Hardback sows’ ears

I should have known you guys would get it right.

Yes, the inserted material in THE BEEKEEPER’e2’80’99S APPRENTICE was the section where the senator’e2’80’99s daughter is kidnapped in Wales.

The book, from the beginning, was unavoidably episodic, a series of linked short stories. How else to do a book about a young woman learning a craft and building a life? But the thing that ties it together as a novel, without giving away anything here for those of you who haven’e2’80’99t read it, is the Welsh section and how it relates to what follows.

That is how I write a book. Often, thankfully, the structure is there in the first draft, merely (!) needing a good polish. But occasionally the first draft itself is lacking, and I need to paw around it for a while to see why. Perhaps if I had ever taken courses in how to do this writing thing, I might not find myself stumbling around in the dark so much as I do. But I didn’e2’80’99t, so I do.

This is where a good editor comes in. An editor is a writer’e2’80’99s primary reader, and ignoring his or, more often, her criticism is almost always a mistake. Not that they are always right; they are just righter about judgments than the person who has produced the words. If an editor doesn’e2’80’99t get it, if an editor misses something or finds a sequence illogical, odds are nine out of ten readers will, too.

So I had That Conversation with my own editor yesterday, and we pinned down between us what was wrong with the first draft. Or not wrong, but simply inadequate. And then with the assignment of an impossible task, she blithely signs off and leaves me to my task, of making a sow’e2’80’99s ear into a delicately embroidered and aesthetically pleasing silken coin-purse.

However, since the book itself had its roots in an utter impossibility, and when she first trailed the faint odor of it across my nose eight months ago (saying wistfully, Wouldn’e2’80’99t it be great if you could somehow tie together Kate Martinelli and Mary Russell?) my first reaction was a firm and unequivocal, No, it simply wouldn’e2’80’99t work–since, as I say, the book has been a highly unlikely enterprise since before I signed the contract, well, hey, impossible seems to be my middle name.

Now pardon me while I pour my coffee and get back to the transformation business.

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  1. Christy P. on May 20, 2005 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing a little bit of your writing process with all of us. As a beginning writer, it’s nice for me to hear that even the old pros sometimes struggle with the whole thing. What a strange and wonderful profession (hopefully) we’ve choosen for ourselves! I absolutely love it and wouldn’t, couldn’t, have it any other way. Even the frustrating bits – honest! Keep up the good work and keep sharing too. We love hearing about it all!

  2. Rebecca on May 20, 2005 at 11:56 pm

    I’ve never read one of the Martinellis, but I may have to pick this one up.

    Currently rereading Beekeeper for the umpteenth time. I had an upsetting experience yesterday, came home, saw my copy of it on my desk, and immediately picked it up and started from the beginning–and it cheered me up immensely. My favorite comfort book. Thank you so much!

    “He said nothing. Very sarcastically.” That is such a great line.

  3. WDI on May 21, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    I think I got a whiff of this somewhere around your website, but I’m beyond delighted to learn that the new work will tie Martinelli and Russell together somehow. I’m curious — did you know that these threads would be woven together when you wrote the upcoming Russell? In any event, thank you for this note. I know that I will now have many hours of great fun speculating to myself about just what the link will be. What a joy!

  4. Chubbchubb on May 22, 2005 at 11:40 pm


    Now I can spend the rest of the evening trying to figure out just how the lives of Russell and Kate intertwine…yay. =)

  5. Chris on May 24, 2005 at 8:25 am

    This is going to be fascinating – when I read Locked Rooms, I will be thinking about the new Martinelli, too, and how they will interlink! Wish I was in SFO for the book launch; this is the first time in about six years that I haven’t taken June vacation there! Aggh!

  6. Elle on December 14, 2005 at 1:31 am


    I have to say that I am so glad that you did include the kidnapping in Wales, because one of the best parts of that book, for me, was when Mary and the child (Jessica is her name, I think [I lent my copy of BA to a friend, so I can’t look it up]) are talking in her room. It fills out some of Mary’s character.


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