Friday, May 29, 2009

Marcia Gruver

Some say the writing profession has changed a bit over time. Um. . .ya’ think?

Old movies portrayed novelists as pampered celebrities fawned over by editors, publicists, and fans. The author responded in an appropriately ethereal, bohemian manner, their artist personas intact and noses high above it all. An awkward posture for eating hand-fed grapes.

Writer’s block was more than a romantic notion. A backup in the author’s creative flow meant the machine ground to a halt until someone resuscitated the muse—and no one dared to rush the process.

Marketing? Not a problem. Book promotion was the PR person’s job. Deadlines? Phish! Editors hovered, content to wait for as long it took to produce a masterpiece, thrilled to receive the long awaited copy despite the overdue date. Editors catering to the author’s whims? Not the other way around? Now there’s a role-reversal!

In our fiercely competitive industry, there’s no time for editors to cart their clients about on silver platters. With the influx of talented authors in modern times, if editors hoisted only the best overhead, their poor backs couldn’t handle the strain. And who wants an overburdened, overstressed editor?

Disclaimer: Before I get two million letters of rebuttal, let me remind you these examples of editor pampering aren’t based in reality. They’re merely Hollywood portrayals from old movies. Although. . .

Harper Lee’s editor worked with her for three years on To Kill a Mockingbird. They spent weekends at the editor's summer house shaping the manuscript into its final draft. They were friends. Buddies. They hung out. Harper Lee’s editor has been described as a nurturer of Harper and her work.

Thomas Wolfe wrote in his journal of editor Maxwell Perkins: “In all my life, until I met you, I never had a friend.”

Albert Bigelow Paine, Samuel (Mark Twain) Clemens's editor and biographer “felt an obligation to silently alter or remove passages from the texts he did publish, and to block access to the rest when he thought them unworthy of his hero.” Hero? Has a nice ring, doesn’t it?

There are more examples, but you get the idea. Note to fabulous editor: Not sure on which continent your summer house resides, but my passport’s up-to-date and my bags are all packed.

If anyone knows the facts about author/editor relationships of the past, feel free to weigh in and enlighten us. Even more fun, weigh in and share your own highly exaggerated tales.
Marcia is giving away a copy of Chasing Charity to one lucky commentor. So leave a comment to get your name thrown in the hat.
Find out more about Marcia on her website. On her Blog or by talking to her here today at Seekerville.


  1. Good morning! Hey, where were all you late-night owls last night? I made a big bowl of extra-buttery popcorn and had to eat it all by myself (okay, so I didn’t mind that part). So now I’m brewing a big pot of Hainan-island, coconut-flavored coffee, courtesy of my husband who chuckles over my new ‘cyber’ life. Hope you enjoy!

    I’m really hoping I get to attend one of those gut-twisting conferences next year and offer to buy coffee in person for all of you. That would be the greatest!

    Tina P, I loved the question you posted yesterday and dropped a response to it. I really hope there will be some more discussion about the issue of making readers love ‘bad’ heroes.

    And, Tina R, I lived in Germany too! When my husband was in the AF, I had my first two kids at Landstuhl hospital. A lot more Americans there in 2000 though!

    Okay, so now to the present topic—who gets pampered? Thanks, Marcia, for reminding all of us not to let a little praise go to our heads. Just like Jacqui commented on her blog, we’re not just pitching our books but ourselves. And nobody, least of all a busy editor, wants to deal with an arrogant personality, even if they have the time. The good thing for all of us at Seekersville is that we already know the best Example for modeling true humility. (I have a basin ready with warm water for those tired, aching feet. Anyone?)

  2. I missed the popcorn?

    With butter?

    I'm bummed.

    But I brought coffee for all, with an array of decadent creamers including the hands on favorite, Italian Sweet Cream...


    Marcia, welcome to Seekerville!!!

    I'd love to here an editor's take on this, on how they have to walk today's authors through current crises...




    More divorce.

    I'm only partially tongue-in-cheek here. Today's authors are a different time, a different breed, lots of single mothers or guys and gals facing the gamut of stuff the new millenium throws them.

    Great topic!

    I brought fresh homemade bread too, perfect for toasting or lathering with sweet, creamy butter and fresh strawberry/rhubarb jam.

    Quiet, hips.

    Be still, fleshy upper arms.

    I'm eating.


  3. Ruthy--southern belle in New York, I can in no way resist that freshmade bread. And editors--you've got to publish Detecting Delia by this gal 'cause I just read the synop and I'm salivating! Sounds real and passionate to me. Talk about taking a 'bad' hero and making me want to see how love turns him around.

  4. Good morning, Marcia. Welcome to Seekerville! I smiled all the way through your post. Wish those days still existed...even if they existed for only a few. You make a great point. Competition is fierce. Editors won't tolerate missed deadlines or needy authors. Still, that pampering sounded fun. I may try dangling a clump of grapes over my head to see if they taste sweeter that way. :-)

    Ruthy, thanks for the homemade bread. Love that yeasty aroma.

    Hi Ayrian. The foot bath feels divine. I'll do the same for you.


  5. Hi Marcia,

    I remember watching a movie about Jacqueline Suzanne's life and it showed her editor inviting her to his families summer home to go over edits and extending her deadlines. However, she did alot of promo work for her books, or that's how she was portrayed.


  6. Janet-Thank you so much! I love running around in bare feet and getting pampered a little. I had to take a peek at your upcoming books and have to say I'm eager for 2010 just so I can read 'The Substitute Bride'. It sounds like a convenient marriage, which is the type of story I'm always a sucker for. Am I right?

  7. What a fun post, Marcia! A lot of people think authors are still pampered. The question is should we set them straight or keep the author mystique?

  8. People also think authors make tons of money, but I already know that's usually not true! I recently read a blog post by a writer who had just hit the bestseller list for the first time. She'd only made $12,000 off that book. That was really depressing to me!

    Some authors still do act like divas. Maybe not toward their editors ... but I'm not revealing how I know this!

    Actually, 90% of the published authors I've "met" through email or in person are wonderful, humble, down-to-earth people. But there are a few divas out there.

  9. Hey, there are a few schoolteachers, engineers, bankers, you name it, who are divas! You don't have to be a pubbed author to have a snooty, high-maintenance attitude. Just thought I would add that.

    (Wow, this is sounding worse and worse all the time. I think I should just be quiet!)

  10. I remember reading an article about Barbara Cartland. Remember her? Cranked out romance novels by the pound.
    (I know, this isn't editors)
    The article said she wore only pink and instead of writing her books she dictated them to a secretary. She'd lounge on some sofe and just started talking and the secretary had to keep up.

    Odd image.

    Wonder if by any chance she was high maintanence? I'll bet her editors did whatever they needed to to keep her happy, that woman sold a LOT of books.

    There was one quote that stuck in my mind that reminds us of how far romance novels have changed.
    Talking about her heroines, she said, "They must be ICE MAIDENS, darling."

  11. Oh, oops, I should add, HI MARCIA!!!

    I love your books. Marcia's brand or log line of whatever you'd call it is "Author of Factual Fiction" and she's really got a great, fresh voice with a flare for regional accents and wonderful characters.

  12. Marcia, welcome to Seekerville!!! Mary Connealy has been telling me about your books for a long time now, and I have SO been meaning to read them!! Unfortunately, I don't think I have a shot at winning it here today because the other Seekers won't let me. But as one author to another, that's okay -- I don't mind buying it!

    Excellent post!

    And, Ayrian, wait till your husband stops chuckling and calls it your "cyber-family"!! It's not pretty ... :)


  13. Great post, Marcia. Good morning! The first author who bounced into my head after reading this was Oscar Wilde. He was a celebrity in his time, known by everyone in the know. He took his time coming up with stories, knowing his publisher waited breathlessly for his next masterpiece.

    When I think about authors during his time, I think of a "golden age", when you could finish up your manuscript and carry it, personally, to the editor/publisher of your dreams, sit in their waiting area, and be seen.

    This of course makes me think of other "golden eras in writing", conjuring up scenes from "Little Women" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." Oldies but goodies.


    To think that one could just carry their precious cargo to the doorstep of a publisher and the editor would read it. With them there. Waiting. Times were so much simplier back then. And yes, I do know movies tend to idealize :)

    However, I am usually worthless without a deadline. I have even gone to the extent to pray for a personal drill seargent to help me get my butt in gear! I long for the day I have an agent/editor who is expecting work from me, who is (in their own way) encouraging me to get my work out there, edited, ready to roll. I need that.

    And as much as I'd enjoy wining and dining with Oscar , I must say, for my personality, I need a cattle prod phone call or email to make me productive!

  14. Julie--you always make me grin. Thanks!

    And ice maiden? Whew. I suppose . . . if I gave a good enough reason . . . but then I really, really would have to make her thaw. Just so I could get in at least one toe-curling kiss, you understand. :)

  15. Ayrian, thanks for the kudos on Detecting Delia! How nice of you to stop by my website. That makes two visitors this year!!!


    And honey-chile, ice maidens were made to THAW...

    That was the author's task so you'd be wonderful!

    I love that romance has evolved into real life heroes (well, a little larger than real life, no pun intended) and strong, tough heroines that stand on their own but could use a little love and support.

    So much better!!!

  16. Ruth--I loved your website. I think it's a great idea to post the synopsis of a manuscript. And being part of Seekersville MUST get you more hits than if you weren't. I'm still tickled to have found you gals for my 'cyber family'!

  17. Marcia, you have such skill with words. It'd be fun to try out the Hollywood Author Diva role for awhile just to see what it was like. :)

  18. Hi Marcia -

    Is this one of those supply/demand scenarios? The publishing industry has an abundance of talent from which to choose. Like employers, when times are tough, they can afford to be picky.

    BTW, pass some of that popcorn. :)

    Please enter me in the contest. susanjreinhardt (at) gmail (dot) com.


  19. I see you started without me. Scooch over and pass the popcorn, please. I'll take some of that coffee, too. With loads of sugar and Italian cream. Cut the coffee.

    JStanton mentioned Oscar Wilde. While researching this post, I found a picture of his gravestone. It's SMEARED with sloppy lipstick kisses. Can you imagine kisses on your gravestone?

    I remember having a grossly idealized perception of a novelist's life. Until reality hit. We have to admit it's still fun sometimes--because of the mystique. I say we keep it, Debby!

    Hi, Mary! Thanks for the warm fuzzies. Thrilling coming from your talented self.

    What? Haven't read my books, Julie? Well, we'll just have to fix that because I've read all of yours--and LOVED them!

    Anyway, good morning all. Ruthy, toss me a chunk of that bread, heavy on the butter and jam.

  20. Hi Marcia:

    This is a very interesting topic.

    My knowledge of editors comes from reading everything by and about F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway many years ago. To read these accounts you would think Max Perkins was more talented than both these authors.

    It is even said that Fitzgerald spent so many years on ‘Tender is the Night’ that he finally delivered a huge box with over a 1000 pages of manuscript to Max Perkins and told him to put it together himself!

    Fitzgerald couldn’t even decide in what order the chapters should appear. Perkins put the book together and should probably be listed as a co-author of “Tender is the Night”.

    With the idea that all editors are still like Max Perkins, I once asked a romance author, with over 20 books to her credit, how an obvious mistake got past her editor. She seemed surprised and said, ‘editors are so busy today that the most I ever hear from my editor is about getting my books in on deadline.” She gave me the impression that the more books you have published, the less attention an editor is going to give you. I also got the impression that she thought her editor should be giving her books more attention. I wonder how other authors feel.


    Vmres at swbell dot net

  21. Thank you, Erica! Sweet thing to say.

    And Susan, you may be right. We're in a writer recession. :)

  22. Marcia--when you find an editor like that LET ME KNOW! hehe

  23. Ah, the good 'ol days...LOL!

    Great article, Marcia. I think this is the misconception most people (and some authors) have about what working with an editor will be like.

  24. I had to smile as I read your post, Marcia. I can't even imagine an editor spending time at your house or woking with you for three years on a manuscript. Our instant gratification society doesn't allow luxuries like that anymore. It almost made me wish I could have written then, until I remembered that they didn't have computers. It was either hand written or produced on a typewriter with carbon copies. Maybe the twenty-first century has its blessings.

    Sandra Robbins

  25. Okay, so I don't have that kind of relationship with my editors, but I absolutely love mine anyway. I've been blessed to work with two incredible ladies. And if the day ever comes that they want to invite me over or want to drop by, well, who am I to say no. (Hey, dreaming helped me become a pubbed author. I'm not stopping now. LOL)

  26. Vince, great story about Fitzgerald and Perkins. I got the feeling some of the same was going on with other author/editor teams I researched. Them days is gone forever.

    It's a deal, Linda. And if you find one, let ME know.

    True, Elizabeth. But if the authors of the past were truly so needy, I wouldn't have wanted to be an editor. :)

    Great point, Sandra! However, the arrival of computers on the writing scene may be the reason editors decided we have more time for marketing and self-promotion. Might not have been a good trade. :)

    Janelle, you were blessed with wonderful editors. Acutally, I think most of them are very special people. I've so enjoyed working with my editor at Barbour. In fact, the whole Barbour team is first-class in my book. (Yep. Still trying to get that summer house invite.)

  27. Thanks Marcia,

    It just blows my mind that if I ever make it, I will not be pampered to death. Of course by the time I make I will need to be "Pamper"ed for different reasons


    And you know there was time there I couldn't tell between Barbara Cartland and Mary Kay they were both into pink and both looked like formaldahyde princesses. Okay one did sit on a gold gilded chaise which helped tell them apart.

    I don't know that I want the chaise, but I would love the editor slave with palm fronds at my beck and call, ready to serve me chilled grapes and sweet drinks because I made their company soooo much moolah.

    Of course they'd probably kick me out of the chair and make me stand over them with the frond these days

    Ayrian, sorry I missed the popcorn. Saw the invite last night but had to turn in. We old grandmas need our beauty sleep, that is why I stay so gorgeous don't you know. that and Juice Plus.


    I lived in Germany for four years. Zweibrucken. When I was an Airforce Brat. Lived in Izmir (Smyrna) Turkey for one.

  28. Great post Marcia! Sometimes I wonder what my editor will be like...
    I hope someone honest but nice.

  29. Marcia, okay now I feel bad -- you've read all my books? Oh, man, I don't do well with guilt ... Trust me, this situation will be remedied very soon ...

    And, Vince ... great story about Fitzgerald!


  30. Tina: "tee hee" on the whole Pampered thing. Three years in Frankfurt - army wife.

    Jessica, I'm praying for a wonderful editor for you.

    Julie, no guilt. There a method to my madness. (wink) But, yes. I've read your books and they're wonderful.

  31. Hello! I read Chasing Charity a few weeks ago...LOVED it...and I just started reading Diamond Duo yesterday (yeah I know I read them out of order)and I'm loving it already! So yes Julie, you definitely need to read these books...they're great! (Wow I sound like Tony the tiger :-P) Can't wait for Emmy's Equal!!!!

  32. I'd love to read this book; it says Charity changes her mind but not her heart. It's amazing what the heart will make us do or not do.

  33. Mary, I think I read the same article about Dame Cartland.

    And that was year's ago! lol

    I believed every word. Maybe some of it was hyped up press?

  34. Marcia! So great to have you in Seekerville.

    Your books sound exactly like my favorite kind of reading. I'll have to check them out.

  35. Hmmm, I wonder if the proliferation of agents has anything to do with most authors not being the celebrities they once were?

    And, more importantly, the invention of the computer and the internet opened up a whole new world for would-be writers.

    It's easier to write, revise, and submit than ever before.

  36. *sigh* I missed the coffee this a.m. but tis okay, I'm a hot chocolate drinker myself.

    I don't know about y'all, but I think the tables have turned. I'm more likely to rub a few agents/editors feet and supply them with endless amounts of chocolate in order to get published, vs. the other way around.

  37. Didn't mean to disappear. Granddaughter invasion. The very best kind.

    Robynl, Charity’s heart is torn between a hunky rascal and a sandy-haired oilman with a heart of gold. Black gold. . .Texas tea. :)

    Thanks, Pam. I hope you will check out my books. I had so much fun writing these characters.

    I didn’t have a real pampered (there’s that word again) author in mind. Definitely a movie I saw years ago. They (author/editor/pretty girl) were aboard a ship bound for somewhere exotic. I want to say Rock Hudson or Cary Grant. Someone like that. Anyone remember?

    Krista, I happen to know the whole chocolate bribe thing actually happened one year at ACFW. In some circles, it's still referred to as Hershey-Gate. It didn't work so well for the author. . .or so I hear. :)

  38. Oh my gosh. Great post Marcia.

    Ayrian, I was stationed in Augsburg and in fact had my first child at the hospital there.

  39. Okay, ladies, more hot chocolate and buttered popcorn coming.

    Tina and Tina--kids and Germany, go figure.

    Vince--I believe it about editors not 'editing' much anymore. I've caught a few big mistakes by popular names. But I love the stories so much, grace extended!

    As for computers--I must say, I couldn't give them up even if I have to do my own promotion. Where else would I have met you all? :)
    And I have four edits saved on just one story! (sigh)

  40. What a fun post! Thanks so much for being with us yesterday in Seekerville, Marcia!

    Missy--who thinks some bon bons might help with creativity. :)