Posted On April 23, 2012 by Print This Post

How a Soldier Became a Romance Author, by Jessica Scott

Ever since I heard Ballantine Bantam Dell’s Sue Grimshaw introduce the debut author of their newly relaunched  Loveswept line at last year’s RWA, I’ve been eagerly anticipating today’s Visiting Professor. Jessica Scott’s debut novel BECAUSE OF YOU released last November and her second book will release this fall. Jessica’s going to talk about her journey from soldier to romance author and she’s generously giving away six digital copies of BECAUSE OF YOU to celebrate the six month mark of her debut release.

Jessica, welcome to RU!

How a Soldier Became a Romance Author…

Purely by freak accident.

So today’s blog for Romance University will be a few of Jess’s hard lessons learned in the journey to publication or how an army officer by day turned into a romance author at night.

So my bio pretty much says how I started writing in Officer Candidate School in 2007 when I was away from my kids the first time. The urban legend I like to tell is it went something like this “holy crap, I wrote the end. It will be an instant bestseller because I’m a soldier and it’s about soldiers.” to “what do you mean you don’t want to represent me”.  Yes, it was a hard, sad wake up call for the newbie author in me. Nearly five years would go by before I finally had the call from an editor.

And now for the slightly longer version. First, I didn’t just start writing in 2007. Writing became important to me in 2007. I’ve always written. A few pages here or there. A paragraph here. A dream journal mostly empty there. But in 2007, I started writing for publication. What does that mean? I put butt in seat and started writing, seriously, every single day.  I won’t lie to you and tell you I don’t have stubbornness issues, I do.

I made the exact same newbie mistakes that I cringe over now (querying too soon, querying and getting a partial request, then writing the agents and saying yeah, um, I’ve revised it, pulling back queries). Let’s just say that I am darn lucky not to be blacklisted by every single agent who represents romance and I may actually be blacklisted by a couple (for the record, I’m sorry for having been a pest).

Kit Frazier said at one of our Austin RWA meetings that the only difference between published and unpublished is that published didn’t quit. Now there are varying thoughts on this but the short version is that if you have the talent to put words on page AND the drive to keep at it until you get to where you want to be, you’ll be fine. I’m not talking all roses and doves fine because there will be wailing and crying and gnashing of the teeth aplenty even after you sell. But, determination goes a long way in this business.

Now what’s the difference between being a PITA and being determined? Well, let’s take another notecard from Jessie’s book of mistakes. Determined = writing the next book after pretty much all of the agents you queried passed on the first book.  Determined also means keep it professional. No matter how much you might think that an agent just snarked on your particular query, DON’T and I mean DON’T get nasty about it. Agents know each other and they talk. So do other authors. So no matter how much you may want to rip throats out, don’t do it, at least not to anyone that is not one hundred percent trusted.

Being a PITA? Well for starters, not listening, then telling everyone you’re not listening and then getting angry when someone calls you on it. Listen, I get it. We all harbor that secret desire to be the next Big Deal. But being a jerk about your private fantasy? Not cool.

So how did I end up actually making a sale? Well, when I say it was a freak accident, I’m really not kidding. I was getting ready to take a break from writing. I’d left an agent, signed with another one, had no books out with editors and was basically stymied. I was tired of being upset with my lack of forward momentum all the time. I was frustrated. I figured I’d walk away for a little while and get some perspective back. Well, then Sue Grimshaw wrote a blog post about wanting a military romance that was not romantic suspense and well, I tweeted her.

Folks, DO NOT DO THIS. I cannot tell you how many agents and editors hate this story because it damn near guarantees that they’re going to get tweet queried (also bad, the query under the bathroom stall at RWA. Not an urban legend, this actually happened to a friend of mine). Unless they specifically say they want tweet queries, don’t do this. The ONLY reason I sent Sue a tweet was because we’d worked on a joint blog project while I was deployed so we’d had a small working relationship prior to. I asked her if she was interested and did she have an email address. That was it. If she’d said no, well the rest would have been history, as they say.

So I took the book I’d written and rewritten over the years and sent it to her. What’s the worst that could have happened? This simple sentence plays a big part in your make it or break it. Seriously. What’s the very worst that could happen?

That’s the short version of how I sold. Honestly, I still pinch myself because this book was so long in the writing. I still have no idea what I’m doing. Anyone who tells you they’ve got it all figured out once they sell is lying to you. We all have things we’re good at (I’m good at twitter) but no one knows all of it. We just share what we think we know and try to help someone else the way we were helped.

So on that note, I’d like to give away 6 digital copies of Because of You, to celebrate Because of You being on sale for 6 months. Will pick random winners from those who leave a comment!

Thanks for having me today at Romance University!

* * *

Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your story!

So, RU Readers, do you have any questions for Jessica? Maybe you’re curious how she juggles military life and the demands of being a published author? Have your ever been the fortunate recipient of a freak accident?

Please join us on Wednesday when the mysterious Jack Russell returns to turn the table on co-founder Tracey Devlyn in a candid interview.

* * *

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Scott is a career army officer, mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs, wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she’s a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon and someone liked some of the stuff she wrote. Somehow, her children are pretty well adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house.  No zhu zhu pets were harmed in the writing of this book. For more information on Jessica, please visit her website http://www.jessicascott.net.

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Discussion

29 Responses to “How a Soldier Became a Romance Author, by Jessica Scott”

  1. Congrats for your debut, Miss Scott. Writing is addictive, you know. Soon, there will be second book, the third, fourth… Wow. Just wow. :)

    Posted by Christian Simamora | April 23, 2012, 12:31 am
  2. Good morning Jessica.

    Congratulations on making it into the published ranks. I’m so pleased for you!

    I love men in uniform, maybe that’s why I married a military man. Just something about that Alpha hero that I can’t let go of.

    Wishing you many sales!

    Posted by Elizabeth Kelley | April 23, 2012, 5:27 am
  3. Hi Jessica,

    A timely post for me. My hero is a former military man. Accidents happen for a reason, good and bad. You were in the right place at the right time. Congrats.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | April 23, 2012, 6:06 am
  4. Just love this post! Love the way you write, Jessica, & love your sense of humor!

    As a long-time editor & publisher & writer, I agree with patience & persistence. I would also add a sense of humor is crucial—especially a dark sense of humor! Dark & twisted & bitter will help get you through.

    Posted by Ruth Harris | April 23, 2012, 7:05 am
  5. Jessica – First, let me thank you and your family for the sacrifices you make everyday for me and my family. My husband is prior military and we both work for the the Navy – so thank you.

    My questions – as a working mother – how do you juggle it all? I think I’m more productive because I have to squeeze it in around the roles of wife, mommy, attorney,friend, neighbor, volunteer. what did you learn about “doing it all”?

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | April 23, 2012, 9:04 am
    • that you have to say no and you have to not feel guilty about taking time for you. my writing is my me time and my husband gets it now when I say I’m writing all weekend. I try not to do it all the time, either b/c the kids are growing up so fast and they’ll be grown before we know it. You have to make the important things important, you know?

      Posted by Jessica Scott | April 23, 2012, 7:06 pm
  6. Jessica –

    Thanks so much for being on RU today. When I read your lecture today, I didn’t think “PITA,” I thought “determined.”

    Did I understand correctly that you sold Sue the book that you’d queried early on, the first book you wrote?

    And as Robin said above, thanks for all you do for every single American! I can’t even imagine how proud your husband and kids must be of you!

    Kelsey

    PS – are you open to questions about Army tidbits? I have a hero I’m creating now. I know he’s ex-Army, but that’s about all :-).

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | April 23, 2012, 10:03 am
  7. Morning Jessica!

    Awesome post. I like your determination. I’m trying to get mine fired up….lol…it takes a bit of effort!

    Wishing you the absolute best in sales – and hoping to read many more of your books!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | April 23, 2012, 10:46 am
  8. Hi Jessica,

    Thanks so much for joining us today. It’s so fun hearing about writers’ journeys.

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | April 23, 2012, 11:39 am
  9. Congratulations, Jessica!

    I think when agents open the door by stating what they want, if you have it, you have every right to reach out to them, respectfully of course.

    So your tweet was okay. It wasn’t totally unsolicited, and isn’t that what Twitter is for?

    (I probably have a lot to learn.)

    But I love military romance, especially if it’s all about the romance and less about the romantic suspense.

    I love what you said about determination. I’d say I have mini-determination that I’m revving up to be full-blown.

    Posted by PatriciaW | April 23, 2012, 1:52 pm
  10. Thanks for sharing your story. Your book sounds interesting. Plus, I’m writing a wounded, ex-military hero and could use some more insight! I just checked my local library and it doesn’t have the book (yet), so I’m hoping I’ll win one of the digital copies.

    Posted by Kris Bock | April 23, 2012, 3:54 pm
  11. Hi Jessica!

    I love your how-I-sold-my-book story! I’m going to follow up on Kelsey’s question because I have an Army vet as hero. Can you recommend any websites for research? Thanks for serving and for being with us today.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | April 23, 2012, 7:08 pm
  12. I’ve heard good thing about this book. There’s a big discussion on a group on FB and it was well recommended.
    And that post for the Romance Guy was good!!!!!

    Thanks for the giveaway’

    Posted by AngelaCarr | April 23, 2012, 7:18 pm
  13. Awesome story!

    Posted by AllisonW | April 23, 2012, 8:03 pm
  14. Thanks Jessica for your post. I’m in my writing apprenticeship years, at the point of questioning – “Do I really want to keep banging my head on brick walls?” I needed a reminder that determination/stubbornness/persistence pays :) Thank you.

    Good luck with your writing.

    Cath

    Posted by Cath Evans | April 23, 2012, 8:35 pm
  15. Jessica!!! I’m so sorry I’m late to the party! I’m out of town and have been off computer most of the day. I’m so excited for your success!

    I started taking my writing seriously the same year you did. I remember seeing you around the same blogs and social media sites I visited, so when you sold I was as excited as if I knew you in real life.

    I wish you the best of luck in your career!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | April 23, 2012, 11:50 pm
  16. First of all, congratulations! This is an incredible story.
    Second of all, thank you for sharing. Every author needs to hear stories of success (intertwined with valuable advice!) regardless of how it happened.
    Your voice and thoughts are motivating- thanks again!

    Posted by Kelly Wolf | April 24, 2012, 9:16 am
  17. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to chat with Jessica on Monday!

    Congratulations to the following commenters! You won a digital copy of Jessica’s BECAUSE OF YOU!!

    Kelly Wolf
    Christian Simamora
    Cath Evans
    Angela Carr
    Allison W
    Kelsey Browning
    Jessica will contact you soon to work out the details.

    Thanks again, everyone!

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | April 24, 2012, 5:50 pm
  18. Thank you so much for this!

    *Bouncing up and down* wooohoo

    Posted by AngelaCarr | April 24, 2012, 8:37 pm

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