Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Story Behind the Story:
“The Indigo Factor,” by Linda L. Richards

(Editor’s note: This 34th entry in our “Story Behind the Story” series comes from Linda L. Richards, author of the stockbroker Madeline Carter mystery series and two novels (Death Was the Other Woman and Death Was in the Picture) starring Kitty Pangborn, the resourceful “girl Friday” to Los Angeles private eye Dexter Theroux. A resident of British Columbia, Canada, Richards is also the editor of January Magazine, an award-winning book review and author interview site. After releasing a couple of short stories for e-readers--Hitting Back and Dearborn 9-1-1--Richards this week debuts her first original e-novel, The Indigo Factor, which she describes as “Fringe meets The Sixth Sense” and “a taut and muscular thriller that takes readers behind the scenes at the CIA, deep inside a doomsday cult and beyond.” Below, she recalls how she came to write this novel and release it in electronic format, rather than print.)

Write the book that’s in your heart. It’s what I have always told people: readers, students, people who read my blog, basically anyone who will listen.

Write the book that’s in your heart.

And that’s what I’ve always done.

And then there was The Indigo Factor. A few years ago, I started hearing about indigo children, youngsters who--though they may have been diagnosed with learning disabilities--are thought to be endowed with special, perhaps supernatural traits. In my life, I’m always waiting for threes. And hearing about indigo children came to me in threes and I knew I had to act.

I have a difficult time now remembering exactly where the story that would become The Indigo Factor came from, or how the people who inhabit it grew. After a while, see, they were so much a part of me that their origins were lost in the mist of all of that. It seems to me that I blinked my eyes one day, and they were just there: Olivia, peaceful of mien but of a tortured military background; little Faun with her questionable heritage and her unnameable gifts; Royce, just doing his job, because what else is there for him to do?; and Jamison--conflicted, beautiful and, in the end, supremely compromised.

So the story began, as the stories I tell always do, with a distant thought and a feeling. That is, when I began the journey, I didn't know where it would all end or what impossible lengths it would put me through. Every aspect of the novel I researched led more deeply into another, more impossible place. And so what started as a story involving indigo children ended up looking at so much more: cults, physic hot spots, remote viewing, black helicopters. More. So much more, my heart and head swam with the story that was unfolding under my fingers. And still--still--I wrote.

When it was done, I knew it was done. I knew, also, that I could write a sequel: could see the place that this story would go. I sent the book to my agent, who fell in love with it instantly. “Linda,” she said, “you’ve written a bunch of terrific books, but this? This is the best by far.” The Indigo Children, she said, would be my breakthrough book. How could it not be? That was how good she thought it was.

Of course she tried selling it right away. Lots of editors wanted to see it, too. The very best at every house. After a while, reports started coming back. Editors loved The Indigo Factor. I have a file of beautiful notes. Editors loved the story. They loved the characters. They loved the writing. What they didn’t love: where would it fit? I understand. Sure I do. It’s a thriller, at its core. But there are vestiges of the paranormal about it, even though it is not a paranormal book. Editors of paranormal lines felt it was not paranormal enough. Straight-up thriller and mystery editors thought it danced too closely to that edge.

We came very close a couple of times with significant publishers. But for some it was too Canadian. For others, not Canadian enough. And no matter where readers fell on the Canadian thing, we’d be back to the issues of paranormal and not. Suffice it to say this was not a formulaic book and it was difficult to know exactly where it would fit.

I’ve written several novels that were critically acclaimed, and I’ve built a readership for my work, but my numbers were not--are not--significant enough for editors to take a risk. Certainly not for a book that is too Canadian and not Canadian enough, and is not completely paranormal but has too much of the paranormal about it. A book that was not an easy fit.

See, I had set out convinced that the last thing the world needed was the story of yet another damaged cop or another hard-done-by reporter. It seemed to me there were enough of those available already. Maybe more than enough. I didn’t follow a formula. I told the story that was in my heart. What was it? Mystery? Thriller? Art? I didn’t care. I don’t care now. It was a story tinged--touched?--by all the mystery we have in our world. I wanted readers to wonder, when they’d finished it, what was real and what was not. More than one reader told me afterwards that she spent time with Google siphoning the real from the not-so-much. That’s a journey I’m proud of, as well: the one that moves you from your seat.

Several editors suggested that if I made The Indigo Factor into something else--a little more of this, a little less of that--they could find it a comfortable place on their lists. More than once I sat down with the manuscript thinking I would begin that journey of taking what it appeared had become a square peg and stuffing it into a round hole. But it just stuck in my craw.

I loved these characters. I still do. And I love this story. And I’m lucky: authors in other eras would have had to either shove the book into a deep drawer to hope someone stumbled across it when they were dead and had more clout ... or take the trip at altering what they’d written in passion and turning it into something the gatekeepers would accept. For better or for worse, I didn’t have to do those things and have instead opted to have it be my first original novel to debut in electronic formats. A book, also, completely unlike anything I’ve written before. Darker, I think. More violent. And with a reality that shifts so quickly, I hope you don’t ever stay steady on your feet.

1 comment:

Charmaine Clancy said...

Love the advice, 'write the book that's in your heart'. Too true!