Well, my agent finally got back to me about my "Kindred Spirits" novel manuscript. I suppose two months isn't all that long, but I had been starting to assume that she was passively rejecting it.
Anyway, here's the jist of what she said: She likes it but wonders how on earth she'll sell it. She said she'd like to get it to the folks at Doubleday who are looking for "good-girl lit" and perhaps a couple others, although she has "no idea how it will fly." I dislike how I keep getting pigeonholed into "chick lit" or "women's fiction" or "romance," but I guess that's how publishing works when you write a manuscript from a female POV that is concerned with relationships. I think there's a lot more to my novel than that, but I suppose it's the basic form of my story. What bothers me most, I guess, is that I was hoping to appeal to male readers too, but I'm sensing that I may not be hitting that mark much at all.
So what I did was e-mailed her back and said: "In the past couple of months, I've had some ideas about cutting another 10,000 or so words and adding some more tension between the ex-wife Helen and the protagonist Eliza, mainly having them squabble over the religious indoctrination of the girl Mandy. I'll probably take out or soften some of the sexual/bodily detail too, based on reader response--I admit, some of it seems a bit random or excessive (fun to write, though). Also, I have outlined an epilogue to show what happens to the characters 1-2 years later, since the ending was too unresolved for a lot of people and I tend to agree.
"So if you want to show what I have now and say I'm still working on it, fine. It might be better not to do another rewrite until I get feedback from professionals outside the Mormon culture. Or if you'd be happier to wait another few months for my next version, that's OK with me too. My summer's already booked up with freelance, but I've set a schedule to finish my next rewrite on this novel by Halloween. Let me know."
I had forwarded many of my critiquer comments to her, and she said she really benefited from reading those. She said she realizes even more the divide between Mormon and non. She also said that she tends to agree that Eliza's main goal seems to be conversion and that's not a draw for non-Mormons, to which I replied:
"Well, it's certainly realistic! And I think it's funny that she ends up getting drawn into the Wicca side of things much more than the Wiccan gets drawn into the Mormon side of things... All three women in the book are trying to convert each other to something, whether Mormonism, Wicca, or polyamory. One of the story's underlying themes is about how the Mormon impulse to convert people can backfire--I mean, look where Eliza ends up with her main project, Eric. Perhaps that's my own gut-level reaction to disliking missionary work..."
My agent concluded on this encouraging note, "I think we'll get some comments from mainstream publishing editors, though, and that will help. Basically, though, I know you have a lot to say about Mormon culture and lifestyle, as well as religion, and in this era of Big Love, I want to do everything I can to help you reach a wide audience."
So I haven't heard back from her yet about whether she wants to proceed with the current manuscript or wait until later this year for me to complete another rewrite. I'm fairly ambivalent about the whole thing, since I'm aware of my manuscript's limitations in appeal and I've learned not to place much hope in the publishing process. I'm just going to proceed with my plan to rewrite the novel one more time and then self-publish it through my Zarahemla Books business, and if another publisher wants to pick it up at any point, great. If not, that's okay too.