As writers, we’ve all been there or are still there. In the BS stage. Although BS can stand for many things in the publishing industry, in this instance I mean “Before Sale.” Those of us who are pre-published love to hear two types of stories: those of overnight success and those of multiple manuscripts and long years of submitting. Misery does—after all—love company. However, the story of a writer’s first success is always captivating and today Christy Reece, whose Last Chance Rescue trilogy was published this year, will talk with Romance University readers about her path to publication, bumps and right turns included.
Christy has generously offered to give not one, but THREE signed copies of Rescue Me to lucky commenters.
Kelsey: Christy, when you sold your romantic suspense trilogy, how was the market for RS?
Christy: Better than it is today. Romantic Suspense is still selling well, but paranormal is probably hotter right now. However, I’m huge believer in writing what you love and enjoy, no matter the market. When I started writing romantic suspense, I did it for the story I wanted to tell…not what I thought would sell.
It’s true that you have to be aware of what’s selling, but if you’re just writing to the market, depending on how fast you can write, the market might well have changed by the time you’re ready to submit. Also, if it’s not what you love, it’ll show in your writing.
Kelsey: Would you share a little about your experience as a pre-published writer?
Christy: I’ve always had characters running around in my head and story ideas popping in my mind, but other than writing a chapter here or there, I didn’t pursue it. I had a successful career with a major insurance company, but after eighteen years there, I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to continue to do. It wasn’t my passion…it was a job. So I quit. It sounds simpler than it was. You don’t quit a well paying job without some regret…especially when your husband works for the same company and you have no idea what you’re going to do to earn an income.
I’ve always been an avid reader, but hadn’t had time to enjoy it as much as I would have liked during my career. So, after I left my job, I read a lot. Then one day, I issued myself the challenge of actually writing and finishing an entire book. An obsession was born. I finished my first manuscript in 2002, and started submitting. Of course the rejections flowed in, but I couldn’t quit. While I continued to write, I went to work for Borders as a bookseller. That was a blast. Everyone was so supportive of my writing career and I was the romance expert for the store. It was the second best job I’ve ever had. Writing being the first, of course.
Fast forward to 2006. My husband and I had move back to my home state of Alabama and I was seriously reevaluating my writing. Rejections were really wearing me down. So I decided to forget about writing for publication and just sit down and write a story that had been running through my mind. One that I never really planned to submit, but would love to read. I wrote three chapters and stopped because quite honestly it scared me. The story was in a completely different voice and writing style and I didn’t know what to do with it.
In January 2007, I took two online courses, one taught by Candace Havens and the other by Laurie Schnebly Campbell. These two classes changed everything for me. They helped me focus on the reasons I started writing in the first place and helped me identify why I wanted to pursue publication. Then, I took Candace Haven’s Fast Draft class and finished RESCUE ME in two weeks.
I attended the Southern Magic conference here in Birmingham in March and pitched RESCUE ME to my dream agent. She saw the potential for a series with the Last Chance Rescue organization as a backdrop. I sent her the full manuscript in May, she offered representation in June and sold the back-to-back trilogy to Ballantine in July. Though all of this happened rather quickly, it took over five years to get there. And then almost two years from selling to the actual publication.
Looking back, I’m glad I had that extra time. It helped me focus and think about what I wanted out of the incredible opportunity I’d been given.
Kelsey: You sold two years ago, with your first book released spring 2009. Would you take us through what happened between the time of the sale and the release date?
Christy: Since these were back-to-back-to back releases and I only had one of the manuscripts completed when I sold, I had to write the other two. Then came revisions, copy edits and page proofs for all three. In between those deadlines, I wrote blurbs for a new trilogy, as well as completing the first draft of another book. Since I sold a second back-to-back trilogy before my first book came out, I had plenty to keep me busy.
One particular day stands out. I was in the midst of revisions for RUN TO ME and looked out the window to see the Fed Ex man at my door with two packages. Page proofs for RESCUE ME and copy edits for RETURN TO ME. After a five minute panic attack, I dug in and actually had fun.
Kelsey: Could you tell us about the back-to-back release concept and what you see as the pros and cons of releasing three books in quick succession?
Christy: I think it’s an awesome way to introduce a debut author. I feel so fortunate to have had that opportunity. However, it does come with a bit of extra work, as in while writing one book, you get revisions, copy edits or galleys and have to stop and work on those.
The majority of emails I get from readers have mentioned how much they appreciate having three books come out so close together. Seems like back-to-backs are really catching on and not just for debut authors. As a reader, I love it too. Because, if I have to wait a year for the sequel of a book I’ve enjoyed, chances are I’ve forgotten what happened in the first book.
Probably the only con I can think of and it doesn’t apply to everyone, is the need to be able to write fast. With the first trilogy, I had two years from the time I sold to write the other two. Now that I have three more coming out early next year that are also back to back releases, my writing has to be kicked up several notches.
Kelsey: What do you wish you had known before moving from the ranks of the pre-published to published?
Christy: Oh my, that’s probably a book in itself. When I look back on it, it’s hard to say what I didn’t know that I wished I’d known. I do remember thinking that I was as prepared as anyone to be a published author, but I’m not sure you can be totally prepared.
A few vague things come to mind. Like verbiage I wasn’t familiar with, or the process of what happens when, such as when I turn in revisions…what happens next? Or when should I expect copy edits and then, once they’re done, when do page proofs arrive? What kind of input do I get with covers and titles? Should I use a pseudonym? Should I get a professional picture made to put in the back of the book with my bio? Lots and lots of those kinds of questions.
I also didn’t know how much publishing slows down in the summer until my agent started submitting. Though it was about a month from submission till I sold, it was in the middle of summer and things did seem to go in slow motion. Of course, when you’re sitting at home, waiting for that one call that can change your life, any amount of time feels like too much.
I now understand the importance of having an agent. And not just a good agent, but one that totally loves your work. It’s true that not everyone wants or needs an agent. Each writer must take his or her own path. For me, I would not want to do this without one. I feel so blessed to have mine. To know that she’s in my corner 100 percent is a great burden off me. And all those things I didn’t know…? Well, she does! I must have asked the dumbest questions but she was always so kind and didn’t once let on that my questions were stupid or silly.
What did surprise me was that the worry and angst doesn’t go away. There are still problems and worries aplenty; they’re just different. I honestly thought that once I sold, the words would flow easier, my confidence level would soar and all the self-doubt would magically disappear. I was wrong!
So far, the best part has been the emails from readers. I LOVE them! They are so encouraging and when I have a bad day of writing, I pull them out and read them again. I get so inspired by people who have loved the books and characters. And it just makes me want to write even better books.
Something else I didn’t expect were the readers who would tell other people about my books. Not sure why that was such a surprise. When I read a book I’ve enjoyed, I tell others. But it’s such a nice feeling to have people tell you they’ve recommended you. Or when you see a review by a reader and they express how much they’ve enjoyed the book, you realize what you’ve written spoke to them in some way. That’s an incredibly uplifting feeling.
All in all, it’s been an exhilarating, wonderful experience and though writing is the most difficult career I’ve ever had, it’s also the most rewarding one I’ve ever had.
Thanks again for the interview. I’ll be happy to answer questions if anyone has any.
RU crew, be sure to pop in on Wednesday when Adrienne and our Guy Panel talk about the Shug, otherwise known as the “man hug.”
Christy’s Bio: Growing up in a tiny community in Alabama boasting only one stop sign and a gas station gave Christy ample opportunity to create daring adventures in her head. When she wasn’t thinking of her story characters, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys kept her entertained and out of trouble. Later came the chills of Stephen King and the thrills of John Grisham, but the romance genre always held a strong place in her heart.
After leaving her career with a major insurance company, the characters in her head came alive again and Christy decided to write her own stories. And now, she and her characters couldn’t be happier.
A member of Romance Writers of America and International Thriller Writers, Christy lives in Alabama with her husband, two incredibly cute canines and one very shy turtle.
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