My long-time friend Rayme Waters has just published her debut novel, The Angels’ Share–cause for great celebration in our neighborhood and especially in our very supportive book club. California Book Award medalist and National Book Award finalist Diane Johnson says of it, “If you’ve ever wondered what became of those bedraggled little kids of the 1960′s, tumbling out of VW minibuses after their hippie parents, Rayme Waters’s affecting novel about Cinnamon Monday will completely absorb you.” The story of how Rayme came to bookstore shelves is nearly as absorbing as her novel, too. Enjoy! – Meg
I wrote short stories in college. For the most part, they weren’t very good: typical teenage melodrama that finished with me typing “The End” at what I hoped was a poignant moment. My instructors were blunt: “Good imagination, but you need a voice and an ending,” one professor remarked in the margins of my dot-matrix printed page. I remember thinking he was right and also that I could use a strong voice and a good ending in more places than just my writing.
After graduation, I got a job at Apple. Despite resolve to write in the evenings and on weekends, I mostly worked late, ate Brie cheese and watched the XFiles. My New Year’s resolutions from 1997 say: “Submit something, anything”. But to submit, you have to write and like my resolutions about jogging and eating less Brie, it didn’t happen.
But, like a spring melt which is first invisible, then inevitable, that New Year’s resolution eventually had effect. Sometime in 1999 I found my stories from college that hadn’t been lost to the shifting gigabits of time and not all of them made me cringe.
By 2004, I had a story that gave me happy butterflies and submitted the fiction contest run by the Palo Alto Weekly. I thought I was hallucinating when they called me to say that I’d won a prize.
Buoyed by this initial success, I started a novel about a family who had once owned a great San Francisco hotel but were now impoverished and estranged living on various points of the northern California coast. I loved my characters, but I wasn’t sure if the story had the voice and ending it deserved.
Around this time, I heard from a childhood friend who had just finished rehab for meth addiction. She had been a prim and proper little girl, but her parents had died young and she had married another addict. We shared a lot of memories and tears. A few months later, I heard she was back on the stuff. I became obsessed with methamphetamine. Its history, its chemistry, its prevalence. This research started changing the DNA of my novel, raising the stakes for my main character.
After many months of searching I found an agent who loved the book. And after many months of submitting we found a publisher that felt the same way. There were painful rejections along the way; trying to get a debut novel represented and published is a very twisty, treacherous path of its own. It would have been easy to surrender to defeat at several points.
The Angels’ Share has just been published. Will my story have the magic for others that it had for my agent and my publisher? Will the novel have its own guardian angels who whisper in reader’s ears to tell their friends about this book? I hope it does and that my ending is as sweet as my heroine’s. – Rayme