Meg Gardiner's China Lake was released earlier this month by Obsidian Mysteries after a convoluted path to U.S. publication. It's a firecracker of a novel featuring Gardiner's trademark character Evan Delaney. In this first of a five-book series, Delaney gets deeply involved in a murder mystery after her ex-sister-in-law Tabitha joins the religious group called the Remnant. The writing throughout is taut and exciting, and I'm looking forward to reading the other books in the series, which Obsidian will release shortly. I recently interviewed Gardiner via email about the novel...
Amazon.com: Can you tell us where you are as you’re answering these questions?
Meg Gardiner: I’m sitting at my kitchen table, watching thunder clouds knock around the skies of southern England.
Amazon.com: The story of how you got a U.S. publisher is an interesting one...
Gardiner: I wrote China Lake after moving to London for my husband’s job with an American IT company. We expected to be in the U.K. a short while before going back to Santa Barbara. But our time in London was extended, so when I finished the book I sent it to a British literary agent. He assumed that because I’m American, I’d get a U.S. publisher right away. He thought he’d have to coax the Brits into taking me. Instead, a British publisher snapped up China Lake. French, Dutch, and other foreign language publishers did too. But American publishers said, No thanks.
I don’t know why. I’ve heard theories: that U.S. publishers thought I was English--and wanted English crime novels about England, not about California. Or that the plot, featuring a survivalist sect that tries to bring on the apocalypse, ticked off the authors of the Left Behind series, and might have riled up fundamentalists. (Yes, that sounds nuts. But I’ve heard it more than once from publishing executives.) Or that New York publishers weren’t in the mood for a novel that mentioned biological warfare.
Anyway, once U.S. publishers shrugged at the first novel, they shook their heads at the rest. Nobody wanted to pick up a series part way through. Back home, my relatives began looking at me funny. They’d smile and say, “Of course we believe you write books, dear. I’m sure they’re very nice.” Then they’d point at their heads and make a circling motion with their index finger.
Then luck intervened. It intervened in a great, loud, Maximum Overdrive way. Stephen King was looking for a book to read on a flight to London. He and I have the same British publisher, so from a stack of novels they’d sent him, he grabbed China Lake. He liked it. He read the whole Evan Delaney series. He thought I should have a U.S. publisher. He mentioned my novels on his website. He wrote a column about the books in Entertainment Weekly. Within a week of his column appearing, ten American publishers wanted to publish the Evan Delaney series, along with the new novel I was writing, The Dirty Secrets Club. And I swear, I didn’t pay Stephen King off, or threaten him, or take his dog hostage. Scout’s honor. He truly wanted to help another writer he thought deserved a boost. I can’t express how grateful I am for his support.