Issues, Bad and Good (A Writer’s Journey: 11th Installment)

Carol Hoenig
6 min readAug 23, 2022
The Yin and Yang of Life

Even though I never got that desirous major publishing deal for Without Grace, thankfully, it did find a home, but it was during a time there was quite a bit happening in my life. You know the saying, “when it rains, it pours?” Well, for me, it was certainly pouring.

This was all transpiring under the 9/11 cloud when I was still working for Borders Books & Music. Our World Trade Center location was part of the tragic rubble, but thankfully no staff was lost. However, many of the staff from that location were transferred to my location on Park Avenue. Since my position was considered corporate and I didn’t need to physically be in the bookstore, unless I was hosting an event, I was asked to work out of my home office.

At the time, I was a newly divorced woman having to sell my home since I wasn’t financially able to buy it from my ex. (Years later, that was to change.) It didn’t help that I found a lump in my breast where the waiting game almost put me over the edge while I needed to find a home for my dogs since no apartment would allow me to take them. Thankfully, not only was the lump benign, even though it required not one but two surgeries, a good friend’s parents who are dog lovers took Scout and Shiloh in for me while I sorted my life out. I then moved into a two-bedroom upstairs apartment since both my daughters only came home when they were on break from college. However, we had to deal with a diabolical downstairs neighbor. I won’t go into detail here, but when I had the opportunity to buy my aunt’s house, even though it needed to be gutted and refinished, I jumped on it thanks to the doable price being offered. I needed that escape. I needed my daughters to have a home to come to where there wasn’t that stress coming from downstairs. And as grateful as I was for my friends’ parents, I needed to get my dogs back. During this time, I also needed to simply get away and planned a four-day, solo trip to London. I hired a driver to show me the sites and it was just the getaway I needed. I also needed to make a decision regarding Without Grace.

Therefore, while all that was going on, I agreed to let iUniverse publish my novel, as I shared here. I then began planning how I would promote it. But first, unlike most traditional publishers, I had a big say in what the cover should look like. Anyway, I didn’t live far from a Borders Bookstore on Long Island and was good friends with some on the staff. I would bring in possible book covers for Without Grace to get their feedback, what they thought would be eye-catching, and we finally found one that I liked, the staff liked and the CEO and president of iUniverse liked, so I signed off on it. But then about two weeks later, I got a call from my friend, Peggy, who was also the GM of that Borders store. She told me that they just opened a delivery with Anne Rivers Siddons’ new novel.

Peggy said, “Carol, it’s your cover!”

My heart sank but I immediately contacted iUniverse to tell them to put the brakes on that same cover for my novel. Whoever was responsible for removing that cover from the available images hadn’t done their job and it meant we were back to the drawing board. However, I ended up finding one that I liked and felt had a better representation of what the novel was about.

While dining with a friend at The Algonquin Room, a woman sitting nearby noticed me showing the book cover to my friend and asked about it. As it turns out, this woman was in Manhattan as a tourist from Savannah, Georgia, was part of a book club, and was intrigued by the cover. We ended up exchanging contact info.

Then I went about the uncomfortable action of asking for blurbs for my novel. I knew I needed recognizable names and since I had been with Borders Books for a number of years, I had some friends I’d made who were generous enough to take the time to read the manuscript and provide those blurbs. Oh, you haven’t seen them? Well, golly, let me share them here with you now:

Without Grace is the story of a girl’s search for her mother, a subject that cannot help but make the reader, and this reader, wonder what is going to happen next. –Rona Jaffe*, author of The Best of Everything

Searching, soulful….Without Grace is a heartfelt exploration of that small town in all of us, our bittersweet Place of Angels. –Arthur Kent*, journalist, filmmaker and author of Risk and Redemption

Like Scout Finch and Mattie Ross and Ellen Foster before her, Vicky Finley has grit and will and insight, a wry eye for the world around her, and a deeply engaging way of finding there a place of her own. –Michael Malone*, author of Handling Sin

If you begin reading Carol Hoenig’s Without Grace at the start of the work day, you might as well call and tell your boss that you are engaged in a work that transcends the day. A meal, it is as smooth as lobster bisque, a grand main course, and what a dessert! What more can we want in a book? Get it and plan to take the day off. –Malachy McCourt, author of A Monk Swimming

Without Grace is a story of tragic loss and subsequent self-discovery. Vicky Finley’s tale is haunting and unforgettable, as Hoenig’s narrative deftly draws us into the drama of her character’s life. — Susan Shapiro Barash, author of The New Wife

I then needed a venue for the book launch and was able to get it at The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The façade of that building is a New York City landmark and the room was beautiful. Invitations were sent and a caterer secured.

Where “Without Grace” was launched, minus all those tables.

Meanwhile, only a couple of months after I bought my own house as a newly divorced woman, I learned that my department at Borders Books was being eliminated. In other words, I had no job. However, that very same day, I managed to get a freelance job, which was the beginning of my own publishing consulting business that is still active today. As it happens, working as a freelancer rather than for Borders gave me the freedom to go on tour with my novel, but not before I had that book launch. And, remember that driver I’d hired when I was in London? Well, I invited him and his family to attend the event. And they did! Following the launch, I traveled up and down the Eastern Seaboard for author events/signings, including Savannah where the woman I’d met at The Algonquin Room invited me to her home to participate with her book club for a delightful dinner and discussion for Without Grace.

Maybe some people think taking such a journey was foolish and expensive, but one thing I knew was that as a first-time novelist, I wasn’t going to lose any opportunity to get readers, which is something I try to tell other authors I work with, especially when you don’t have the support of a marketing team behind a traditional publisher.

Finally, if I had let any of the drama in my life get in the way of my career as a writer, my journey would be long over. As it happens, however, that journey is still continuing and I’ll be sharing more in future installments.

*I had no idea when I asked Rona if she would read the manuscript that she was extremely ill and only found out when I’d opened the newspaper months later to read she died.

*Arthur is also the author of his most recent book, Murder in Room 117.

*Sadly, Michael just passed away days ago.

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Carol Hoenig

Carol Hoenig is President of Carol Hoenig, Publishing Consultant, Inc. and the author of several novels. You may find out more about her at carolhoenig.com.