Simone St. James: On Finishing the Book First
Simone St. James is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of The Sun Down Motel, The Broken Girls, Lost Among the Living, and The Haunting of Maddy Clare. She wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school, and spent 20 years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full time. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
In this post, Simone discusses the nonstop learning that happened in writing her new suspense novel, The Book of Cold Cases, why it’s important for writers to finish writing the book first, and more!
Name: Simone St. James
Literary agent: Hopkins Literary Associates
Book title: The Book of Cold Cases
Release date: March 15, 2022
Previous titles: Lost Among the Living; The Other Side of Midnight; Silence for the Dead; An Inquiry Into Love and Death; The Haunting of Maddy Clare; The Sun Down Motel
Elevator pitch for the book: When a true crime blogger gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance to interview a woman acquitted of being a serial killer, nothing is as it seems.
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What prompted you to write this book?
I wanted to explore crime, true crime, and our ideas of serial killers, all of them from the perspective of women. Also, I like ghost stories.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
Two years, maybe? I did several drafts before I turned it in to my editor, and two more drafts after that, so the idea changed quite a bit. Mostly I had to hone the idea and get rid of scenes and subplots that didn’t add to it. The book also has three timelines and multiple points of view, so that had to be done right.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
I think the last two years have been a nonstop learning moment for everyone. I guess my biggest takeaway is that apparently I can turn in a book on time during a pandemic, which was something I didn’t know before.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
If you don’t have any surprises during a two-year writing and editing process, then you aren’t doing it right. I was surprised by the first version of how the book ended, and the second version, too.
I was surprised by most of the characters. I was surprised when the plot didn’t turn out to be the one I started with. I was surprised that I finished the book at all, especially during a pandemic. I am always surprised in this business.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
A couple of hours of fun reading during which they forget the world for a while.
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
Finish the book! Most of the aspiring writers who ask me questions about publishing haven’t finished anything they could publish. Always finish the book, just to prove you can. Worry about publishing once that part is done.