Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why write an E-Book?

After I discovered the symbols and anagrams in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, I began reading all the scholarship I could find about the Brontë sisters and their family. I then read everything written by a Brontë, which included the father's and the brother's works as well. The reading and the writing took about seven years. When I had finished a fairly cohesive final draft I began querying agents to represent the book. The agents who were initially interested hesitated when they realized that I had uncovered enough evidence to put forward the theory that Charlotte wrote the books and poetry that were ascribed to her two sisters, Emily and Anne. This claim was a shocking one that was hard for them to accept. Also, with such a controversial theory, I better be right.  How could they decide if my evidence was genuine, especially if they weren't Brontë experts? I thought we could leave it up to the readers to decide, but they were nervous about putting forth a book that might be utter nonsense based on a cracked-brain's speculation. I hated to admit it, but I could see their point. Apparently, my two degrees in English Lit were not enough to convince them that I was sane and on to something worthy of publication. "You need a PhD,"  they said.  "But I have a Master of Arts degree." "Yes," they said, "But that's not enough. For this kind of book, you need a PhD." I then explained that I had already uncovered in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre a symbolic and allegorical structure based on the rituals and symbols of Freemasonry that no scholar had noticed before.  "Maybe I've discovered something new again," I said. "Doesn't matter," they said. "It's just the way it is." So I asked a Brontë expert if he would be kind enough to read the manuscript, which he did. He was amazed at the preponderance of evidence and admitted I might very well be right. Would he, therefore, write his support for the book in a letter that I could show to the agents? He declined. He didn't want to disrupt decades of scholarship. I understood his reluctance and didn't want to put him in an uncomfortable position, so I was back to square one.

The agents agreed that the writing and the research were good. No problems there. But the theory was just too . . . shocking, and I wasn't qualified. To be fair, they had weighed the pros and cons and had discussed representing the book, but in the end, they weren't any more comfortable than the expert. Some of them were extremely helpful so, as much as I disliked their decision, I also appreciated their efforts. Agents are not bad people; they love good stories, and they want to help writers, but they also have to respect the market and adhere to the rules of the trade. I get that, but it's still frustrating for an author to be rejected on those grounds: too controversial; not qualified enough, especially when the evidence was compelling and strong.

After seven years and a finished book, I hunted for options and found the e-book community. Here was an opportunity to bypass the "gatekeepers" as one writer called them.  Within this group and the bloggers, I have found great support. I completely trust the readers to be honest about their reaction to this new-found evidence. In most cases, they are well-informed about the Brontës, and are fair participants as they investigate my point of view. At least now, thanks to e-books, that point of view is in front of them in its complete and unadulterated form.

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