Monday, July 15, 2013

Author Trisha Slay: Decoding Rejections, 70s Pop Culture

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Trisha Slay (a Georgia writer Smile) to Thoughts today as she makes a stop on her WOW (Women On Writing) Virtual Book Tour for her latest release, NOT SO LONG AGO, NOT SO FAR AWAY.

Thanks to Trisha and the lovely Crystal at WOW, I have a copy of NOT SO LONG AGO, NOT SO FAR AWAY to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for the details.

Trisha joins us to talk about decoding rejections and 1970s pop culture. But first, here’s a brief synopsis of NOT SO LONG AGO, NOT SO FAR AWAY:

    When Erika helps her best friend, teen beauty queen Cassie Abbott, escape their “Nowhere, Ohio” town, she promises to keep all of their secrets safe, but then the days stretch into weeks with no word from Cassie. Worse, the sheriff’s investigation into Cassie’s disappearance is making Erika doubt she ever really knew Cassie at all. Under the weight of scrutiny and confusion, Erika struggles just to breathe . . . until a new movie called Star Wars transforms her summer with a new hope.
    For Erika, Star Wars changes everything! She volunteers to do chores for a local theater owner just to gain unlimited access to a galaxy far, far away from her current reality. At the Bixby Theater—a beautiful but crumbling movie palace from a more civilized era—Erika discovers new friendships, feels the crush of first love and starts an exciting new romance with Super 8 film making. But she can’t hide in a darkened movie theater forever.
    Eventually, Erika must step out of the shadows and, armed with her Super 8 camera and the lessons she’s learned from Star Wars, she’ll have to fight to save herself and the theater that has become her home.

Now, here’s Trisha.

If you're a fiction writer and you remember the 1970s fondly, chances are you've thought about writing a novel set in the grooviest decade of all.

Who doesn't love The Seventies? With its disco fashions, Jiggle TV, 8-track tapes, Kung Fu fighting, Not Ready For Primetime Players and "anything goes" attitude butting up against The is an era ripe with literary possibilities. It was ten years of far-out fads, colorful characters, an entertainment explosion and one consciousness-raising crisis after another.

Look at the success of That '70's Show, Dazed and Confused and the VH1 mini-series I Love The 70s (Vols. 1 & 2). Argo just won the Academy Award for crying out loud. Everybody loves the 70s, right?

Wrong. Sorry to harsh this mellow flashback, but literary agents and acquiring editors do NOT love the 70s. At least, that's been my experience for the past 4-5 years.
When I first pitched the concept of a 1977 Star Wars fangirl novel to an editor with one of the Big 6 publishing houses back in 2006, her response was extremely enthusiastic.

"How soon could you get that to me?" she asked eagerly.
"In six months," I answered with all the blithe hubris of a writer who has never completed a novel-length work of fiction.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist and am terrified of submitting anything that is less than my best possible effort. There were many rounds of editing and rewrites. Needless to say, it took a lot longer than six months to whip that first novel into a story that I was willing to submit to a literary professional. When I finally hit the submissions trail in 2009 with all lasers blasting, I discovered that enthusiasm for novels set in the 1970s had a sub-arctic low temperature.

NotSoLongAgoOne literary agent at a New York writing conference cautioned that a contemporary novel should only be set in a past decade if, and only if, the time period is absolutely integral to the story, and not out of some misguided nostalgia for the past. Okay, I thought, my novel easily passes that test. Obviously, I could not tell the story of an original Star Wars fangirl without setting my novel in 1977.

Another, much younger agent told me she would consider representing my book if I dropped all the Star Wars and rewrote the story in the present. "Figure out what you want to write," she admonished. "Do you want to write a memoir about being a Star Wars fan or a YA novel someone might want to read." Ouch and ouch! I was six years old in 1977. Obviously, she was mistaking me for someone who was ten years older. Equally obvious was the fact that she was not the agent for me. When I politely declined her offer to resubmit my novel rewritten to her specifications, she seemed somewhat flabbergasted.

"What's the big deal about Star Wars, anyway?" she asked. "Didn't anyone make a science fiction movie before Star Wars?"
(Ugh. If I were a much more clever conversationalist, I would have smiled sadly at her and replied, "What's the big deal about Harry Potter? Didn't anybody write a book about wizards before Harry Potter?" But I am only that clever in retrospect.)

After that experience, I continued to rack up a long list of "nice" rejections. In case you are not familiar with the term, a nice rejection is where the agent or editor sends a personal response praising some aspect of the submission and/or encouraging the writer, but still saying "thanks, but no thanks." Most of my nice rejections boiled down to this - the writing was excellent, but the 1977 setting made it an extremely difficult book to sell.

At another New York writing conference in 2012, I met a wonderful literary agent who just happened to be a fellow Star Wars fan. Finally! I thought I had found my literary match. Alas, it did not work out. Even though she praised many aspects of the novel and fully understood that there was a huge contingent of Star Wars fans, she regretfully informed me that we would not be able to sell a novel set in 1977 to one of the Big 6 publishing houses.

That was the first time I actually sat down and seriously considered rewriting the novel in present day, but I knew those changes would rip the heart right out of my story. Maybe everyone else was right, but I just couldn't do it. So I decided to let a wee bit of air out of my Big 6 New York publishing dream. I needed to look at the independent publishing options. I'd even consider publishing the novel myself if I couldn't find anyone who believed in it.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending. I discovered Deeds Publishing at yet another writers conference. When they offered to publish my book, I was absolutely thrilled and I love the finished product. It is so much better to publish as part of a team rather than all alone. Still, if I had it all to do over knowing what I know now...I'm not sure I would ever sit down to write a 1970s novel.

Trisha, thanks for joining us and sharing this look into both phases of your writing. It’s hard to believe the Big 6 wouldn’t be interested in a book with the Star Wars theme and set in the 70s.

Now, let me share a bit of background about Trisha. She is a writer with a passion for storytelling. She has studied at the Institute of Children's Literature as well as furthering her skills through online workshops. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators and the Atlanta Writer's Club. She enjoys participating in writing groups and spends a great deal of time improving her craft. NOT SO LONG AGO, NOT SO FAR AWAY is her first novel.

Tricia hopes NOT SO LONG AGO, NOT SO FAR AWAY would be compared to Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. She has said that "If those two books had a Star Wars-obsessed little sister, I'd like to think she would be my novel."

Tricia lives between the Atlanta metro area and the North Georgia Mountains, but hails originally from the way of the San Francisco Bay area. When she is not working on her next book (tentatively titled Sometimes We Strike Back), her interests include: 70s pop culture, unsolved mysteries, Star Wars (original trilogy), historic movie theaters, haunted history, reading (especially YA novels), nutrition/weight watchers/healthy vegetarian cuisine, hiking (exploring the National Forest trails with her guy), yoga/meditation, miscellaneous crafting projects (that rarely turn out as envisioned), and writing letters she never intends to mail.

For more information about Trisha and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS: Thanks to Trisha and Crystal, I have one copy of NOT SO LONG AGO, NOT SO FAR AWAY to giveaway. I have a print (or eBook) copy available for visitors from the U.S. and Canada or an eBook copy for international visitors. 

To enter this giveaway, send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win Not So Long Ago.” Your message should include your name and mailing address if you are a resident of the U.S. or Canada and would like the print copy or the email address you’d like the eBook copy sent to. If you’re an international resident, please include the email address you’d like the eBook copy sent to in the message section. And, just so you know, I don’t share this information with anyone other than the publisher nor use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a copy of NOT SO LONG AGO, NOT SO FAR AWAY is 8 p.m. (EDT) on Wednesday, July 24.

Thanks for dropping by today. Do you have a favorite memory of the 70s? What are your thoughts on books written with a 70s theme?


  1. Trisha, thanks again for joining us today and sharing this look 'behind-the-scenes' getting your book published. Wishing you much success.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Trisha.

    Trisha - Ah, the Seventies... Just the description of your novel brought it back. And thanks for sharing your experience with getting your book published. I think it shows how important it is to have faith in one's own work and perseverance. I wish you success.

  3. Margot - don't you just feel like tossing on a pair of hip hugger bell bottoms and heading to the beach in your bare feet?

    I wasn't even born until 1977 and reading Trisha's book put ME in the mood for all that fun stuff!


  4. I'm glad the publishing story has a happy ending. One agent suggested I change the location of my first novel from an English coast to a town in Texas as she didn't think an English person living in Texas should be writing about England - go figure!

  5. Did none of those agents see the film Super 8?
    Glad you found a small publisher, Trisha. Nothing wrong with that!

  6. Thanks Mason for hosting this stop! And thanks to all of you for taking the time to comment and for the kindness.

    Cozy in TX, My favorite advice on this subject comes from Neil Gaiman's 8 Rules of Writing. "Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong."


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.