a YA called, LITTLE WEEDS,in which all ten year-old children are tested to determine if they have a genetic predisposition to be criminals or not. The book was inspired by an ‘O’ Magazine article in which they discussed MRI’s and genetic testing and how they might be combined in the future. The line that gripped me: “In the not too distant future, we may be able to test a seven year old and see if they’ll be a criminal or not.” I thought, my god… what if we lived in a society that actually did this? And what would they do with the kids if they were deemed “criminals” before they’d ever actually committed a crime? It was a very inspiring moment and such a fun book to write.

  2. Veny Armanno says:

    Yes, just superb, Stacey. Wonderful tale and more power to her.

    In the late 70s and 80s I wrote ten unpublished (unpublishable!) novels over about fifteen years, probably a million words, until someone quietly suggested I might save myself some angst and try my hand at short stories… and improve the time in which I received a little feedback.

    About a year later an editor at a publishing company invited me in to her office and showed me two piles of manuscripts on her desk, one very high, one very low.

    “Veny, this big pile contains all your short stories that don’t work. This very tiny pile contains the ones that do work. Take them home, read them, then come back next week and tell me what’s the main difference between the two.”

    Two years later, first book published by her, a collection of short stories… now twenty years further on, with nine novels published and two more on the way, a number of awards and a bit of a reputation, I’ve never been able to thank her enough.

    All the best,


  3. Julia Pierce says:

    Thanks for sharing!

    I find ideas everywhere. A lot of times an idea for the backbone of a story will come from a question or concern I have about the world and build from there. For example, my most recently finished story includes (aside from the romance aspect) a battle between the supernatural creatures who want to eliminate humans in order to save the world, and those who want to protect humans, even if it means their own destruction. There is a debate in the story regarding whether or not it is just to eliminate everything, both the good and the bad, to end atrocities and suffering. This is me processing what I see on the news every day, and that age old question of the worth of mankind, when all we seem to do is murder and destroy.

    I also dream scenes, which give me ideas for stories. I’ve written three novels that were in some part due to dreams.

    My current WIP revolves around a disabled woman and her vampire lover- a mash-up of my love of the supernatural and my experiences working in the medical profession. I love to try on other perspectives in my writing- like that of an unusual heroine, or a kind villain- maybe because I spend my working life trying to put myself in my clients’ shoes.

  4. I’ve just finished a historical novel set at a country estate in Franconia, Germany. I walk my dog often past the ruins and as I started to research, I unearthed a wealth of information. And, yes, there has to be times when the writing is enough.

  5. emily says:

    Love knowing about writers who work out in the weeds for years like Charlotte Rogan! Because thats ME!

    But my world of writing began in the 1970s with academic publications and proceeded over more than 30 years to publisher of a Texas travel magazine.

    Now in retirement, I’m tackling the problems associated with ‘selling my written work’ as opposed to ‘selling my skill as a writer to an employer.’

    As for ideas? I am overwhelmed with story ideas all day long — they just come out of the ozone and into the front of my brain. So, I have an antiwar historical novel series in progress [the research fun is more or less finished, the PLOTS outlined, key characters named and placed in the world, theme well documented, reams of text drafted, a daily work plan in place, and all the electronic tools I could possibly need pearched on my desk].

    So, friends, by the end of the year, if the Gods are good and the creek don’t rise, I will have a good draft flying out of the printer. Of course, here in Texas,creeks rise all the time, fires sweep away houses, tornados tear up trees, and nevertheless God is almost always good to us.

  6. DGLM says:

    Thanks so much for all of your nice comments. It’s so great to hear stories of authors in the trenches. Veny, your anecdote is terrific!

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