Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Claire Robyns - My Path to Publication

I've always read. A lot. Even at school, I'd average about 2 books a week (except at exams time) and these days there's just so much more to read in volume and variety - delicious!!

But, I never considered actually writing a book. This was before the wave of social media and online writing sites, and authors just seemed to glamorous, existing in another dimension. The task of writing a whole book was inconcievable, surely that required a talent that little ol' me could never aspire to.

Nowadays, of course, we get to chat with our favourite authors, we get to *see* them online and we get to realise they're just people like the rest of us, with large imaginations and a dash of talent and neverending perserverance.

But, anyway, I went on to have twins, we moved country and I took 6 months maternity leave. That would have been a good time to start writing. Huh. Then it was time for me to get back to work. And yes, with 6 months old twins and a household to run and a husband to manage and a full-time day job, that's when I decided to start writing my first book. Because, you know, I wasn't busy enough, lol.

I'd always enjoyed reading M&B and so that's what I decided to write. A full manuscript which I sent off to London, without a synopsis or query letter. Mmmm ... it came back in a big brown envelope, slightly worse for wear, with a nicely worded "R". I was devastated. Until I found the eHarlequin loop and started chatting with other aspiring authors and actually started learning a thing or two about this publishing business.

Still, the road wasn't easy. For seven years I wrote and submitted. I got some standard rejections, some lovely rejections with feedback, some requests for fulls and then some requests for revisions on submitted fulls. And I kept on going. The editors always loved my voice and writing, but the main reasons for the rejections always seemed to be : too little emotional depth, too many secondary characters, too much external plot.

After a couple of years, I did try to tailor my writing to increase the emotional complexity, to exterminate those secondary characters and work on plots. Seven years later I took a step back and looked at what I was doing, where I was going... I have so much respect for the M&B authors, it takes more than talent and imagination and focus to write category, it takes a special ability to understand the nuances of your line/s and write toward it without losing your voice and stories and creativity, and so many of them do this so, so well!!

At that point I was wrung out, I had no ideas left and no road to follow. My muse was drowned in self doubt and I gave up on getting published. But not on writing. That's when I wrote Betrayed, the book of my heart. I had no intention of submitting it. I didn't crawl through the websphere searching for what's hot and what's over, I didn't care what publishing houses are looking for, I just wrote and wrote and wrote what I wanted.

This story ended up at 650k words. A tome. But that was okay. It wasn't supposed to sell and I was the only person who had to love it.

About a year after I'd completed it, my wonderful critique group convinced me to send it out. So I thought, why not? I had nothing to lose, I wouldn't be devastated by rejections because this book had already achieved what I'd hoped for - I'd gotten my creativity back, my love for writing, for creating worlds and characters, I'd fallen back in love with my own words. Betrayed drew some interest from a publisher (suddenly I had an editor on the phone, chatting to me about revisions!! La, la, you should have heard the squealing in my house) but was eventually rejected. This story has all the grit and grime of life in medieval Scotland, I didn't blunt any corners even though I was quite aware it was perhaps a little too gritty for the current historical romance out there.

A few months after that, Carina Press was announced. Their slogan "...where no great story goes untold" reeled me in. And I thought I'd send Betrayed out there one last time before shoving it under the bed. Well, Carina Press loved it :)

As lame as it sounds, in the end, it was the story of my heart that became my debut book with Carina Press.

The road doesn't end there, though. There's still self-doubt, the possibilty of rejection by readers and also by my publishing house. The new world of social media and self-promotion that has to be navigated. But I'm loving every second of it. When a reader tweets that they've just read my book and liked it, I wear a smile for that whole day.


D. F. Krieger said...

Good for you, not giving up. I think you did exactly what you needed to do; write for you, not for societies vogue. :)

Wendy Soliman said...

An inspiring tale of perseverance. I wrote my first one when I was a teenager but didn't get back to it until years later. And I didn't have kids to blame. Life merely got in the way. I wasn't ready before but am now. It consumes me. And you too, obviously. Never stop!

Taryn Kincaid said...

You have inspired me to take another look at the Book of My Heart, although it breaks my heart to do so. Still, people seem to be liking the teensy little excerpts of what I've been posting on my blog lately, that are from what I'd envisioned as the second book in a trilogy of which The Book of My Heart would be the first. Maybe it's the first person present tense that bothers people. Dunno. But I adore the hero, the heroine and their story.

Taryn Kincaid said...

Wow. That absolutely made no sense whatsoever. I have been on extra-strength cold meds for two days and I'm a little befogged.

Claire Robyns said...

Sorry for the late comeback, we've been away on our annual family easter holiday :)

D.F. Writing is always the most important part of the process, although that gets so easily lost in the subbing, rejections, trying to second-guess the next hot thing :)

Wendy, lol at life getting in the way. I can't help thinking back to all those pre-kid years when I had so much time on my hands!!

Taryn, Carina Press has recently contracted another book of mine that was written and stashed under the bed years ago. I did revamp it completely, virtually rewrote it, but I loved the plot and the characters and I didn't want to forget about it completely. So I say, go for it!!

Susanna Fraser said...

Your story is a bit like mine--only my first sale had to wait FIVE years after I finished the manuscript for someone like Carina to come into being!