By Louise Ure
Two weeks ago, I screwed up my courage, dyed my hair and took a taxi downtown to see old friends at Bouchercon. It was the first time I’d participated in any literary/mystery/author function since my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer ten months ago.
It felt like traveling to a country I no longer had a valid visa for.
Old friends made that easier. A warm embrace from Andi Schecter, Tim Maleeny and Tony Broadbent calmed me. Time spent with Karen Olson, Gillian Roberts, Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller grounded me. A shared moment with Lee Child made me feel at home (although, if the stories about the body double he brought in from Australia are true, it may not have been Lee at all). The grace and calmness of Rae Helmsworth (and god, she’s looking good) put me at ease.
I am sorry not to have connected with other ‘Rati family and friends over the weekend.
But the most wonderful part of the visit, for me, was the glorious two hours I got to spend with my agents, Philip Spitzer and Lukas Ortiz.
As authors, we do not often enough sing the praises of our agents.
Philip Spitzer was the quarterback of my fantasy football team of agents when I first started submitting Forcing Amaryllis. I knew there was no chance of him accepting me; he was, after all Ken Bruen’s agent, and Michael Connelly’s and had earned the respect of every writer out there when they learned that he had continued to send out James Lee Burke’s manuscript “The Lost Get Back Boogie” for NINE years. After one hundred and eleven rejections. He was an agent who believed in his authors.
What could happen? I tossed that query letter in the mail like it was a coin in a wishing well.
When Philip called and said he wanted to represent me (“This book MUST be published!”) I thought it was a stunt by friends pretending to be him and I hung up.
He’s forgiven me for that and for multiple other sins over the years. This visit was no different. It was a grand time of catching up, listening, encouraging … and caring. This is a man you want by your side as a friend and an agent.
Lukas Ortiz is his partner at the Philip Spitzer Literary Agency. I hadn’t realized early on in the relationship what a key role he probably played in selecting Forcing Amaryllis. Lukas had close ties to friends in Tucson and the book’s setting spoke to him.
He’s soft spoken, quick to smile and has an incredible ability to remember absolutely everything about every one of their authors. Still a young man, he’s putting his little brother through university back home in Colombia and you can see his pride when he talks about him.
I asked them what book they had most recently fallen in love with and they described in lush and glowing terms a literary novel they had just sent out to an editor. They could not have been prouder of the book if they had written it themselves. And isn’t that the kind of representation you want in the halls of publishing?
Business has been a bit depressed, they said. Fewer sales and lower advances, but more opportunities in epublishing and movie rights. And they’re getting more submissions than ever before. (Makes sense, in this lousy economy with more people out of work, folks finally have the time to write that novel they always said they wanted to.)
By the end of our time together, I was almost feeling like an author again. And a very lucky one to be represented by these two fine men.
So tell me, ‘Rati friends, what wonderful panels/news/gossip/friends did you find at B’con? Or feel free to sing the praises of agents today.