Anyway fall is beautiful in San Francisco. I get this memo from my new editor and I start working with her. She’s pretty good, unlike some of the witch editors I’ve had in the past — mostly these bitch women types who look at their vaginas in the mirrors in the bathtub, or quote Virginia Woolf. This one sounds about twelve, fresh out of the Iowa Writing Program, but she sounds human anyway.
So I’m on the phone with her this morning and she has this voice like the twenty something girls and every sentence with a question , her vocabulary mostly ‘insane, awesome, okay’ shut the door. So we’re discussing Rats the title of my new novel, how rats is a metaphor for men and women who gnaw at you until everything is gone and than after they destroy you, they hide.
“Insane and brilliant,” she sighs.
I explain further that rat people look for your vulnerable spots and wham they get you and that my protagonist rats out the rat who does her in and ultimately finds true love.
“I think we need to tighten the book? To accentuate rats? If you do, we have a bestseller?”
So the next few months , between designing hats for my clients, mostly freaky great looking men and women, but earning enough to pay my rent. Carlos my landlord almost kicked me out because he said I didn’t sort the garbage right, When I lied that I wasn’t the one who dropped rotten eggs in the recycle bin he held up one of my unpaid bill notices ! See! Don’t lie! Or out the door!Meanwhile the old building is falling apart, holes in the backstairs, the laundry room rat infested, but it has had high ceilings, Victorian moldings, built in window seats that look out at this beautiful Dolores Park and pretty trees and bike paths.
As winter finally comes and turns dark I work on integrating the editor’s notes, ignoring most of them. Plus she tracks and I hate tracking — technology drives me crazy. It’s not enough I’m seventy and had written my former books on a typewriter and had to learn technology, but the tracking really makes me crazy.
Now it’s near Christmas and finally I’m working with the cover designer. Who sends me one cover worse than the other. The editor loves the image of a woman wearing stilettos with laces to her bare thighs, and a mane of hair floating behind her.
“No. Not it. Not the image I want,” I tell the editor . “My protagonist is sixty year wears glasses and ireads Anias Nin and Henry Miller and…”
“Sixty and smart won’t sell. It doesn’t sound real.”
“It’s true. ”
“True doesn’t sell unless it’s rape or murder. You need a sexy cover.”
“So I fight this imbecile and finally get a cover though not my choice. A shadowy woman, a rat on her shoulder.
Next I’m assigned a publicist, what they call a publicist. Epic Johnson is twenty-three, and can’t write a press release and when I suggest, even give her contact information for TV or book clubs she recites that she can only do so much. “If you’re not happy I can assign you to….”
“Oh you’re fine…really great,” I fine, “I say., knowing if I agree there will be no one and she’ll drop the book and not even get it up on Amazon.“… Thank you.”Anyway, I spend hours making lists of bookstores, book buyers, book reps, e-mailing my pitch, then following up with calls. Most of the book buyers are power rats. Either they hang up on you, or while you’re talking, they’re typing on google looking up your sales figures on former books.
Rats is published. It floats on Amazon. It’s in some bookstores. Epic occasionally will book me on some Christian radio show. “My protagonist is Jewish and doesn’t believe in religion and she’s a liberal.”
This story is true.
BarbaraRose, author, Snippets , essays to go into her next book that mostly takes place during the pandemic. Her TV appearances and books are available on www.barbararosebrooker.com