A Pair of Old Workhorses Walk Into A Bar

Actually that’s not true. We didn’t walk into a bar at all, but last week Catherine Coulter and I sat down together in the privacy of our own homes to do a Zoom event for this summer’s upcoming ThrillerFest sponsored by International Thriller Writers. Our task assignment was to discuss creating characters. I’m not entirely sure we followed through on that, but we had a lot of fun.

On the improbable chance that you’re not familiar with Catherine’s work, she started out writing romances, the her first one of which was published in 1979, six years before my first Beau book came out in 1985. According to her that made both of us a pair of dinosaurs who started out using computers with floppy discs. Anybody remember those?

Our paths to writing were similar in that writing was what we wanted to do for as long as we could remember. She wrote her first fifteen-page novels while still a teenager, and we had wake up moments when, after reading someone else’s stumble-bum effort, we both looked up from those pages and realized we could do better.

We both started out writing “genre” fiction published in “original paperback,” form, something the snobby elites of literary fiction look down on as the bargain basement of publishing. For those of you who are unaware of this, paperbacks were first published by Avon Books starting in World War II. They were designed to be small enough to be carried in service men’s pockets, hence the name “pocket books.”

I’m very proud of my connection to those original original paperbacks. I have a feeling that many a young soldier heading off to war overseas was able to lie in his bunk on some moving warship and find comfort by getting lost in one of those budget-friendly fictional creations.

Writing the above reminded me of something. Years ago, as a volunteer for the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, my assignment was to pick up an editor from NYC when her incoming flight arrived at SeaTac and drive her to the conference at Pacific Lutheran University south of Tacoma. At that point my books were all still original paperbacks. While she sat riding in my vehicle being driven by someone who had hauled her luggage out to the curb, she deigned to tell me that “original paperbacks is where anybody who wants to get published can get published.”

Well, thanks a whole hell of a lot! I took her where she was going and dropped her and her luggage at the designated location. I have NO idea how she got back to the airport, but I sure as hell didn’t drive her. For all I know, she’s still lost out there, wandering around in the woods outside Tacoma!

But back to Catherine and yours truly. We have a lot in common. For one thing, we’ve both written a LOT of books. Many of hers were Regency Romances. With a masters degree in European History in her background, she says she still speaks “fluent Regency,” and these days, as a fellow “woman of a certain age,” she has cut back from writing two novels a year to writing one FBI novel and one Regency novella.

With extensive catalogs of work in our both our backgrounds, there are words other people use to describe us that drive us nuts. Catherine hates it when someone says, “So you’ve churned out another one.” In my case, the trigger word is “prolific.” Both of those terms imply that we simply pop books out with the ease of toast emerging from a toaster—no muss or fuss. I can assure you that for both of us, a whale of a lot of diligent work and thought goes into each individual volume.

More than four decades later, both Catherine and I are still with our original literary agents, the ones who were willing to take us on to begin with. Over the years, publishers have changed and many editors have come and gone, but it turns out we’re both one-agent writers.

And both of us are fortunate in having wonderfully supportive and helpful husbands. When I’m writing a book, Bill is my first reader. He’s also the guy who helps me with tech issues both in real life and in my fictional world as well. Catherine’s husband, a physician, is her go-to-guy for all things having to do with medicine.

The first time I remember meeting Catherine in person was at the National Book Festival on the Mall in DC years ago. Our most recent “live” appearance together was at the 2015 Tucson Festival of Books where we did a panel under a tent that was full of a standing room only crowd.

The Zoom event we did last week will only be available to attendees of Thrillerfest. If you’re interested in attending, you can Google Thrillerfest 2021. That way you’ll be able to see which other authors, prolific or otherwise, will be in attendance. We did talk some about the origins of our characters, but this was mostly an author-to-author chat between two old broads who have been walking similar paths for a very long time.

As for people who read this blog? You’ve now had access to an unauthorized preview of coming attractions.

As for that snooty editor from New York? I believe she just reminded me of a song.

Did she ever return?
No, she never returned,
And her fate is still unlearned,
What a pity, may she wander forever
In the woods of Tacoma,
The editor who never returned!

25 thoughts on “A Pair of Old Workhorses Walk Into A Bar

  1. Great blog!!! I certainly enjoy reading them. So far I have read every one of your books and have enjoyed them. Hope you come back to Cochise College in Benson sometime.

  2. Hello again! I think I have read some of Catherine’s FBI books in the past. Not sure. As a huge a Georgette Heyer fan, I will check out her Regency novels too.
    I am now keeping a list of favorite authors for when I am stuck trying to pick my next book. Thanks for reminding me of her!

  3. Always look forward to Friday morning and reading your blog. Enjoy each and everyone of them. Thank you!

  4. I look forward to these Blogs, I sort of see them as a “weekly dose of sense” and a filler until your next book is released. Today’s blog hit close to home for me when you mentioned remembering “floppy disks”. For some reason, I woke up this morning recounting to myself my career in ADP (automated data processing). I chose this when I enlisted in the Army after graduating high school in 1970. Things I learned then was well before floppy disks, they were punched cards, wired boards for sorting and Collating machines etc. I worked in that field for 20+years and saw the migration to magnetic tapes, individual computer terminals (our office of programmers had 3 terminals to share between 20 people), stand alone small computers etc. I finally had to switch careers because I couldn’t keep up with technology changes. I still have a desktop computer at home, but mostly use an iPad or iPhone . I’m sure I’m showing my age! As for prolific writers, you have probably seen many changes in the publications business as well. I’m glad you both are (I’ve read Ms Coulter’s works, both Regency and the later FBI novels). Keep up the good work and I’ll keep reading regardless of the formats.

  5. I try to remember the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission”. You two have a built-in snobbery detector at your fingertips, usually a useful thing in navigating the shoals.

  6. Isn’t it nice just to sit down with old friends and chat? I’ve been a long time fan of you and Catherine Coulter. All the way back to her Regency days!

    Yes, I’ve always “eaten” books, even from a very young age.

    Thanks to you both for filling the empty spots in my days and allowing me to journey outside my own reality.

  7. Thanks to both of you for your wealth of reading pleasure. I am grateful that you both have such vivid imaginations and the willingness to take the time to share them with us. As a “reader” I appreciate a “writer.”
    Please keep writing.

  8. I wrote down the names of authors I read and looked them up on FantasticFiction.com to see their new books and, while I was at it, figured out how old they are via their birth year if it was listed. The oldest was 90+ and the youngest was around 50 which certainly explained no new books from several of them. All of which caused me to remember that if I’ve been reading their books for 20+ years and I’ve aged they have too! Anyway, kudos to both of you for plugging along every day to keep your fans in quality new reading material. I love to read a book knowing that it has clean language, no gratuitous violence, and makes sense. I’m making a concerted effort, via free kindle and discounted books, to find new authors and have found several series I enjoy and can buy the latest releases in.

    I just finished the newest Joanna book and really enjoyed it. 5 stars!

  9. I have Fred Catherine’s FBI series and really enjoyed it. I have enjoyed all your series and the characters in them.
    We encounter the same kind of snobbery in almost all fields of work. I have worked in libraries and many people think it’s a glamorous job instead of a job where you’re crawling on the floor trying to find a book that a library patron requested. Before the days of computers we had a lot of work collating the cards that were either in the front or the back of the book.

  10. Glad you and Catherine are friends. I am waiting for your next book while reading one of her FBI series

  11. Thank you for being a “prolific” writer! I enjoy your books no matter how many you “churn” each year!!

  12. Loved the blog. I’ve read all your books in all the series. Always looking out for the next one. Keep up the good work. Glad you ditched that snooty editor and didn’t give her a return ride to the airport.

  13. I love reading your “plain” talk stories. I mean that in the sense of it feeling real and down-to-earth, right off the-top-of-your-head. It makes me feel “at home”! Thanks.

  14. Thanks again for sharing thoughts and adventures. I’ve read Catherine Coulter and enjoy her books. Hadn’t thought of either of you as “dinosaurs”, but if that’s what it takes….go!

  15. I so enjoy reading your blogs! You share a glimpse of your life with us, including such gems as providing the ‘snooty’ author a one-way ride 🙂

  16. Love your blogs……and I am also a women of a certain age. I love to hear your stories, they remind me of how fun it was to grow up in that era. I have read all the JP Beaumont books and can’t wait for the next one to arrive. The Kingston Trio was a favorite in our household and my parents took me to see them in concert when I was 13. Thank you for what you do!!

  17. What fun; I didn’t know that paperbacks had a link to the military, but it certainly makes sense. My dad was stationed at a remote Asian base during WW2 and came with a fairly thick paperback he had read en route (maybe “Lost Horizon”. – how can I not remember that?) and it got divided up into sections so that the other guys could read it without waiting for someone to finish the whole book.

    On a different front I just finished “Missing and Endangered” – a triumph, as usual. You go from strength to strength, and as usual the canine character is a great addition.


  18. I don’t travel much now, but when I did I always had a paperback book along to read. I also bought books in airports along the way. Usually I’d leave a book behind for someone else and stuck in a dollar bill to use as a bookmark. I was taught to never turn down the corner of a book page paperback or not and sometimes couldn’t find anything to use as a bookmark. I thought finding a dollar in the book would be fun. I wish I knew how those dollars were spent.

  19. Enjoy your blogs, please continue. So glad you didn’t listen to that snooty writer. I sure do hope she is forever wandering.

  20. Your statement regarding “pocket books” took me back in time. I’m a Vietnam combat vet who took many pocket books with me when I entered Vietnam. They were close to the most important items in my pack. My medical supplies were first and there were C rations then books. They helped me survive the times of intense boredom.

    Fortunately, I’ve always been a reader, thanks to my Mom. I stumbled upon you novels about 2 years ago and went on a binge and read them all over a summer. Thank you for creating these interesting characters. I’ve enjoyed getting to know all of them and anxiously await each new appearance.

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