Friday, September 05, 2008

Don't hate me because it was fast . . .

I didn't grow up thinking I would be a writer. Too big a dream, really; where I come from, you might as well say you were going to go to Hollywood and be a movie star. Same reaction.

But I was always a reader, non-stop. I wrote a little, now and then - a mystery story when I was in third grade or so, that my grandmother kept; when I was a junior, my first attempt at a romance (Her name was Fawn. Can you imagine? And she was soooo beautiful.) I didn't get too far. Thank goodness.

And I didn't write again, nothing that wasn't an assignment, for at least ten years. But when I was 29, my then-youngest son was going to preschool, and my husband was making noises about me getting a real job, and I realized I might never have that much free time again.

I didn't want to be at the end of my life and wonder if I could have done it. So I started a book. I didn't tell ANYONE. I wrote on this old Apple (the kind with the screen in the tower) that Matt had brought home from work, and he discovered what I was doing when he stumbled across a file named "Tony" when I was about halfway done.

I still didn't tell anybody I knew. Didn't want to answer all those "sell a book yet?" questions. But I found the local chapter of Romance Writer's of America when I was about halfway done. We started a critique group (Hi, Helen! Connie Brockway was in it too. Can you believe how lucky I was?) and I entered the Golden Heart because I knew it would make me finish it - I'm far too Minnesotan to PAY to enter a contest and then not do it.

Our chapter had a conference that spring. On Friday, an editor from Berkley ripped apart my idea, and I was devastated. And then I got a phone call that I made the GH finals on Saturday! An agent who was there told me to send it; I thought she told everybody that, which was pretty much true.

That's when I told my mother. I overnighted it to the agent on Tuesday. On Thursday, she called me and said she wanted to represent me, and if it was okay with me she was delivering the ms. to Carolyn Marino from Harper at Grand Central station that evening, because she knew she was looking.

On Monday, she called me and wanted to know if I was sitting down.

Yeah, I know. Little did I know at the time that they were the only fast editor and agent in New York. And I've been turned down since then, believe me.

But that book was JOURNEY HOME. Like Michele, I wish I could tweak the writing here and there. But I still really do love the story, and I'm not sure it's been quite as much fun to write since then. Too many critics whispering in my brain, now that I've learned a few things about writing. Being clueless and starry-eyed has some advantages.



Anonymous said...

Susan: That was a great historical western story and the first I read of yours. I have always been fond of it, as at the time, the storyline had not been done, far as I knew at the time. I lost it when I moved, but still remember parts of it.


flchen1 said...

That is awesome, Susan! I actually found the convertible hopping over from your personal website! I have Journey Home on my TBR, and have read and loved several of your other westerns :)

catslady said...

That was a wonderful first time story. I bet you just gave some want to be writers great hope that it can be done!

Estella said...

Great first time story!

Betina Krahn said...

Susie, who could possibly hate you for anything? Much less being successful and paving the way (shedding some light) for others to follow!

Your story just helps prove the assertion that there are a million different roads to Oz. Some are certainly "quicker" than others but all have their own special challenges. You just have to follow your own dreams and desires and work to improve your craft-- whatever the stage of your career.

Thanks for sharing!

Susan Kay Law said...

Oh, thanks for the good words about JOURNEY HOME! Sometimes it seems like it was forever ago, and sometimes it seems like I just started.

I think I'd had ever word in that book memorized by the time I was done with it, I'd been over it so many times and it occupied so much of my brain energy. Now I'm lucky if I remember the names of the major characters from two books ago!