The Realities of Tiger Drive
Last week I learned news about both Tiger Drives.
First, the place
One week ago, a trailer burst into flames on Tiger Drive, killing a man who lived alone with his dog. The dog perished, too. He didn’t have any family. I know because I called the park manager to check if donations were needed. I have no idea what kind of man he was, but I wouldn’t have hesitated to help because I was once a Tiger Drivian.
Tiger Drive is more than the name of the novel I’ve written, it’s the street I grew up on in the Safari Trailer Park in Carson City, Nevada. As a teenager, I was eager to leave home and the dysfunction far behind. As an adult, I recognize that both good and bad memories contribute to nostalgia. Even though my family frantically scrambled off of Tiger Drive after my father died in 1986, I still visit the trailer park when I’m in town.
Whenever I drive by my old trailer, I wonder if a teenager feels suffocated and pigeon-holed in the metal frame. I’m curious if she might keep a list of Do’s & Don’ts to differentiate herself from her family’s patterns and habits like I did and as one of my characters, Carrie Sloan, does. I’ll drive slowly not just because of the speed bumps and children playing in the street, but because I have reverence for the drive. My dreams began in this place, and I don’t want to forget how far I’ve come.
I’ll usually circle the park a few times. I like to see how Tiger Drive has changed. Thirty years later, I remain interested in who lives there and why. Even though I don’t know any of the current residents, I feel a kinship— a, “Hey, I don’t know your story, but I know how it feels to have highs and lows in THIS trailer park.”
I care that a home went up like tinder and lives were lost. I wonder about the journey, and the legacy, of the man who died with his dog in a fire on my once upon a time drive.
R.I.P. man and dog at trailer space #52
The lot won’t remain empty for long. A new trailer will arrive and serve as a home to someone else. People will move in and the world will move on.
Now the novel
Also last week, a well-respected agent who had been reading Tiger Drive told me she wouldn’t be offering representation. She had requested my manuscript last October, but in January, the agent announced she’d be actively building her mystery/thriller/suspense list so it wasn’t a surprise to receive her decline, and she also gave me candid feedback on the characters. Tiger Drive definitely isn’t mystery/thriller/suspense, but which genre is it and which agents will I query in the future?
I find the multitude of genres and sub-genres to be convoluted, ambiguous, and loosely applied. I’ll spare you the list or examples, but in regards to my novel, Tiger Drive isn’t Literary fiction, but it’s also not Commercial fiction. It’s somewhere in between. The industry is starting to use Upmarket fiction which is a hybrid of the two, and sometimes Book Club fiction. Both can work if an agent is open to submissions for Upmarket or Book Club fiction, but neither term is widely used, yet. Also, book clubs are subjective. Book clubs tend to choose a specific genre which takes us back down the genre rabbit hole.
Confusing, right? Regardless, I have a new process for finding the right agent. I currently have a goal to read four books a month because as my good friend and author, Carrie Ann Lahain always says, “Because good writers read!” Whenever I read a book about flawed characters whom I care deeply about, who are sorting through family secrets, bad decisions, and identities, and for whom I hope for a positive ending to their journey one page at a time, I query the agent who represents that book because Tiger Drive covers the gritty stories of people I hope readers will root for, too:
Tiger Drive is Janice’s story—a mother who after seven children and thirty years of smothered dreams hatches a secret plan to leave her two youngest boys with her college-bound daughter and estranged alcoholic husband for one year while she pursues her previously aborted dream to be a country singer.
Tiger Drive is Carrie’s story—a seventeen-year-old girl who follows her strict list of Do’s & Don’ts to differentiate herself from her family and is torn between her dreams of going to college and leaving her little brothers behind with her toxic parents.
Tiger Drive is WJ’s story—a young man who holds a secret in his heart. After years of abuse, he clings to the companionship and protection he finds in a local gang, but his father and ATF detectives threaten his reputation and freedom.
Tiger Drive is Harry’s story— a man suffering from alcoholism who has risked the safety of his family and knows what he must do to change their lives forever.
Tiger Drive is the story of a husband and wife, a mother and daughter, and a father and son navigating the devastating effects of shame, vulnerability, and the economical and mental cycle of poverty across generations.
Works in progress
Although I won’t be rewriting my novel to be a thriller, I will continue to write and search for the right agent for Tiger Drive. Whenever I receive a pass from an agent, I always consider how I can improve not only this novel but my writing and storytelling for future books.
Will I be ecstatic when I get an agent and ultimately a publisher? You bet I will. Am I discouraged in the meantime? Not one bit. I’ll keep learning. I’m excited about my current WIP (that’s author speak for Work In Progress, aka my next book). Writers write and that’s what I’ll keep doing.
And as for the other real Tiger Drive, since I can’t do anything for a single man and his dog, and I can’t do anything for a potential teenage-kindred-spirit living on Tiger Drive today, I decided to contact the local high school to see if they will help me identify the Fall 2016 Tiger Drive Scholarship recipient—someone who isn’t afraid to reach, learn, and grow beyond his, or her familiar life. Who knows–perhaps a future recipient will be a Tiger Drivian.
Thanks for joining me today and reading about updates to both my novel and the drive I grew up on, and thanks for being you.
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