First, I’d like to give a big thank you to my critique partner, Margo, for allowing me to host her blog! I truly appreciate her sharing her readers with me as I celebrate the release of my debut novel, Along the Way Home.
Failure Wasn’t an Option: How it Took Me 13 Years to Sign a Book Contract
Publishing is a tough business and not for quitters. While right now I’m happily thinking of how to best promote my debut novel, it took over THIRTEEN years to get to said happiness.
Yes, it took me thirteen years to go from, “Hey, I’ve got a really great idea for a book!” to signing the publication contract from Astraea Press.
And there were plenty of times during those thirteen years when I considered quitting. Considered that maybe I didn’t have it in me to go the long haul. Considered that maybe the process was just too hard. Considered that maybe my story idea was stupid and no one would want to read about a family’s adventures and misfortunes on the 1843 Oregon Trail. Considered that maybe to get published I’d have to compromise my beliefs.
But, even though over those thirteen years there were plenty of days, months, and even years when I didn’t write at all, there was always a little voice deep inside me, rooting me on and saying “Don’t worry. Right now you’re dealing with a lot, but when things calm down you’ll get back to this story.”
So, I listened to that little voice while I was pregnant with our twins in what turned out to be a high-risk pregnancy that forced me into two months of complete bedrest. I listened to that voice when our twins were born one month premature. I listened for the next two years while I was buried in diapers, toys, drooling smiles, potty-training, and tears of exhaustion and joy.
I listened to that little voice while packing, unpacking, and then packing up again through a total of four out of state moves (Washington to Minnesota, Minnesota to Montana, Montana to Washington, and then Washington to Oregon).
Then, once our twins were two years old, that same little voice helped me to eek out five minutes of writing time here, another five minutes of writing time there, until lo and behold, my twins were five-years-old and I’d finally finished my book.
And then I realized that my book was horrible.
But that same little voice was still with me, now saying, “Ok, you’ve got a lot of work ahead, but you FINISHED and that’s something to be proud of. Now get to work on making it BETTER.”
So I did. I went to my very first writing conference and realized there were people just like me, striving to write until they got it right. I made some great writing friends at that first conference.
Now, armed with my own little voice and a few writing friends with actual voices, all of whom were giving lots of encouragement, I ripped my book apart and revised it, from the first word to the last…SIX TIMES.
Then I found a local writing group and two critique partners (lots of love here to Margo Kelly and Artemis Gray!) who showed me I had a lot more work to do. So I revised it again…TWO MORE TIMES.
Then, I went to the Willamette Writers Conference in August of 2012. Conferences are expensive and I could only afford one of the three days, and getting that money took holding a yard sale. But, my husband and entire family are very supportive, so clutching my yard sale proceeds in one hand and my query letter in the other, off to the conference I went.
I met more amazing writers, got requests for partials from three of the three agents I met with, and then drove home with my dreams soaring—dreams that were quickly dashed when I got rejected by one of the agents and never heard back from the other two.
But still, that little voice inside just wouldn’t let me quit. I revised my query letter until it shone, showed it to everyone who would look at it, revised it TWENTY more times (no, I’m not kidding) and then one minute after I put my twins on the school bus for their first day of second grade I began querying in earnest.
A few months into it I had around forty rejections, but I also had six agents and three editors (Medallion Press, Tor/Forge, and a small press) reviewing requested partials/fulls, an R&R offer from an agent, and an offer pending from another small press.
Then, it happened.
I was rejected by an agent who called my book lovely and sweet, raved about my writing and the storyline, but ended with the statement, “…let your characters engage in sex and describe the sex. As it stands, I’ll pass. Put the sex in and I’ll take another look.”
I assure you, I have thick skin when it comes to rejections. I’ve racked up my fair share since I began querying, and normally took them with a grain of salt (and chocolate—lots of chocolate), but this one really bothered me. I understood if a rejection was based upon my writing style, the likeability of my characters, or a flaw in the storyline—but to be rejected solely on the basis that I choose NOT to include sex? That one didn't go over well.
So much so that I finally decided it was time to query the one publisher I’d had my eye on for months. A publisher that cares not only for the authors, but for the kind of work they attach their name to. I'd discovered Astraea Press before I started querying in September and really liked the stance the owner, Stephanie Taylor, took against unnecessary sex.
During a 2011 interview, Six Questions for Stephanie Taylor, she made the following statement: “…Astraea offers a safe haven for good books where the focus is on the STORY and not the sex”.
I sent off a query to Stephanie at Astraea Press late one afternoon, and woke up the next morning to an offer! And it was my birthday too!
I immediately pulled my novel from consideration from all the others who were reviewing partials/fulls/had offers pending, because I believed so strongly in Astraea Press, and the niche they’ve carved out for themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
I hope my brutally honest story inspires you to never ever EVER give up on your dreams!
How do you keep writing/pursuing your dreams when it gets tough?
Kate Davis is intrigued when her father reveals his dream of starting a horse ranch in Oregon Territory. Settlers out west value a strong woman, and though she manages the financials of her father’s mercantile her competence earns her ridicule, not respect, from Virginia’s elite society.
Jake Fitzpatrick, an experienced trail guide, wants land out west to raise cattle and crops. But dreams require money and he’s eating dandelion greens for dinner. So when a wealthy businessman offers double wages to guide his family across the Oregon Trail, Jake accepts with one stipulation—he is in complete control.
Departure day finds Kate clinging to her possessions as Jake demands she abandon all he deems frivolous, including her deceased mother’s heirlooms. Jake stands firm, refusing to let the whims of a headstrong woman jeopardize the wages he so desperately needs—even a beautiful one with fiery green eyes and a temper to match.
Trail life is a battle of wills between them until tragedy strikes, leaving Jake with an honor-bound promise to protect her from harm and Kate with a monumental choice—go back to everything she’s ever known or toward everything she’s ever wanted?
Advance Praise for Along the Way Home
…author Christi Corbett unfurls an unforgettable epic romance inside of an epic Western adventure. Beautifully crafted, this debut novel is a tender journey of the heart as well as a treacherous journey of many miles.
Eve Paludan, author of Taking Back Tara (Ranch Lovers Romance series)
A breathtaking account of courage and adventure along the Oregon Trail.
Jillian Kent, author of The Ravensmoore Chronicles.
A dash of action! A touch of intrigue! Loads of sweet, clean romantic promise…
Reid Lance Rosenthal, Winner of 15 National Awards, #1 Best Selling Author of the Threads West, An American Saga series.
I’m addicted to coffee, sticky notes, and the Oxford Comma. I live in a small town in Oregon with my husband and our twins. Our home’s location is especially inspiring because the view from the back door is a hill travelers looked upon years ago as they explored the Oregon Territory and beyond.
Along the Way Home is a Sweet Historical Romance. It released in ebook format on June 11, 2013 and will be available in print July of 2013. It is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookstrand, Astraea Press (my publisher),OmniLit, and several other retailers.
When I’m not writing I love chatting with readers and writers alike. You can find me in one of the following locations:
Facebook: Christi Corbett—Author
Check back on Friday for MY review of Christi's book. :)