Friday, September 21, 2012

An Erotic Romance Writer's Roots

AKA "Thanks, Grandpa"

By Vonna Harper

Dedicating a book is, I suspect, something most writers enjoy doing. It’s certainly true for me.

But think about it for a minute. Here I am, one of Ellora’s Cave’s pioneer (does that mean old?) contributors, thanking her grandfather. No, it has nothing to do with him giving me the birds and bees lecture or—okay, not going there.

Homer Eon Flint (Flindt) was murdered when my mother was only five so he was never part of my world. And yet he was.

Grandpa was a writer. I give him full credit for what writing genes I have (not sure what he’d think of a granddaughter who writes erotic romance and erotica) and am extraordinarily proud of what he accomplished in his thirty-six years of life. He produced three children, but that’s not what I’m talking about. In my possession (I’m the oldest grandchild, so pulled rank) is a precious stack of 1920s pulp magazines containing his science and speculative fiction short stories and novellas. I’m also caretaker of his one book, The Blind Spot, and the manuscripts that never found a publisher—proof that certain realities of the publishing world haven’t changed. As a teenager, I’d hold the magazines with their sexy covers of women in jeopardy, handsome heroes, and evil doers and be in awe of his creativity. He wrote of distant worlds, political unrest, scientific advances and inventions, not sex. Even then I had the itch, the drive, the need to do creative things with words, and here was proof that someone I’m related to could show me the way. He’d climbed the mountain I was just beginning to comprehend.

How I wish we could have talked shop. Compared and contrasted the writing world he lived in with mine. Thanks to the various correspondence Nana kept all her life, I have some idea what his publishing world was like. I’m convinced he’d totally embrace electronic publishing. I’m not sure what he’d think of what Ellora’s Cave offers readers—a little beyond his comfort zone I suspect.

How he’d love computers, word processing, the Internet, etc. I can just see him pitching his manual typewriter out the nearest window. He’d never again have to ship his manuscripts to publishers, editors or agents. (Yes, there were agents in the 1920s.) No more having to go to the local newspaper and pay to have copies made. No more working in isolation except for the one writer living close enough that they could walk to each other’s house.

Sounds like he’d envy what I take for granted, right? Not necessarily. He was in the right place at the right time when the movie industry started to take hold, and he sold more than a half dozen film treatments to at least two companies. Back then (perhaps because he was a regular contributor to the pulps) he was accustomed to having his work read within a matter of days. If he had to wait (horrors!) a month, he’d fire off a to-the-point letter and receive an apology. Even rejections were couched in sincere apology and he was always encouraged to submit again.

When he sold, checks arrived with the acceptance letter. No contracts.

As for the pay, how’s this for an example. (To clarify, the pulps were read by millions.) His last story sold a month before his death—for $400. In 1924. 10,000 words. How much is that in 2012 value?

Instead of bringing him into his future and my present, maybe I should try to time travel back to his day. One thing I’d take to show him is Grandfather Lost, the biography I wrote in honor of him using my real name, Vella Munn.

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1 comment:

Barbara Elsborg said...

Oh that was lovely, Vonna!! i never knew either of my grandfathers. They died long before I was born. Neither were writers. One was an undertaker. The other a gamekeeper. I'd love to be able to talk to them!