If I look over at the counter on the left side of my website, I can see there are 11 days to go before the official release of my debut New Adult novel, Altered. I began reflecting on how I got to be in this situation exactly.
I really never had much of an interest in writing. I was a medic in the army, an administrative management systems major in college, and an MBA. I even had a brief stint in law school (as you will soon learn when you read Altered). I didn’t take literature classes beyond what was required for my diploma or degree. I did however develop a love of reading in high school.
My tenth grade English teacher, Mrs. Janet Ghio, recognized there was no multicultural-influenced literature in our curriculum I could relate to. She gave me a copy of The Color Purple (ha! I’m dating myself), and once I’d finished, she took me out to lunch to discuss what I’d read. That definitely sparked something in my reading life that had been mostly non-existent before (I was more of a tomboy-type kid). The next year, I took philosophy as my elective and fell in love with Dostoevsky and Kafka (The Metamorphosis is still my all time favorite short story).
At some point a couple of years ago, I started bouncing this idea around in my head that I might want to write about. I kept it there – in the back of my head. Around the same time, I really got into the Outlander series and the author, Diana Gabaldon, was very vocal about the writing process. I still kept my idea in the back of my head.
I also follow a celebrity gossip blogger (perhaps I should be thoroughly embarrassed by that, but I’m not), @laineygossip, who introduced me to the New Adult genre. I tore through all of her recommendations plus more and found them to be easy, quick reads that were somehow satisfying. That also prompted me to think, “Wow, I can write that.”
I signed up for NaNoWriMo in 2013, but didn’t write a single word. I finally revisited this idea the following April and was finished with it by mid-May. I was completely embarrassed to be writing and only told my younger daughter who was still in high school at the time. I made her promise not to tell anyone. After the story started pouring out of me, I told another “reading” friend (who lives in another state), Anna, and started sending her what I’d written in 20K chunks. She loved it and that encouraged me to keep going and also share with others in my life that I was writing.
I signed up for NaNoWriMo again in 2014 and this time completed it, as well as another book that’s a contemporary romance (Scale Steps). Again sending it to my friend 20K words at a time.
A few months went by and I really didn’t know what to do with either of my finished manuscripts. Then one day I saw a post in an Outlander Facebook group I frequent (ahem) by one C. H. Armstrong singing the praises of the publishing process she’d been going through with her debut novel, The Edge of Nowhere. I checked out her publisher, Penner Publishing, and decided to submit both manuscripts.
I waited about two weeks. And when I say waited, I mean refreshed my email every single hour. Finally I saw the email I’d been waiting for. I nervously clicked on it to open and read through squinted eyes. “Thank you for querying Penner Publishing with ALTERED and UNEXPECTED (Scale Step before I changed the name) and for giving us the opportunity to consider your manuscripts. Unfortunately, UNEXPECTED is not a good fit for us at this time…” My heart sank, but it wasn’t entirely unexpected (pun intended) given how difficult I’d heard it was to get published. And this was my first query after all (I didn’t even realize I was querying at the time).
I went on to read, “…but we quite enjoyed reading ALTERED. If ALTERED is still available, we would love to talk further.”
Um, talk about burying the lead!
This has been quite a journey and I’ve had a LOT of support along the way. I know it’s an overused word, but I can’t describe the experience as anything other than surreal.