Today my guest is my friend and fellow author, Debra H. Goldstein talking about her writing career.
I am, or perhaps I should say I was, a judge. I had a lifetime federal appointment and had gladly served the public for twenty-three years, after being one of the youngest and earliest females to obtain my position, but I gave it up to write mysteries. Why?
Initially, I tried to do it all. In fact, my first book, Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus, was written while I was on the bench. My non-judicial writing time was confined to the weekends or between midnight and four a.m. during the week. With that schedule, Maze wasn’t written or revised overnight, but after several years, it finally was ready to see daylight. I announced that fact at a women’s meeting showcasing four other writers. A member of the audience contacted her best childhood friend, who happened to be co-owner of a small publishing house, and said “There’s a judge with a mystery I think you might want to take a look at. I’ve seen some of her other writings and believe it might be worth your time.” Well, one thing led to another and without ever querying, I had a two -book deal within the week.
The end of 2011 is a blur – speaking engagements, a website and blog, and conferences began to fill my hours. I still continued doing my day job and making sure the two were kept separate. Then, tragedy struck.
A week before Malice 2012, the publisher announced the company was going out of business. It graciously gave all of its authors back their rights. Because I had six more months of bookings, I immediately put the book back into circulation myself while pitching it to Harlequin Worldwide Mystery. During the next year, I went back to the write in the early morning hours and produced a new book with different characters. I also wrote several short stories. All of these things wereaccomplished keeping my judicial and writing lives separate.
The new book had more trouble finding a home, but lightning struck at Killer Nashville. Denny Dietz liked the first two pages and agreed to read the rest. Five Star bought my second book, Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery around the same time period Harlequin Worldwide Mystery purchased and published Maze as one of its selections of the month in May 2014.
With two books under my belt, more in my head, and a few short stories in the hopper, I was beginning to think juggling two careers might not be a good idea. Then, it happened. I finished conducting a hearing and asked, “Is there anything further.” The lawyers said “no,” but one attorney’s client piped up, “Yes, there is.” I looked from the client to the attorney and paused to give the lawyer time to get his client under control, but the client shook him off. The lawyer shrugged, so I let the client speak his piece. “Your honor, I just want you to know, no matter how you rule, I’m going to buy your book.”
I bet I didn’t get that sale because I ruled against him, but it made it clear to me, I needed to pick one career. I chose to write full time. Seven months later, I wrapped up my docket and retired from the bench to be a full-fledged writer. I don’t regret deciding to “Make Mine Mystery.”