by Anora McGaha, @anorawrites
As a girl, I started with Nancy Drew. Loved her curiosity. Her intelligence. Her courage.
But I would get scared and have to close the book. Wait until another time.
Read in the living room when others were around.
Couldn't stay away long though. Always wanted to know what happened next.
Balancing fear and curiosity. Curiosity and fear.
Before grade school was done, I put mysteries aside. For decades. Just didn't need to risk the tension of fear.
Then my aunt wrote a mystery. Her first book. And another, and another. She found what she called a "sleezy" publisher who paid mere pennies a sale, but it was a start. The Trouble With... series was launched.
A novelist in my own family. Leading the way. I had to pick up a copy and risk the fear.
Murder always gave me the creeps. It's horrific. In the news every day. Why would anyone want to take it on for leisure?
C. Crespi, as she called herself at the time, wrote light mysteries. She named her characters after her pets. She drew from experiences in the big Apple. Wove her sweetheart into the tales.
They were filled with fascinating details about life in the city, a quirky detective, with an international background like her own. Yes there was always a murder, but most of them weren't scary. The stories were delightful.
Getting an agent was awful though. So many unanswered letters and emails.
Disappointments. Until the one acceptance that made it all worthwhile.
I was grateful to hear the reality of being a writer. Not sure I’d have the stomach for it.
Camilla broke into the big time - selling a few books to a major publisher, Harper Collins. Hardbacks. Book tours. Publicist. The works.
I was so proud. Excited too because she was paving the way for my own writing. Not by opening doors, but by doing it, simply showing it could be done.
Her writing stepped up. She wrote a psychological thriller. The Price of Silence was literary fiction. A gripping story. Stirring. Questions that beg an answer from the first page. Catch a reader by the first paragraph and keep us wanting answers until the end, and, beyond.
Having an agent for one book doesn't mean an agent for every book. The agony of the search. Finally one. A sale to Soho Press. Now publishing under her own name, Camilla Trinchieri.
Then presto. Price sold across the ocean. In Italy, where her father, my grandfather was from. Where she had lived for years, and I too, for a few.
Il prezzo del silenzio. A direct translation of her title. Marcos and Marcos press.
Completely different cover. Picking up on the Chinese thread. A launch in Rome, Florence. Sardinia. Radio interviews. Magazine interviews.
An American. A New Yorker. Translated into Italian. Fluent in Italian, half Italian really. Welcomed. Celebrated. A prodigal daughter.
I had just discovered the power of blogging in 2008. Excited about what was possible, I launched a publicity blog for her.
She wasn't into blogging. She stays focused on writing books. (A good focus for a writer, one I should take a lesson from.) But I scoured the Internet for everything I could find about her American edition, and then scoured the Italian Internet for everything in Italian about her. Google.it shows different results than Google.com.
Hours and hours of wonderful work, researching every result of thousands month after month. Discovering all kinds of reviews and comments. Discovering that her books were sold online in dozens of countries around the world. South Africa. India. England. Australia. Germany. France.
After adding a Feedjit widget on the sidebar, we could see that visitors were landing on the blog from all over the world. Whether or not any books were sold, people were visiting, and the posts were a wonderful public record of all her events and all the reviews she’d received.
Mysteries are still not my cup of tea. Too scary, still. But I know this much. Every book could take a lesson from the genre. Hook your reader with intrigue from the start, tantalize with unanswered questions, leave subtle clues that sneak up and surprise us, and leave us dying to know more.
Anora McGaha is a poet, non-fiction writer, author of Social Media for Business and personal essays in three anthologies. She is the editor of Women Writers, Women Books at www.booksbywomen.org. @anorawrites is her writing handle on Twitter, and @womenwriters is the handle for her online literary magazine for women writers.