I am delighted to host Regency debut author Rose Lerner. I am very excited to read her book because Regency is my favorite genre when I need to kick back and the excerpts I read so far really want to make me get my hands on this book as soon as I can!
When we look at authors that make it into publishing, we forget sometimes that behind the name on the spine is a real life. Yes, it is wonderful to finally get published but there are also the real life of a person with its joy and pain behind that name. We all have our reasons to write and our own challenges while keeping at it.
AND THE WINNER IS… PAISLEY KIRKPATRICK!!! CONGRATS!!
When Marie-Claude asked me to write a post that would help inspire unpublished authors, I knew immediately what I wanted to talk about. And then I put off writing the post for weeks. Because the three years between when I started writing In for a Penny and when I sold it were the three worst years of my writing life, hands down. Possibly the three worst years of my life, period, except I think junior year of high school still has that honor (and yes, I know that’s only one year, but it felt longer).
I started writing In for a Penny in mid-January 2006. By mid-March I’d written a hundred pages. Things were going great, the book was flowing, I felt confident that this would be the one that would sell. My goal was to finish the book by Rosh Hashanah of that year (the holiday falls in early to mid-September), and I thought I could do it.
At the end of March I found out my mom was dying.
She’d been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the fall of ’03, and she’d been on chemo almost continually since then. Her remissions never lasted. In February and March she was in and out of the hospital with inexplicable digestive problems. I still wasn’t prepared.
I spent the next two months living in my parents’ house. She died on May 24th.
Sometimes I see a writer say that they write just for themselves. That if no one else ever read anything they wrote, that would be okay, because the important thing is the writing. I am really, really not that person. For me, the heart of writing is communication, sharing the story in my head with someone else. I write with my audience in mind. And ever since my first romance manuscript, back when I was seventeen, my mom had been my imagined audience. Knowing that she would enjoy the story, that she would like this scene or laugh at that joke or hate this villain, was what motivated me to write. There are still several lines in In for a Penny that were in-jokes for the two of us, and probably no one else will ever get them, but I left them in anyway.
Knowing that she would never read In for a Penny, I didn’t feel like writing it. Between the end of March and the beginning of October, when I went to the Emerald City Writers’ Conference, I’d written maybe thirty-five pages. At the conference, I went to a goals workshop, got my ass in gear, and entered Cherry Adair’s Finish the Damn Book challenge. I outlined, I plotted, I came up with a complicated goals system, and I forced myself to write that book. It was a miserable, grueling process. It felt like a death march. I still didn’t feel good about my writing, I didn’t really believe I’d ever be a published author, but I sat down at my computer every day and churned out words. I didn’t meet my deadline, but I did have a rough draft by the time the ECWC rolled around in October 2007. And when I say “rough,” I mean rough. This thing was 500 pages long and a mess. And I hated it. I never wanted to look at it again, ever.
I made myself a promise. I would pitch the book at the ECWC, but I didn’t have to revise it unless I got a request for a full. Well, one of the people I pitched to at that conference was Leah Hultenschmidt, from Dorchester. She asked for a partial. I sent it off, and I didn’t hear from her and I didn’t hear from her and man, was I relieved. I took it easy, and I didn’t think about In for a Penny. I didn’t revise, I didn’t send out queries, I didn’t start my next book.
The funny thing is, I didn’t stop writing. I just started writing short stories and sharing them with my friends online. I wrote lots of them. Because the thing was, I could write a story, put it up, and right away people would leave me feedback. I knew that someone was going to read what I wrote and love it, and I just didn’t have that confidence with historical romance anymore. I started to worry that me and historical romance were over, that I’d lost the spark and I was never getting it back, and I still couldn’t bring myself to try again. Then, in June, Leah sent me a request for a full manuscript.
I panicked. Full-on panicked. I sent whiny e-mails to all my friends about how I was going to spend weeks revising this story I hated and then I was just going to get rejected. I had no idea if I could turn this 500-page mess into something even remotely presentable.
But I opened up the file and started reading, and…I liked it. It was actually kind of good. Rambling and unfocused and there were a couple of minor characters that didn’t really need to be there, but I loved my hero and heroine and hey, there were some pretty funny jokes in there that I’d completely forgotten about. I dived in, working for hours every day. It was stressful, but I enjoyed it. Just the hint of the possibility of publication and people actually reading the story was enough to get me moving again. At the end of the month I sent it off. I didn’t hear, and I didn’t hear, and I figured that was that. But even so, that little hint was enough to get me working on another book. And then in February of last year, I got the call from Leah asking to buy In for a Penny.
The rest is history. In for a Penny is out this month, and my next book, Lily Among Thorns, will be out next January. I still struggle with motivation and time management, but who doesn’t? My imaginary audience now is my critique group, a couple of my friends, and, you know, I still sometimes put in a joke I know my mom would have laughed at.
But most of all, my imaginary audience now is you. I know someone’s going to be reading my stories, and it feels fantastic. I am so, so excited to get reader feedback on In for a Penny, I can’t tell you.
I don’t know what the moral of this story is. I’m not, actually, just telling you to buck up and write no matter how awful you feel. Writing this book was really unpleasant and it almost killed my love for writing historical romance. But…in the end, it did pay off. By a combination of work, incredible support and patience from my friends, and amazing luck, I got where I always wanted to be. So I guess the moral is just that–it can pay off. It’s not silly to hope. No matter how awful you feel, you don’t know what’s around the next corner. I hope you all are as lucky as I was.
Aaaaand, now I’m going to sign off before I start full-on crying. Thanks so much for having me! I’ll be giving a signed copy of In for a Penny to a randomly-chosen commenter on this post.
I’m also running a contest on my site–five signed copies, plus a package of ten of my favorite
Regency-set novels, here:
Thank you so much for your inpirational post Rose. Congratulation on this debut book. I am so glad that a second one is coming soon.
To everyone, you can find more about In for a Penny at http://www.roselerner.com/bookshelf/inforapenny.html and don’t forget to leave us a comment to win a copy of Rose’s novel. I am curious, have you ever have time when writing was harder due to life’s hardships?