June will mark the 25th anniversary of the publication of my first novel, Private Relations, which has me pondering–yet again–whether or not to release it for my 21st century readers. I’ve had this chat with some of you before, but I need to have it again. I need your help in making the decision.
I receive a couple of requests each week to bring this book back to life. I began writing it in 1981. Writing was then a hobby that turned into an obsession, which ultimately resulted in a manuscript of many hundreds of pages. With lots of editing, ditching of certain characters, increasing the focus on the romance, it turned into an actual book that landed in bookstores (remember them?) in June of 1989. I’m proud of it. Yet there’s no way around it: this is one heck of a dated story.
I’ve turned five of my other early books into e-books, and the response has been so absolutely, totally, staggeringly wonderful. Who knew that those old dead books would find a new set of readers? Somehow, though, those books seem to have a more ageless quality. But Private Relations (and my second novel, Lover and Strangers) feel ancient.
Let’s look at a few of the problems, shall we?
- It’s a romance. It didn’t start out that way, but the editors who kept rejecting it said the story would be stronger if I focused on Kit and Cole rather than the slew of other characters I’d introduced. It’s an unusual romance, to be sure, which I believe is why it won the RITA award for Best Single Title Contemporary Romance of 1989. I knew nothing about writing romances, and I think that worked to my advantage in creating something that was, at that time, fresh and different. But, it is a romance, and while I know many of my readers love romances, I think I have just as many who don’t.
- Here’s a snag that stopped me in my tracks as I reread it: Kit, our heroine, goes to Cole, our hero, as her gynecologist. I mean, really? She doesn’t even question the awkwardness of this or consider finding a female GYN. (They are not involved at the time, but are living in the same house with a bunch of other. . . oh, it’s too complicated to explain!). At the time I wrote the book, I was a social worker in a maternity unit. Out of the gazillion doctors in that unit, only two were female, so the story seemed to make a little more sense back then. I’m glad those days are over! But do you see what I mean about dated?
- During the course of the story, Cole gets angry with Kit and actually slaps her. What was I thinking?? That would be it for me. You lay a hand on me, Buster, and I’m out the door. Or rather, you are.
- There are no twists, which my readers have come to love and which I adore writing. It’s a very straightforward story. It’s not badly written, though. If a reader can get past the gynecological exams and slapping, there’s a good chance she might actually be moved to tears.
- Oh, and it’s juicy. Not erotic by any stretch of the imagine, but it’s juicy enough that when my parents read the manuscript (which I allowed them to read shortly before publication), they said they wouldn’t tell any of their friends about it. (To their credit, they changed their mind once it was published, deciding only to keep their priest in the dark). I hear regularly from readers who are pleased at the un-juiciness of my books. They must be kept away from this one!
I think if I do decide to publish Private Relations, I would have to add something to the title that warns the readers of its “differentness”. My fear is getting a bunch of “I love Diane Chamberlain’s books, but this one was really weird!” reader reviews. How to word that warning, I’m not sure.
I would say it’s now or never for Private Relations. I don’t expect to be around for its 50th anniversary, so this is it. Can you help me decide? I look forward to your thoughts.