In this post, I thought I would share exactly how everything came together, as well as what I have learned, which is mostly (surprise) that rejection will happen A LOT, but you have to keep going.
I used to think, like many people, that once you signed with an agent you would be published right away. Not only was I wrong about it happening instantaneously, I soon discovered it often doesn't even happen at all. My first novel DREAM THINGS TRUE, is what got me my agent, Jen, but after a year the book hadn't sold, so we put it on the shelf. By then I had written my second novel, THE SOUND OF BEATING WINGS, but that book never sold either, and is also currently shelved. Those experiences were, of course, extremely disappointing, but the thing that helped me the most, the thing that kept me from throwing my hands up and saying, "It's never going to happen!" was actually very simple.
It was writing.
In one of Stephen Sondheim's lesser known musicals, Passion, the main character, Fosca, sings a song called "Loving You," to a man who does not return her love. It's a gorgeous song (I sang it at my senior recital in college) and a few of the lines have always struck me as true to my own life - not concerning the love of another person, but of writing. It goes, "Loving you is not a choice; it's who I am. Loving you is not a choice, and not much reason to rejoice, but it gives me purpose, gives me voice, to say to the world: 'this is why I live.'"
For me, writing is not a choice; it's who I am. So when the years went by and my books didn't sell, I did what I had to do regardless - I had to write.
Last fall, I completed my third novel, THE HEARTLESS CITY, and Jen began to send it out to editors in June. It was sort of a departure from my first two books, which were both contemporary YA fantasies with female protagonists in Kansas. This time I had a male protagonist and the book was set a historical but reimagined, post-apocalyptic, Edwardian London. Then, one morning in late July, while I was working on the sequel (which will be called THE HYPNOTIC CITY) I checked my email and saw one from Jen, and the subject line read: EDITOR INTEREST IN THE HEARTLESS CITY!!!
I'll go into detail about how I reacted in a later post (it involved some joyful but ugly crying that frightened my four-year-old) but in the end I managed to read the email and respond. The acquiring editor liked the book but had issues with my prologue - she thought it was slow, confusing, and that parts of the timeline didn't make sense. She agreed to speak with me on the phone and talk about her issues and possible ways I could resolve them, and after the phone call (which was great - Vicki Keire is lovely!) I began to revise the prologue. It took me about a week, and every day, as I was writing, I kept thinking, "Vicki was right! This is SO MUCH BETTER!" Thankfully, Vicki agreed, and after I resubmitted the prologue she confirmed that Curiosity Quills would publish the book. :)
The next step is the first round of editing (there will be two, possibly three) and I am beyond excited, not only because these steps will lead to my DREAM COMING TRUE, but because I have learned from experience that nothing helps my writing more than outside suggestions and input.
Because now I know that's what it all comes down to in the end: Rejection or acceptance, success or failure, if you are a writer (and it's not a choice), you simply have to keep writing and keep getting better, because it's who you are and what you love - the end. :)