On the eve of the release of my 195th book (130th novel), I can’t help remembering my very first and a ridiculous incident associated with it that was entirely my fault.
I had written 18 or 19 nonfiction books before my foray into fiction in the late 1970s, but as soon as I finished the first draft of Margo (a murder mystery), I wanted novel writing to become my life’s work. But would my editor and publisher agree?
Why I had only the original copy of the manuscript boggles my mind to this day.
Okay, call me stupid, tell me I knew better. Because I did. It wasn’t as if we didn’t have copy machines or carbon paper 40 years ago. Regardless, I took that lone draft with me on a business trip, planning to finish an aggressive edit of it until I was happy with every word.
On a flight from Illinois to California I worked feverishly to get through half the manuscript, tucked it in to the pocket of the seatback in front of me (you see where this is going), and got started on the second half.
When I got to my hotel and unpacked, I had only the second half of my novel. I was apoplectic, berating myself for such foolishness. It wasn’t like me to leave stuff on planes, but having not even made a copy!
I called the airline, only to find that lost items went directly to Kansas City. I called Kansas City, only to find that “Mary,” the Lost & Found lady, was not in but that I could call back the next day.
I fretted, I paced, I beat myself up. And I didn’t sleep. I called Kansas City first thing in the morning and was told that Mary had been in but was now working from home, and no, they could not give me her number. Any chance my manuscript was there? They looked. Mary might have it, but it was not in the office.
They promised that Mary would call me the next morning either way. Groggy and worthless all day, I barely slept again that night, then waited by the phone in the morning.
“Are you Mary?”
“Tell me you have the first half of my manuscript.”
“I’ll make a deal with you, sir. I’ll send you the first half if you’ll send me the second half.”
I could have kissed her long distance.
Besides learning a lesson I should not have had to learn, Mary’s review remains the best I’ve ever gotten. That a normal reader wanted to read the rest gave me the confidence that I could do this. Margo sold in the six figures and became a 13-book series.
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Jerry B. Jenkins is the author of 195 books, 21 New York Times bestsellers, and has sold more than 70 million copies. He teaches writers online at The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild and blogs at JerryJenkins.com