A Pat on the Back, Me
Sometime ago when I was looking to be agented, a well-known literary agent turned my novel down saying she has a client working on something she felt was similar. This agent was surprisingly specific about the setting and a couple of details of her client’s WIP. She asked that I check with her if and when I had other work, and was still unagented.
Shortly after, another agent offered representation, and I’ve been agented since. That particular novel has not sold, and we have moved on to my next.
About six months ago, I ran into a review of a middle grade novel that sounded so much like my unsold story, and I checked it out. What-d-y-know, its setting and specifics fit perfectly with the response I got from that agent. I began reading the book online in its E-version. I found myself heaving as the first paragraph reminded me of the way I chose to begin mine. But there’s more. The name of the main character, (an uncommon one) was the very same as in my story.
I did a bit of searching to find and verify that this writer’s agent was indeed the same one who liked my story, but had a client working on something similar.
I bought the book in its print version. I read it. It is a very good book, well written, and it deserves its place in the market.
You wouldn’t blame me for doing the next thing. I wasn’t going to, but something in me felt I just had to. I wrote to the writer to tell her I liked her book (true) and added that I liked the main character’s name very much.
Almost instantly, I got a reply. The writer was grateful for my appreciation, and added that, incidentally, the main character’s name was her agent’s suggestion, after her editor didn’t care for the name she had used originally.
I sat, heart pounding, staring at the screen. It’s rare that you get such confirmation of the tentacles you put out in the universe actually reaching somewhere. Bingo.
I am well aware that names, titles, and even general plotlines are not intellectual property and thus, rightly, can’t have a copyright. Inspiration comes from what we have read and seen before, and writers take from others (often subconsciously) all the time.
But it still felt... weird.
There’s a good article about writer’s envy that just came out a few months ago. I must have incorporated it inwardly, because I spent only a few moments feeling these pangs. I looked in the mirror and said, “You’ve done well. You had the good story and a name that was worth borrowing.”
Both stories deal with unseen connections across time. It’s fitting that I found just such a true connection between them, the one that was published and the one that was not.