Two rejections received, and it is a disappointment of course but those rejections came with some valuable insight.
Writers of historical fiction do their research, and end up immersed in the time period they favor. From there, they develop the characters and draw out a narrative arc, the same as any other author. But it's the history of the work that makes the author's task just a little bit different.
Both literary agents who rejected the manuscript had the same thing to say, even though it was said in different ways and it took both rejections to understand what the sticking point was. They got hung up on the history.
What every Chicagoan knows, what is common knowledge among the South Side Irish, is not part of the oral history and traditions of other cities. Especially New York City, all insulated from the middle of the country and blissfully unaware.
A political pundit drove that home recently when he laughed at some conservative blowhard who described the current White House denizens as practitioners of Chicago-style politics. That old Daley machine way is gone, the pundit said. Why, if things were done the Chicago way, the nation would work.
The inherent understanding of the way Chicago works is not known beyond Wilson Avenue to the north and 95th Street to the south. That is why two literary agents both rejected a manuscript that was written as if the reader knew the history, but the agents were not in Chicago and they didn't.
Sometimes you get lucky and an agent will give you some tips on why your manuscript isn't right for them. I got lucky twice over.
So it's a matter of going back to the opening pages and sprinkling in little bits of history, to set the stage for those who never saw the drama or heard about it at their granny's knee.
It's a lot of work, and frustration, to get the story right. Putting in just enough info is no easy task when you have to avoid an overload.
Back to work. Sharpen up the editing pencil, and re-write.
Eventually, I'll nail it.