This month’s indie spotlight is The Renaissance of Aspirin by Glenn Parris.
This is the story of Anita Thomas and Jack Wheaton, two young doctors unwittingly in possession of a designer antibody for the treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome. The new drug is effective but dangerously flawed. The problem is Anita Thomas has developed a cheap, safe alternative agent. Naturally, after expenditure of a fortune in development, the drug manufactures are not at all pleased with her. The pieces unfold as we follow Anita and Jack from beautiful upscale midtown to the seedier downtown counterparts of Boston and Atlanta overshadowed by deadly stalkers and embellished by amorous, often comically frustrating, misadventures. The Renaissance of Aspirin is peppered with industrial espionage, suspense, and passion as the chase is on for the first cure for fibromyalgia. Entangled with colorful comrades, such as Dasher Clay, Stormi Seales, and Khandi Barr, in their camp, Anita and Jack barely keep ahead of the treacherous cabal of nemeses; Luciana Velasquez and Jason Brasil, led by the übervillain Orson Quirk. Paced in the tradition of The Pelican Brief, Coma, or a contemporary Maltese Falcon, The Renaissance of Aspirin is both plot and character driven with a medically credible McGuffin at its core. These complex characters are funny, mean, desperate, lonely, and at the same time very humanly imperfect. Readers will find their prickly exploits thoroughly entertaining.
I selected The Renaissance of Aspirin to review on Launch the Book for one reason: after reading the sample chapter, it was simply impossible to put down. Medical thriller is a new genre for me, and in Dr. Parris’s very competent hands, I went on an adventure to places I’d never gone before.
Medical research, patient care and the pharmaceutical industry are fascinating topics relevant to all living human beings — we all have skin in this game, whether we’re patients, investors, scientists, care-givers or just concerned observers like me. With a depth of understanding of the subject matter, combined with flawless, sure-footed writing, Dr. Parris has produced one of the best books I’ve read this year. And, I do dare say, there’s something entertaining here for everyone — uncommonly bright, complex and original characters, sexual tension, suspense and intrigue. Put this book on your TBR list, stat.
Dr. Parris was kind enough to answer some questions for us about how he came to self-publish this book.
How did you arrive at the decision to self-publish, and how did you go about doing it?
I first started writing in 1990-91. I self published my first novel, science fiction, Eminent Domain published in 1996. It was rough and not ready for prime time. I gave up writing for 15 years. I went to the SEAK Writers workshop with Tess Gerritsen and Michael Palmer. That’s where I conceived this story or rather where I crystallized it. I went back for a second round the next year and presented the early completed story in a pitch session. I still didn’t recognize the difference between a manuscript and a first draft. There was genuine interest and talk among the agents recruited to assess our pitches and story potential. The turned the first draft down but a few expressed an interest in seeing a second or third draft. Two actually requested the entire manuscript. I didn’t hear back for months and final decided to explore other options. I recruited an independent editor to make sure there were as few STUPID mistakes as possible. That’s when I began looking at self publishing companies. After doing my due diligence on several companies, I settled on Xlibris.
What makes Xlibris different from other publishing companies you explored? Would you recommend Xlibris to other authors? Any regrets about not holding out for one of those agents to call?
I would advise any author, new or established, to proceed with caution and do his/her due diligence. Negotiate for your best deal and read the small print. Preserve your rights!
I have few regrets as far as holding out for an agent. Yes there is the residual stigma of acceptance of an agent’s representation as validation of your work but basically, I think they then have to sell your book and you as the author to publishers and editors. A lot of that commerce is predicated on a longstanding working relationship between agent/agency and editorial staff members and in turn their relationships with their publishers.
I don’t know but I suspect that those bonds are changing, more specifically eroding. When I spoke to several agents, I saw something I had not seen twenty years ago. I saw uncertainty and maybe a little apprehension. We are beginning to see an end run around the agents by the publishing industry. This maybe for good reason. Several of the best sellers have been universally panned by the agents and some editors. The notion may be circulating that agents and editors are peddling yesteryear’s literature and it may not be worth the traditional investment. The advances and marketing support certainly aren’t there like they used to be.
It isn’t surprising to me that you used an independent editor — I didn’t run across any distracting technical mistakes that seem to be more common in self-published works. How important do you feel it is to outsource editing to a professional for those considering self-publishing?
The danger of self publishing is the responsibility for QA falls squarely on the shoulders of the writer. I advise any writer to find a good editor. Check references and credentials and make sure it’s someone you can work with. I also urge each writer to learn the editorial process for himself. Read leading writers in your favorite genres for clues on how to express difficult sentences or thoughts. (They’re often hard to pick out of a grammar text) Learn to read with an eye toward the more technical aspects of writing. I think the more you read the better you get and the fewer mistakes you make. Get a second pair of eyes on your work before you send it out. The hardest lesson I ever learned was the difference between a first/second draft and a manuscript worthy of submission.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to tell us about your process and lessons learned, and for writing such an exceptional book. We wish you the very best of luck!