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Made It Moment II

November 28, 2012Made It Moment II: Charles SalzbergFiled under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:05 pm

Swann Dives In

Charles Salzberg is an author who has played such an important role in my writerly life that it’s hard to encapsulate it in an introduction. First, there was the fact that I met Charles when I attended NYWW’s Perfect Pitch…after which I met the agent who not-so-long-ago sold my first novel. Charles helped craft the pitch for the novel I was working on into something that attracted an agent (and 3 editors). He’s a master at seeing through to the bones of a novel, of developmental editing. He’s also an author himself–and if you like your mystery taken with a dash of shrewdness and a dollop of realism, both Swann novels are for you. Last, Charles’ website is a true work of art, worth a visit just as eye candy.

Did I say last? Last is really contained in the Made It Moment you’re about to read. Because now, as I stand poised on what feels like the rim of a cliff, Charles’ influence continues. One thing we writers–we humans–have to learn is how to meet failures with something besides a crash landing. How to turn them, wherever possible, into successes. In this Moment, Charles shows us how.

Charles Salzberg

Before I received the confirming email, Google alerts kicked in.  My first detective novel, Swann’s Last Song, had been nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel.

I was shocked.  Not because I didn’t think the novel was good, though not good enough to win an award, but because the whole thing was a mistake. I’d never meant to write a detective novel and certainly not one that might be taken seriously by the crime community.  In fact, when I first wrote the book, almost 25 years ago, I thought of it as an anti-detective novel, a literary exercise that would play with the genre, turn it upside down by creating a traditional detective who follows all the clues but doesn’t solve the crime.

But that didn’t go over so well with agents or publishers, so I stuck the manuscript in a drawer, and buried it on an old computer, only to resurrect it years later when I caved in and changed the ending, thereby getting it published.

And now it was nominated for an award.  I didn’t think I’d win, but after a while, I don’t care what anyone says, you get a taste for it.  You can see all those bios that read “Shamus Award winning novelist,” and you even say to yourself, “little do they know that it’s a one-off,” because in SLS, at the end, the detective is so disillusioned that he quits the business.

I lost, as I knew I would.  But then something strange happened.  I got pissed off.  I wanted another shot at it.  I wanted to win something, anything.  And so I did something completely unplanned: I wrote a sequel.  I rescued Swann from the dung heap of a real day job and put him back to work as a skip tracer.  The result was Swann Dives In.   And now, since I’m having so much fun with the character, I’ve just finished a third.

So I guess the “made” moment was not being nominated for an award, but losing it.