by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
I thought about titling this post "The Junk from My Trunk," but that seemed to be too much like putting a sign on my own bottom saying "Kick Me", so.
Like all writers in my acquaintance, I have trunk novels. In my case, some of those are things that pre-date my first publishing deal while others came after. Z: A Novel is one of the latter and here's the story behind it.
I originally came up with the idea in March 2004. My debut novel had come out the previous July, my second was due out that coming July, and I needed something to play with. The Great Gatsby being my favorite novel by a dead author, the thought naturally occurred to me to do my own version. What I came up with was a story about a female writer named Nix Carter (the Nick Carraway character) who returns home to Danbury, CT, after years out in L.A. in order to care for her ailing father. Having lunch while hungover at the mall one day, she's in the company of Tim amd Dahlia Bucket (the Tom and Daisy Buchanan characters), when she sees a man dressed all in black, including a cape. He turns out to be a window washer who goes by the name Zorro. (That's right, in my version, Jay Gatsby is a window washer who may or may not really be Zorro, the hero of legend.)
When I say the book just flew out of me, I'm not exaggerating. In 19 days, I had completed the first draft. It wasn't a long book, being just shy of 67K words, but still, I'd never written something so easily in my life or that made me so happy. It had comedy, drama, romance, adventure, swordplay; it even said something about the tragically xenophobic world we sometimes find ourselves in.
Even though I was happy with it, I knew it wasn't a fit for Red Dress Ink, the publisher I still had three more books contracted to, so I held onto it, content to wait.
A year later, when I switched from Agent 4 to Agent 5, Agent 5 fell in love with Z. But one thing and another happened and Agent 5 never submitted that book anywhere; Agent 5 never submitted any of my books anywhere.
Then came Agent 6, with whom I signed in June 2005. Agent 6 and I got busy selling a bunch of things together - we've actually sold 18 books to publishers to date - and Z was not in the initial mix. By the time we did start submitting it, publishers didn't want to publish anything that could conceivably be labeled Chick Lit; and given that my five comedic novels for adults had been published by Red Dress Ink, any comedy I write - even The Bro-Magnet, which is told entirely in the first-person POV of a man - runs the risk of getting labeled that way. So there were a lot of positive things said about Z by various editors, but no sale.
This March, a full eight years after I initially got the idea for Z, I put it up for sale as an ebook. I'd post the first few paragraphs here, but the truth is, if you follow the link I'll provide at the end of this long sentence, the link will take you to the book's page on Amazon where if you simply click on the image of the book cover, you can read the first 30+ pages of the book for free: link
If you like the sample, you can even buy the whole thing right now for 99 cents - a steal!
Thanks for listening. These are great, exciting times for writers like me. I still have books that are traditionally published and I'm grateful for that - I try to regularly practice gratitude in my life as a writer - but when I've written something that traditional publishing thinks is too quirky or too what-have-you, I can assume all the risk and reward myself.
Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of 24 published books for adults, teens and children. She is currently watching the Mets do really well, yet again, but there are still nearly four innings to go, so. You can read more about her life and work at www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com or read her stupid tweets at @LaurenBaratzL on Twitter. She can't figure out what her own Facebook link is so don't ask.