Monday, March 12, 2012

New Life for Old Books

In the early 1990s, I wanted to break my fiction out into a "big" book, rather than the short fiction I'd been doing for Doubleday's western fiction series. I told then-edtor Greg Tobin I wanted to write a fictional biography of Libbie Custer's years with General George Armstrong Custer. After all, theirs was the "Great Romance of the Western Frontier." Greg coughed, hemmed, hawed and said he'd have to see a hundred pages before he offered a contract. Long story short, it was published and did better than any other book I've published. Not the big breakout book, but nice respectable sales. Of course it went out of print, and in those days who knew to save digital files? Even if I had done so they'd be on a diskette and difficult to access today. So I have paid a company to scan all 300+ pages. Just finished proofing the galleys, and it should be available for e-readers soon.
I suspect I'm as proud of this book as any I've done. I wrote it with Libbie's journals spread out before me, and yet I tried to give her a voice that was real to me, not the public voice she assumed in her zeal to make sure Autie went down in history as a hero. Read an except here
In proofing this book, I was surprised at how much of me there is in Libbie and how much of my attitude toward my marriage, then some ten years in the past. And I was also surprised at the change in my writing style. Libbie is not clumsy, don't get me wrong, and when I began to read it, I thought, "Darn, this is better than I thought." But I also noticed some slight changes in style--I've learned not to repeat similar words too close together; I've learned to avoid what I now think is that awkward construction, "It was then that ...." I've learned to omit unnecessary words to a greater extent.
Don't let me discourage you from reading this. I got some nice comments on Facebook about it, and I still think it's the most human approach to what I see as Libbie's dilemma--marriage to Custer was not al happy romps across the prairie, and I tried to capture that realistically. This is BSP--blatant self-promotion: I think you'll like Libbie if you haven't read it before. I'll post on Facebook when it's live and available to order.
Watch next for Sundance, Butch and Me, my take on Etta Place's life with the Hole In The Wall Gang and her romance with The Sundance Kid. It's no accident that in the title, Butch Cassidy comes between Sundance and Etta. Fiction after all can suppose, imagine, and take liberties. Want a preview of my approach? Read the short story, "Reunion," in Sue Ellen Learns to Dance and Other Stories, available as an e-book for 99 cents.
Enough bragging, but I'm excited to see these older works available to readers once again. Hmmm, twenty years is older? My, how time flies.


mkdulle said...

Hooray, Judy! I've enjoyed "Mattie" & "Sue Ellen Learns to Dance," and have been looking forward to more of your work to put on my trusty Kindle e-reader.

Anonymous said...

FYI: I googled "Judy Alter" and "Libbie" and found 11 copies available on Amazon.

judyalter said...

Thanks, Mary. Anonymous: I hope more than eleven people will want to read it--and on e-readers and not used print copies.