Friday, October 30, 2009
Retired Carlisle professor publishes second novel
After establishing herself as a published academic and professor, Linda Kistler ventured into a new career as a writer of fiction. A resident of Carlisle since 1969, she published her second
novel, Extreme Justice, in July of this year. She retired as a professor of accounting at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, in 2000 and during her 35-year career had published more than 75 articles in professional and academic journals, as well as two academic books in her field.
She also served as officer and director of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants, member of the National Council of the American Institute of CPAs and Vice-Chairman of the Massachusetts State Ethics Committee.
Kistler’s busy schedule didn’t allow much time for her to complete her first book, high on her list of retirement priorities. She thought she might finish the book and play more golf then, but was drawn to her next book and occupied by the research it required. For example, she knew about flying, but still spent a lot of time talking to a student who was a pilot and proved to be a real resource. Needing information about drugs, she went online and found more than she wanted to know.
Academic threats in second book
In this new season of her writing career, academic and social issues have replaced accounting and business management as focal topics. Extreme Justice, Kistler’s recent book, tells of physical and academic threats to a university faculty member made by a student and his powerful father who is Chair of the Board of Trustees. Their mission is to have the son’s course grade changed from an F to a B. A $90 million endowment is involved and university administrators threaten the faculty member with academic and financial consequences if the recorded grade is not changed.
First book about toxic waste
Cause for Concern, published in 2003, is about the search for toxic waste on a university campus. The theme of the book is reminiscent of Ibsen’s play, An Enemy of the People, in which a situation that endangers public health is discovered by individuals seeking to make the matter known for the public good. However, they are thwarted by authorities who want the dangerous information silenced for their own reasons.
Kistler says she worked on “Concern” for 15 years, “on and off,” but only had time to see it through to print after her retirement nine years ago. She had previously heard about a situation where toxic materials were allowed to remain for 60 years without being cleaned up. This book is no crusade to clean up another Love Canal or point an adversarial, environmental finger; rather, it is an attempt to shed light on a problem of our time and she has placed it in an institutional setting familiar to her.
Kistler brings an understanding of academic politics and undercurrents to both books. She knows how conflict can play out on a campus and how seemingly non-academic factors influence, and sometimes determine, institutional administrative choices. A rich eye and ear for campus life give color to the book, but it is the suspense and drama, particularly in the last chapters of each book, that makes each novel a page-turner and a real departure from the academic discourses of Kistler’s earlier writing. Both books document first-hand experience in the world of higher education and they also indicate the degree to which she has reached beyond that experience and researched the drug scene, police procedures, environmental hazards and scientific protocols, particularly in the field of toxic waste, to make her presentation credible.
The publishing problem
When her first book was finished, Kistler found that researching information to put some meat on the bones of her plots was not as difficult or time consuming as getting the book into print. She discovered that contemporary publishers rarely consider a manuscript submitted directly by a new author and that a literary agent has now become requisite for access to the publisher, a fact verified by persons familiar with the industry. This lesson learned, Kistler set out to get herself an agent and submitted over 100 query letters to potential agents, all of which were either ignored or refused. In the end, she decided to publish Concern herself, through AuthorHouse publishers, a path that got the book into print but offered neither promotion or distribution services.
Getting her books on bookstore shelves proved a task equal to getting them published. One of the largest national bookstore chains told her they would stock her publication “if you can prove you’ve sold 2,000 books.” Today, both books are available through AuthorHouse.com and Amazon.com. Justice is available locally at Ferns Country Store and Kistler has copies available for sale when she speaks at book clubs and libraries.
Is there a third book on its way? Kistler admits to doing preliminary exploration and research for a new novel, but declines to be drawn into a conversation on the subject. In spite of golf, family, travel and an occasional academic or professional activity, it appears that her new career is under way and she is making time to work on her next project. ∆
© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito