Thoughts On Writing

Reflections on an Unlikely Career....

June 30, 2014

Tags: writing

As I consider the avenues for publishing my new novel, I often find myself looking back on the start of my career forty years ago. I am amazed when I think of all the factors that combined to make my dream of being a published novelist come true.

The call from Susan Schwartz of Doubleday & Company was the last thing I expected that day in June of 1975, when I was on my way out the door to pick up my young son from swimming lessons. Yet, my good fortune had begun long before Susan offered me a contract on the novel that would be entitled, GALVESTON.

Around that time, the renowned novelist and short story writer, William Goyen, was being published at Doubleday. Bill took time away from his busy schedule in New York and returned to his native Texas, to lead workshops at the annual summer Writers Conference at the University of Houston. If memory serves me well, he came down for several years in a row. I was an avid fan of his workshops, and wrote down the address he gave when he told us that writers had to help one another in getting publishers to pay attention.

Bill eventually read my manuscript– I was calling the novel AVENUE L at that early stage. He felt enthusiastic, and showed it to Susan who was then Editorial Assistant to Sandy Richardson, Bill’s Editor at Doubleday. Susan would become not only my Editor, but my lifelong friend. Incidentally, I will admit– and I think Susan would agree– that there are times when balancing these two relationships becomes a high wire act.

That Susan was a native of Fort Worth certainly helped. This gave me two sympathetic readers from my home state, right from the start.

Yet.... Around halfway through reading the manuscript, Susan thought my epic story was “nice,” but not all that impressive. She asked Kirk Kelso, a copywriter at Doubleday, to take a look. Kirk was a native of Galveston.

Kirk’s advice to Susan a few days later: “Keep reading.”

By the end of the novel, Susan was sold.

So a romantic period novel, by an unknown writer, set on a small island off the Texas Gulf Coast, improbably captured the imagination of a major publishing house in New York.

And there were more lucky breaks to come.

The Galveston community was then on a major public relations campaign to redefine its image as a tourist destination, emphasizing the city’s intriguing history and unique architecture. When I approached the staff at the historic Ashton Villa on Broadway with the news that I had written a novel using the J. M. Brown family residence as part of my setting, I was put in touch with Director Judy Schiebel.

To my amazement, Judy offered to launch the book with a huge gala at Ashton Villa. She quickly recruited a committee of volunteers who devoted many hours to the project over the next year, and soon the whole Galveston population seemed to buy into the idea of making a big deal out of this book.

Doubleday launched a major national advertising campaign, with a full color centerfold in the trade magazine, Publishers Weekly. Paperback and foreign rights and book club rights were negotiated.

And as if all this were not enough, around the time the novel was published, recording star Glen Campbell released a new song entitled, “Galveston,” which was being broadcast on radio stations all across the United States.

Since GALVESTON, I have published six more novels and a serialized history of Ashton Villa. I have enjoyed my share of good reviews, and these have helped me weather those that were less than favorable. I have enjoyed appearing before a wide variety of audiences, all over Texas and beyond, to talk about my experiences writing novels. I have had the good fortune to meet many of my readers face to face. And I treasure the scores of personal notes, letters, telephone calls, and emails I have received from readers all over the country, many of whom have only recently discovered works published years ago.

I have encountered a number of fine people who have put time and effort into supporting me in my work– writing reviews and feature articles whenever I had a new book out; inviting me to speak, and hosting those all important book signings. Given the unpredictability of the book publishing business today, I have a feeling the journey to publication will be long and arduous, with many setbacks and some hard choices; and I hope those who enjoyed reading this brief overview of my experience as a novelist will wish me good luck as I set out.

Suzanne Morris



Comments

  1. August 5, 2014 9:38 AM EDT
    Hello, I can't tell you how much I loved reading Galveston, the story completed captivated me, I was 15 years old when I first read it - 36 years ago, and I have never forgotten it, luckily a couple of years ago I managed to get a hold of another copy - re-reading it was just amazing. I am now two thirds the way through Wives and Mistresses, I hate having to leave each character behind, it almost feels disloyal... but then 1 get totally absorbed by the next one. In one way I regret not finding the rest of your books years ago, but on the other hand I have so much reading to look forward to and its wonderful that you have a new novel soon. Kindest Regards, Isobel
    - Isobel Gough
  2. August 6, 2014 6:54 PM EDT
    Thank you so much for your kind words, Isobel Gough! I am delighted to know that you are rediscovering and enjoying my books. It means a lot that you have taken the time to let me know. My best to you always,
    - Suzanne Morris
  3. April 5, 2015 1:29 PM EDT
    I just bought Galveston for about the third or fourth time. I love this novel set on the island I lived on decades ago. It takes me back to soft Gulf breezes and beautiful oleander bushes, and walks along the beach. May you have even more great success in your future novels, Suzanne! A fellow Texan and writer,
    - Glynda Linkous
  4. April 5, 2015 3:16 PM EDT
    Thanks so much for posting your thoughts, Glynda Linkous. You are right--Galveston Island is unique and magical. I'm so glad that my novel has brought you hours of reading pleasure, again and again. You have paid me a high compliment by buying multiple copies of GALVESTON, and I appreciate that very much. I wish you all the best in your writing career.
    - Suzanne Morris
  5. September 19, 2015 4:19 PM EDT
    Hello Suzanne, I found an old book at a thrift store in Ga today named "Galveston". I picked it to read because I have a sister living there now and I had lived there couple of years after graduating high school in Ky. I married there to a coast gaurdsman who came from Ga-thus have lived in Ga for many years now. I am anxious to read your book and wanted you to know you are still being found from a long ago novel. I have not read any of your work but this may just be the beginning.
    - Pauline Cotton Osborne
  6. September 20, 2015 6:11 PM EDT
    Pauline, it is always so nice to know GALVESTON has been discovered by a new reader; and you were very kind to let me know you chanced to find a copy close to home. I do hope you will enjoy the novel, and that it will bring back some pleasant memories of living on the island.
    - Suzanne Morris

Selected Works

Fiction
The tale of one survivor of the London School explosion of March 18th, 1937
Book one of the CLEARHARBOUR TRILOGY. An intriguing story of love and betrayal, loss and redemption, set in the U.S. and England in the dark days of WWI, through the reckless 1920's.
The second book in the CLEARHARBOUR TRILOGY, ELIZABETH'S LEGACY carries forward the story of the Selby family through the romance and political intrigue of World War II, in England and the United States
Sweeping from the English coast to the shores of America, this stunning conclusion to the CLEARHARBOUR TRILOGY follows the Selby family into the third generation.
"The plot is both plausible and facinating. The ending is devastating and unexpected. You won't forget this story ten minutes after you put it down."
-- Gazette Telegraph, Colorado Springs
"Casts a spell!"
-- Publishers Weekly
"Imaginative gusto... feverish... seductive"
-- Harper's Bookletter
"A fascinating multi-generational story that is full of intriguing twist and turns."
-- Booklist
"Poignant yet unsentimental... Engrossing plot... highly recommended."
-- Library Journal
History