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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Sunday, July 02, 2006

"Why don't we do it in the road?"

by Stephanie Feagan

I love to write. Take away the hype, the promo, the business side of things, boil it all down to just me, the computer, a cup o' Folgers, and iTunes, and I'm at my absolute happiest. Before I sold my first book, I remember reading complaint posts by published authors on various lists about how they were bogged down in a book from hell, that finishing it was killing them, and they wondered if their career would be over because of the damn book that gave them heartburn. I always thought - rather smugly, I admit - oh get over yourself. How dare you gripe about a book you've already sold? I'd kill to be in your shoes!

Well, I didn't have to kill anyone, but hell if I didn't wind up in their shoes. A little over a week ago, I turned in the book from hell. It was over two weeks past deadline, and after I dropped it in Fed-Ex, I wanted to go home and cry. Instead, I went to a bakery and bought a ginormous chocolate chip cookie and ate it in the car and pondered my fleeting career as a writer.

A bit of history....

I wanted to write a Bombshell that was different than my first three, all of which had the same heroine. I gave it a lot of thought and came up with a petroleum engineer who fights oil well fires. When someone intentionally sets a string of blowouts, she's caught up in the villain's evil plot and - because she's a kickass Bombshell babe - it's up to her to find out who he is and stop him before he sparks World War III. The hero is a southern boy with an attitude who clues in pretty quickly to what's going on - and helps her. Bear in mind, Bombshells are all about the heroine saving the day, so I wrote the proposal with that in mind. I did some preliminary research, wrote 3 chapters and a synopsis and shot it off to New York. My editor, Natashya Wilson, who rocks my world, loved the premise and she bought it. Yay me!


Then I had to actually write the book. I contacted a blowout specialist, spoke to at least 7 different petroleum engineers here in my hometown - where they are plentiful! - got some information from a cargo pilot, spoke at length to a man who builds gas compressors and has spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and trolled the Internet for hours and hours, reading up on all things Saudi Arabian. It's still blowing my mind, how much research this book required.

You see, the heroine goes to Saudi Arabia on page 153 - she spends half the book in Saudi Arabia. The plot demanded Saudi Arabia and no other Middle Eastern country would do.

That's when this turned into the Book From Hell.

Let's review:

Women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
Women can't go out of their home without a male escort - and not just any old male. It's got to be someone in their immediate family.
Women must wear an abaya, a long, black robe, over their clothes, and a black scarf must cover their head. Veils are optional.
Women can't sit in a restaurant, even with their escort, unless the restaurant offers a family dining room, which means everyone in the room is married.
Women can't speak to a man not in their family, nor stand close to him. If he looks at her longer than a nanosecond he can be in serious trouble with the religious police.

Are you getting a picture of why this was a killer book to write? Remember, it's a Bombshell, where the heroine saves the day. "Gosh, hon, would you mind going with me as my escort while I go out there and kick some ass and save the world? Thanks!"

One night, at about 2 a.m., I seriously considered looking for the contract, to find out what I'd have to do to pull the book. Just send their money back and say, never mind.

Yeah, it was a killer to write this book, but I'm trying very hard to look at the positive. I certainly had to stretch myself to finish, and in all humbleness, I don't think it turned out too bad. I got to a point where I turned her liabilities to her favor - I used the draconian restrictions the Saudi government places on women as a plot point. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

Nevertheless, I told my agent, if I ever again consider setting a Bombshell in a Muslim country, she should kick my ass and remind me about Blowout - the book from hell.

I should mention that another published author said she went through a very similar experience, that one of her books gave her nightmares. But she plodded through to the finish - and that book wound up being nominated for a Rita.

Let me just say, right now, if Blowout is nominated for a Rita, I'll buy everyone a ginormous cookie!

In the meantime, I'm watching my inbox for revisions. Whoo damn - that's going to be interesting.


At 3:08 PM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

Ah, Stef, it sounds like such a great book! The one I just turned in, I'm not at all sure about. I am going to NYC next week and will meet with my editor on Friday. Then I get the news...will she like it??????? The only saving grace is, no matter what, I get to see Gerard Butler in Beowulf & Grendel that night. And Phantom of the Opera on Broadway the night before.

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Angela James said...

I'm bookmarking this page so I can collect on my cookie, Stef :)

The book sounds unique, I look forward to its release, when is that?

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Colleen Gleason said...

I can't wait to read the book, Stef! I know it's fabulous--simply because you had to pull your hair out while writing it.

So glad you got it done, baby! Great job on turning the Saudi culture into a plot twist.

At 5:21 PM, Blogger Stephanie Feagan said...

Diane, I'd bet a lotta cookies your ed's gonna love it. I'd also fork over a lotta cookies to go to New York - not on the Gerry Bandwagon yet, but maybe you could show me the way? Hee! And maybe, while we're at it, we could go to the Petrossian and have caviar? Aw, hell, I'd settle for a New York hot dog. They just taste better there. (Note food theme - I must be hungry...)

Okay, Angie - here's hoping I have to send a cookie. Not sure about the release date yet - Tashya says sometime in mid-2007. Yes, that's right - I get to sweat bullets for an entire year. In the meantime, I'm going to propose another Bombshell set entirely in Texas, within a ten mile radius of my house. Research will be a snap. Ha! Thanks for stopping by!

Colleen, I hope you're right. One thing very different about this book from the others I've done is that it's a lot more romancey. The plot sort of lent itself to romance, so I'm hopeful that's an element I get to keep.

Okay, I have to get back to cleaning out my closet, where I fully expect to find a dead body, an old car, and maybe some ancient manuscripts. It's scary as hell in there!

At 10:54 PM, Blogger Fullofdevilment said...

Big congrats and hugs, Steffie girl. You can't miss with that one! I'll be standing in line at the bookstore to grab it the day it comes out.
Can you believe It? I'm blogging with the best.

At 9:35 AM, Blogger Jennie Lucas said...

Thanks for the behind-the-scenes look, Stef. I love when it's your blog day. It's a nice insightful (not to mention funny) reality check about the "perfect" life of a published author. =) Can't wait to read Blowout!

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Can't wait to read it, then cheer for it at the RITA ceremony while I eat my ginormous cookie. :)

At 1:14 AM, Blogger Stephanie Feagan said...

deucette! No, I can't believe it - but I'm fired up you came by. Thanks, girlfriend!

Jenna, it's all a lie. Really, I sit around my palatial home all day and mutter, "Heads will roll...heads will ROLL!" while servants do my bidding and my ripped male assistant, appropriately named Raoul, pounds out all of my books in a dark closet. Ah yes, it's good to be published!'re just too sweet! I hope I have to buy cookies.

At 8:13 AM, Blogger MaryF said...

Ooooh, cookie!

Can't wait to read this book!!!! Hope the revisions are minor!

At 11:22 AM, Blogger moonpunter said...

PHM is HERE!!!

At 7:39 PM, Blogger Tori Scott said...

We've been spammed by Moonputer. He spammed my blog too.

Hey Deucette! Wow, you're getting into blogging big time. Next thing you know, you'll have your own blog.

Stef, I love, love, love your books, but girlfriend, I wish you wouldn't put yourself through such a wringer each time. Stretch that deadline out a bit, take time to breathe a little. And remember: NO CHRISTMAS OR NEW YEAR DEADLINES!!!!

At 8:54 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I want to be in your shoes, Stef! I also want to eat a ginormous cookie next year at conference! And I can't wait to read Blowout. The book sounds fab...

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Jennie Lucas said...

Stef -- OMG, you crack me up!! "Heads will ROLL!" Forget a ripped male assistant, I'd just want a fat, jolly cook to make my meals. Bliss!


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