Sometimes, you have to return to your writing more than twice to get it right. In today's Writing in my Car, novelist Kevin Klehr shares his journey to publish his novel Drama Queens with Love Scenes.
What is this novel about, you ask? Close friends Allan and Warwick are dead. They're not crazy about the idea so to help them deal with this dilemma are Samantha, a blond bombshell from the 1950s, and Guy, an insecure angel. They are soon drawn into the world of theatre - Afterlife style, with all the bitchiness, back-stabbing and ego usually associated with the mortal world. Allan also has a secret. He has a romantic crush on his friend, Warwick, but shortly after confiding in his new angel pal, his love interest falls for the cock-sure playwright, Pedro. Not only does Allan have to win the heart of his companion, he also has to grapple with the faded memory of how he actually died.
Let's welcome novelist Kevin!
The first few years
About ten years ago I started writing a fantasy novel on Thursday nights, as that was the only free time I had (My partner, Warren, had started playing tennis on those nights).
It was handwritten in a journal and called Staging Life. I had written about five chapters when a friend bought me a 'How to Write' book for my birthday. (As an aside, writing was a passion of mine as a kid, so rediscovering it as a hobby in my 30s was a blessing)
The first paragraph of this How To book clearly told me that if I was writing without my plot being clearly laid out, to stop right away! I made a chapter by chapter story outline, but this totally killed the creative process. The journal was then left in the bottom drawer.
Several years later a young man captured our hearts (no, not in the way you're thinking). He was charming, charismatic, and just needed a little help in learning to love himself as a gay man. Warren secretly lent him my unfinished manuscript, which he returned to me enthusiastically. He demanded I finish it. So I did. Within months a novella was born.
The first draft was taken to an assessor who loved my style of writing, but pointed out some major flaws. Like the main character in The Great Gatsby, my protagonists watched drama unfold around them, but were not directly effected. Secondly, she thought that the love interest between my two main characters which happened out of the blue in the last chapter, should be the main focus of the whole novel.
Thirdly, she didn't like my first chapter. A fantasy telling of Warwick and Allan's life up to the point to which they die. She found two problems with this. Firstly, the real world was as fanciful as the Afterlife. No clear distinction between the two realities. Secondly, she made me realise that how they died should be one of the mysteries that should be told in flashback. Keep the audience guessing!
One thing she did like was the fact that my main character was sometimes inappropriate in social circumstances. She told me to make this his main personality flaw and pointed me toward Joe Keenan's My Blue Heaven. In her words she said 'turn up the 'tude'.' This was very good advice.
I kept using her as my assessor for two more drafts, finally taking the novella to novel length. Eight drafts later the book was finally born.
Along the way there were two mistakes I made that might be worth mentioning for young players. The first I didn't go through with, but it's so important to note.
One publisher was interested in my book. When I looked over the contract, one thing that stood out was my lack of control over my own copyright. I've worked in broadcast media, so copyright law is something I know a lot about. In this contract, not only did they want exclusive world rights, they also wanted me to write to them and seek their permission if I wanted to write anything in the future. Plus, only they would have the right to end the contract, even if I desperately wanted to.
A lawyer pointed out how their payment of royalties was far below the industry standard. Once I asked this publisher a few questions, then they dropped me straight away.
My second mistake was using a different assessor for one of my drafts. One publisher (in fact, many) loved my writing style but not the uncommercial nature of my book. They suggested a few ideas on making the plot more sellable, after only reading the first chapter. So I decided to use them to assess my novel (as a backdoor way of getting them to read the whole manuscript).
This is my mistake...I rewrote the book taking on their ideas, but they didn't really work in the context of the whole story. My partner suggested that I simply should have sent the most recent draft, but I was desperate for a publishing deal that I rewrote using their ideas. Never do this! Five hundred dollars later they criticized the novel in its new form, making me wish I'd listened to my husband.
Even my psychic (don't laugh, she's extremely good) looked at me sternly while we were talking about something completely different, and asked "What did I do with that woman!" She was referring to my original assessor. I said that I was just getting another opinion to which she replied "She understands what you're writing about!" This all happened before I got the book assessment from hell.
I shot and edited the Book Trailer in January, but finally, nine months later its out. It was suppose to be out back in May, but they had problems with my cover design. I'm just glad its finally available.
So if you're into love stories, the afterlife, theatre and film, characters from different time periods, bitchyness and comedy, please check out the book trailer and the first chapter from my profile. Enjoy!