Message From The Author
The character India Black appeared in my life with all the subtlety of an anarchist’s bomb. I’ve always enjoyed protagonists who were not exactly paragons of virtue, like Baroness Troutbeck (created by Ruth Dudley Edwards) and Harry Flashman, the “hero” of a series by George Macdonald Fraser. One afternoon, I sat down with a pen and note pad and thought about such a heroine. She would be an unconventional figure, with a background that placed her firmly outside the traditional social norms. She’d live in Victorian-era England, where the placid surface of staid morality hid a dark and turbulent underworld. She’d have a tart tongue, a revolver, and a shrewd head for business. And her business? A brothel, of course. A madam as protagonist would certainly be unorthodox, and as her own boss, my character would be free to go gallivanting after spies and criminals. Having spent a few years in the corporate world as the head of Human Resources, I was immediately struck by the comic possibilities inherent in managing a group of prostitutes. This thought process took approximately twenty minutes, and India was born.
After she appeared in my mind, India hung around, nagging me at every waking moment. Find me a story, she demanded, and I couldn’t say no (it’s virtually impossible to say no to India). An idea for a story surfaced when I read an account of the duel between Russia and Britain over the Ottoman Empire. The Russians wanted part of that decaying empire to use as a warm water port, and the Brits were determined they wouldn’t have it; otherwise, those dastardly Russians might invade Egypt, take over the Suez Canal, and block Britain’s access to its colony of India. Britain’s prime minister promised to stop the Russians, without realizing his military was in no shape to do so. That started me thinking about the potential for India’s involvement in the matter. Suppose the bad news about Britain’s military strength was contained in a memo? Suppose a government clerk was carrying the memo on the day he died? And just suppose the clerk died at India’s brothel? It sounded like a good premise for a novel.
It took a while to get India’s story on paper. I was halfway through the novel when my house burned down. My husband and I lived in a hotel for a couple of months, while we looked for a home, argued with the insurance company, and replaced clothes, appliances and furniture. India’s future looked grim, but by some miracle the salvage company was able to download my uncompleted novel off the hard drive of my computer. It took a year to get settled, and by then India was impatient for me to finish her story. So was I. I put in a hard three months at the keyboard and completed the manuscript in August, 2009.
I struggled writing the query letter for the novel. India Black doesn’t fit neatly into one genre – it contains elements of quite a few, including historical mystery, romance and the light-hearted caper novel. In the end, I just described the book as an old-fashioned adventure. Then I sent the letters off to agents around the first of September and waited for the rejection process to begin. At this point I should tell you that India Black was my third novel. I’d written a first that was so bad I’m glad it was never recovered from the hard drive. The second was good enough to land an agent, but no publisher. So I knew what to expect when I sent off the query letters: months of rejections trickling in, with a few sporadic requests to see more.
Consequently, I was stunned to receive an email a few days later from an agent who wanted to read the manuscript on an exclusive basis. I sent if off, and in a mere two weeks I had found an agent, Ann Collette of the Rees Literary Agency. Ann is a treasure; she’s efficient and responsive, and has a great sense of humor. Ann found the perfect publisher for me, Berkley Prime Crime. My editor there, Emily Rappoport, is a pleasure to work with, and publicist Kaitlyn Kennedy has patiently answered my questions about marketing (and there have been a lot of them). In short, I’ve received tremendous support from these wonderful ladies and the publishing process has been smooth and pleasant.
Talk to you later,
- Carol K. Carr
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