Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Excuse me, this might take a while...

What do I write? Perhaps it shouldn’t, but this is a question, when put to me in casual conversation, that always produces the following effect: “Well it’s a…that is to say, I am writing a… (at this point, I am assuredly blushing)…well, I call it a historical, adventure, romance, paranormal…” And then I trail off awkwardly as the other person nods kindly and plasters a benign smile on their face –the sort reserved for children and mentally challenged people.

Why is it so hard to describe what I write to people? Never mind, I know the answer.

First off, I’m in love with my stories. Introducing them to people is akin to telling your parents that you have a steady man whom you love. You want so much for them to get along. You want your parents to see in him all the lovely qualities you see. And there is a chance that they may not. So you become protective, afraid that you are not doing justice to your man.

Secondly, as a writer, I’d like to say that story comes first, genre classification second. As a writer, I don’t _want_ to be boxed into any one genre, and don’t think my stories should either. An idea comes and I follow it wherever it goes. But as a writer who wants to be published, I know that agents, editors, and -most importantly- publishing houses DO classify novels, so skewing a novel to fit more or less into one specific genre makes my life a whole lot easer on said road to publication. (Feel free to disagree)

As my stories always features (among other things) a couple meeting, getting to know one another, falling in love, having sex (g), I decided to call them romances. But my love of mysteries, thrillers, historicals, and paranormals make it impossible for me to write straight category romances. I’d love to call what I write adventure stories, but there isn’t an adventure genre at present. So romance it is. Romance with a twist. Yeah, that sounds right. Historical, paranormal, romantic suspense… oh never mind!

Now as to my stories specifically, there are two. The first one –my first love- is The Petal Falls (I’ll say here that I have a hard time with titles and always think of this book simply as Molly and John’s story –shrug). Petal is the story of Molly Bishop, a psychic woman who falls in love with a young army lieutenant, John Stanton, only to discover through horrible dreams that he will hang for a crime she unintentionally committed. While Molly tries to deny her growing attraction for John, and keep him at arm’s distance, a deeper threat to their safety arrives in the form of a mysterious ruby necklace left to her by her father. The necklace may or may not be the infamous Philosopher’s Stone –known to give its possessor untold riches and immortality. And someone is willing to kill to get it.

Petal got me an agent last year. It went on submission right in the midst of some of the darkest days/months in publishing. Petal was sitting on more than one editor’s desk when Random House underwent a massive reorganization that had everyone running scared. Poor Petal did not sell. Was the publishing upheaval to blame? Who knows. Petal is admittedly long, epic, and not your normal romance. I’ll never know. But I still have hopes that Petal will someday find a home.

Flash forward to West Club Moon. While on submission with Petal, I decided to keep busy by writing another book. I couldn’t very well write book two of Petal (in case it didn’t sell). I had to try something different. This was a huge challenge for me as I had lived in Molly and John’s world for so long, and loved them dearly. I felt a bit like a traitor. I sat for a good while in front of a blaring white screen. Then from somewhere beyond my fog, my five-year-old daughter called out for me to put in a movie: Beauty and the Beast. And while it played, another story stared to fill my head, of Victorian London, streets shrouded in fog, gleaming cobbles, and of a man, cursed (by what I had no idea) and angry because a shady merchant had stolen his ship, a ship which carried most precious cargo –the key to ending the curse. Only the ship had sunk, and now the merchant would pay, pay in the form of his beautiful daughter. Within an hour, I had 80 per cent of the story in my head. Five and a half months later, I’d finished the first draft. I love this story. I had great fun in writing it. But I will say now that having learned a bit with trying to sell Petal, I intentionally kept in mind that I was writing a romance first, and an adventure second.

When it came time to sell WCM, I decided to switch gears and let my former agent go. It was a terrifying thing to do (what if I couldn’t get another agent?), but a partnership with an agent is one of the most important business relationships a writer will have. And a perfect fit might not happen the first time out; I wanted a perfect fit. I started querying at the end of August, and am pleased to say that on October 8th, I signed with the spectacularly wonderful, and utterly charming, Kristin Nelson. I couldn’t be happier.

Kristin and I will be working of combing through WCM and tightening it up. Then we shall see. I, for one, will be crossing fingers and toes because I love this book, and would love to share it with all of you.

So that’s it. That is what I write. Told in a long, drawn out, confused tale. Right on par with my normal behavior. I only hope that you will forgive my rambling. And tell me…is it hard for you to talk about your babies too?


  1. Oh my yes! Though it's easier for me to mention genre, since most non-writers at least understand the term YA when they hear it, non-writers also get that look on their faces, the "oh you write for kids! not real writing, then" look. Grrr!
    Kristen and Kristin! It must be fate :-)
    Thanks for sharing your story Kristen - I can't wait to see WCM on the shelves. I spent last Christmas gifting Jo's books to people (who gave me other kinds of looks, the "you want me to read a book with a semi-naked man and a swooning woman on the cover?" - though that was before they read the book!); I can spend next Christmas gifting yours!

  2. Hahaha..YES. (g) I don't think it's because I can't find the right words...or rather, words, period...but because I tend to gush. Like the mother of a newborn with a BAZILLION pictures she wants to show everyone. I mean, you can SEE the mental switch being flicked on a person's face. (WILL SHE SHUT UP ALREADY?! I _really_ don't care! I only asked to be polite.)

    And me... ....trailing off the moment I see it.

    That's why I love writers. They are VERY good listeners. (g)

    I know I've said this a BAZILLION times..but congratulations again! I just know this next year is going to bring you many returns on all of the hard work you've put into your writing. No one deserves it more! REMEMBER that. :)

    You done good!

  3. Deniz- from your lips to...well, you know. :) Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Jen- Ah, I wish I has a smidgen of that! I can't gush to save my life. I clam up like a...well, clam! Snort.

    Good listeners AND watchers. I'm always watching people. Totally innocent, of course! ;-)

    And thanks for the congrats --you'll make me cry, you! (g)

  5. You KNOW I find it hard to talk about my WIP. (g) But I'm working on it!

    And I've said it before, but one more time can't hurt - I am over the moon about you signing with Kristin Nelson. You totally deserve this, and I cannot wait to see WCM on the shelf, very soon!

  6. Fabulous post, Kristen- this especially made lots of sense to me:

    First off, I’m in love with my stories. Introducing them to people is akin to telling your parents that you have a steady man whom you love. You want so much for them to get along. You want your parents to see in him all the lovely qualities you see. And there is a chance that they may not. So you become protective, afraid that you are not doing justice to your man.

    I know that feeling oh-so-well. I have terrible verbal diarrhea when it comes to talking about my babies- I want to catch all the nuances of the story, not just give a brief summary. I mean, come on! I want people to know all about why this is important to me. I end up nattering on, and on, and on, waiting for the moment when the unfortunate person who asked the question gets the same light-behind-their-eyes that I feel- and what do you know? I've only ever seen it once.

    I wonder if, when we're all published and successful (cough) and doing book tours, will we still be so caught up and desperate to explain? Or will we by that stage be comfortable in our own success and content to know that enough people have fallen as much in love as we have ourselves?