This is a guest post by John Gubbins.John lives with his wife, Carol, alongside the Escanaba River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Spending his teenage years studying traditional theology and philosophy, Mr. Gubbins later attended the University of Chicago where he received a graduate degree in humanities, and Columbia University Law School where he received a Juris Doctor degree. After pursuing a big-city law career, he came to his senses and settled his family near some of the Midwest’s greatest trout streams. He and Carol spend their free time fishing, camping, and reading poetry with their family.
Profound River is not my first novel. It is my first published novel. My first novel was a legal mystery set in Chicago. In style it was a cozy. A Midwestern publisher liked the book and offered a “six figure advance” if I put more sex and violence in the story. I thought about it for two years. We were living in the Driftless Country of Southwest Wisconsin, dairy country and home to many great trout streams. Carol and I both fly fish. We could have used the money. Our family restaurant had just failed. In the end I decided I would only publish books my mother could read without embarrassment. My mother was a strict churchgoer, so any revisions like that publisher wanted to my cozy mystery were out. My wife Carol supported me in this decision.
I started researching other subjects for a novel. Dame Juliana seemed right. She wrote the first book of sport fishing as well as books on hunting and hawking. To all historical reports, she was a religious person of great integrity and intellectual accomplishments. Her books were Britain’s best sellers between 1496 and 1650. Her fishing book was only eclipsed in popularity by Isaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler. Since then she has been forgotten.
My mother will never see Cedar Fort’s beautiful edition of Profound River. The month I am writing this piece is the month she died a year ago. I can confidently say she would have approved of the Profound River. It is hard in our culture to write and have published a book without sex and violence, but in the end so many people you respect can read it without reservations. That is your reward. Those people are your market.
The greatest lesson I learned from writing Dame Juliana is not to fall in love with my own writing. You have probably heard this before. It is a hard lesson you will need to remind yourself of every day you write. When you first start off, you feel like you are tearing a part of your heart out every time you delete a favorite passage. It must be done. If I finish the day with 600 words, I will have discarded easily another 600 to a 1000 before retiring for the day. The next morning when I review what I have written, I will delete more. Edit, re-edit, and re-edit. It is the only way to get to something new and fresh. Growing more callous about what I write, I am now at the point where what I first put down has a shelf life of about thirty minutes. So I repeat: edit, re-edit, and re-edit. It is the only way.