Monday, August 21, 2006

How I Got Here—The Big Books

When my first child was about 3, we were watching a manga-style cartoon with a red dragon in it. I asked her idly if she wanted to meet a dragon someday. She said, "Yes. A red one." Very matter of factly. It sparked the first line of a book, a book I knew would be my first Big Book, Soul of the Dragon. I had the title and first line for two years. Scribbled on a piece of notepaper from one of those giant cubes they give out at business conventions, and sitting in my in bin, calling to me.

Alexa Ranger knew that one day she would meet a dragon. A gold one.

I wasn't ready to write that Big Book. I hadn't developed my skill enough. But one day, I had a brain surge and wrote 16 pages of the opening. Because my office had been flooded, I wrote crammed into a corner between empty stacked bookshelves and piles and piles of papers. That memory allows me the rare ability to pinpoint when it was: early June of 2000.

I didn't write anything more on it for at least a year.

Finally, I was ready. I worked on Soul of the Dragon steadily. There was no sagging middle. There was no period of “GAAAHHHH, I hate this book!” I LOVED it. Everything about it, from the ex-spy heroine to the dragon hero to the mysterious stranger and the magic and the villain. I entered it in the Golden Heart, and came >< this close to finaling. I started looking for an agent, then a publisher, then an agent again, and signed with one. I wrote the second book in the series, Soulflight, and that was the same incredible experience. I started writing the third book, certain my destiny was assured, because this was what I was supposed to be doing. And paranormal romances were becoming popular again. I was so incredibly happy.

For a while.

SOTD didn’t sell. I’m not done trying. That two-year gap between the first sixteen pages and the rest of the book have stymied me. At first, the book was finaling in contests and garnering great praise. But the part that wasn’t praise was similar from judge to judge. So I revised and revised and then rewrote completely. Each time I entered the GH, I got worse scores. Then I won a critique of my first chapter from an agent, and she had great things to say, that actually reinforced the original opening (that she didn’t read). So I’ve started another revision, but that’s on hold.

In November 2002, a rumor started going around that Silhouette was going to start a line of books about kick-ass heroines. I called and talked to the acquiring editor. Yes, it was true. Yes, I could submit my full manuscript about an ex-spy, and no, a dragon would not be an automatic rejection.

My agent submitted the book (not sure if she sent a partial or full) the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The following Monday, the editor called her. The book had too much romance for the new line, but she’d passed it on to another editor for consideration for Luna, a fantasy line that was also in the works. Could I write a new book specifically for Bombshell?

I was so sure that was it. I was going to hit. My career would stop crawling along and start climbing.

But it’s rare that things go that smoothly in the publishing industry.

Tomorrow…How I Got Here—The Bombshells


MJFredrick said...

Wow, Natalie, that sounds like an awesome book! Isn't it sad how we can revise our books away from our original ideas?

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

It is, and boy, do YOU know it!

But I wish that was all it was in this case. I think I'm going to have to pull the book apart and do a real, tough revision. I entered a later scene in a contest, and you know how that goes--buried beneath the well-meaning but totally clueless blather is a nugget of truth that I think is a problem throughout the book. I know I can fix it, and will do so. Eventually. :)

Thanks, Mary!