- J Hopkins
My Book, My Cover, My Gosh—It’s Real!, August 12, 2022, by Jude Hopkins
When you’re a writer, the most wonderful feeling is getting your manuscript accepted by a publisher and seeing it take shape as a physical thing in the world.
My sassy, yearning, passionate heroine will actually come alive on the page, thanks to Wild Rose Press Inc. (its traditional side, not self published). And I am forever grateful they took me on.
And I got the cover art this week —and I love it!
And I’m thrilled—and scared—and emotional all at once.
The thing is, if you’ve read my first few blogs, you’ll see that "Babe in the Woods" started as a self-help book and transmogrified into a novel over the years. I never gave up, in spite of many agent rejections. That’s important. You have to believe in yourself and your work above all. It was difficult and challenging—and not for the faint of heart. I had only myself spurring me on. I spent endless hours at the computer going over and over and over my manuscript, changing words, tightening sentences, adding and deleting and changing. I took long drives thinking through plot points. I cried a lot, thinking it would never happen.
But I never gave up. I know there are people out there who will love my heroine, will identify with her, will root for her. I know there are people out there who will be engaged by my other characters especially the L.A. friends, Roxie and Bryce. I never stopped believing in my story and my characters. I kept the naysayers away from my dreams of seeing my book come to life.
But it was hard work that required discipline and dedication. And you have to like being alone and working alone—a lot. Love isn't the only thing you can't hurry.
I once worked with a woman who said she never edited her poems and essays because “the muse” inspired her, so who was she to mess with the muse? Listen, unless you’re Paul McCartney who dreamed the complete song “Yesterday,” you need to edit—a lot. I had several professional editors. I learned from all of them, but my last editor, Michelle Rascon, really made the difference. She told me readers want to know my protagonist a bit before she’s thrown in with other characters, so I featured her at the outset so readers could focus on her. Great point. She also made a few other suggestions that really worked. My advice? Save up your money and find a professional editor with whom you click, one who’s tough and doesn’t just compliment your work. Someone who’s real and tells you what she thinks works and what doesn’t work. I loved Michelle because she promised on her website she would respect the writer’s voice in her edits. And she did. If I ever write another book (and I’ve got an idea for one!), I’ll go directly to Michelle.
Many agents complimented me on my writing (listen – I tweaked this manuscript until it was as smooth as I could make it – I’m not of the “one and done” crowd, so a lot of work went into it) and/or my premise and/or my supporting characters. But they didn’t like my protagonist – she’s too sarcastic, too pushy, too this, too that.
Just by chance, I’m reading a book called “Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today” by the incredible writer Rachel Vorona Cote. In it, she writes about Victorian women (and by implication, today’s women) who are “too much,” defined as “lodestars of excess” instead of “quiet…the ones who smile benignly and who behave.”
But as Ms. Vorona Cote writes, “My maximalist personality, my muchness, was no reason for shame but, dare I say it, pride.” Amen, sister. I’m a "too much" woman, too.
My book’s protagonist is also a “too much” woman. She would love to be in love, but not any old love. She wants a love that doesn’t end at the loss of innocence, but grows and deepens. And she’s not shy about seeking it and describing it, an ideal tempered by the loves that didn’t turn out well. So she sets about writing a play about that last moment of innocence before it turns either into something wonderful and lasting—or a case of arson.
She’s smart and sarcastic and emotional and passionate—all the things that sometimes scare people (OK, let's be honest, some guys!). Remember in "Sex and the City" when Carrie ran into Mr. Big right after he got married and asked him, “Why wasn’t it me?” and he replied, “I don’t know. It just got so hard. And she’s ….” (He left the reason he chose someone else unspoken.) Carrie says, "Yeah." She knows.
So my book is for those “too much” women who are full of passion, so they laugh and cry and sing too loudly, who think too much, who use jazz hands to emphasize their points, who eat or drink too gustatorily, who can mimic others perfectly, who dance too emphatically, who can be sarcastic with the best of 'em, who aren't afraid of showing how smart they are, who are loud and outrageous at inappropriate times, who can summon up quotations and jokes because their frames of reference are so damn deep and wide, who are on a quest to know themselves and their world better, who don’t want to be constrained or held back, who want to lap it all up and won’t be kept down or out because they’ve only got this one life, you see.
I hope it will draw in a lot of readers, those deemed "too much" and otherwise, who want to take this journey with me. You know, the ones who'll say, "Yeah." Because they know.