Tonight’s guest blog post is brought to you by Kathryn Meyer Griffith.
Revising a 30-year-old novel… and the journey in between
Evil Stalks the Night–Revised Author’s Edition was my first published novel. 1984. As it comes out again from Damnation Books for the first time in thirty years, it’ll bring my forty-year writing career full circle and all fourteen of my old books will be out again for the first time in decades. A grueling, tedious three-year job rewriting these new versions but I’m thrilled. My babies are reborn; in the world again.
I’ll start at the beginning because, though Evil Stalks the Night was my first published novel, it wasn’t my first written one. That book was The Heart of the Rose. I began writing it after my only child, James, was born in late 1971. I was staying home with him, no longer going to college, not yet working full time, and bored out of my skin. I read a horrible historical romance one day and thought I can do better than that! So I began writing. I’d tentatively called that book King’s Witch because it was about a 15th century healer falsely believed to be a witch but who was loved by a king. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I just wrote, emotions high believing I could create a whole book. So naïve. Reading that old version now (1985 Leisure paperback) I have to laugh. Ironically, like that 1971 historical novel I’d thought was so bad, it was awful. It took 12 years to get it published. I got sidetracked with a divorce, raising a son, getting a real job and finding and marrying the true love of my life. Life, as it always does, got in the way. The manuscript, in a drawer, was forgotten.
Years later I decided to rewrite it; try again. I bundled up the revised pile of printed pages, tucked it into an empty copy paper box and took it to the Post Office. Plastered it with stamps. Sent it everywhere The Writer’s Market said I could. And waited. Months. In those days it’d take a year or more, shipping it here and there to publishers, in between revising to please any editor’s suggestions on how it could be better. Snail mail took forever; was expensive. But eventually it sold.
Now to Evil Stalks the Night.
In the meantime I’d written another book. Kind of a fictionalized look back at my 1950’s and 60’s childhood in a large, poor but loving family. I sent it out as well. One day an editor suggested that since my writing had a spooky ambiance to it anyway, why didn’t I turn the story into a horror novel… like Stephen King was doing? Ordinary people. Supernatural circumstances. It’d sell easily, she said.
Hmmm. Well, it was worth a try, so I added something scary in the woods from the main character’s past that she had to return and face in her adult life, using some of my childhood and young adult life – my heartbreaking divorce, raising my young son alone, my new love – as hers. A romantic horror when I’d finished. I retitled it Evil Stalks the Night and sent it out. That editor was right, it sold quickly to a mass market paperback publisher called Towers Publishing.
But right in the middle of editing, Towers went bankrupt and was bought out by another publisher! What terrible luck, I remember brooding. The book was lost somewhere in the stacks of unedited slush in a company undergoing massive changes as the new publisher took over. I had a contract, didn’t know what to do and didn’t know how to break it. I couldn’t afford a lawyer. My life with a new husband, my son and minimum-wage billing job was one step above poverty. Those days I was clueless on how to deal with the publishing industry.
That was 1983, but luckily that take-over publisher was Leisure-or Dorchester. They became huge. Talk about karma. Fate stepped in and my editor, before she left, asked one of Leisure’s editors to give it a read. She believed in it.
1984. Out of the blue when I’d completely given up on Evil Stalks the Night, Leisure Books offered to buy it! Then my new editor asked if I had any other books she could look at. I sent her The Heart of the Rose and, liking it, she bought it in 1985; asking me to sex it up, make it an historical bodice-ripper (like those Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss’s provocative novels). It wasn’t much money. $1,000 advance each and 4% royalties. The publishers back then had a huge distribution and thousands of the paperbacks were printed, sent to bookstores and warehoused. So 4% over the next couple of years added up.
My career began. I slowly, like pulling teeth, sold ten more novels and various short stories over the next 25 years–as I was working full time, raising a family and living my hard-scramble life. Some did well, my Leisure and Zebra paperbacks, and some didn’t. Most of them eventually went out of print.
When Kim Richards Gilchrist of Damnation Books contracted my 13th and 14th novels 27 years later, A Time of Demons and The Woman in Crimson, she asked if I’d like to rerelease (new covers and rewritten–and in ebooks for the first time) my 7 out-of-print paperbacks, including Evil Stalks the Night. I said yes!
Of course, I rewrote it as well as my earlier novels, because my writing when I was twenty-something had been immature, unpolished; no computers or Internet had made the original writing so much harder. Writers saw the manuscript once to final proof it. There were many mistakes in those early books. Typos. Grammar. Lost plot and detail threads. In the rewrite I kept the time frame (1960-1984). The book’s essence would have lost if I’d hadn’t.
As I finished the finally editing I reminisced about the life changes I’ve had since I’d first began writing it so many years ago. Though published in 1984, I’d started writing it years before. 1978 or 1979. I’m as old as my grandmother was back then. While I was first writing it, I’d been a young married woman holding down my first real job, with a child, and trying to do it all. Now… my grandmother and parents have passed away. Family and friends I’ve left behind, too. I miss them all, especially my mom and dad. It’s strange how revising my old books reminded me of certain times of my life. Some of the memories I hid from and some made me laugh or cry. This book is the most autobiographical of all my novels. It contains details of my childhood, my divorce, and what my life was like when I met my second husband, Russell, my true love. We’ve been happily married for 34 years. The years have clicked by too quickly. I want to reach out and stop time. I want more. I want to write more stories.
So Evil Stalks the Night-Revised Author’s Edition is out for the first time in decades and I hope it’s a better book than it was in 1984. It should be… I’ve had over thirty more years of life and experiences to help make it so.
🙂 Thank you, Kathryn!
Since childhood Kathryn has always been an artist and worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world and for newspapers for twenty-three years before she quit to write full time. She began writing novels at 21, over forty years ago now, and has had fourteen (nine romantic horror, one historical romance, one romantic suspense, one romantic time travel and two murder mysteries) previous novels and eight short stories published from Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, The Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press.
She has been married to Russell for thirty-three years; they have a son, James, and two grandchildren, Joshua and Caitlyn, and lives in a small quaint town in Illinois called Columbia, which is right across the JB Bridge from St. Louis, Mo. They have two quirky cats, ghost cat Sasha and live cat Cleo, and the four of them live happily in an old house in the heart of town. Though she’s been an artist, and a folk singer in her youth with her brother Jim, writing has always been her greatest passion, her butterfly stage, and she says she’ll probably write stories until the day she dies. I know that feeling.
You can find more about Kathryn and her writing via…
- http://www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith (where you can see all her book trailers with original music by her singer / songwriter brother JS Meyer)
and you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org (she loves to hear from her readers).
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.
The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with non-fiction author Anne O’Connell – the five hundred and fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.