Monday, March 11, 2013
Like many a law professor, writing a novel has long been an item on my bucket list. For most of us, that’s just where it stays -– a promise left unfulfilled. But finding myself at a point somewhat in between projects (with a major empirical study complete and article manuscripts in the editorial pipeline), I determined last year to bring my novel manuscript to completion, given that the story had been outlined ten years before, with various scenes sketched out over the ensuing decade.
The result, “Marital Privilege,” is a novel with distinctly Catholic sensibilities (focusing on devout Catholic mother who struggles to maintain her faith after the death of her child), with connections as well to the legal academy (the main character is, no surprise given the author, a law professor) and the world of law and lawyers (populated by police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges and including courtroom scenes).
While I have no illusion that this novel will become a classic assigned in college literary classes in decades to come, I am pleased with the revised manuscript and encouraged by the enthusiastic responses from test readers. If and when “Marital Privilege” finds its way into print, I am hopeful it will have a special appeal to the faithful followers of “Mirror of Justice.”
But “finding its way into print” is much easier said than done. In terms of finding a publisher, I have been following the traditional approach of contacting literary agents, which may yet bear fruit. I recognize, however, the difficulty of making a connection with a traditional literary agent through cold contacts by a novice author of fiction. I am also considering regional publishers and other options.
Then I thought of this “Mirror of Justice” community, which has been so generous to me over the many years since its founding. So I appeal to you for thoughts and possibilities of publication that may not have occurred to me. If you have an idea of a good home for this manuscript, kindly send it my way at “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
I've pasted below a brief “query” description of the novel, in the style commonly used for initial contacts with literary agents:
Nothing could be worse for a mother than to witness the death of her young child -- and then to be used by a politically-ambitious prosecutor who seeks to pin the crime on the woman's own husband.
Candace Klein, a young law professor in the Twin Cities, is one of the lucky ones in her professional life, finding genuine meaning in her work. But her personal life is troubled by a growing distance from her husband, Bill, who languishes in a dead-end job working for her father. Then suffering the horrific loss of her child, Candace grieves and seeks solace in her faith, while the criminal investigation proceeds under the direction of a politically-climbing prosecutor, Robby Sherburne, who pledges to secure the death penalty for a child-killer. Lt. Ed Burton, a suburban cop, works diligently to follow the evidence where it leads. As the evidence accumulates and her husband becomes a target of the investigation, Candace resists becoming the instrument of her husband's condemnation. She relies on the uncertain legal protection of the "marital privilege" to refuse to testify, which ultimately provokes a crisis of identity between her professional commitment to the justice system and her resolute loyalty to her husband.
While offering elements of a mystery, episodes of courtroom drama, and an underlying theme of a woman's struggle to keep faith in the face of tragedy, MARITAL PRIVILEGE may perhaps best be categorized as falling on the line between literary and mainstream fiction. Although this manuscript was completed before recent tragic events in New England, the story of a mother finding her way after the loss of an innocent may resonate with a wider audience today. The manuscript is complete at 79,000 words.
MARITAL PRIVILEGE is my first foray into law-related fiction. As a law professor holding an endowed university chair, I have published three non-fiction law books with such leading legal publishers as Thomson-West and Foundation Press. I have also published dozens of scholarly articles and other periodical pieces, including many placements in top ten legal journals and reception of the annual Law & Society Best Article Prize.