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April 08, 2024

First Novel -- A Long Strange Trip

By Tom Larsen

Tom Larsen's work has appeared in Newsday, New Millennium Writings, Antietam Review and Puerto del Sol. Larsen's short story "Lids" was included in Best American Mystery Stories -- 2004. His first novel FLAWED has been released this fall.

I wrote Flawed as a screenplay ten years ago after seeing Linda Fiorentino turn all the tables in The Last Seduction. I had a friend who was rich and miserable and the story came from a running gag between us. I would kidnap her. We'd split the ransom. My wife, Andree and I knocked it together, I wrote it up and sent it to my agent. Benjamin Productions bit right away, giving Flawed an option. Whoopee, right?

Nothing came of it.

I kept writing, had some success, but I missed my characters, Riley and Kathleen. A few years later I dug up the screenplay and rewrote it as a novel. My agent lugged it around to the major publishers who lavished it with praise but took a pass.

Last year I stumbled on the Duotrope website and submitted Flawed to a number of independent publishers. Neil Marr of BeWrite Books liked the story and offered a contract. Neil is one in a million, a Renaissance man with a long track record and the straightest shooter I've met in the business. Everything he said would happen happened without a glitch. I don't know about you, but nothing in my life happens without a glitch.

I've learned a few things from the experience. Since I'm 'old school' I had little interest in internet publishing, so I stuck with the traditional, mailing off manuscripts, waiting months (even years) for my rejection. Big mistake. Those lit reviews may look good on your query but you'll grow old trying to make a dent. Since turning to the web I've had a dozen stories published and more exposure than I ever could have hoped for. The knock on websites is nobody reads them. Hah! What nobody reads is toney reviews.

I've also learned that writing is a linear process and stories have a shelf life. Tell it as simply as you can and forget about trying to sound like a writer. Of course this won't apply to everyone, just those who finish the damn thing.

Much to my surprise, Flawed is doing well, especially in South Philadelphia where the story takes place. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. And as anyone who taps that keyboard will tell you, it's a thrill knowing someone somewhere is reading your stuff.

Go with the web. It's the future, duh.

Don't give up. Even if you don't make it, you can say you never gave up.

That counts for a lot where I come from.

Article © Tom Larsen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-11-09
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