Aren't we having fun with our ninth anniversary? Here are some more Wenchly first books. By chance the Friday post is Jo, Jo, Jo — and Anne. So we have Joanna Bourne, Mary Jo Putney, me and Anne Gracie talking about our first published book. As on Wednesday, you still has a chance to win our anniversary prize.
It's simple. You'll get a ticket in the Rafflecopter hat for every option you click on below.
On to first books.
I was staying at home with my first child. I was going squirrelly. One day I put down a book I was reading (which I did not wallbang only because … sleeping child,) and I said, "Heck. even I can write better than that," as who among us has not.
Except I was armed with a typewriter and I'd written a goodly amount of nonfiction and thereby earned an honest living and I was, as I said, going quietly insane with not working so this was not entirely an empty threat. I wrote my Regency on an Underwood typewriter using carbon paper and white out. (You might find examples of those in your local museum.)
Avon bought Her Ladyship's Companion. YEAH!
Then we moved to West Africa (and Europe and the Middle East) and I went back to work and I didn't write any more fiction till I retired. My 'new' writing career started in 2008. It was only after that that I joined the Word Wenches. I'm still newest kid on the block here, but very proud and pleased to be a Wench.
Mary Jo Putney
I always had stories in my head; I thought everyone did. While becoming a writer sounded like the coolest thing possible (and by writer, I always meant fiction), it never occurred to me that I could become a Real, Published Author. As a kid from farm country, I lacked role models, while having dysgraphic typing and illegible handwriting in abundance.
The years passed and included a degree in 18th Century British Literature and two years of living in Oxford, England. Until the day came when I bought a computer and found that when you fix something, it stays fixed! As soon as I learned word processing, I decided to see if I could write a book. As one does. <G>
I'd been addicted to Georgette Heyer for years and more recently I'd discovered the Walker hardcover Regencies at the library. So when I sat down to type, what emerged was a Regency that owed much to Heyer, but with a subversive twist of my own. (The tall, darkly handsome, jaded lord does not win the heart of the shy but charming ingénue. She slips off and finds a man she likes better. <G>)
After three months of blithely typing along, I was offered a three book Signet Regency contract based on a 119 page partial manuscript. Having gone from my original title, The Musical Lady, (meh!) to my editor's suggestion of The Diabolical Baron, the book was published a year later and nominated for a Golden Medallion (the equivalent of today's RITA). Once I got over the shock of it all, (okay, I still haven't gotten over the shock!) I realized that I had some natural storytelling ability.
And ever since then, I've been trying to learn to write well!
I, too, always wanted to write fiction, specifically historical fiction, but like Mary Jo I didn't think ordinary people got to do that. That didn't stop me scribbling, but as a non-typist I didn't get serious until the word processor arrived in my life, courtesy of my early-PC-adopter husband. By then, the romance community was beginning to form. Romance Writers of America was in existence, and Romantic Times was in its early days. I had guidance, including Kathryn Falk's How to Write a Romance and Get it Published. (I do like a direct and meaningful title!) I learned stuff, but most of all that yes, ordinary people could become romance authors.
My first published book was Lord Wraybourne's Betrothed, a title I probably wouldn't get away with today. As with Mary Jo's first book, it took the conventions and gave them a twist. I enjoyed reading Regency romance, but I was tired of the unbelievable beginnings, which frequently had heroines plunging into wild escapades or running away from an unwanted marriage without a clue as to how to survive. So I went for convention, as shown from the opening line. "It was the most talked-about and yet the most tedious betrothal of the year." Yes, the well-behaved young heiress becomes betrothed to a sane and sensible, eligible earl.
Despite that it was published and was a finalist for the pre-RITA Golden Medallion. I was on my way. However, as it was published by Walker in a library hardcover with a print run of one thousand copies, it took a few more years and a few more books, and a paperback edition, for my to find my readership.
When I wrote my first historical, I was aiming for the US market. Australian publishers didn't even look at romance in those days — it was all mainstream fiction, mostly literary. I sent off letters to several big US publishers, offering them my Regency novel. They all said, No thanks, they weren't publishing regencies any more. Big disappointment. Then I saw my local library had regencies published by Mills and Boon (Harlequin UK) so I wrote off to them. By this time my manuscript was 126,000 words.
M&B wrote back to me saying, we like it, but our maximum length is 85,000 words. So I cut 40,000 words. It nearly killed me, but they bought it. Gallant Waif came out nearly eighteen months later. By then I'd learned that had I known to call it a "Regency historical" to the US publishers, (instead of a Regency) they would have been interested. I know this because an editor from one of those big US houses read it, emailed me and invited me to submit.
I decided to enter it in the RITA, but in those days M&B authors only got 6 free copies, and when I asked my editor for more, she said there weren't any. She also said there was no point in my entering it — I
didn't have a hope. But I managed to scrape up the 15 requisite copies (for first book) and I entered the RITA.
Reader, it made the final cut! I was so thrilled. I attended my first RWA conference, met a whole lot of lovely people and made some friends who are still my good buddies today. And because of the RITA final, it was released as a Harlequin Historical, and I entered the US market.
Gallant Waif is now available as an ebook. I have to say, I could probably cut it some more — I was too in love with adjectives and adverbs in those days — but I still love the story. It's not available in e-book to Australians, but it's getting an Australian/NZ re-release in paperback, two books in one — in August.
So you see, we all started by plunging in, even if we didn't think it was possible. It's not a bad approach to life.
Have you ever taken the plunge, dared to dream, or simply done something unusual because you couldn't not? I look forward to you response, and don't forget to enter the contest and celebrate with the Wenches.
Jo. (Just Jo.)