I started this novel around 1975. I had had the character of Revis Kirkland (not the name) in my head for a while but in the beginning, the story was supposed to be a Romance.
I’d been reading some of the most popular Romance novels of that time, but the heroes in them just didn’t suit my opinion of what constitutes a “real man”.
I was married, had two children. My ideas for who and what my main male character would be came from what I admired about the men around me, my husband, our fathers and uncles.
The name “Revis” came from a woman I worked with who talked about her bother in law, Revis. I’d never heard that name before and it intrigued me from the beginning. She told how her brother-in-law always had to spell his name and that most people mispronounced it when they read it. It’s pronounced with a short “e”, not a long “e”. I had no idea how to fix it so that readers would use the correct pronunciation until last year when I wrote the scene where Toby says he wishes his mother had named him “Revis”. Then Revis tells him all the complications of having that name and it clarifies for the reader, how his name is pronounced.
The Romance novel idea got totally derailed when I heard about an eleven year old boy here in our area, who had been brutally tortured and killed by his stepfather. It was the first time I realized that bad things happen to children.
So I started writing what would evolve, 35 years later, into Come Hell or High Water.
On Rejection Letters
I started seeking representation for my manuscript in the early 1980’s. I remember that first rejection letter, not so much what it said, but how it made me feel. It was every bit as traumatic as anyone has ever described.
I remember laying on the couch, feeling like my world was on the verge of collapse even though I knew I was suppose to shrug it off. It is much easier said than done.
The worst part about receiving “not for us” scribbled across your own letter to the agent is that it doesn’t enlighten you at all as to why they were not interested in representing your work. I don’t remember how many of those I received over the course of thirty-five years, because I threw them away. The rejections I kept were the ones that actually told me that they had read the story and usually why they were rejecting it. These gave me not only guidance but often a starting point for improving my work.
Most of the versions I submitted were entitled Kirkland’s Choice. Come Hell or High Water received a few rejections but I don’t think I have sent it out since Luke and the cowboys inserted themselves into the story and it took on a life of its own.
Here are some of the more easily acceped rejections I have recieved.
In this rejection from Elaine Davies, she says she read the partial I sent which was usually the first three chapter. She declines representation because it is not what they usually handle. Then she wishes me luck in finding an agent. This was easier to handle than "not for us".
I paid $85 for this critique from a reader at the Mark Sullivan Agency. At the time, there were no writers' group here in Wichita Falls, and I felt like I really needed some outside help. By that I mean, not family or friends.
I'd contacted the Mark Sullivan Agency blind just like all the others. The letters that came with this critique, even though they were not going to offer representation, were quite possibly the strongest encouragement I'd ever had regarding my writing.
This is the worst one I ever recieved and I don't even know who it came from. It is written in ink on onion skin paper and it says, "Alas! It is not for us. Keep at it!" There is a signature there but I can't read it. Anyone who is familiar with onion skin paper knows how difficult it is to write on it with ink, especially ball point. It skips and usually ends up looking faded and fragile. When I opened the letter and read the note, because of the way ink and onion skin react to one another, it looked like it said, "Alas, it is not for us. Keep it." I was livid! How could they be so rude?! I fumed and plotted terrorist acts upon their agency for a few minutes then re-read it and realized that was not what it said at all.
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