How long did it take you to write the book?
I started An Uncertain Grave in November of 2012. Every November, there is something called NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month, an annual internet-based creative writing project that challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel from November 1 until the deadline at 11:59PM on November 30. I had no problem writing the first 50,000 words. I took my characters who were investigating a body found on Mt. Lafayette and had them interacting away like crazy and we all had a wonderful time. However, when I reached the end of November, I realized I had a problem.
I had no idea who the murderer was.
So, I let the book sit for a month while I tried to figure this out. By January I had a solution and went back into what I had written to add in the clues necessary to have the story make sense, and finished the first draft of the book by April 2013. I spent a month editing and polishing, and was ready to start sending the book out to publishers by the beginning of May.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer in New Hampshire? What is the most challenging?
The most rewarding aspect of being a writer in New Hampshire is the feeling of community. Once I started publicizing my book, so many doors have opened to me just because I am a local author. WREN has been a crucial part of that community. I have taken the BETA class, joined Write Night, and taken several internet/social media classes that have helped me spread the word. Through WREN, I have made connections with New Hampshire business owners who have been very generous in arranging book signings and providing retail space to display and sell An Uncertain Grave in their stores, and local libraries have all purchased copies and some have featured my book in their book clubs. Local newspapers published lengthy interviews with me and included purchasing information about An Uncertain Grave and word of mouth has been phenomenal. Also, the number and variety of Harvest Festivals and Craft Fairs is a wonderful way to introduce my book to an entirely different type of consumer, and has opened new marketing opportunities as well.
The most challenging aspect is the rural nature of the state. There’s a lot of distance between businesses and I do a lot of driving to reach them. I love meeting people in all areas of the state, I just wish some type of teleporting was a reality because then I’d be able to spend more time talking and less time driving!
Do you have any advice for writers looking to publish their first novel?
Educate yourself about the writing business. What you write is important, but you also need to know how the business works to get your work out to the public. In addition to joining WREN and accessing their wonderful opportunities, I would recommend joining the New Hampshire Writer’s Project. With information from several years of Writer’s Day workshops I put together a long term plan to publication.
First, I decided to get published in local newspapers and magazines. I had columns published in the Concord Monitor, the Bangor Daily News and the Burlington Free Press. I had articles published in Cabin Life Magazine. Then, with those “clips” in my resume, I started submitting short stories to magazines and anthologies, and was published in the Mom Writer’s Literary Magazine, The Literary Bone, Touched By Wonder Anthology, r-kv-r-y quarterly and was a finalist in the “Family Matters” competition of Glimmer Train Magazine. Finally, my short story “Afterward”, published in the Chrysalis Reader, was nominated for the 2007 Pushcart Prize – Best of Small Presses. With a resume that I felt had a better chance of attracting an editor’s attention, I started submitting my book to publishers.
In summary, you need three things to help you get published: a good product, whether it’s a book, short story, memoir or poem; a working knowledge of how to reach the publishers of your particular genre; and a commitment to keep working toward your goal.
-Cathy Strasser, author of An Uncertain Grave