|Photo by Stephen Nakatani, via Flickr|
And then comes the revision letter.
My mystery editor has rarely asked for more than minor changes, at most a scene spruced up. This time, the letter started well: “...which I enjoyed thoroughly...”
Next came the bad news about the poem I wanted to include at the beginning. The poet, Vera Brittain, didn’t die long enough ago. The poem is still copyright. Do I want it badly enough to pay permission costs? If so, Macmillan’s legal department will attempt to track down the copyright-holder...
Last time I went through this, I wanted to introduce S.S. Van Dine’s Philo Vance into The Case of the Murdered Muckraker, my only book set in the US. He would have been a superb foil for Daisy. Alas, one can’t use other people’s characters without permission, any more than their poems. Van Dine’s books had been reissued sometime in the 1980s. The publisher hadn’t sent out any royalty checks for many years and had no idea to whom they’d send them if there were any. The agent who’d handled the reissue had long ago gone out of business or died (or both). The legal department was sure of only one thing: If I used Philo Vance, one or more heirs would come crawling out of the woodwork. Sorry, bye-bye, Philo.
Luckily he had only made an appearance in a proposal, so I didn’t have to rework an entire book.
As for Vera Brittain’s Superfluous Women, I left the last three lines of the poem at the head of the manuscript. Maybe the legal department will let me use that much.
The revision letter ended with a couple of minor odds and ends, including my editor admitting he thought he’d caught me in an anachronism (cryptic crosswords). He did a spot of research and discovered that they did exist at the time.
The zinger came in the middle of the letter: Would I consider (he’s a very polite editor!) rewriting the last chapter on such and such lines? I originally wrote it in a rush (The End in sight) and on rereading could only agree with him. So, back to work. Luckily it was mostly a matter of changing the point of view of one scene, adding one scene, then padding and reworking another.
I sent it back on Saturday. On Sunday (editors never get a day off) came the email response: “...it’s perfect. I particularly like the closing note at the end.”
Even allowing for a bit of exaggeration on his part, I’m happy!
|Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies.|