Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Journey Thus Far, the Road Ahead

As I posted earlier today, I signed with the awesome John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. That announcement was eight years and 600,000 words in the making. Actually, probably a little bit longer. Here’s the abridged version of how I got to this point.

I’ve always loved story telling, but became a writer later in life. I got serious about creative writing in May 2000 (I’m good at remembering dates). I was driving home one night when a question popped into my head: “if you could only save either your brother or the woman you love, who would you chose?” That conundrum soon mushroomed into a rough sketch of a story set in Roman Spain at the turn of the first century. I had the makings of a novel, but I had never written something remotely that scope so I knew I needed instruction. I enrolled in Gotham Writer’s Workshop where I learned the mechanics of fiction writing. From there I went on to write … and write … and write and finished about two-and-a-half years later with an epic historical weighing in at 250,000 words. It was a sweeping love story about a young Roman noble and the slave girl he was raised with. Believing anything was possible, I queried that behemoth in 2003, but with no success.

Being a bit na├»ve, I was devastated at this failure. I didn’t appreciate then how difficult the publishing process was so I needed to take a break. Back then I didn’t think I could write anything better than that book. It didn’t take me long to realize I was nuts, but I wasn’t going to give up on the epic historical just yet. So, I decided to do a major rewrite, turning that beast into two distinct books which I queried separately. That garnered some requests, but nothing panned out. I did get my first full request from these projects, which was very exciting. Yet the downside was that if you reached such high you had to eventually come crashing down which happened with the full rejections.

With those books I realized (or was overcome by delusion) that my best writing was ahead of me, so I kept on reading and writing. I always read a bunch of books in the genre I’m writing in to get in the proper mindset. From about 2000 to 2007-08, I had been reading nothing but historicals (and a lot of thrillers, mainly because I love thrillers—Ken Follett and Frederick Forsyth are my boys!). Still in an historical state of mind, I decided to combine my two loves and write a biblical thriller. That garnered even more requests, but, alas, no offer of representation.

Admittedly, I was burned out on historicals so I decided to write in another genre I enjoyed—scifi. Inspired by Octavia Butler, PD James, and Margaret Atwood, I wrote a dystopian thriller set in the Middle East. There were a lot of requests on that, but they all were near-misses. Disheartened, I needed to regroup because I was never smart enough to quit.

I decided to dust off a story I plotted out when I was 19 years old and in the US Army about a teenage girl possessed by a Mayan demon who becomes a super hero. Considering that I created that plot during the flattop, big sweater, Hammer pants era of the early 1990s, I needed to seriously update the story for today’s audience. Like I normally do when starting a new project, I bought a ton of YA books and read like crazy. I loved the genre and was thoroughly inspired. So much so that while I was writing this YA urban fantasy I began writing a YA multicultural high fantasy. The latter was inspired by my friend Cindy Pon’s excellent YA multicultural fantasy set in Ancient China, SILVER PHOENIX. Rather than Ancient China, I set my high fantasy in Medieval Spain, a world rich in tradition and mythology.

I first queried John Rudolph on the YA urban fantasy, which he loved but believed it needed too much work before he could offer representation. He suggested a revise & resubmit and also invited me to send him any other manuscript I had. I was in luck because I had already finished the YA high fantasy and started querying that book and gotten some requests. I immediately emailed the book to him and a week later we had a fabulous conversation. He offered representation and I, of course, accepted. That book is called DRACAURUM, a tale of young heroes, villains, love, betrayal, and redemption. I’ll be discussing the project more as time goes by.

What now after such a long journey? Making DRACAURUM the best book I possibly can. I have revisions to do (and probably more after that) and when John and I are finally satisfied with the finished product I’ll go on sub.

I can’t lie. I thought of giving up at various points along this long journey, but (being a huge sports fan) I kept on thinking of the old NCAA tournament coach’s motto: “survive and advance.” For writing purposes, to me that meant to move on from the bitter disappointment of rejection and keep on writing. There’s no guarantee success will come about by doing that, but there is an absolute guarantee that it won’t if I had stopped.

26 comments:

  1. Yay yay yay! Still so happy for you! Our journeys have a lot in common, although I was never as persistent. I trunked several novels without bothering to query them, heh.

    Hope the revisions go smoothly and end in a big sale. :-)

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  2. Thanks, Tracey. You were an inspiration in perservance as well and a tremendous help in getting Dracaurum (and the query) in the best shape I could get them.

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  3. Congrats Steve. So excited for you. A perfect example of how persistence pays off. Us writers have a tough skin, don't we? Good luck with revising and fingers crossed for a fast sale!:)

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  4. I'm so happy for you! Good on you for sticking with it. The only 100% guarantee of failure is giving up. It's awesome that you persevered! =)

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  5. Congrats, Steve! Such persistence and perseverance--it sounds like you have a ton of wonderful stories to tell. I'm glad you kept writing. :)

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  6. Love your story, Steve. Beyond happy for you. Do you think you'll go back to your first historicals for more revisions? They sound awesome. Can't wait to see your books in print. :)

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  7. WOOHOO!! What an inspiring story, Steve. So very happy for you!!

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  8. Thanks everyone. Yay, Tina, the hope is to go back to all of them and get them pubbed in one form or the other. They all could be relevent/timeless except probably 1, my dystopian thriller which events in the Middle East have (for the good) undermined a key premise for the book.

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  9. SUPER thrilled for you, Steve! You're an inspiration to me!! It's so tempting to give up when nothing good is happening but like you said, if you DO give up that's a guarantee that nothing good will ever happen.

    Here's hoping for a quick sale!!

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  10. I can't say "congrats" enough, Steve. All your books sound fascinating, and I can't wait to read this first one published.

    So thrilled and pleased for you!

    Clovia

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  11. I have been around for most if not all of this journey and never saw any of the negatives. I have always admired your ability to keep pushing. As a young writer it will be good to have you around when I am older and people actually start to pay attention to my work. I can only hope for success in the future and live vicariously through you for now. Congratulations! You deserve it.

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  12. such a wonderful wonderful honor to
    be mentioned and to know that Silver Phoenix
    inspired this novel. you rock, steve!!

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  13. SO proud of you. I knew it would happen!!!!

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  14. Way to go, Steve! This is such an awesome story, a real testament to the power of persistence, hard work and talent. Congratulations!!!

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  15. What Lisa said -- I missed lots of the journey, but am glad I was there for the end. Very happy for you.

    Phoenix

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  16. Steve, I read this and got chills because the old adage holds true: persevere. "Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity." Well done, my friend. Congrats!

    ~Cricket

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  17. What an awesome story - congrats on your success!

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  18. Good for you, big congrats!! :)

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  19. How did I miss this blog? *kicks self*
    Congratulations again, Steve. You really have earned your publishing stripes.It couldn't happen to a nicer person.

    xxxxxx

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  20. Just found your blog. Happy to meet another practicing-lawyer-slash-wanna-be-YA-author.

    We really should have a club.

    Congrats!

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  21. Just found your blog and Twitter thanks to Authoress - congratulations! You deserve every bit of success.

    Additionally, I feel obligated to say that your story ideas sound ridiculously cool and I want to read them. Every single one of them. I am a dead sucker for young adult exotic multicultural historical sf/f. So let's be friends now, please.

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  22. Congratulations! Good luck w/ revisions and going on sub.

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  23. True words! Congrats Steve. And thanks for sharing your story ~ it's inspiring!!

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  24. What a success story. I'm glad you didn't quit. I'm near ready to query and I could use stories like this to keep me inspired.

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  25. Congratulations! Isn't it nice when all the hard word and perseverance pays off?

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