How the Orange Virgin came to be

“wotthehell toujours gai I always say, there’s life in the old girl yet.”
— Don Marquis, Archy and Mehitabel

Mehitabel as Cleopatra

When I began The Return of the Orange Virgin almost 30 years ago, I had an all-over queasy feeling that the damned thing would move in and take over my life. So it did. Fast forward to 1993, and a typescript that weighed in at seven pounds and 800+ pages. I figured it was time to go back to the beginning and actually read the thing. Yuck. Thereafter followed a year of rewrite and editing. “Not bad,” I said, full with the flush of first-time authordom, and promptly sent the shortened albeit (even I felt) incoherent manuscript off to DAW Books where my old college roommate, Pete Stampfel, was a fiction editor. To his everlasting credit he actually read it and sent back a detailed critique. Yep—incoherent all right. But there was good stuff, said Pete. Go work on it. I pecked away but after a few tries Orange Virgin went into the drawer.

In the meantime, in-between time, Pete had vetted a series of my tales involving a Georges Simenon Inspector Maigret-style detective. Inspector Pingold was, however, a weasel with a habit of gnawing at his tail when deep in thought. Endearing, I thought. This is how we learn. The series—adult themes with kiddie characters—came back from a blind review tagged, “If we wanted animals in suits we’d be doing Wind in the Willows.” Sigh.

Forward again and the year 2007. Whaddya know, The Orange Virgin had some good parts. Mirable dictu! Maybe I’d give it another try. In spite of being made unpublishable by my lifting great chunks for other stories, I thought The Orange Virgin might have traveled well. Had it matured like fine wine while no one was looking? I went back to check. Nope—still cottage cheese, not cordon bleu. Thus began a rewrite into monthly installments for the website onetinleg.com. With it tucked away in a far corner of the Internet, I felt comfortable. I could rewrite at my leisure, have a whale of a good time doing it and maybe find some readers not put off by the jump-cut stutterings that made the OV such a demanding read. The result was more fluid as earlier chapters tended to change to match plot shifts in the more recent chapters. Have fun reading the Return of the Orange Virgin. I did with the writing. Think of it as a hypertext puzzle box.

copyright 2016 Rob Hunter

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