Fiction Succeeds With An Ass-Kicking Female Chaplain
Jaime Richards is a US Armychaplain, but this heroine’s explosive situations—and occasional explosive language— have won her a following among Christians and atheists alike, and generated healthy sales for Arundel Publishing, a Warwick, NY, company founded in 2011 that does how-to nonfiction and YA novels as well as adult thrillers.
Now featured in a fourth novel, Plagues of Eden, Richards is the creation of two women, B. K. Sherer and Sharon Scott, who started writing together as sixth graders. Sherer is a military chaplain, and Scott, who writes as Sharon Linnea, is Arundel’s editorial director. “While our sixth-grade classmates performed piano solos and dance routines for the school talent show, we wrote and starred in a play about the French Underground,” Scott recalls.
That was their only cooperative public effort until the 2003 invasion of Iraq, labeled Operation Iraqi Freedom by the second Bush administration. The Eden series got started after Sherer was deployed to Iraq. “As a new mom,” Scott recalls, “I really didn’t understand her world and she didn’t understand mine. Writing together has always been our way of understanding each other, and having a protagonist in B.K.’s world brought me smack into the middle of it.”
Scott had previously done research for nonfiction books, including one about Raoul Wallenberg, the World War II Swedish humanitarian, and one about the kingdom of Hawaii’s Victorian-era Crown Princess Kaiulani. “I love to root around inside theology and archaeology,” she said, and the Eden series provides that opportunity, with plots described as “a labyrinth of ancient secrets … some reaching back to the birth of civilization itself and the Garden of Eden” and modern equivalents of the ten plagues of Egypt.
Besides the history they call fascinating, the authors enjoy creating thrillers without gun violence. As Scott continues, “I’m not much for war or guns, and having a protagonist who doesn’t carry a weapon is a great challenge.”
But bottom line, says Scott, the duo was sticking with the maxim “Write what you want to read.”
“We wanted a protagonist who was a funny, vulnerable, smart, faithful, ass-kicking Army chaplain. We both wish we were her.”
The first three Jaime Richards thrillers were originally published in mass-market format by St. Martin’s Press in 2007 and sold a total of 70,000 copies, mostly in supermarkets and airports. By 2011, when Scott joined the newly established Arundel, the rights had reverted to the authors, who contracted with Arundel for reissue in both paperback and e-book formats. Last fall Arundel launched the fourth title in the series.
“We weren’t sure how the new editions of our thrillers about a non-evangelical female Christian would do when they were rolled out in 2012,” Scott says. “We were hoping for 5,000 downloads and paper sales across all platforms. Instead, we had more than 50,000 downloads the first week.”
Scott and Sherer knew from the beginning that the Eden novels wouldn’t be a fit for traditional Christian bookstores since bestsellers in that channel tend to be Bible guides, conservative self-help titles, and fiction the likes of Jan Karon’s Mitford series. But they knew that their chaplain’s characteristics and assignments would create opportunities for some great plots.
“The way Michael Crichton’s protagonists were scientists, and Dan Brown’s is a symbologist, Jaime is a specialist in world religions,” Scott says, and that “puts her at the epicenter of some explosive situations.”
What the authors and Arundel find especially interesting is the strength of sales outside the United States. St. Martin’s sold rights in its editions to Italian, Russian, and eastern European publishers, and although those are now all out of print, sales of all four titles continue in the United Kingdom. In fact, reports Scott, UK sales are triple US sales.
A Casemate Publishers title, Assault from the Sky: U.S. Marine Corps Helicopter Operations in Vietnam, by Dick Camp, received a page-long review in Naval History, published bimonthly by the US Naval Institute. The review cited the book for “a superb job of highlighting some specific acts of heroism.”
Janet Angelo reports that a 2014 IndieGo Publishing title, Courage of the Spirit, by Norbert Weinberg, has been added to the collection of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
Poisoned Pen author Jana Bommersbach appeared on Publishers Weekly radio (publishersweekly.com/pwradio89) to discuss her Cattle Kate: A Mystery.
And The Wolf and the Lamb: A Jerusalem Mystery, by Frederick Ramsey from Poisoned Pen, got a starred review in PW this past fall.
Just Us Books publisher Wade Hudson was quoted in a PW fall feature, “Looking to Move Beyond the 11%,” about publishing’s need to reach out to minorities.
Sourcebooks Casablanca got several mentions in a recent Library Journal feature, “The Heart of Romance | Genre Spotlight: Romance.” “It would be remiss to preview the upcoming slate of fall and winter works without looking at the anticipated holiday titles that have become a staple of the romance world,” the article declared. Deb Werksman, Sourcebooks Casablanca editorial director, is quoted as saying, “Christmas romances present a great opportunity for authors to incorporate the wonderful aspects of the holiday season, with all the themes that mean so much to readers—family, gifts, warmth, and love.”
Reviews in Library Journal are almost guaranteed to deliver a spike in sales, especially for publishers who publicize favorable reviews to public, school, and possibly academic librarians. Among other IBPA members with recent praise in LJ are
- Cooperative Press (Mystic Shawls; text by Anna Dalvi and photos by Caro Sheridan)
- Chicago Review Press (Joe Black: More Than a Dodger, by Martha Jo Black, and Will My Kid Grow Out of It? A Child Psychologist’s Guide to Understanding Worrisome Behavior, by Bonnie Forrest)
- Chelsea Green (Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production, by Nicolette Hahn Niman)
- Square One (The Ultimate Allergy-Free Cookbook: Over 150 Easy-To-Make Recipes That Contain No Milk, Eggs, Soy, Wheat, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Soy, Fish, or Shellfish, by Judi Zucker and Shari Zucker)
- North Star Books (the audio edition of Stuffology 101: Get Your Mind Out
- of the Clutter, by Brenda Avadian and Eric M. Riddle)
Celebrating Rights Sales
Cave Art Press has sold foreign rights for The Shelburne Escape Line—Secret Rescues of Allied Aviators by the French Underground, The British Royal Navy and London’s MI-9 to Pen & Sword Books in South Yorkshire, United Kingdom. Issued in the United States in April 2014, The Shelburne Escape Line will be published in the United Kingdom this April. Author/publisher Réanne Hemingway-Douglass says the deal came about because the book was displayed by IBPA at BookExpo America.
Black Jackal Books has sold rights for Apostle Rising, by Richard Godwin, to Artizan Press of Slovenska Bistrica, Slovenia, for Slovenian.The book was published in the United Kingdom and United States in 2011. The publisher also sold rights to Godwin’s Mr. Glamour, which was published in both the United Kingdom and United States in 2012, to MeMe of Paris for an Italian edition.
Linda Carlson (lindacarlson.com) edits the Spotlight column from Seattle, where she continues to promote a new title, Advertising with Small Budgets for Big Results: How to Buy Print, Broadcast, Outdoor, Online, Direct Response & Offbeat Media.