Ninie Hammon’s Blog for Readers

A Memory Closet Memory

Posted: January 13, 2015, 9:49PM
The Memory Closet is now on its third cover. This was the first. Though there's a lot I don't like about this cover, if you've read the book, you know it's realistic. 



Where Did The Story Come From?
  Part II

I wrote The Memory Closet because I was angry. No, hurt. Actually—both. Toss in some self pity with a pinch of gripe, bake at 375 until it’s crispy on the outside but still soft and mewling on the inside and serve with a side order of hot grouse and a nice red whine.

If you’ve lived with my characters in my imaginary worlds—or are considering a trip there—you might be interested to know where the worlds came from. But with The Memory Closet, the proper question isn’t so much where did the story come from as it is “why did I write it?” That’s where the mad part comes in. I wrote my second novel because of what an editor at Random House said about my first.

Let me back up a little and explain the publishing process the way it used to be before digital publishing gave the ability to publish a book to everyone with a laptop and vocabulary of half a dozen words—it helps if at least one contains more than a single syllable but it’s not required. Before then, writers had to go through a long and involved process to get their books in front of readers. (And some of the very best ones never made it.)

The first step in that process was getting a literary agent. Every major publishing house routinely chucked into the round file all the manuscripts that came to them unsolicited and only considered those presented to them by literary agents.

So how does an unknown writer find an agent to represent her in the sale of her first book? If I’d known how unlikely I was to be successful, I might never have attempted it. Ignorance may not be bliss but it definitely makes you fearlessness.

 A haunting face.

I had no idea that my fate rested within the pages of a book called Writer’s Market, which was roughly the size of a toaster. In it, were listed the names, addresses, phone numbers, preferred genre, literary preferences, submission guidelines and shoe sizes of every literary agent in the world. The job of the published-writer wannabe was to fish out of that book the most likely agent candidates and submit to them a “query” letter and whatever other odd collection of materials they might require. First chapter. First and last chapter. First three chapters. Three random chapters. All the text on page 173.

I sent out 38 packets of information that summer while everybody else was at the beach and right before Thanksgiving I received a single reply from an agent in Boston. I was such an idiot I was actually disappointed I got only one response. I didn’t know then that many writers spend years sending out hundreds of queries and never hear a peep out of anybody.

I contacted the agent, we talked, I liked her, she liked me, badda boom, badda bing, I signed a contract and she took the manuscript of my first book, a biography, on the road, hawking it to one publishing house after another. A year and a dozen rejections later, I sold the rights to the biography to Penguin Putnam, the largest publisher in the world.

This was the second cover, not as creepy as the first, but still creepy.

That first book almost didn’t count, though. It was merely a toe in the water of book-dom for me because when you got right down to it a biography was nothing more than a gigantic newspaper feature story and I’d been writing a couple of those a week for a quarter of a century. The Michelin Steel Tread would encounter the fresh-laid asphalt when I tried to write a novel.

That first attempt was Sudan. I was so determined to get everything right that I rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it—apparently wrote all the style clean out of it. Though this round of
shopping the manuscript from publisher to publisher wasn’t my first rodeo, I was waaaay more emotionally invested in the process. Sudan was fiction. I would rise or fall by its success. Consequently, I took it personally when publishers rejected it. (Silly, silly girl.) When I got the rejection letter from Random House, I was crushed. The editor’s response was terse. “The story’s good,” he said, “but the work has no true author’s voice.”

No true author’s voice?

You mean Ninie didn’t show through? My style, my personality, my voice wasn’t there? Which, of course, begged the question: Did I even have an author’s voice in the first place?

And that’s why I wrote The Memory Closet. To find out.

This is my favorite.

I was already half way through the CFD (Crappy First Draft) of Home Grown and as soon as I cleaned up the confetti from my rejection-letter pity party, I decided to set that book aside and write a book that was pure me. No, I don’t mean insert myself into the tale. I mean tell it with no holds barred, pour words out onto the page in pure Ninie fashion—whatever that might be.

That’s why The Memory Closet is told in first person (though I have absolutely nothing in common with Anne Mitchell.)

That’s why it’s set in a dusty, west Texas prairie town just like the one where I grew up.

That’s why the grandmother’s name is Bobo, my grandmother’s name. I wanted to put as much of me into the book as I could without hijacking the characters or the story.

So … did it work? Did I have a “clear author’s voice?” Apparently so. Sudan hung out there in publishing limbo for six months before it found a home; The Memory Closet sold to the first publisher it was submitted to.

And after that, the novelist Ninie Hammon was off to the races.


*Just a note to those considering reading Sudan. I took that first published version of Sudan out and shot it a long time ago. Rewrote the whole thing—again—to put all that style I’d cut out back in. Right now, it’s ranked #1 on Amazon’s 100 Top Rated Books list in political suspense.

Write on!



Jaysie January 13, 2015, 4:17PM

Ninie....I just finished The Memory Closet... It was fantastic, frightening, horrific.... all the emotions. Your story had me strangled I cried so hard for those two. And crying from laughing at Bobo....mercy, it's like you know my Mamaw. I love your storytelling.
My mother was a skinny, red-headed storyteller, had a few things published too. She loved your articles. I think she felt like you were a kindred spirit. I don't know, maybe I love your writing because I love my mother. Either way......thanks.    Reply

Replies (1)

Billie Ratliff January 13, 2015, 12:19AM

I have read all of Ninnie's books and have a difficult time choosing a favorite. I enjoyed the Memory Closet because I too, grew up in a west Texas town she writes about. Ninnie was able to sprinkle in humor to this novel making it easier to digest an otherwise very serious and real tragedy. She has a way of introducing her characters that makes one feel their pain as well as their joy. I recommend The Memory Closet to anyone who enjoys a realist fiction.    Reply

Replies (1)

Debbie March 23, 2015, 12:55PM

This book was great. The synopsis caught my eye, sounded interesting so I made the decision to try it. Best decision I've made in a long time. I instantly liked Annie Mitchell. The storyline is tough and it develops terrible pictures in your mind, but the humor or smart aleck thoughts/comments help dilute the tragic things. Great read. I was excited to see more novels by Ninnie Hammon out there waiting for me to read. Thank you, truly enjoyed this book. I definitely will give it 5 stars on Amazon.   Reply

Replies (1)

Bonnie Spielman January 15, 2016, 3:50PM

I have read four of your books, each one at one setting. I just couldn't put them down. I can't wait until I get the money to buy the others. I loved them all but most of all The Memory Closet. I know this was a work of fiction, but unfortunately, something that happens every hour of everyday. Man's inhumanity to man. Keeping writing!2   Reply

Replies (1)

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"Oh, and about the 9 and the e beside my name. Say it fast, emphasis on the 9. That’s how you pronounce my first name -9e. (Think “rhymes with tiny and shiny, NOT with skinny and penny.”)

Suspense Author

I have soooo many stories I want to tell you, so many worlds I want you to see, so many people I want you to meet. People in trouble, most of them. Big trouble they didn't ask for but there it is. Ordinary folks like you and me who are forced by circumstances to fight for their lives. And then, smack in the middle of their everyday worlds they encounter the unexplainable. It's always the game-changer.

Welcome to my world. If you'd like to know more about me, I'm easy. Click on Meet Ninie and you'll see. My life isn't really an open book; it's more of a pamphlet, and you are cordially invited to read it. I'd love to interact with you on Twitter, Facebook Fan page, and Goodreads. Or come visit with me at 9e's Kitchen Table, a Facebook group where readers and I hang out. I think you'd like it.