Getting the call from Ruth Cavin – Gerrie Ferris Finger’s story

Gerrie Ferris Finger with her poodle Bogey

Today I’m excited to welcome guest blogger Gerrie Ferris Finger, the latest winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition for The End Game, scheduled for release on April 27th. I just finished reading the advance review copy she sent me. The novel’s thoroughly engrossing, and much edgier than I’d expect from a Malice Domestic winner.

Next week I’ll review the book and give you some of my thoughts on Gerrie’s story. Here’s her description of the many years of dues she paid before getting the call from Ruth Cavin telling her she was a winner. I hope you’ll find it as inspiring as I do.

GETTING THE CALL 

By Gerrie Ferris Finger

I wrote my first novel before I began my newspaper career, right after I got out of college, while I was babysitting my two children. It was a war novel – hey, why not start with something you know everything about, right? It’s a good thing I love to research.

I sent it off to an agent friend, a classmate in college. He told me it was hard to believe a woman wrote the book, and that if he sold it, I should use initials so buyers would think I was a man. Then he gave me friendly advice. He said I should write women’s non-fiction like the stuff in “Cosmopolitan”. Sex positions was going to propel me to the top of the Best Seller List.

I went to work for a newspaper instead. After twenty years as a writer, editor and columnist, I retired to write novels in earnest. Like most journalists, I had a few manuscript starts, but never finished them.  My first effort was a mystery overlaid with romance. I didn’t consider genre when writing the manuscript. I just wanted to tell a story, sell it to a publisher and have a large reading audience. I hired an agent and wrote four books in what she called the romantic suspense genre, before she told me romantic suspense wasn’t selling well.

So okay, let’s do something else. I created Moriah Dru, a former cop turned child finder. Already in love with a detective, Dru wouldn’t be drifting into romance. My agent didn’t like The End Game, because she didn’t like the heroine. Dru had too much angst. After three years, my agent and I parted, and I sent The End Game to large independent publishers (of which there are few) and got requests for the “full” manuscript from all. I wrote the second book while waiting for offers that didn’t come.  

I entered The End Game into the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Minotaur competition for Best First Traditional Mystery novel and started another mystery series. I’d forgotten about the Minotaur contest. Who wins contests anyway? Then my contest reader called to tell me she’d sent the novel on to St. Martin’s. The process starts with readers who receive manuscripts from all over the country. They choose the best in their estimation and send them to St. Martin’s.

A couple months went by, and I “got the call” from Ruth Cavin. I was working on a straight romance and almost let the phone ring. Instead, I said “Hello”.

I swear my heart stopped beating as I listened to her words that went something like: “This is Ruth Cavin with St. Martin’s. I’m calling to tell you that your novel won the St. Martin’s contest. Congratulations.”

It couldn’t be any of my joker friends. They didn’t know I’d entered the contest. My husband didn’t know.

My mouth was open and dried-out when I stuttered, “You’re kidding?”

She laughed and said, “I had some wonderful manuscripts to choose from, but I thought yours was just the best.” Just the best. Her wonderful voice still resounds in my head.

When I told my husband I was going to be published by a big New York house, he said, “At last!”  

Thank you Julie for letting me relive that call on your wonderful blog.

Gerrie Ferris Finger

http://www.gerrieferrisfinger.blogspot.com

http://www.gerrieferrisfinger.com

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marilyn Meredith
    Apr 22, 2010 @ 12:23:19

    This is just such a wonderful story, I’m glad she can shout it to the rooftops–well at least to the Internet.

    Reply

  2. otherlisa
    Apr 22, 2010 @ 14:11:15

    What a great story! I try to tell young writers who are in such a huge hurry to achieve “success” that in the long run, it’s mostly those who continue to work and improve their craft who make it. Thanks for proving me right! 🙂

    Reply

  3. Gerrie
    Apr 22, 2010 @ 15:43:15

    There are all different paths, and mine was just one. I’ve even read non-professional writers, ie, housewives, hit it on their first submission. That’s wonderful, too.

    Reply

  4. julielomoe
    Apr 22, 2010 @ 19:29:00

    Marilyn and Lisa, thanks for your comments, and Gerrie, thanks for touching base. Some writers may get lucky early on, but from what I’ve read, your story may be more typical – except that most writers don’t hit such a well-known jackpot!

    I had an agent who suggested I try romances. That was 20 years ago, and I couldn’t follow through, because my heart just wasn’t in it. Ultimately, I think your story shows the value of perseverance as well as sticking by your convictions rather than selling out to adapt to other people’s opinions.

    Reply

  5. Far Side of Fifty
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 19:00:40

    Hi Julie, Sucess when you least expect it! It is nice to hear a success story, and Gerrie book sounds interesting.

    OK.. I am here because I have a blog..well several..but the one you may be interested in is Forgotten Old Photos. Here is the link
    http://forgottenoldphotos.blogspot.com/2010/04/photo-number-172.html

    I found a photograph of your Aunt Alice in an Antique Shop in Park Rapids, Minnesota. I have a friend that likes to do research and she found you! If you would like the photo I would be more than happy to mail it to you. All I ask is that you share some type of story about Alice that I can share with my readers. Perhaps what subject she taught..did she have any children? What did she enjoy besides teaching?

    My husband also has Trigeminal Neuralgia..he was diagnosed two and a half years ago..he takes Neurontin and Tegretol to keep the monster at bay. We were home bound for such a long time..that I began a blog..rest is history. At the moment he is doing ok…but anyone that has TN knows that it can change at anytime.
    I hope to hear from you:) Connie

    Reply

    • julielomoe
      Apr 27, 2010 @ 13:29:16

      Hi Connie, the way you found me and my blog is truly amazing. I already left you a comment on your blog, but I’ll certainly blog about Alice here as well, and about the process by which you and your friend found the information about her.

      One poignant aspect of this story is that I hadn’t known my cousin Richard Lomoe died until I read your friend’s post on your blog. We hadn’t been in touch for many years, but I enjoyed a special rapport with him when we were younger.

      I’ll definitely be back in touch!

      Reply

  6. Tom McCormack
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 13:48:39

    I presume you’ve heard that Ruth Cavin died last night. She was a rare and cherishable lady. — Tom McCormack

    Reply

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