I often cringe when I’m asked about my first sale, because it was just too easy, and the telling of the story only adds to my worst fears that, somehow, I must be a fraud. Why? Because, unlike so many of my fellow authors, who endured four-hundred plus rejections, I sold my first book to the very first publisher we submitted to.
Of course, I didn’t believe it could be that easy. I’m a classic “plan for the worst, hope for the best” type personality—all while secretly fearing the worst is what’s really going to happen.
So I bought one-hundred manuscript boxes (yes, really, 100) and put them ALL together. They used to come flattened back in the Dark Ages. And just to get it out of the way, I finished them all—because, of course, I knew I would need every bloody one. So there they were, all stacked in my office/playroom wall, with my desk/old dining room table surrounded by Lego’s and Playskool toys—and, of course, my children, who occasionally enjoyed knocking them all down. I mean, who can pass that up? It’s like sandcastles or houses of cards. That’s what they were really made for, to knock them all down. Right?
But here’s the best part and I’ll give you the short version: I printed off three chapters I liked best (WRONG, you’re supposed to send the first three chapters), and then sent them to ten agents and hired the first one who called (WRONG, you’re supposed to be patient, wait, and choose the best). So my first agent (Surprise! There were others) asked who I wished to submit to, and I figured, hey, why not? Let’s start at the tippity-top and get turned down by my entire Wish List before settling. Of course, I chose Avon Books, then owned by William Morrow Publishing, and, somehow, despite having done everything completely wrong, Editor Maggie Lichota called, and I said yes. That was thirty years ago next year (November of 1989). And that book was Angel of Fire, published in 1992.
I can’t say I never feel like a fraud anymore, because that’s just not true. The difference is that, after thirty plus books (and counting), and a precious lot of loyal readers, I figure that maybe I don’t suck. But it still feels too easy, because I’m doing what I love, and there’s nothing in the world I’d rather be doing.
I was fortunate through my early years in the industry, in that I had a great editor (Lyssa Keusch, who inherited me after Maggie left Avon) who believed in me. She encouraged me to write the stories I was on fire for, and if there’s one piece of advice I have for aspiring writers, it is: Write what you love. And, be ready to persevere. Truly, though I wasn’t tested through first-sale rejections, the industry has a way of testing our resolve. The good news is that there’s never been a better time to be a writer, or a reader, with so many fresh reads. And, in that vein, I hope you’ll continue my journey along with me.
YOU are the reason I write, my dear friends. Thank you for trusting me with your support and your time.