Denim and Lace

Tomorrow Bookview Café will release my Rita finalist western historical romance DENIM AND LACE. I wrote this in 1995 to suit the romance paradigm of the time that called for cute kids, spunky heroines, and hardhearted (and often hardheaded) heroes, with quirky secondary characters, a few of my favorite romance tropes.

I recently had to re-read the book to edit the scans and refine prose before digitalizing. Originally written by hand and typed on a Leading Edge computer with no Microsoft involved, the book is a different creature from today’s heavily edited, revised, and processed drafts. (I don’t buy new hardware or software when they first come out. That was the year Win 95 was released, which caused me to save my pennies and purchase my first Microsoft PC the following year). In the process of re-reading for BVC, I marveled at how far technology has come in the fifteen years since its publication, and how little stories have changed.

DENIM AND LACE was first published in 1996, the year of the Olympic Park bombing, Princess Di’s divorce, the OJ Simpson trial, and the release of Sling Blade and Braveheart. The World Wide Web had only been operating for three years. I may have had AOL by then (it cost a painful $20 a month), but it would have been long distance and mostly nonfunctional in my rural backwater. My 1929 house had serious electricity problems, so creating on a computer was a recipe for disaster. Even a  pricey UPS didn’t prevent crashes from brownouts. I blamed the crashes on ghosts, and the computer techs laughed at me, until the transformer outside the house exploded, blacking out half the town. So I didn’t do a lot of editing back then, just writing and typing. Teenagers and a full time job occupied me more than revisions. Since my contracts usually called for 135k-150k words, I certainly didn’t need to write tight. So when I work on backlist now, that’s what I have to do—cut out all the excess verbiage.

The bestselling authors in 1996 are names we still know today. Grisham, Clancy, King, Crichton, and Steel ruled the bestseller lists. Evanovich’s ONE FOR THE MONEY may have just come out. But essentially, the bestselling books fifteen years ago were mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and romance. And in romance, the stories today are not so dissimilar from the stories back then. I’m still writing cute kids, hardheaded heroes, and the women who like to take them down a notch or two. And I still sell books and win awards with those stories—with a lot fewer words.

I think, on the whole, the prose in today’s books is tighter and better, the dialogue heavier, the description less. Who hasn’t seen every castle in Scotland by now? DVDs and Google paint them in vivid color without need of books. But we still want to read about people triumphing over evil, falling in love, and surviving the worst life throws at them. A really good story will give you all three.

Do you see similarities between today’s stories and those of the last few decades? Differences?




Denim and Lace — 4 Comments

  1. What a brave person you are. I could never rewrite an older novel. It would be less painful to hit myself on the head with a board. Even rereading older work is annoying. I cannot go back — I have to go -on-.

  2. I am a whimpering weakling. “G” I did not rewrite the novel so much as eliminate all the padding. Editing is far easier than re-writing! I would sooner write an entire new novel than re-write an old one!

    Admittedly, it is far easier to take an old novel a few chapters at a time and read for edits than it is to delve into the story.

  3. I can relate…to everything but 130,000-150,000 words. I didn’t realize they were that big back when I was reading them 🙂

    Pat, that was hardly a whine at all.

    I have edited my backlist books, and revised certain scenes in each of them (the scenes where the character is thinking about what happened instead of actually watching it happen). Things that don’t bother me much when I read as a reader, but snag for me when I’m teaching or writing.

    Almost finished the last one…just decided to add a much needed scene. I must admit, it has been fun. Next up is final formatting of my indie original (much scarier prospect).

  4. I’m in awe, Kelly. I don’t think I’d ever put up an ebook if I had to do actual revisions. It takes me months just to edit, and I’m averaging cutting roughly 10k useless words per book. It’s a good mindless task after the creative pages are done!