Squawk Radio

Tuesday, March 14, 2006













(This is Karen's boyfriend. Really, it is!)






IN WHICH KAREN HAWKINS TELLS OF HER VIRGINAL RWA EXPERIENCE AND EXPLAINS HOW SHE PITCHED HER FIRST BOOK WHICH WASN’T WRITTEN MUCH LESS THOUGHT OF (BUT EVENTUALLY WAS BOTH THOUGHT OF AND WRITTEN AND THEN SOLD UNDER ANOTHER NAME)

Or LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE

Did I ever mention the time I went to an RWA conference and lied to an editor?

Oh yeah. I lied. I told the biggest, fattest whopper you ever heard.

See, I was a fresh off the turnip truck writer and I was scheduled to attend my first conference. Months before this, I had sent in the first three chapters of my first book.

At that time, your critique was returned to you on the same day as your editor appointment. And in my case, the two pivotal events were only fifteen minutes apart.

So fifteen minutes before I was to meet with this Huge New York Editor who, coincidently, was often referred to as The Bitch (she doesn’t work in New York any more, so I can say these things), I had the most horrible, crushing critique of my life.

No kidding. It was brutal. My book plot, the characters, the storyline, and the conflict were basically all crap. What made it so hard to deal with was that the critiquer was right – it was crap.

In fact, it was so bad that years later I threw a match on it and IT WOULDN’T BURN. That’s pretty bad. I finally had to wrap it in tin and fasten it to my TV antennae as an added wing. It’s probably still flying over that house in Tennessee.

Anyway, there I was on my way to this huge, mega-important meeting with New York’s shortest tempered editor and I had just found out that my entire book idea sucked raw eggs. So I did what any self respecting fiction writer would do, I decided to make up a book that I would eventually write, but hadn’t yet written and just PRETEND I’d already written it.

Am I bad, or what?

On the way to the interview, I also stopped an author friend of mine and said in a desperate voice, “Quick! Tell me five things this editor LOVES in a story! PLEASE!”

She did – this editor loved strong heroines with unusual careers, powerful heroes, the Elizabethan time period, animals, and Scotland.

Armed with this faint knowledge, I ran down the last hallway and went straight into my meeting. There I sat on the edge of my seat, facing the world’s most temperamental editor. On the spot, armed with nothing more than fear and desperation, I made up an entire book.

The interview went something like this:

SHE: So, when is your book set?”

ME: Elizabethan England?

SHE: That’s different. Who is your heroine?

ME: Ah. A woman . . . who . . . writes . . . plays? (Hey, all I could think of was Shakespeare. Do YOU know a great career for women in Elizabethan times?)

SHE: That’s intriguing. What else do I need to know about her?

ME: She . . . has . . . animals?

SHE: Oh?

ME: Yes?

SHE: What about your hero?

ME: He’s . . . wealthy?

SHE: And?

ME: Lives in Scotland?

I will spare you the rest of the interview, but as you can see, I told a biggie. What’s odd is that this editor asked for the first three chapters. And THEN asked for the whole book.

She didn’t buy it, though. Probably because it was a bit ah . . . disjointed. More likely because I’d stained it with Bad Karma by telling a whopper in the first place.

Lying is a funny thing. As soon as I told this editor that these were the parameters of my book, I felt that I HAD to write a book exactly like it to make the lie a non-lie. Which was what I did.

The only other time I can remember consciously lying was when a friend of mine tried on a pair of red stretch pants and said, “Do these make me look fat?” Normally, I am a tell-the-truth sorta friend, probably to my own detriment. This time, my friend was going through a horrible divorce, changing jobs, and had been forced to deal with the mother-in-law from heck for two weeks.

She didn’t WANT me to tell her she looked good in those pants; she NEEDED me to tell her she looked great in those pants. So I did, but then I suggested that they were a wee bit out of style and convinced her to try on a different pair. Whew! If she’d bought those suckers, I would have been forced to break into her house and burn them. Or wrap them in tin and hang them on my TV antennae.

What about you? When you were a kid, did you ever tell a wee fib? Did you get in trouble for it? Ever been caught telling a whopper? Ever had someone lie to you and you knew it and were just glad they’d taken the time and trouble?
Teresa Medeiros, 4:29 PM
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