Sunday, March 06, 2011

Erastes--my path to publication




Here's the first in a series of themed posts that each author will be blogging on from time to time, and for those of you who are just starting out, or who think "Oh, I'll never get published," I hope these posts give you hope--and show you just how different everyone's story is.

I'd always wanted to write, ever since I was a kid I was scribbling stories or telling myself adventures while I lay in bed. Sadly, although I had an artistic and encouraging mother, I didn't have the best teachers and my stories were often derided for being over fanciful or inaccurate. I remember once writing a story about a man dying of breast cancer (because I had read there were 300 cases for men against about 30,000 for women) and my teacher simply put a big red cross through the entire thing saying it was nonsense. I also remember writing about a car journey and watching the rain slide upwards on the windows (something I watched often myself,probably due to the wind pressure outside or some such reason) and again I was branded as having written nonsense. So I...kind of stopped writing.

But I didn't stop reading, and that probably kept the creative juices going through my late teens, and 20's and 30's. Unbeknownst to me, it was all just damming up and waiting to be released. I'd tried to write a couple of times in the 90's--spurred on by my mother who was herself writing a book, but nothing gelled--each book I started seemed derivative and I didn't know WHAT I wanted to write about.

In July 2003--and I wish I knew the exact date, because it was THAT kind of epiphany--I was cruising the internet prior to the release of the latest Harry Potter book. I was looking for any information about Severus Snape, who was at the time my favourite character, and completely by accident (just as well I didn't have "safe search" turned on, or my life may have been very different) I stumbled across a fanfiction community called the Snape Fuh-Q-Fest. My jaw dropped onto the desk. There were stories here about Snape...having...romantic liaisons with just about everyone in the Harry Potter Universe.

I'd not had a sheltered upbringing, but I'd never heard of fanfiction, and I'd never considered gay fiction as anything to read--but that day, reading story after story, I knew that this was what I wanted to write. In a matter of weeks I had written a 60,000 word novella about what happeend to Lucius Malfoy whilst not on the page of The Goblet of Fire whilst keeping entirely in canon. It was fun! It was exhilerating! It was...entirely a waste of time!

I realised that I couldn't do anything with this book--and so immediately began started on an original novel. I had first thought about converting the fanfic, but it wouldn't work, so I plumped for my comfort zone--Regency--and Standish, a gay Regency was born.

The trouble was (and probably just as well, or I might not have started it) that I didn't check to see if anyone was publishing gay romances before I wrote it, and when I finished it, I soon found out that--no, no-one really was.

I received rejections. Many, many MANY rejections. Some of them very encouraging and many personal ones which were spirit lifting, but generally I got the feeling that no one really knew what to do with a gay regency. There had been two that I knew of, but one (Gaywyck) had been published more than 20 years previously and nothing since, and the only other one (The Price of Temptation) was by a small publisher who wasn't taking on anything new. I contacted Scott and Scott who were the only people that I could see who were (self) publishing gay romance (because no one else would take it on) and received the same story from them--they went it alone because there was no other choice. It was all a bit disheartening.

So I put the book to one side, got on with writing: more fanfic (I stayed writing fanfic for about four more years) and a second original novel. Another thing I did in that fallow time was to write original short stories for submission to online websites, magazines and short story anthologies. It was with one of these short stories that I got my first sale and the euphoria still remains with me. It was a great way to build up that mythical and increasingly important "platform." With short stories, at least people were reading my words, learning who I was and what I wrote--visiting my website and learning about me.

After about a year a friend emailed me and said that she'd spotted a couple of gay historicals on Amazon, and "wasn't it about time I started trying to sell Standish?" I did as she suggested and in no time at all I sold it to PD Publishing - a small but hugely professional press to whom I will be forever grateful. In November 2006 Standish was published and it spurred me on to finish that second novel and to send it out and send it out and send it out until that also sold to Perseus Books. Now I have three novels, a handful of novellas and over 20 short stories in print and I'm one of the newest acquisitions for Carina who will be publishing my newest novella "The Muffled Drum" in July 2011.

If there's any moral to this story, it's simply: DON'T GIVE UP.Don't ever give up. Listen to advice, read read read all the information you can, learn as much about the business as possible - but don't give up. Believe in yourself and beleive in your product, even if you are writing something that no one is selling right now - you never know what's around the corner. Who says it won't be the next big thing? Who on earth would have predicted that Gay Historical Romances would be on the shelves? Who could have possibly guessed that zombie/classic mashups would be big, eh?

23 comments:

Reina said...

Thanks, I really needed to read that. :) I used to write when I was younger but burned all my stories in high school and didn't write fiction again until almost 2 years ago. If I could tell my younger self things, one would be to keep writing, no matter how silly anyone might think it is. All the best to you.

Erastes said...

Thank you, Reina! Like you, I had a big gap (I regret it now, because I'm horribly aware of how few years I might have left and will never be able to write everything I want) but the important thing is to go on, I suppose.

Who knows, perhaps fate meant me to start when I did? Perhaps I just wasn't ready. Probably the same for you, and your younger experience will hold you in good stead. Good luck!

Marcelle Dubé said...

Amen, Erastes! I couldn't agree more. I'm sure every published writer has experienced one or two fallow periods in their writing career. I've come to think of mine as a battery recharging time. Congrats on your publication and I'm glad you didn't quit!

Erastes said...

Thank you, Marcelle - It's not very often that I'm in the right place at the right time, but starting to write gay fiction at that precise time was one of them, who would have known that five short years on, it would be such a huge market - from nothing!

George Allwynn said...

WOW - I just want to come through the computer screen and hug you! (And I'd like to b!tch slap a few of your teachers - but that will have to wait.)

I can say I too, have my roots in fanfic -- with Kirk/Spock back in the 80's, then with NUKE from 2007-2009 and my decades of fallow includes becoming a chaplain and giving up my writing as a sacrifice to God (*shakes head - long story).

However, by 2009, after TONS of encouragement (via a message board where I posted my fan fic), I stopped treating my writing as a hobby. I started taking classes (a mixed bag of blessings, as some of those classes really messed with my voice/style) and I got serious about my writing.

When I read humble author beginnings - ESPECIALLY from authors of the GLBT romance genre whom I respect and adore - it really gives me a sense of hope, courage and a swift kick in the arse as a reminder to stop playing into my fear of success and get my stuff finished and out there!

Thank you, Erastes, for buckling down, writing through your demons, and sharing your talent with the world.

*** air kisses ***

PS - I'm 46 years old and I JUST discovered the wonderful world of Harry Potter (I was holding out *grin) -- and I have fallen TOTALLY in love with Professor Snape. I LOVE to read Harry/Snape fan fics (my new vice)

Claire Robyns said...

Do you still have that 60k fan fiction story, lol? Would love to read it... I'm not sure how fan fiction works or what the limitations are, but wondering if you could offer something like that as a free read on your web site?

Thanks for sharing you journey.

Susanna Fraser said...

Cool, someone else with fanfic roots! The very first project of any length I ever finished was a Lois & Clark future-fic starring the only one of their children to be born without superpowers.

Keri Stevens said...

Hear, hear.

Captcha is "murickul." As in, it's a true miracle that we can dig out of discouragement and grow great books in spite of the naysayers.

Erastes said...

Claire, it's probably still lurking around on the internet. Although I had another penname back then and I try and keep that separate from the Erastes one! It was awful, though, had a real Mary Sue complete with violet eyes and copper ringlets (in my defence I had no idea what a Mary Sue was) who was the real Heir of Slytherin (of course) and was going to take over the world... :D

Thanks for commenting!

Erastes said...

Susanna, it seems there are many many of us ex-fanficcers, just about everyone I know who writes gay historicals seems to have come out of one fandom or another - it's a great "nursery slope" I think--I certainly learned a lot! Thanks!

Erastes said...

Keri - that's hilarious, I love Captcha's sense of timing.

Well- don't know about great books, but as long as people enjoy them, that's enough! Thank you!

Erastes said...

Hi George, it's great to see you here. I think fanfic is a great nursery slope, somewhere relatively safe to hone your craft.

I do think it's important to encourage others and it's something I do try and do--perhaps because there was no one around when I was struggling from fanfic to original,but I'm glad I did - and I'm glad you did too!

I must admit Snarry isn't my favourite pairing- mine is Lucius/Snape, now that's a match of equals! :D

Taryn Kincaid said...

Interesting post. Knew someone who was also into Harry Potter erotic fan fiction (can't see it myself!) and took the characters (I think they were based on Hermione and Malfoy), changed their names, expanded the story, set it some place other than England and created a different magical, non-Potter world. It was published a few months ago.

Madeline Moore said...

It wasn't until I joined "Lust Bites" that I discovered women write gay fiction. I had absolutely no idea! Of course, I didn't get into erotica writing until the turn of the century so there was plenty I didn't know. I think your story is extremely inspiring, Erastes. Altough as a tutor I teach my students to find their market before they start writing, there is plenty to be said for writing exactly what you want to write. It certainly worked for you! The world just had to catch up.
xoxo Madeline Moore

Carol Stephenson said...

Story is the journey, and yours is inspiring.

Wendy Soliman said...

Very brave to stick to a genre that was so 'not in vogue' at the time, Erates. As you say, with age comes wisdom and, in my case anyway, stubborness. Younger people just don't have that self-belief. And, as to rejections, we've all been there!

Erastes said...

Hi Taryn - thanks for commenting! I have a bit of a problem with people converting fanfic, but loads of people have done it, I suppose. It's just that often I can see the join!

Erastes said...

Thanks Madeline (and Oh, I so miss Lust Bites...) I agree that you are teaching the right thing--but there's also a case for feeling so passionate about your subject too, that's sort of what happened to me, I could have no more stopped Standish erupting than I could have stopped breathing--or that's how it felt at the time! Nice to catch up with you, dear.

Erastes said...

Thank you, Carol, thanks for commenting.

Erastes said...

Hi Wendy! Thanks for popping in. I think I just got grabbed by the genre (even though it really didn't exist at the time) and couldn't believe that no one had done much of it--plus the muse was biting very hard and there was no way I could let go.

Janet said...

What an encouraging post.
I've read loads about writing and have so many how-to-write books-- but I'm finding they have a really inhibiting effect! Now I need to push all that great writing advice to the back of my mind and just write! (and trust that it will sell if I keep on going.)

DA Kentner said...

I'm drawn to writers with real passion, writers who write regardless of how many times they are told "no". Erastes is one of those. I'm quickly becoming a fan.
Marvelous post.

George Allwynn said...

Janet - I totally understand that. I get more out of hearing true, encouraging stories from beloved authors than I do reading how-to-write books or taking classes destine to dumb down and destroy unique voice and style.