Revisiting Find Amy

I was on Amazon recently, looking at the launch page for my latest co-written project with Joe Loughlin, Shots Fired: The Misunderstandings, Misconceptions, and Myths about police shootings. While I was there, I decided to take a look at our last co-written project, Finding Amy: A True Story of Murder in Maine. When a book is coming out, life is full of events, emails, and efforts to schedule readings, guest blogs, and interviews. It was interesting to go back and look at reader’s reviews of the book, and perhaps most surprising was finding all of the great media reviews. Probably I have some of these tucked away in a drawer somewhere, but they felt all fresh and new.

(Author’s note: most of the time I avoid reviews because I am so sensitive that a single negative word can send me cowering into the corner for hours.)

Anyway, here’s what reviewers had to say about the book:

“This one is a triumph and a joy — no showy-made for TV-ness — just the reality of the way crimes and those who do them should be taken to account. This one is the real thing.”–Courier Gazette, Rockland, Maine

“The tale is brimming with insights about police procedure, jurisdictional disputes, and politics. Over and over again, real life trumps fiction. For instance, after a five-hour standoff, the suspect surrenders one of his guns for a soda, the other for a cigarette. Put that in a novel and no one would believe it . . . The reader is never allowed to lose sight of the humanity of the victim, a young girl who accepted a ride from the wrong guy, then had the temerity to say no and mean it.”–Boston Globe

“Few true crime books get behind the scenes and explain how homicide detectives do their jobs the way Finding Amy does.”–Bangor Daily News

“This is one of the best true crime stories to be published in recent years…This book should reaffirm the public’s faith in the police, prosecutors, and Maine’s judicial system.”–Brunswick Times Record

“Loughlin’s recorded entries about the case — his thoughts, emotions and reactions to the investigation — amplify Flora’s straightforward but potent narrative as detectives search for the grave, find it (about halfway through the book) and build a case against a leading suspect. This is a feast for proceduralists, giving countless small details of the work-a-day slogging involved, an effort that leads the department to make good on the mystery, catching Amy’s murderer, and making the case stick.”–Publishers Weekly

“Readers of true crime will find this chronological tale of the search for Amy and her killer especially compelling because of the personal account of Loughlin, who was lieutenant of the Criminal Investigation Department when Amy disappeared. Loughlin’s journal, woven into Flora’s painstaking recreation of the work of the detectives, highlights the intense discussions that took place among the key players and gives readers a look at the slow, steady progress of real detectives on a real case. There are no ‘CSI solutions’ that wrap up the case in a conveniently short time. There are no magic findings of DNA. What takes place in this true story is the passionate belief that they will find Amy, bring her killer to justice, and give closure to her family and to the people of Maine.” –Foreword

Thank you, reviewers! Even a decade later, these lift my heart.

But Will They Like It?

We’ve put in our years crafting the story–more than three since the day when Roger Guay sent that first e-mail asking if we could talk. That talk led to more talks. To long days driving around in Roger’s green truck, talking about the stories that every twist and turn in the road seemed to make him recall. Roger drove. Roger told stories. Kate tried to hold a small tape recorder so that Roger’s voice could be heard over the roar of the engine and the crunch of tires on dirt roads around Greenville.

On our first day out, Roger’s wife Jolene rode with us, editing, amplifying, and correcting. We drove to Jackman, where Roger grew up. Out to Holeb. Past family camps and the scenes of Roger’s happily misspent youth. I was introduced to a form of maple sap collection I’d never seen before–thin pipes to carry the sap winding their way through the forest to the sugar house.

We passed a strange-looking man at the side of the road, and after a brief conversation, Roger climbed back into the truck and remarked: Stoned out of his mind. At a second stop, Jolene got out with her gun and shot a grouse.

There were more rides in the truck. And a meeting in the Hartland Library. And the Curtis Library in Brunswick. Meetings in the lobby of a hotel in North Andover, Massachusetts. And in a seaside cottage in Harpswell. Meetings as we made our way through the story: Talking, translating, writing, clarifying, amplifying, rewriting. A long time later, dozens of hours of interviews had been turned into a book.

Then came the next hard part: It is not enough to write a book. We had to convince a publisher that it was worthy of publication. For that, because Kate will always admit that she HATES writing book proposals and would rather have a root canal without anesthesia, we called on a wonderful woman located through Elance who lives in Atlanta. She took our rough material, gave it a marketing spin, and voila…we had something to show to an editor.

Then the editor at Skyhorse put us all through it again. Check. Clarify. Rearrange. Explain.

Then there are those final moments. Are the names spelled right? How is the geography? Are there some stories where the suspects shouldn’t be identified? But at long last, so long the writers have become old friends, not new friends, the book appears.

As the process of getting the word out slowly evolves, one thing that authors always hold their breaths about is the matter of reviews.

This week, we got our first one–from John Holyoke at the Bangor Daily News. And after a few anxious moments, we began to breathe again. He liked it. He thinks YOU should read it.

New site coming soon!

Much more doggie lore, writing lore, and other musings to come, but for today, I wanted to share a couple of very special photos with you.