In 2007, my big bucket-list dream came true. I was at Killer Nashville (a great conference by the way) and I had written this mystery called Little Lamb Lost. I loved my protagonist; a sharp, witty social worker named Claire Conover who gets to work one summer day and a little client of hers is dead. He’s nearly three, and his mother Ashley has worked so hard to get sober and get her life together and get custody of him again. When the police arrest her for his murder, Claire can’t believe it, so she investigates.
Sounds great, right? Killer Nashville offered the opportunity to talk to an agent or an editor for extra money, and I chose the agent and pitched to her. She HATED it. That’s right, in capital letters hated it. Couldn’t see who in the world would publish it, it was so bad.
I went to the bar and ordered the largest gin and tonic you can imagine. I’m halfway through it when Don Bruns comes over to me and asked how it went. Slightly buzzed, I explained not well. He found the rep from Oceanview Publishing and brought her to the bar so I could pitch to her. Boy, that was sloppy, but she wanted to see it. I got home and mailed her a copy and within a couple of months I had a contract. And a fantasy. Now I had a publishing house, and an editor, and they were going to publish my series and help the books get better and better and help me get a lot of readers.
I wrote the second book and sent it off. Somewhere in space and time, Oceanview decided they were only going to publish thrillers. Can you make it a thriller? I tried, but I don’t write thrillers. Little Girl Gone is solidly in the category of an amateur sleuth mystery. They passed on it. That was tough, because I still love these characters and I love this book. And the question was, what the hell am I going to do now? The fantasy was dead.
I sat on this book for a long time. Like years, while struggling with the question of what to do. Find an agent? My stomach churned at the thought. I was published already, dammit, and the days of query letters were supposed to be over. I could do it myself, I thought. Become a self-published author with all the baggage and assumptions that go along with that. Back and forth, back and forth.
Then I decided I would do it myself. Author J.A. Konrath brags on this company that can do the formatting for you and I hired them. They are just as wonderful as he said. My sweet brother designed the cover for me and it’s just what I wanted. I’ve hired a publicist now, and that’s the best decision ever.
So what’s different? I’ve been told that I’m a hybrid author. I like that term. I’m lucky enough to have the resources to do this and not have to worry about earning the money back, because I don’t think I ever will. I care about recruiting readers, not earning a living. Like I said, I’m really lucky. I miss having a team at the publisher, but I still have a team. I just pay them now instead. The worst part of being self-published is the conferences and bookstores that want nothing to do with you, although Books a Million is taking steps to change this. I didn’t get on a panel at Bouchercon this year, and there was no place to really pitch my books. I’m glad I had a publisher for the first book, and wouldn’t change that for the world. It’s an Amazon bestseller, by the way.
So what’s next? I’m writing the third book in the series. Little White Lies. I have control over everything: the meat of the book, the cover, and the formatting. That’s really nice. There are readers out there that have yet to discover Claire and crew and I look forward to hearing from them. You can reach me through my website at www.margaretfenton.com.
Title: Little Girl Gone
Author: Margaret Fenton
Find out more on Amazon
About the Book:
When Little Girl Gone opens, it’s September in Birmingham, Alabama, and Claire Conover is steeling herself. September—with its oppressive, unwelcome heat, back-to-school newness worn off, and skyrocketing reports of abuse and neglect—is a time of year Claire has come to dread. As the crime rate increases, so increases the work load for Claire and the Jefferson County Department of Human Services Child Welfare Division. Seems this year is no exception.
When she takes into custody a 13-year-old girl found sleeping behind a grocery store, Claire is swept up in a case that turns out to be far more complicated, and far more dangerous, than initially meets the eye. Struggling to piece together the young girl’s identity, Claire finds herself with few answers and no shortage of questions. Is the young girl a runaway? An abuse victim? Or something else? But things go from bad to worse when the young girl’s mother is found murdered—and then the girl disappears. Claire soon discovers that the mother was involved in an illegal gambling industry in Birmingham. But even with this clue, the case becomes more complicated. Could the young girl have pulled the trigger? Is that even possible? And where could she have run? Did she run at all? In the midst of all the questions, only one thing is certain: Claire has to find the answers, and the girl, fast.
A swiftly paced, suspenseful, and shocking story, Little Girl Gone earns Margaret Fenton a solid spot among today’s best mystery writers. Masterful plotting, extraordinary character development, and a pulse racer of a plot combine to create an extraordinary mystery resplendent with twists, turns, and surprises. An unforgettable story informed by Fenton’s near decade of experience as a social worker, Little Girl Gone also shines a light on the plight of at risk children and the dedication of those tireless and compassionate workers who serve them. A stellar entry into what Booklist hailed “a promising new series,” Little Girl Gone is mesmerizing.