I'm always on the look out for fascinating new authors. Recently I met Andrew Joyce and his novel, Molly Lee intrigues me. Andrew joins us today to tell us a bit more about himself and his writing, and to give us some insight on MOLLY LEE, which is on my to be reviewed list. Welcome Andrew!
My name is Andrew Joyce, and I write books for a living. I have a new book out entitled MOLLY LEE and it’s averaging 4.9 stars on Amazon and Goodreads with sixty-eight total reviews. Here’s a link if you would like to check it out: http://geni.us/molly
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The story is a female-driven account of a young, naive girl’s journey into an independent, strong woman and all the trouble she gets into along the way.
Now you may possibly be asking yourself, What is a guy doing writing in a woman’s voice? And that is a good question. I can only say that I did not start out to write about Molly; she just came to me one day and asked that I tell her story.
Perhaps I should start at the beginning.
My first book was a 164,000-word historical novel. And in the publishing world, anything over 80,000 words for a first-time author is heresy. Or so I was told time and time again when I approached an agent for representation. After two years of research and writing, and a year of trying to secure the services of an agent, I got angry. To be told that my efforts were meaningless was somewhat demoralizing to say the least. I mean, those rejections were coming from people who had never even read my book.
“So you want an 80,000-word novel?” I said to no one in particular, unless you count my dog, because he was the only one around at the time. Consequently, I decided to show them City Slickers that I could write an 80,000-word novel!
I had just finished reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for the third time, and I started thinking about what ever happened to those boys, Tom and Huck. They must have grown up, but then what? So I sat down at my computer and banged out REDEMPTION: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in two months. Then I sent out query letters to agents.
Less than a month later, the chairman of one of the biggest agencies in New York City emailed me that he loved the story. We signed a contract and it was off to the races, or so I thought. But then the real fun began: the serious editing. Seven months later, I gave birth to Huck and Tom as adults. And just for the record, the final word count is 79,914. The book went on to reach #1 status on Amazon twice, and the rest, as they say, is history.
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But not quite.
My agent then wanted me to write a sequel, but I had other plans. I was in the middle of editing down my first novel (that had been rejected by 1,876,324 agents . . . or so it seemed) from 164,000 words to the present 142,000. However, he was insistent, so I started to think about it. Now, one thing you have to understand is that I tied up all the loose ends at the end of REDEMPTION, so there was no way that I could write a sequel. And that is when Molly asked me to tell her story. Molly was a character that we met briefly in the first chapter of REDEMPTION, and then she is not heard from again.
This is the description for MOLLY LEE:
Molly is about to set off on the adventure of a lifetime . . . of two lifetimes.
It’s 1861 and the Civil War has just started. Molly is an eighteen-year-old girl living on her family’s farm in Virginia when two deserters from the Southern Cause enter her life. One of them—a twenty-four-year-old Huck Finn—ends up saving her virtue, if not her life.
Molly is so enamored with Huck, she wants to run away with him. But Huck has other plans and is gone the next morning before she awakens. Thus starts a sequence of events that leads Molly into adventure after adventure; most of them not so nice.
We follow the travails of Molly Lee, starting when she is eighteen and ending when she is fifty-six. Even then Life has one more surprise in store for her.
As I had wondered whatever became of Huck and Tom, I also wondered what Molly did when she found Huck gone.
I know this has been a long-winded set up, but I felt I had to tell the backstory. Now I can move on and tell you about Molly.
As stated earlier, Molly starts out as a naive young girl. Over time she develops into a strong, independent woman. The change is gradual. Her strengths come from the adversities she encounters along the road that is her life.
With each setback, Molly follows that first rule she set against self-pity and simply moves on to make the best of whatever life throws her way. From working as a whore to owning a saloon, from going to prison to running a ranch, Molly plays to win with the cards she’s dealt. But she always keeps her humanity. She will kill to defend herself and she has no problem killing to protect the weak and preyed upon. However, when a band of Indians (for instance) have been run off their land and have nowhere else to go, Molly allows them to live on her ranch, and in time they become extended family.
PRAISE FOR MOLLY LEE
This is from a review on Amazon:
A young female in nineteenth-century rural America would have needed courage, fortitude, and firm resolve to thrive in the best of circumstances. Molly Lee possesses all of these, along with an iron will and an inherent ability to read people accurately and respond accordingly.
I reckon that about sums up Molly.
I would like to say that I wrote MOLLY LEE in one sitting and everything in it is my pure genius. But that would be a lie. I have three editors (two women and one guy). They kept me honest with regard to Molly. When I made her a little too hard, they would point out that she had to be softer or show more emotion in a particular scene.
I set out to write a book where every chapter ended with a cliffhanger. I wanted the reader to be forced to turn to the next chapter. And I pretty much accomplished that, but I also wrote a few chapters where Molly and my readers could catch their collective breath.
One last thing: Everything in MOLLY LEE is historically correct from the languages of the Indians to the descriptions of the way people dressed, spoke, and lived. I spend as much time on research as I do in writing my stories. Sometimes more.
Here is a 1200 word excerpt from MOLLY LEE:
That’s the way things stood for the next month. Business increased a little, partly due to my promoting myself as The Spicy Lady and partly because the snows had come. The miners could not work and had to stay with their claims throughout the winter or someone would take them over. I heard that the previous year, a few miners had left for the winter and when they returned, someone was sitting on their claims. It led to a little gunplay resulting in the one getting to his gun first ending up with the mine. With the miners not mining, there was nothing for them to do but go to a saloon and warm their insides with whiskey and their outsides with one of the whores.
I had made no progress with John Stone. He was always polite enough, but that’s as far as it went. It was on a Tuesday night—not that the day of the week matters—that I finally worked up the courage to make a play for him. As usual, he was sitting in his chair watching the room. Over the last few weeks, there had been a few minor altercations, but John always kept things peaceful. Sometimes it took a blunt knock to someone’s head with the stock of his shotgun, other times he had to point the ten gauge in someone’s face. Both methods seemed to work equally well.
I walked over to John and with a nod to the shotgun resting on his lap, I asked, “Won’t you hurt innocent people if you ever have to discharge that thing?”
He didn’t say anything for a minute or so, then he let fly with a stream of tobacco juice out of the side of his mouth, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t hit the spittoon sitting next to his chair dead center. Without taking his eyes from the room, he answered me. “It’s just for show. If you point a ten gauge at a man, most of the time he’ll do what you say. If I ever have to shoot somebody, I'll use this.” He then touched the Colt Dragoon holstered on his hip.
I had just asked him if I could buy him a drink at the end of his shift when a ruckus broke out over at the faro table. I turned around to see what all the commotion was about and saw a man holding a revolver on Chan Harris. “You’ve been cheating me all night. I’ve lost my poke to your double-dealin’ ways, and now I want it back!”
Chan shrugged and started to count out some gold coins. After all, it wasn’t his money, it was mine. He’d give the man his money back and let me worry about it. Smart thinking on his part. But he wasn’t counting fast enough to suit the man holding the gun. The shot, when it came, made all those within the room jump. All, that is, except John Stone.
Chan started to fall to the floor while the other two men at the table dove for cover, as did everybody else in the room except John and me. Before Chan hit the floor, John had the Colt out of its leather, and from his hip put a bullet into the gunman’s heart. Of course, it entered from the back, but no one was complaining, least of all the dead man bleeding onto my floor with two twenty-dollar gold pieces clutched in his left hand.
After the smoked cleared, John said, “I reckon I could use a whiskey after work.”
I ran over to where Chan lay and knelt down to see what I could do to help him, but he was already dead.
The place cleared out fast. A few men stayed and formed a circle around Chan and me. Still kneeling next to him, I looked up into their hard faces. I saw nothing. To them, death on a Tuesday night was just another night out on the town. Maybe a shooting added a little excitement, unless you were the one shot.
I had seen dead men before. There were those two Yankees back at the farm and George Anderson in St. Louis. Mister Fellows died in my arms. I wore his blood on my shirt until the shirt was taken away from me by Crow Mother. I don’t know why, but Chan’s death affected me more than the others had. Maybe because after finding the gold and buying The Spicy Lady, I thought my life would calm down some. Now here I was kneeling over another dead man. A man I didn’t even know that well. But he worked for me, and I thought I should have done better by him. He should not have died making money for me.
I stood up and wanted to tell those still present to leave, but the words would not come. I started trembling and was about to scream when I felt a strong, hard arm around my shoulder and heard a voice, a surprisingly gentle voice considering who it came from, say, “You boys best be getting on; we’ll be closing early tonight.” No one ever argued with John Stone. They all filed out into the cold night.
John took over. When the saloon was empty except for those that worked there, he told Mike and Dave to carry Chan into the back room and lay him out. He ordered me to go to the bar and have Abe pour me a glass of rye.
John was standing over the man he had just killed. I didn’t know what he was thinking and at that point I didn’t care. I was supposed to be a hard woman, but here I was going to pieces. If we hadn’t been snowed in, I would have gotten on my horse that very minute and headed back to Virginia to be held in my mother’s arms.
We didn’t have any law in town. There was no marshal or sheriff. We didn’t even have a mayor. When Mike and Dave came back from laying out Chan, John told them to pick up the other man and throw him out onto the street. “Then go to Chan’s digs and see if there are letters or something to tell us if he had any next of kin. After that, go home.”
He directed Abe and Gus to leave by the back door and lock up as usual. As I’ve said, no one ever argued with John Stone. They all did as instructed.
John got the place closed up and came over to where I sat. He was holding the cash box. “You want to put this in the safe before you go upstairs?”
I looked up at him and started to laugh. I was getting hysterical. John nodded and went into my office. When he returned he said, “I put it on your desk; it’ll be safe enough.” He held out his hand and I took it. He pulled me to my feet and without saying a word, he walked me upstairs.
That night John Stone held me as I cried for Chan Harris . . . and maybe a little for myself.
Well, that’s Molly. I hope I’ve piqued your interest enough to go out and buy my book. If not, I’ll come over and wash your car or maybe even cut your lawn if you’ll click on this link and buy it.
Thank you, Mirella, for having me over. It’s been a pleasure.