January 11, 2003 @ 4:21 a.m.
A fan asked….
Q: What was the scariest moment in your writing career?
Great question–one I’ve never been asked before.
The most debilitating and demoralizing times for me were the four years of rejection letters on WHITNEY, because it was my first novel and no one wanted it. Or me.
I finally gave up and wrote and sold TENDER TRIUMPH as a Harlequin Superromance. The phone call from my agent announcing that first sale put me in a state of euphoria that lasted for weeks. After four years, I finally knew I was a writer.
That euphoria was followed by an almost comparable “downer” when Harlequin Superromance refused to buy Double Standards unless I made ridiculous, damaging changes that I was morally, philosophically, and intellectually opposed to making. Looking back, I can’t believe I had the nerve to refuse when I was such a neophyte, but that’s exactly what I did. My agent sold it a week later to the Harlequin Temptation line instead.
The stunning (and it was stunning) disappointment of having Harlequin Superromance adamantly disagree about DS was followed by the incredible triumph of having Pocket buy WHITNEY and make it a lead title and also ask to buy my next, unwritten book.
BUT that thrilling triumph was rather demolished a few weeks later, when the then Editor-in-Chief of Pocket reneged on the second book purchase. (He felt they’d paid too much for WHITNEY, and he did not wish to pay the same amount for the second, unwritten, book. He told my agent to sell it to someone else.)
HOWEVER, that painful and humbling disappointment was offset about nine months later, when WHITNEY’s reviews were so grand that the Editor-In-Chief decided he DID want to buy that second unwritten book for the same price as Whitney, after all.
AND THAT TRIUMPH WAS MADE EVEN SWEETER by my agent who made him pay a whole lot more for the second book. The Editor-in-Chief left Pocket many years ago, and we actually became quite good friends.
I’m telling you all this because I have a hunch that you, or someone else reading this, may be struggling with writing a first novel.
As you should realize now, a career as a novelist is a guaranteed roller coaster ride with monumental peaks…and correspondingly steep plummets. Imagine how much more dizzying that ride would be if authors also tried to write only what they perceived…hoped…imagined…was currently “en vogue” with readers.
The reality is that authors are like corks in the ocean with little control over their future, until they hit the best seller lists. All they have to sustain them and guide them is a love for what they’re doing and a belief in themselves that no one–not spouse or significant other or relative–has a right to belittle.
Were there ever any moments that you sat back and just said “WHAT am I doing?” or any moments that you just wanted to throw all your characters out the window?
My God, I have more of those moments in every manuscript than I do the good kind! By the time I’m past that and I know everything is working out and falling into place exactly as I hoped it would…I’m about 80% finished with the manuscript.
Copyright: Simon & Schuster, Rememberboard, 2003