you thought the Titanic sank?
Well, so did I. My novel about
the Titanic, that is. But here’s how it began to
Way back in 2006, because of her
firsthand knowledge of Nova Scotia and its important role after the
sinking of the Titanic, my novelist friend Peggy
Darty suggested she and I write two novellas each for a collection and
set it in Nova Scotia. We brainstormed and shared possibilities.
However, life and other writing projects took precedence and the
collection never materialized.
A few years ago at the Blue
Ridge conference, an editor mentioned that I might consider writing a
book about the Titanic for their company to be
published in 2012 in time for the April 15 memorials of the 100th
anniversary of the sinking.
Because several books and movies
have been done about the Titanic’s sinking, I
thought my book should be about survivors following the sinking. But
after I’d submitted my proposal, I learned that editors wanted another
sinking story. Feeling like that’s what I was doing, I pressed on.
Because it’s hard (impossible?) to throw away characters who have come
to life, I had to have the afterlife as well as the sinking, so I
worked on a proposal that would cover fifty years—before, during, and
after the sinking.
By this time, several editors
had accepted Titanic books from other authors, and
another editor considered my proposal for a while. By the time the
“return” (don’t like the word “rejection”) came, I thought my ship had
sunk for good. There wouldn’t be time for any company to publish my
book before 2012.
So, as a failure and a reject in
May of 2011, I walked down the aisle to the front row of the conference
room at Blue Ridge to be introduced to other faculty. Alone and sunken,
I sat beside someone who was talking to the person on her other side.
Then Abingdon editor Ramona Richards turned her head and looked at me.
“Do you have a Titanic
book?” I said.
“No,” she said.
“You want one?”
Then she clarified the yes. “If
you can write it by June fifteenth.”
“Sure,” I said, but thought That’s
impossible, but I’m already dead in the water with this book, so this
is sink or swim. I’ll write it or drown trying.
Guess what I did that night? Ran
home (well, drove), printed a hard copy of the proposal, e-mailed a
copy, e-mailed my agent. By the next morning Ramona had two e-mailed
copies and a hard copy of the proposal. Don’t think we were anxious or
I heard from her the next day.
“I like it.”
Hey, it’s too late. I
can’t write 90,000 words (minus about a fifty-page proposal) in four
weeks. Ah, no problem. She gave me until July 1. Fortunately,
a long time ago God planned that the Fourth of July fell on a Monday,
so editors wouldn’t be in their offices from Friday through Monday. I
had a long weekend to write thousands and thousands more words.
And I did, with about 30,000
more words than needed and a disclaimer that my ending still needed
work (I didn’t mention the whole thing needed work), which I could fix
does one write so many words in such a short period of time? The way
I’ve done most things: I’ve never had enough sense to know I couldn’t.
So I wrote.
wrote. And wrote. Fortunately, I’d already done a lot
of research about the Titanic, had books marked up,
and had watched the movies over and over. My characters began to do
their thing. I didn’t have time to think a lot.
I learned the secret to writing
a lot of words in short period of time: keep the fingers moving on the
keyboard. No editing. When I was tempted to stop and think, I didn’t
stare at that screen. Instead, I jumped over the clutter on my office
floor, waded through the dirty clothes in the hallway, struggled into
my bedroom, and fell on my knees at my unmade bed and prayed for my
Please don’t blame God for some
of the things my characters do. He’s divine, but they’re still human.
And so am I. My characters became composites of many people and many
experiences, some mentioned in the acknowledgment section of the book.
One of my characters is a poet, so I asked Dr. Donn Taylor to write a
poem for me the way my character would. I included a poem written by my
son-in-law, the faith experience of my son David when he was six years
old. I included the experience of a young boy who swam out of the
baptistery after being baptized.
My office is upstairs where I
can gaze out the window at the neighborhood and the mountains in the
background. That’s a great way to leisurely pass the time without
writing, but know everything going on in the neighborhood. But not
having time to gaze, my eyes lit upon the dog next door, so I included
my neighbor’s experience of her hurting dog jumping into her car.
Much of the “after” section of
the book takes place in Nova Scotia. I researched writers groups there
and eventually found Janet Burrell, who answered questions for me
almost daily about places in Nova Scotia that would make my book
realistic and authentic.
Fortunately, I was allowed two
weeks to edit, change, rewrite the ending, and to whittle down 20,000
words. Another impossible task, but it’s amazing what one can do when
one doesn’t have time to gaze out the window.
The book should be in bookstores
by March 1, but in mid-February, Christian Writers Guild’s Writing for
the Soul Conference (Denver, CO) had the copies in its bookstore. It’s
also available through Amazon, Crossings, Rhapsody Book Clubs, and
One of my heroines has been
interviewed at http://www.margaretdaley.com/margarets-blog/. In April
I’ll have a three-day signing in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, at the
Titanic Museum. Anyone in that area, I’d love to see you.