Sunday, September 16, 2012

Escaping My Ex-Publisher: What I Got Back

In 2007, my first published novel, RABID, was published by Kunati, Inc., a small traditional publishing company. I was thrilled because they had 50,000 submissions for their first round and chose 8 books for their first crop.

Yeah, 8 books out of 50,000 submissions. That’s some serious “gate-keeping,” huh?

I had been writing RABID for three years at that point. I had graduated with my PhD in molecular virology, done a postdoc in neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, and had a baby. My brain was scorched. I threw all my emotional baggage in that book.

Despite that, it turned out well, I thought and I still think.

It also turned out to be almost 200,000 words.

My publisher wanted me to cut it down to below 140,000, which I did. I think it came in at 139,996, which is below 140,000 words, and that’s the important point.

My publisher also edited the periods out of my name, kind of like e.e. cummings but with punctuation rather than capitalization, so I became TK Kenyon instead of T.K. Kenyon. I had been T.K. since sixth grade, when there were three “Terri’s” (of various spellings) in my class, so two of us got to choose new names. I chose “T.K.” When I sign my name, I use T.K., and yes, I tap out two periods in there. It’s funny that some people think it’s an affectation, since my publisher did it and I really didn’t have a say in it.

That’s common with publishers: they do stuff and authors don’t have any say in it. The periods in my name, 60,000 words of my first novel, etc.

I had to cut a lot of stuff out of RABID, including stuff that was important but was not the very most important. For example, there was a lot about the community, including some instances of ... hive mind, perhaps we should call it, that happened when several of the characters were together.

This was the po-mo structure of the novel: each scene was written from one of the viewpoint characters (Conroy, Leila, Bev, or Dante,) and had to include one of the other four characters, except that each character got one soliloquy when they were alone and at an important turning point in their lives. Bev’s soliloquy is the very first scene. Leila’s is the last scene. Conroy’s and Dante’s occur at important points in the book.

When all four characters were together, or at least three of them, the community’s hive mind become active. The viewpoint become omniscient and can duck into various minor characters’ heads. I wanted to speak about the gestalt that happens when people gather.

Anyway, that strategy was a casualty of the Great Revision. I went back and restored a lot of that in this version of the novel.

In addition to some additions for clarity and some emotional beats that were recovered, the new version of RABID is about 155,000 words.

Yeah, it’s pretty long, but it has a lot to say.

It’s not a book that everyone will like, which is why I posted this “quiz” a while ago to point you toward whether you should bother giving it a look. I just reread it five times in a row, which is a lot to read any one book. There are some parts in there that I am really proud of. There are some scenes that I’m surprised that I survived writing.

If you read it, I hope you like it. 

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