|DR. JUDY ALTER|
But then I wrote a novel, Mattie, which had a few steamy scenes in it and was published by Doubleday in the now-long-defunct DDD Westerns line. I followed it with A Ballad for Sallie, told by a twelve-year-old girl. It’s my contention that not all novels featuring twelve-year-old girls—or boys—are young-adult works, but the editor at the mass market house that reprinted it said Sallie didn’t sell as well because it was a juvenile.
The label “children’s writer” still follows me these days, partly because I’ve written a lot of nonfiction for young adults, everything from a history of Montana to a book explaining vaccines and a biography of Harry S. Truman. But by the 1990s I moved into a new pigeonhole: western writer. I was active in Western Writers of America, even president for a term, and I was writing westerns—no, not “shoot-'em-ups” but four of the books I’m most proud of (though choosing your favorite of your books is, as a friend of mine has said, like being forced to choose a favorite child).
I thought Libbie, a fictional account of the life of Mrs. George Armstrong Custer published in 1994, was my big breakthrough (it proved not to be). It got great reviews from all sorts of publication, including lots of romance review magazines—and one scathing review in the Dallas Morning News because the reviewer, who called himself a curmudgeon, dismissed it as a romance.
Jessie, the life of Jessie Benton Frémont and daughter of Senator Thomas Hart Benton, was next. As the wife of and explorer/adventurer/entrepreneur/lifelong failure and the daughter of a forceful senator and proponent of westward expansion, Jessie was in the midst of the national political scene for many years before following her husband about the country and eventually becoming an author.
Cherokee Rose was based on the life of Lucille Mulhall, the first woman trick roper but the publicity for that book was nil—I saw one brief mention in Entertainment Today. The market for women’s western fiction was either dying or moving away from me. I didn’t publish adult fiction again until 2002 when Leisure Books brought out a mass market edition of Sundance, Butch and Me, told, of course, by Etta Place. I always particularly liked that book because it made my well-read son-in-law laugh out loud.
There are still countless western women I could write about. Indeed I wrote a y/a entitled Extraordinary Women of the West, and a friend laughed that I should tell the editors I had about a hundred more women to go. But I saw the handwriting on the wall, busied myself with the non-fiction y/a market and my daytime job, and dreamed of writing mysteries, while reading every cozy I could get my hands on.
|AVAILABLE LATE AUGUST|
Finally I dipped my toe into the Guppy pond of Sisters in Crime and found myself literally a newbie in a new world. No one knew I had a publishing history, and I certainly didn’t understand the intricate ins and outs of finding an agent and publishing a mystery. In retrospect I wasted a lot of time querying agents and a few of the better known small presses, giving one press an exclusive that stretched out to a year, wasting another year with an agent who decided he couldn’t sell it.
Next I queried a new press, Turquoise Morning. They accepted Skeleton in a Dead Space more quickly than they predicted. It’s launching August 29, give or take, and I’m busy planning marketing, on Facebook and Twitter, writing blogs, and learning all kinds of things that didn’t exist when I last published adult fiction. As we all know, in the old days, your publisher did the marketing; today, we do it.
Now if I can just jump out of the y/a and western pigeonholes into the mystery one—or maybe a bigger one that encompasses all three? Western mysteries sort of intrigue me, but I haven’t come up with a plot yet. And after my recent trip to Scotland, a mystery set in Scotland has my brain whirling with possibilities.
Pigeonholes be darned!
Judy's forthcoming cozy mystery is Skeleton in a Dead Space from Turquoise Morning Press, due in late August or early September.
Her most recent books are Extraordinary Women of Texas and Great Texas Chefs (both TCU Press) and Cooking My Way through Life with Kids and Books (State House Press).
She is the author of seven published Western Historical novels for adults, nonfiction books for young adults, one collection of short stories, and a critical biography of Texas novelist Elmer Kelton.
Judy's works have won awards from Western Writers of America, Western Heritage Wrangler Award, Texas Institute of Letters, and the Children's Book Council.
Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement – Western Writers of America
Named One of 100 Women, Living and Dead, Who Have Left Their Mark on
Texas – Morning News Dallas
Named Outstanding Woman of Fort Worth in the Arts, 1988, - Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women
Named to Texas Literary Hall of Fame, Fort Worth Public Library
I am a regular blogger- http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com/ and http://potluckwithjudy.com/ and regular reader of the listservs from the Guppies and Sisters in Crime.
From 1982 until 2009 Judy Alter worked at Texas Christian University Press, five years as editor, and the remaining as director. Using her vast knowledge and university degrees, much of her writing has been about the experiences of women in the American West.
She is the single mother of four now-grown children and the grandparent of seven. She lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with Scooby, an Australian shepherd, and Wynona, cat that is part Maine Coon.
Thank you for visiting Judy Alter here at Sweethearts of the West. You're welcome to leave a comment for her.