Sometimes a story just knocks on the door and invites itself in. That’s the way it was with my time-travel novel, Souleiado. It wasn’t the first novel I’d ever written: that distinction went to Houdini, a young-adult novel about a stray cat who makes good and whom late writer and activist Cleveland Amory was kind enough to call ” a sweet, loyal soul. And a brave one, to boot” when he read it. No, Souleiado was the novel that demanded to be written — the one that was born out of the grief and loneliness that followed my husband Tim’s death in a car accident.
We spent over three years in each other’s company, Souleiado and I: it gave me a way of channeling the pain from the tragedy. When I’d finished what I considered to be a respectable draft, I started sending it on its rounds. Responses were mixed: agents and publishers found “nice elements” and “much to admire in your writing” but didn’t feel it was the right book for them. I kept tinkering with the manuscript and sending it out, though.
“I love these little people,” an elderly Kenneth Grahame told Ernest Shepard when the latter was getting ready to illustrate The Wind in the Willows, “be kind to them.” Well, I felt that way about my Souleiado people, too: they had become real to me, and I still felt they had a story worth telling.
I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon WritersWeekly.com, but I did; and through it, I found Five Star in Waterville, Maine, and Hazel Rumney, who turned out to be the most supportive publisher and editor I could have asked for. She could see into the heart of my story and understood what I was trying to do with my characters. The upshot was that Souleiado, the story that had come to me in my season of despair, was released by Five Star this past January.
You see, through WritersWeekly.com, I found someone who believed in my story as much as I did.
T. J. Banks has written fiction, poetry, book reviews, and essays for numerous publications, including Poets & Writers, CAT FANCY, Just Cats, Writing For Our Lives, Woman & Earth, Our Mothers Our Selves: Writers and Poets Celebrate Motherhood (Bergin & Garvey), Cat’s Meow! An Anthology of Cat Tales (Maine Rhode Publishers), Chocolate for a Woman’s Heart (Simon & Schuster), Chicken Soup for the Single’s Soul (Health Communications, Inc.), At Grandmother’s Table (Fairview Press), Soul Menders (Guideposts), and Their Mysterious Ways (Guideposts). A contributing editor for laJoie and a former editorial associate with the Writer’s Digest School, she has won awards for her work from the Cat Writers’ Association, The Writing Self, and Burbage’s, Ltd. In addition to her time-travel novel Souleiado (Five Star 2002), she has also written a novel for young adults, Houdini. She lives with her daughter, Marissa, their cats, and two rabbits with Issues in Simsbury, CT.