Apparently, it is. Random House has begun reissuing my backlist and the second book off the starting blocks is BAD TO THE BONE.
This book was written on a screaming-tight deadline. I remember dreading the call to my editor to tell her, “I need one more week. That’s all. Can I have it?” I’d never been late before. Ever. She said, “Yes.” Thank goodness. That meant I could at least get a few hours sleep a night. I’m not kidding. This was a book that the publisher contracted on one deadline and then said, “Hey, we want to move you up. Do you think you could get this done by May 1st?”
Writers are incapable of saying, “No.” Mostly, because writers are self-employed, we say, “Noookay!” (Many of you may be familiar with this particular pronunciation of the word “no.” I really don’t believe the pronunciation is unique to the South. Although it may be unique to women.)
I said, “Noookay! May 1 it is!” I had never written a book in three months (even though at the time I was writing full-time), but I said, “Noookay!” anyway. This was a great opportunity because they were putting me in a special month of books. Yay, me! But I still had to write the darned thing, in a shorter time than I’d ever written a book before. I wrote in the car. I even wrote at other people’s houses. I wrote in my head as I fell asleep and transcribed the words the next morning.
Then the day the book was done, I remember going to bed at 5:00 a.m. and punching my husband in the arm. “The book is done.” Then I collapsed instantly into the sleep of angels and the righteous. My poor husband was awake, staring at the ceiling and thinking, “Dude, I had another hour before I had to get up. You couldn’t have told me this LATER?”
What I didn’t tell him right then was that I was going to have to give Random House their advance back. I knew they’d never agree to publish this book without substantial revision. I’d revised before. I was no stranger to revision, but I also knew I wasn’t willing to do the revision I feared they’d ask me to do. I’d already done as much as I could to put this square peg in a round hole. The book was a little too long for category romance. In hindsight, I should have pulled it and written it as a single title. Instead, I found a way to make this book work in “almost” category length. But, still, I knew that the book was something not-quite-known in category in 1996. The heroine? A hitwoman. Mix in a frightened twelve year-old who reads tarot cards and a hero with an unspeakable weight pulling on his soul. The story is dark, sexy and probably “the” book in the Dixon cannon that people most remember. BAD TO THE BONE was much nominated, talked about and well-received. (RT review quote: “Ms. Dixon combines searing sensuality with mind-blowing suspense to create superlative reading.”) Again, “Yay, me!”
But what I remember was being willing to fight for this book. Being willing to write a check rather than gut the book to fit someone else’s notion of what a category romance should/could/would be. What I remember was my husband agreeing absolutely that I should write a check if it came down to gutting the book or revising. I was ready for the phone to ring. I knew what I had to do. And I remember the incredible relief when my editor called and said magic words I’d never heard before and certainly didn’t expect, “No revisions.” She said a lot of other nice things, too, but everything after “No revisions.” was “blah blah blah.” My brain was doing cartwheels. Someone else “got” it. Someone else was willing to take a chance on an out-of-the-box love story about two people badly in need of redemption..and, well, that meant the world. I could start breathing again. Hell, I could go out and be bad. I deserved it! I partied like there was no tomorrow. (i.e. Had Hagen-Daz and potato chips. Don’t judge.)
What’s the book about? Well, the reader letter (they made me write it) from the book says it best:
Literary license is a wonderful thing. It’s like permission to be wild. Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve taken a little license. Okay, Okay! I’ll confess. I’ve taken a lot, but I have wanted to shake up a fairy tale from the moment I read the first Loveswept Treasured Tale.
I wanted to do something on the edge, wanted to stand my fairy tale on it’s head and spin it in a new direction.
After all, I thought, my editor didn’t bat an eye at the psychic archaeologist and the midwife. She calmly accepted the idea about the ex-navy SEAL and the ice skating nun. Maybe she’d actually let me go a little farther out on that limb I seem so fond of.
And so it was that I called my editor one fine day. “I have this idea for Treasured Tales. Are you ready for this? It’s Goldilocks and the Three Hitmen!”
Upon hearing my clever description, all she could manage was, “Excuse me?”
Encouraged—it doesn’t take much to encourage me—I forged ahead. “This isn’t going to be an ordinary fairy tale.”
“Fairy tales aren’t supposed to be ordinary.”
“My point exactly!” I agreed, so relieved she understood. Then I told her, “There is something that appeals to me about innocence surrounded by predators. My Goldilocks isn’t lost in the woods, but she is alone and searching. And, of course, the bears have guns in my version.”
My very brave editor said, “Scoot over” and joined me on that limb. Isn’t that what fairy tales are really all about?
So, how about you? Do you have moments in your life when you know you have to stand your ground? When you know the principle, the vision is more important than anything else?