Guest post -
At any given time, zeitgeist, the spirit of the culture is such that several people will come up with the same or similar ideas. You see it in fashion, in movies, and in literature. Suddenly, everyone is wearing jewel tone dresses and flesh colored shoes, or making movies about super heroes, or writing books about their dog.
Every marketplace thrives on trends, depending on an idea or two. These will be endlessly recycled with varying degrees of financial success. It’s useful to compare a trend to a freight train pulling out from the station. A lucky few ride up front near the engine. Because they arrive first, they tend to do well. From their choice position, they get to direct the trend, so they’re almost assured of making their fortune. Many more will fight for a spot in a boxcar. They arrive soon after the big money is made, but quickly enough that they’ll still fill their pockets with gold. The stragglers scramble for the caboose. By the time they tumble off the back of the train, the pickings are slim indeed.
It’s hard to spot trends in advance. You have to keep your finger on the pulse. Your ear to the ground. Your nose to the grindstone. Not a comfortable position—and one that few people can sustain! Even those who make their living predicting the direction of the marketplace can get it wrong. Dead wrong.
When I first proposed my idea for a book about Jane Eyre to a prominent agent, he scratched his head and said, “Jane Eyre Book Club, Jane Eyre and Mr. Darcy, blah-blah-blah. Jane Eyre is sooo over. It’s been done to death!” Then he checked his Blackberry.
I stuttered, “Uh, sir? I believe you’re talking about Jane Austen. I’m talking about Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë’s heroine.”
He didn’t even look up. Instead he waved a dismissive hand at me. “Jane Eyre, Jane Austen, whatever. It’s been done. It’s over. Is that all you’ve got?”
I remember that moment well. We were sitting in the first floor lounge area of the Crystal City Marriott where Malice Domestic used to be held. At the agent’s indifferent reaction, I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.
I thanked him for his time and stumbled away. Over? How could Jane Eyre be over?
I glanced back at him, as he furiously stabbed away at his Blackberry. Right then and there, I decided, “I’m not giving up. I love Jane Eyre. I always have, and I refuse to believe I’m alone in this world.”
A year later, Berkley Trade brought the rights to Death of a Schoolgirl, the first book in The Jane Eyre Chronicles. A few months later, Jane Eyre the movie hit the theatres, showing viewers yet another in the long line of film versions of the love story. This particular motion picture introduced a brand new generation to Brontë’s classic. In January of this year, Charlotte Brontë’s long lost love letters to a married man were discovered, after having been salvaged by his angry wife! These will be included in an upcoming anthology reproducing the actual love letters of many famous people. More recently, a miniature magazine hand-scribbled by Charlotte was sold at auction and fetched £690,850.
Meanwhile, Death of a Schoolgirl has been chosen by the Mystery Guild as a Featured Alternate Selection, a rare honor for the first book in a new series.
And, a wonderful honor, Joanna. Congratulations on the selection by the Mystery Guild! And, good luck with the book!
Joanna Campbell Slan's website is www.joanna-campbell-slan.com
Death of a Schoolgirl by Joanna Campbell Slan. Penguin Group (USA), 9780425247747 (paperback), 320p.