In my last post I wrote about my experience at the HNS Conference and the RWA conference in America and how I had felt that, in some ways, the sessions had been directed at me and my self awareness that something in my writing life had to change.
I could not have predicted how fast that change occurred!
It has been years... years and years and years, since I dislocated that shoulder skiing and decided to write a story that had been bugging me since I was a teenager. (That story is now the award winning BY THE SWORD, if you haven't read it).
Amazingly that little story got a bit of notice, it finalled or was long listed in contests, it even got me an agent. I was on the road to publishing success - or so I thought. The agent did nothing for me, the contests only brought more rejections. It was 14 years (yes, really!) before that story found a publisher and even then it was a small US epublisher in a time before epublishing was even really a thing (they hadn't invented ebook readers!).
Unsurprisingly the story went nowhere and in 2010 I got the rights back and, risking the wrath of the conventionally published world (VANITY... ALL IS VANITY), I self published it with a little known company called Smashwords. There were no such services as cover designers or formatters, but it was out in the world. You can trace the evolution of the book by its covers... see below
And all the time I kept writing - the stories I liked to read - while juggling family and career (and I did have a professional career in the law).
I had another ill judged relationship with a US epublisher that ended acrimoniously so those two books GATHER THE BONES (which had huge contest success) and SECRETS IN TIME, joined the two already self published. I was the accidental indie author.
OK, I thought... I shall write to market and wrote my first (and only) regency romance and to cut a long story short, it did the usual rounds of contest success but submission failure until it was picked up by the wonderful Kate Cuthbert at Escape Publishing (Harlequin Australia). Not only did Kate publish LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR but she encouraged me to turn my two English Civil War books, BY THE SWORD and THE KING'S MAN, into a trilogy with the addition of EXILE'S RETURN.
Meanwhile... a wise woman once asked me what I liked to read and when I 'fessed up that I mostly read mystery she encouraged me to turn my hand to writing mystery. Easier said than done... but I had an idea up my sleeve from the years we lived in Singapore and over the 2011 NaNoWriMo, I wrote the bones of the first Harriet Gordon story. But writing mystery is VERY different from writing romance so Harriet has had many, many incarnations. More about Harriet later...
The evolution of a book...
With 8 published novels (4 indie and 4 with Escape) I felt I had stagnated. I could go on doing the same thing (and I acknowledge the support of my loyal band of readers!) but I was losing heart. I either had to take this writing game seriously or get out. So I took a huge leap of faith. With the support of my long suffering spouse I walked away from the day job, leaving behing 30+ years of being a lawyer/company secretary.
And then something extraordinary happened... as if the great god Karma had rolled out of bed and decided it was time I was due a bit of good fortune. I was asked by a senior editor at Harlequin MIRA (Aus) to put in a proposal for an Australian set historical romance series. (How I arrived at the idea for an Australian series is a whole other story). I managed to get the synopses for 2 books I hadn't written (remember I am a PANTSER!) and sample chapters to the editor before I left for the USA.
The purpose of my trip to the USA was to attend the Historical Novel Society conference in Portland and the RWAm conference in Orlando (with 5 weeks of filling in time - my husband's words not mine!). Karma continued to dog my path.
1. In Portland I had the opportunity to pitch my Singapore stories to the agent of my dreams. I've done hundreds of pitches which have always come to nought so all I could do was cross my toes and fingers and hope for the best.
2. In Orlando it was as if every session I attended was addressing me. Wonderful, experienced writers talked about how a writer needs to reinvent themselves over the course of the career. Reinventing... yes, that was what I was proposing to do.
On my return from America, the long awaited email from Harlequin arrived, accepting my proposal and offering me a print contract for my 2 "Maiden's Creek" books and as if that wasn't enough, within a few weeks of me submitting to her, the US agent I had pitched Harriet to, rang me offering to take me on and work with me to find my Singapore stories an American publisher. Much champagne has been drunk at the Stuart house!
Now the HARD work begins, and you will find me very quiet for a long time. The first Maiden's Creek book won't hit the shelves until the middle of 2019 (and the second in 2020). And then there are the Harriet stories. Book 1 is done but it is a series so Book 2 needs to be worked on in the hope it finds a home.
My point is that it has taken 25 years but if I have never been more certain of anything in my life, it is this... I have always wanted to be a writer, a teller of stories and nothing has deterred me from that dream. There have been dark moments, times when my life outside writing threatened to overwhelm me, but not once did I lose sight of my dream.
It's still got to happen but the first time I see my book in an airport bookshop (or ANY bookshop) will be a red letter day, the validation that dreams can come true..