When I was very young and naïve, I read a poorly written romance novel and declared to a friend—“I can do better than that!” So off I trotted to a garage sale and bought a manual typewriter for $25 to prove it. Five years and five unpublished novels later, I had my first publishing contract with Bantam Books. The year was 1989. Since that time I have been working with books—novels, memoirs, non-fiction, you name it—in some capacity or another.
Professional publishing is a difficult industry to break into and just as hard to remain in without a tremendous amount of dedication and some lucky breaks along the way. After mine came in 1989, I spent the next ten years intent on revolutionizing the romance genre. My 17 novels from Bantam and Harlequin (written as Mallory Rush), had extensive foreign translations. I won awards, made bestseller lists, had interviews in papers and magazines and on TV. Some of this came from penning what was considered a landmark book at the time—Love Game—due to its premise of a frankly erotic romance. Oh so shocking in 1995!
It was a good run. It was exhausting. I ran out of steam (figuratively and literarily).
In order to stay connected I wrote an industry column for Novelists, Inc.—an international organization for published authors of popular fiction—which turned into my first editorial opportunity: Newsletter Editor, NINK. Suddenly I was overseeing a stable of professional authors submitting their columns to me. It was very different work from writing; easier in some ways, more challenging in others. I LOVED IT. Many new doors were opened in various non-fiction editorial capacities after Michele Matrisciani, Editorial Director of HCI Books (original Chicken Soup For The Soul publisher) bought Zig-Zagging, a memoir I had worked extensively on with good friend and Ziggy cartoonist Tom Wilson, Jr.
Thanks to Michele and HCI, I freelanced as a ghostwriter. I fixed troubled books. I worked with a wide range of authors and wrote ad copy, cover copy, and learned from the best. Then HCI decided they wanted to get in on the thriving romance market by creating a new sub-genre of books—novels that could also capitalize on their reputation as a publisher of memoir and non-fiction. Would I be their Series Developer? This is a whole other story about the True Vows series that gets a bit long but if you’re interested you can find it here.
While I never thought I would return to writing novels, something too compelling came along to resist. There Will Be Killing and Making A Killing are the first two novels in the Murder On The Mekong trilogy, co-authored with Dr. John L. Hart and published by The Story Plant. Although classified as psychological thrillers, I believe these are historically significant books that examine a cultural tipping point during the Vietnam War, with lines blurred between fiction and John’s actual experiences as a young psychology specialist in the Army’s front line mental ward; Nha Trang, 1969. For these novels I took a four year hiatus from freelancing.
I love editing and developing, particularly projects that require a lot of hands-on knowledge about book structure, story arc, character development, or how to take a problematic manuscript apart and figure out how to fix it. To create something from nothing, with no more than pen, paper, thought . . . it’s a miracle, really. One that never ceases to fascinate me.
And that's my story. What's yours?