Though I feel like a capable writer most of the time, Jennifer Moorman (my editor, who works for Harper Collins for her day job) makes me better. She practically knows how to spin straw into gold. What I mean by this is: I can have all the needed elements on the page, but she enhances my words, chisels down that what is needless and leaves me with the best possible version of myself. What I appreciate about Jennifer is not only her intuitive nature, but the devotion and interest she takes in the story. Once Jennifer returns a manuscript to me (she has also edited my forthcoming novel, "The Emblem,") I go through it to accept/reject all her recommendations. I accept most that she advises, then she reviews it one more time and returns it to me several weeks later.
While many writers would feel "good to go" at this phase, I think one thing that's taken me longer with "Swiftwater" is the fact that I'm writing from a different time period, examining actual events and deciding as I go how much I can stray from fact. The fiction "banner" affords me a lot of creativity, but one thing that made me stop in my tracks and take a critical eye to this work was the release of "Coal Wars" by WSU Professor David Bullock (2015).
In so reading his work, I saw I needed to make a few crucial changes: move the dates of the strike earlier, for one. The protagonist of "Swiftwater," Julie Fletcher is introduced to the reader as an elderly woman who visits Swiftwater Cellars. Because of her age, I thought I'd have to move the dates of the strike later. In wrestling through the pages of "Coal Wars," I no longer felt I could do that. In my sixth version of "Swiftwater," Julie would be in her mid nineties. While it might be asking readers to expand their imaginations in how she is still out and about, enjoying a glass of No.9, it's not impossible.
Another reason my process has taken longer is because I had my highly critical, historically accurate husband take a red pen to "Swiftwater" before handing it over to my writing mentor/former teacher/author Douglas Bond who had further ideas for me. I'm excited to go with the brand he's started, InkBlots Press, and know that in his shaping and molding me, my novels will become better and richer than I'd imagined. I hope my readers will notice the difference found in novels that are reworked and refined.