I met Edith Layton and her ten year old daughter Susie at my very first romance conference, when I was under contract but the book hadn't come out yet. Edith and her fellow Signet Regency writer pal Barbara Hazard kindly invited me to join them for a drink. I was in the presence of goddesses!
And with us was Susie, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, interested in everything , and really, seriously bright. So now it's a pleasure to welcome grown up Susie, who is a writer/producer/performer/Jill of all trade who not only inherited Edith's bubbling creativity, but looks like a direct clone, as you can see below. A favorite later moment was doing a conference book signing in the basement of a NYC hotel and Susie gliding through on roller blades, visiting Edith and Edith's friends.
Now Susie is visiting the Word Wenches and telling the tale of how Edith Layton's marvelous stories are entering the age of e-books. Bring it on, Susie!
Hello dear Wenches and Wenchly readers,
First I want to thank the Wenches for letting me guest here, and in particular, thanks to Mary Jo, for not changing her email or requesting the entry into the FBI's Romance Author Protection from Dumb Publishing Questions Program.
I last blogged here in 2008, describing what it was like to be a romance author's daughter. You can read pt. 1 here and pt. 2 here. In it I share photos and stories of being dragged on research trips to the UK and enduring ignorant sniggers about my mom writing "dirty" books. To be sure, my mother loved being teased about her esoteric research that led us to drafty crypts and far-flung historic sheep-covered fields.
Now as you may or may not know, my mother died in 2009, and it's only now, five years later, that her out-of-print books are finally being made available as ebooks for the very first time. To start, I've handed over nine traditional regencies and one never-before-published novella to Untreed Reads. The first one coming back (get ready for the link to order it!) is The Duke's Wager. It was her first published novel and it won her two awards: 1984 The Romantic Times Award Best New Regency Author and 1984 The Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, Best New Regency Author.
So you might ask... why'd it take so long? Well, there were many reasons. As I wrote in an article on Kveller called Motherless Jewish Mother, I was pregnant with my second child and working full time, from her home, when she died. (Perhaps I should say "she passed" but that euphemism drives me nuts because it sounds more like digestion than slipping off a mortal coil, doesn't it?)
The photo of us above... well it's not that flattering. But I was secretly pregnant with my first kid, she was secretly on chemo, and we were both wearing dizzying prints. But look at us? Do we look like we want to throw up? No. We are pretty darn happy.
In any case, after she died, besides being emotionally ripped apart from the inside out, I also had her house to tend to. My mother collected everything. Her home of 40 years was chock. full. of. stuff. And thing is, it wasn't like an episode of Hoarders. That would've been easy -- get a dumpster, roll the TV cameras and -- boom! -- you're done. No, my mom had exquisite taste in books, antiques, and whatever was clever, so it was more like an archaeological dig of a pharaoh's tomb. Except instead of coptic jars, I was finding boxes of gold pocket watches and hollowed out books full of enamel snuff boxes and micro mosaics from The Grand Tour. And there were large items I physically couldn't eject, like a pot belly stove and a player piano that no mover believed wasn't there before the house was built.
Then, before the house sold, there were a series of unfortunate events that required extra years and many frantic visits out to my old homestead. I'm not one to believe in hauntings, but I'll be damned if she didn't figure out ways to guilt me into visiting from the beyond.
Then I thought I'd put the books out myself. I mean why not? I'm tech savvy, I know marketing -- how hard could it be? Oh ho ho ho. With babies, multiple jobs and my habit of performing at night, it was a few years before I waved the white flag on that idea. I dearly love my brothers, but they are also busy and didn't have time to take up the cause.
Once I decided to not go it alone, I had the happy problem of many epublishers wanting her backlist. But I had so many factors to consider. I won't drone on about it now because -- tra la! -- I'm going to be droning on about it soon in an interview about posthumous publishing over at a fabulous blog called Love in the Margins.
So it's finally happening. I'm throwing an Edith Layton virtual book party which involves you being at home, maybe throwing a tweet or two and celebrating in the manner of Edith Layton. How would one "party" like Edith? See this graphic I made with the help of an illustrator pal for suggestions:
So yes, I'm beyond thrilled. And the Edith Layton fans seem to still be there, as evidenced by amazing posts on Smart Bitches and LITM when I was looking for input on cover designs. My mother wrote great stories and she loved doing it. And now these stories will have readers, and that is why I feel like on 12/11, when The Duke's Wager comes back, I'll have broken through the ribbon at the end of a muddy marathon. (OK, maybe it's just a water break, because I've still more books to put into production, and I now work at Audible so I've big plans in the audiobook arena... but still...)
Anyway, if there is any money to be made, it'll be icing, it will be split evenly with my brothers, and no amount could never make up for I wouldn't give to have her here with me now. She was smart, she was well read, but mainly, she was a hoot and a half.
I'll leave you with something I found when I was clearing out her safe deposit box. It was full of papers and I nearly chucked out a ripped envelope with something she'd scribbled on it, figuring it was one of hundreds like it -- dashed off ideas for a book in progress. But of course, I must read everything. It is at right, has a date of 2001 on it -- long before she was diagnosed -- and it says:
Just stopped in to get my mother's wedding ring. If any of you kids happen to come across this because...in the future — don't despair. Well, what the hell — life is life, and that always involves Death. So I only want you to know, that I love you, have always loved you & know that if it is possible, I will love you forever.
Yes, mom, we know. x
You can 'like' the Edith Layton Facebook page for all book updates.
You can follow Susie Felber on Twitter
You can get the Duke's Wager at any of these fine locations:
Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-dukes-wager/id943280144?mt=11&uo=4&at=11l597 or just open the iBooks application and search for the title.
Mary Jo here again. I'll add one last link, this one for the spontaneous memorial post consisting of well over a hundred tributes made by her friends and readers when her death was announced. She's still with us in her wonderful stories with their impish, pure-Edith humor. Read them to remember, and smile.