Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Guest Rory Tate, Like a novel: Life with backstory

I welcome new novelist, Rory Tate, to my travels today. She's not a new novelist, but Rory Tate is. Confused? Read on.

The writing life is a choice. You have to really want to write, to express yourself in little words, tiny letters, pages of inner turmoil and alter egos. Like old age, it ain’t for sissies. Nobody is clamoring for your golden thoughts, as you find out once you start submitting to gatekeepers. What sounds to you like the most pithy, amazing, insightful nugget goes right over somebody else’s head. They don’t get it. They don’t get you.

In my twenties I wrote educational media, did newspaper work (mostly film reviews as I was, and still am, a rabid cinephile) and had a few exciting jobs writing ad copy and doing public relations for the Realtors of Bakersfield. But in my spare moments I thought about novels. I scribbled lame ideas on index cards and filed them away. I went back to school and got a masters. I taught broadcasting at a community college and did some video production. None of these jobs really fit. I started thinking again about writing, and wrote a screenplay. I paid $200 to somebody from the back of Writer’s Digest to tell me that it wasn’t very dramatic. Life went on. I decided to rewrite it into a novel as breaking into Hollywood while living in Back-of-beyond, Wyoming, with two small children seemed fruitless.

I spent my thirties writing novels, going to conferences, meeting writers and figuring out what this writing life was all about. Meeting other writers at that first conference in 1988, during the Yellowstone Park fires near the Boulder River in Montana, was mind-blowing. Not only were there other people like me, struggling to find a voice, but here were professional writers. They live and breathe! Although I set my sights on publication before my 20th high school reunion, then my 40th birthday, those milestones came and went. But soon after I sold my first book (the second one I wrote) to an editor I met at that first conference five years earlier. He had changed houses and said yes to The Bluejay Shaman. Actually he said, “It’s too long by 15,000 words. Can you cut it down?” To which I said, “Well, no, I don’t think I can.” I thought about that overnight and went back and told him, “Of course I can!” (Never say you can’t cut your own words. You can and you will, one way or another.)

This was one of the most exciting times of my life. Always treasure that first book. Western writer Terry Johnston told me to buy several boxes of first editions and put them in the garage. (They’re still there.) I walked on air for months. I was published.

Now, three publishers, seven novels, and seventeen years later, I’m not quite as giddy about publication. But holding a book in your hands that you slaved over, cried over, wrote and rewrote and rewrote some more -- there’s nothing like it. My new novel, Jump Cut, had a rocky beginning. I wrote the first half of it and couldn’t figure out what to do with the rest. I rewrote it multiple times. I had many rejections before deciding to publish it with Thalia Press, the small press run by my friend and fellow writer Katy Munger and me.

The independent publishing explosion has given many authors like me a chance to publish books that New York couldn’t see a market for. My last one, Blackbird Fly, is another example. Originally contracted by St. Martin’s Press, it went through three revisions before, for unexplained reasons, they kicked it to the curb. It has a new life now and is doing quite nicely, thankyouverymuchstmartinspress.

I decided to publish Jump Cut with a pseudonym, a choice that my agent first made when submitting it and I kept out of some perverse death wish. Now I am Rory Tate and I feel a bit reinvented. I always wanted to use “reinvented” in a book title but it seemed like a cliché. So I did it to myself. I even have a fake bio:  Rory Tate lives in Seattle and is a former news reporter at a television station there, and in several other major markets. Rory attended an Ivy League university, majoring in slacking and history, then found work in the field of journalism. Self-taught in broadcasting Rory discovered a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and the perfect margarita. A lover of war zones and dark alleys behind the Iron Curtain, Rory caught flack once too often and retired to the computer to spin behind-the-scenes tales of news rooms, danger, and the possibility of being your own worst enemy.

Jump Cut tells the story of a television reporter in Seattle who is her own worst enemy, likes Cosmos by the pitcher, has to work for her Rat Bastard ex-husband, and is desperate for a new job. A narcotics detective is suspected of stealing drugs from evidence. They have to work together to save themselves and the city they love. Read an excerpt and watch the trailer at Available at fine bookstores everywhere. Goodreads is giving away three copies of the book. Enter now -- good luck!


  1. Thanks for the vivid description of the writing life. Your stories are so diverse - how do you do all the research?

  2. I just entered the Goodreads contest to win a copy, Rory. Three more days!

  3. I enjoyed reading this blog and agree with your comments on writing. I think we write because we can't not write. It gets in our blood, something we just need to do--a form of creative insanity. Few authors get rich writing, but we just love to do it. Wishing you great success with your new novel.