Saturday, April 23, 2005

Humble Beginnings

I just remembered I promised to tell you how I got to this point in my writing life. Well, like so many others, I've been writing for as long as I can remember. Unfinished plays in grade school. Fan fiction before I knew what that meant in middle school. My very first completed story over 100 pages was a story based on the characters of the A-Team when I was 11 or 12. I'm serious. Don't laugh. Stephen J. Cannell had a profound influence on my writng path. I tell you now, he will be in the dedication of my first book!

I wrote short, violent stories in high school when everything I read outside of school was on the Vietnam War. My first romance, which at the time I didn't realize was a romance, took me 6 years on and off to complete and that was throughout college (and two years after.) Nancy raved about my writing and nagged...I mean encouraged me to write some more. I wrote, I got better. Nancy insisted I was good enough to eventually become a published author. I didn't take it seriously, though. I just kept writing to entertain my friends.

THEN came Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. If you like Scottish historicals, this is a must-read. I never bought thick books before this because they scared me. Short attention span, I guess. But this book was about Scotland with a time traveling heroine who goes back to the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie. I just had to read it. When I finished that book, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I decided that I wanted to write characters that affected my readers as much as Gabaldon's characters affected me. And so I wrote.

My first romantic suspense draft was completed in one year and it took me another year to revise. About this time, I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America) and started submitting to agents and editors. This was my stupid stage. I had no idea what I was doing or what any of "the rules" were, but you live and learn. I also entered my first contest. Well, I came in second or third to last in the romantic suspense category, but the feedback was phenomenal! Just what I needed. (Wisconsin Fabulous Five Contest, in case you're wondering.)

At this point, I decided to treat my writing as my second job. I became a professional. I focused my attention on my craft and writing a good story. I spent 30 hours a week on my writing in addition to the 45-50 hours I put in at the day job. The next year, 2003, I decided to enter the same contest with my new manuscript, Rebel Hart, just to see if I'd made any progress. I ended up winning the romantic suspense category that year. Not only that, I got a full request from the final judge, an editor at Harlequin/Silhouette.

Although she ended up rejecting that manuscript, she did request any other work I'd completed. I scrambled to write another book (at this point I started writing 2-3 books a year) and sent it to her. That one and the next one got rejected, but this same editor keeps requesting my work. When I wrote to her last August to tell her my focus was changing to target Silhouette Bombshell, she responded within a week with another request. This is the editor I said was waiting for this current manuscript.

A side note about Silhouette Bombshell. I first learned of this line at RWA National last year. I loved everything I heard. I spoke with the acquiring editor about my type of story. She requested one. I sent an old manuscript that I loved after a complete overhaul to make it Bombshell worthy. 7 months later, Silhouette still has it. Unless it got lost in the mail after they rejected it.

So, there you have it. My writng life up to this point. I've got a great cheerleader in Nancy. Excellent critique partners in Brenda and Deb. Awesome support in Austin RWA. And now a whole new audience to share everything with!

1 comment:

Nic said...

I replied on my site, but figured you would read it faster over here. :)

You deserve every nice word and more. I'm frustrated for you dear. You SHOULD be pubbed already and I'm getting pissed at the editors who are sitting on their a$$es, twiddling their thumbs. If SA doesn't finally accept one I'm going to go nuts. I would think that she's seen enough to know whether or not she will acquire you and to keep you like a yo-yo is really cr@ppy.