Friday, November 9, 2012

Another Man's Treasure by SW Hubbard

 LUCY BURDETTE: It seems like ages ago that I first met SW Hubbard (aka Susan)--I had just had my first mystery published and Susan's was coming out the following year. We became fast friends and mutual writing-admirers, and have seen each other through many career ups and downs. Today I'm delighted to have her visit JRW with news of a new book, ANOTHER MAN'S TREASURE, and some insight into bobbing to the top of the publishing riptide.Welcome Susan!


SW HUBBARD: Twenty-six years ago my husband attempted to teach me to drive a standard transmission.  This undertaking had all the elements of good suspense fiction: plenty of conflict, mounting tension, hair-raising close calls, sudden jolts, and finally, a cryptic message from the frantic hero.  

“Feather the clutch! Feather the clutch!”

This rather oblique advice didn’t help me, and I’ve been driving an automatic ever since.  However, I do understand how to shift gears, not as a driver, but as a writer.  When I began writing fiction, I didn’t know squat about genres and markets.  Innocent that I was, I just sat down and started writing the kind of book I liked to read: a traditional police procedural set in a small town, with a detective who spends more time talking than shooting.
Ten years of work produced TAKE THE BAIT.  In a nifty stroke of luck, my manuscript crossed the editor’s desk just as Pocket Books was expanding its mystery line, and I landed a three book deal.  Three years later, in a less nifty stroke, Pocket decided to scrap its mystery line, and my series lived no more.  I took the news with equanimity.  After all, once I had broken into the rarefied world of traditional publishing, how hard could it be to get another contract?  

“Write something different,” my agent advised.  “There’s no market for traditional mysteries.” 

Full of hard-won knowledge, I considered my options for producing a best-seller. Go bigger and add some crimes against humanity?  Go woo-woo and add some undead?  Go zany and add some madcap escapades? I tried them all and couldn’t get past 50 pages and some really convoluted synopses.  Finally, I shifted from police procedural to romantic suspense, from a third person, male point of view to a first person female point of view, and from a murder-driven plot, to a character-driven story about a woman whose life is changed by a long-ago crime.  A novel emerged, devoid of terrorists, or vampires, or screwball criminals.

My agent called it a personal journey thriller.  I liked that description!  I wasn’t aware it was a sub-genre, though.  Apparently, neither was the rest of the publishing world.  Every editor who read the manuscript loved it, but alas, none of them could buy it.  Because they didn’t know where to “place”it.  Or how to market it.  Or how to guarantee it would make a ton of money.  

Despair set in.  Should I go back and weave in some wacky vampire serial killers? I know all about sub-genres and markets now.  I know all about revision. But one thing hasn’t changed.  I still only want to write the kind of book I love to read.  ANOTHER MAN’S TREASURE is that book.  It’s got a heroine who’s funny, and brave, and stubborn, and a nervous wreck at cocktail parties. It’s got some good guys who screw up and some bad guys who try to do the right thing.  It’s got a scroungy mutt named Ethel.  

What it doesn’t have is a traditional publisher. Just me, in a new role as author, publisher and marketer.  You can read the first chapter here.

Oh, and 26 years later, I think I finally know what “feather the clutch” means.  It means do that thing that I can’t really tell you in words how to do but when you’re doing it right you’ll feel it and that sickening grinding sound will stop and you’ll sail along in the direction you want to go.

I still can’t drive a stick.  But I can feather the clutch. 

(Susan will be stopping in over the day today to answer your comments and questions...)


  1. I have missed your writing so much, Sue! Will order the book straight away. Congratulations for following your true path.

  2. Okay, I chuckled over the “vampires and screwball criminals” but a heartbeat later I was frowning over the publishing world’s issue of “place” . . . grumble, grumble for the lack of appreciation for a book just because it’s good. Best of luck with “Another Man’s Treasure.”

  3. That was the best opening chapter I've read in a very long time. What the heck is this woman's story, and how did that ... well ... that thing get ...oh, never mind. Wow. Completely hooked, I bought the Kindle version off SW's Amazon link before coming back. Never done that before. Hard to believe ANY publisher would turn this down. The writing is so good -- lean but stylish. I've heard SW's name mentioned when good writing came up, but this was a first look for me. Guessing she'll have a new fan after I've finished Another Man's Treasure.

  4. I had to laugh at "feather the clutch" -- I taught one of my daughters to drive on a stick shift and focused so much on how to get the car in gear (eeeeeease into it...) that I neglected to adequately discuss how to brake. Our first time around the empty supermarket parking lot (on a quiet Sunday morning) she got the car into gear all right, and then ran into the Stop and Shop.

    Susan, I'm a big fan of your work! I can't wait to read your new book.

  5. Everything Jack said!

    Except it only took the line, "Never met a raccoon that didn’t have serious anger management issues." to get me running to Kindle. Love it. Can't wait to keep reading!

    My then-boyfriend tried to teach me to drive a stick, too. We got married anyway, but only after swearing to never speak of it again.

  6. I learned how to feather the clutch at an uphill train crossing. Pop said I had to keep the car motionless using the gas and the clutch at the same time. Behind me was another car. In front was a wooden barrier and a speeding train. Pop had a lot of guts.

  7. Am I the only one who thinks "feather the clutch" sounds like an erotica phrase?

    Susan, I'm happy to read you are writing the book you want to write. Kudos to you and best wishes on it. I'm running off to read Chapter 1 now.

    PS - I still have a crush on Frank Bennett.

  8. Thanks for all your kind words, guys (I mean that in the gender-neutral sense). Yes, it was very frustrating to get such rave rejections. My agent said she's never had a book come so close to selling so many times and still not sell. I think it's a sign of fear in the publishing world.

    As for shifting, my husband and I realized that neither one of us does well with accepting instruction from the other. Thus, we have strict division of labor in our house. He does all things automotive; I do all things culinary!

  9. Sue, so glad to see you here! And what a fabulous first chapter! I bought the Kindle edition, even though it means I'll have to read it on my phone. (Giving myself a tablet for Christmas, I think...) Lovely writing, and what a great hook! Congrats on getting your book out there for all of us to enjoy.

    And yes, I do know how to "feather the clutch." I learned how to drive a stick when my dad bought me a used 240Z and told me to drive it off the lot. I think he must have been a little crazy, bless him.

  10. So excited you have a new book out! I loved your Adirondack mysteries and miss them. Can't wait to spend more time with your voice and imagination again.

  11. Congratulations on your new book, Susan! I'm hearing raves about that first chapter -- and not just here. Word is getting out.

    I never mastered driving a stick shift, either. Feather the clutch? LOL! Just give me an automatic, please!

  12. What a great first chapter, Susan! I'm ordering this book. "Never met a raccoon that didn’t have serious anger management issues." Love it! I had not been familiar with your earlier books, so I see I have some reading to do to catch up.

    Yours is exactly the kind of situation that I think self-publishing is right for. Tons of raves from editors, followed by sighs of "But I can't sell this" rejections. It's not really the editors' faults, though. They have to get their choices past sales and marketing, which pretty much only wants to see what can be neatly pigeonholed and has successfully sold in the past. Yes, publishers want fresh and new but only if it's just like what they've already had success in selling. *sigh*

  13. Wow, riveting first chapter! Looking forward to reading the rest of it.

  14. Oh, I love that. Brilliant!

    Thanks a lot, Ramona. It didn't. Now it does.

  15. Oh God, Sue, I can so relate to that!

    I have a manuscript called The Devil In Waverley that my agent and several editors loved, but similarly, no one knew where to place it.

    Frankly, I think those are the best books, and I applaud your aversion to vampires.

    And Ramona, you are not the only one who thinks feather the clutch sounds vaguely erotic.

  16. Susan, so glad to see the new book! (I think I read an early opening, ages ago ... .) Miss you!!!


  17. Ramona:
    I totally breezed by the "feather the cluth as erotica" line the first time I read these posts (I'm teaching today, so checking in between lessons on comma splices and thesis staements). You're right--maybe I should have Cal feather Audrey's clutch. I could be the next 50 Shades of Gray!

    And you're right Linda--it's not the editors' fault that they can't buy books they love. With the continuing consolidation of the publishing industry, all these editors are in fear for their jobs. No one can afford to go out on a limb. But I think more publishing houses should consider accepting books for ebook publication only, then rolling out the expensive print version for the titles that prove to have "legs."

  18. Susan,
    I read this post on Kindle this morning while lying down on a hotpack after PT. Your first chapter pulled me in immediately and I ordered the book. I was just getting ready to officially begin reading it when the buzzer went off and I had to leave PT to go to work. Darn! But I did make good use of my time post-PT; in other words: my pain is YOUR gain:-)!!!

  19. So happy to see a new book from S.W. Hubbard. Love the first chapter. I’ve had the great fortune of being in one of her writing courses and her insight is extremely helpful. A great teacher and mentor, she is also very talented with the short story form. I’m also looking forward to her upcoming Frank Bennett short story anthology. Congrats Susan!
    -Bob D.

  20. Also available in paperback on Amazon for those of us not yet reading electronically....

  21. Susan, welcome. I'm echoing Leslie. I've missed your voice as well. Good luck with Another Man's Treasure. I'm off to buy it .

  22. SW wrote: "But I think more publishing houses should consider accepting books for ebook publication only, then rolling out the expensive print version for the titles that prove to have "legs.""

    Great idea, though so far most trad'l pubs don't seem to be creating e-book only lines... .

  23. Wow, I'm basking in all the praise here! I won't be able to get my turtleneck off over my head tonite!

    Yes, Leslie--NY publishers have offered deals to self-pubbed authors who made it big on their own (50 Shades, Sylvia Day, Amanda Hocking), but they seem reluctant to use the strategy proactively. I'm not sure I've ever read anything that explains why. Have any of you?

    In the meantime, I'm planning on what I'll say if any of the publishers who rejected me come crawling back after I'm sucessful It's a nice fantasy--kinda like thinking what you'd say to the date who stood you up for the 8th grade dance.

  24. I've had a fabulous time here today. Many thanks for having me to all my friends at Jungle Reds, especially Roberta and Hallie. See you all soon. Happy reading and writing!