Anything criminal about your road to publication?
My road to publication was dauntingly long. Like so many people I’ve been writing since I could compose a sentence, but when my first child was born (nearly seventeen years ago) I turned up the dial on my efforts as I cut back to part time work and later quit my job entirely to stay home with the kids.
As any stay-at-home parent will tell you, it’s surprisingly difficult to find a spare moment when you’re raising kids. Still, I did find an odd moment here and there, and while the kids were toddlers I managed to write and sell a number of magazine articles and short stories.
I wrote two kinds of short stories in those days. There were the ones that The Atlantic and New Yorker and Granta and Ploughshares and Missouri Review rejected…and there were the ones that True Confessions and True Love and True Romance accepted with alacrity. Not to brag, but I sold every one of the two dozen or so confessions I wrote back then. Some of my favorite titles:
I Was a Priest’s Love Toy
Our Hair Is Gray, But Our Love Is Red Hot
I Slept With My Husband’s Best Friend To Save My Marriage
I also, over the course of the next decade or so, wrote eight novels. I have been a member of the immensely supportive Romance Writers of America for fourteen years, and they were instrumental in helping me work on my craft during those early books.
Some were awful. Some had cute hooks, but the writing suffered. Later, I improved my writing skills, but forgot to include a hook. I have rejection letters to prove I made every writing mistake that can be made. You know how Goldilocks goes through all those bowls of porridge, and none of them is quite right? That’s how it was with my later efforts – at least that’s the impression you’d get from my rejection letters.
By the time I was getting those “almost-there” letters (you know the ones – “I found your work fresh and compelling. Unfortunately…”) a curious thing happened. I think I might have had a stroke, or maybe I was bit by an exotic spider or struck by lightning when I wasn’t looking. Whatever the cause, my brain chemistry was fundamentally altered: my caution and reason lobes atrophied to nothing while my medulla kick-ass-imus replicated out of control. Or perhaps it was just that my kids – then twelve and fourteen – suddenly decided that their mother was a drag and that any activity at all was preferable to spending time at home.
I had time. I had determination. I wrote like hell.
The rest is just a fast-and-furious version of the cycle most published authors experience: write submit reject revise submit.
Now it's blood-deep, however. Guess what I did last week, in between sessions at Thrillerfest in New York? I wrote my ass off. Guess what I'm going to do today, in between sessions at RWA in DC? Write my ass off.