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?