HERE, AT LAST, IS YOUR REWARD, Faithful Reader, for six years staggering through the bookish wilderness guided by your own Literary Lion.
[Fanfare of trumpets and French horns here.]
The Maelstrom—A Tale of Immigration and Liberation, by Larry F. Sommers, is scheduled for publication July 26, 2022, by DX Varos Publishing—a boutique publisher of exquisite fiction.
DX Varos is a traditional publisher, meaning I do not pay them to publish my book. They pay me.
Now that The Maelstrom is officially exquisite—or will be when Dan Willis completes the edit—you’d best rush out and buy it. You’ll soon have an opportunity to pre-order at a low price.
This is a REALLY BIG DEAL for Your New Favorite Writer. It is a debut novel—meaning it is my first novel to achieve publication since I became a full-time fiction writer in 2016, after a lifetime spent doing other things.
The Maelstrom is a historical novel about two Norwegian immigrants and a freedom-seeking slave, swept together by America’s great controvery of the nineteenth century.
The original title was Freedom’s Purchase. I queried many agents and publishers and got one offer of publication. After a brief euphoria, I turned that offer down because I had little confidence in the publisher.
Two other publishers, significant ones, who rejected the book were kind enough to send brief notes on how it fell short. There was the option of assuming these seasoned professionals did not know what they were talking about. But the truth is a tricky thing. One cannot evade it forever.
I laid the manuscript aside and whined on this blog about the pain of gracefully melding its disparate story lines. My dear friend Christine DeSmet heard my anguish and pointed out that it was possible to get everything working together and I was just the guy to do it. It helps that Christine is a five-star professional book coach. And she gave me this advice for free.
So I plunged in again and promoted a minor character—Daniel, the escaping African American slave—into a major character, equal in weight and importance to Anders and Maria, my Norsk immigrants. Suddenly the book came to life. It now had a braided but distinct narrative spine. However, it still remained an incoherent mess.
Savvy literatus that I am, I hired Christine on a professional basis to help me rework the whole book. It was the wisest decision I have made since 1969, when I asked Joelle Nelson to marry me.
The new book generated a new title, The Maelstrom. I sent out new queries pinning my hopes most on the two publishers whose rejection slips had been helpful in re-directing the book. Would they be interested in reading the new version?
One of the two said yes. That was Daniel Willis of DX Varos.
This book owes its existence to four key players:
First, Joelle. Her dogged research of our families led me to the real Anders Gunstensen and Maria Nybro, whose story I have embellished to make it fiction. She also bears with patience my long routine absences from the rest of life on the shaky claim that I am busy writing.
Second, Laurie Scheer. In her course on genre at the University of Wisconsin’s Write By the Lake program, she encouraged me to novelize the immigrant experience of my ancestors. That helped give me the nerve to attempt such a thing.
Third, Christine DeSmet. Her constant friendship, gentle nudging, and unvarnished critique have drastically improved the final product.
Fourth, Daniel Willis of DX Varos. His willingness to read my book allowed me to think that someone in the publishing world had a genuine interest in the story I had to tell. His pointed critique of my earlier manuscript led me in the right direction for revision. His willingness to give the story a second chance made me hopeful. And finally, his acceptance of the manuscript for publication puts me on the path to being a published author.
Your New Favorite Writer’s life will change as a result of all the things necessary in the launch, promotion, and selling of a new book. But somehow, I must keep writing through it all. Other books are in process, one almost ready for the market. My friend Gregory Renz has warned me how easily an endless round of appearances and marketing can distract one from practicing our basic craft. I’m determined to navigate those waters succeessfully.
So stay tuned, Gentle Reader.
And buy my book. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s an excellent Christmas gift for all your family members and friends as well.
Larry F. Sommers, Your New Favorite Writer
Author of Price of Passage—A Tale of Immigration and Liberation.
Price of Passage
Norwegian Farmers and Fugitive Slaves in Pre-Civil War Illinois
(History is not what you thought!)