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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Landmarks to Celebrate...Or Not.....

By Anna Jeffrey

As this year winds down, I can't help but reflect that this year is a landmark for me. 20 years has come and almost gone since I sat down and decided to write a novel. I'm now working on my 19th and 20th books. I hope to finish at least one of them before the year's end. When I think about other authors I know who have written 50 or 60 books, 20 doesn't seem like  much production for a 20-year investment of time and energy.

I have gone through 6 or 7 computers, several printers and various other equipment. I have spent a ton of money on trying various things to benefit my writing habit, including working at an outside job most of the time and working on writing in the wee hours. 

When I first set out to write fiction, I intended to write mainstream books based on stories right off the front pages of the newspapers. Think Jodi Piccoult. At the same time, I joined a couple of writing groups, one of which was huge. Someone in that group suggested that I would find it easier to get published if I wrote in the romance genre. 

At that point, I had read very few romance novels that I knew to be such, but since my goal was to get published, I decided to give it a try. I spent the next year reading romance novels. I don't know how many I read, but there were a lot. Some I found memorable. Others I barely plowed through.

The first book I wrote from beginning to end was "The Love of a Stranger," which was rejected by many agents and publishers alike. One day, I attended a RWA chapter meeting where Harlequin author Judy Christenberry was the guest speaker. By then, 6 years had come and gone and I had 27  rejections under my belt and I was close to throwing in the towel. Judy talked about themes and characters Harlequin liked to publish. Among them were cowboys, secret babies, lost love regained. So, driving home from the meeting, I thought, "I can do that." 

I sat down at my computer and wrote a story about all of that in one book. "The Love of a Cowboy," a family saga that was over 150,000 words and 650 manuscript pages long and it wasn't necessarily a romance. However, it won some contests and got the attention of a New York editor. We agreed to meet in Albuquerque at the Southwest Writers' Conference in which my saga had won first place. 

Then 9/11 happened and all of the horrors that followed. Not knowing even if the phones in New York were working, I finally found the nerve to call that editor and ask her if she still planned to attend the conference in Albuquerque. Her reply was, "Oh, yes. I've never been a fearful flyer." 

She was braver than I was. I drove to Albuquerque to a conference that would normally have been huge and well-attended. Only a handful of attendees were present. When I met my hero, I was surprised to see that she was a tiny spit of a girl, even in high heels. When I asked her about her flight, she told me she was the only passenger on the plane. It was such a powerful moment. Even through the pall and gloom and anxiety that hung over every person, thought and word, I had the feeling that somehow, destiny was at work for me.

She and I went to dinner and she told me her company would like to buy my cowboy book because she liked my voice and my writing, but they only wanted the romance between Luke and Dahlia, not the rest of the story. She wanted me to cut 65,000 words.

I was flattered by her compliments, but horrified at the same time. I had no idea how to cut 65,000 words out of a story and still have the story. She told me that when she returned she would write me an editorial letter and work with me on the cut. And she did. Her letter was 20 pages long, but we got through it. She was what I call a true editor and I will never forget her. She walked me through those revisions and the result was the book that to this day, is my best-selling book. 

That was another landmark year for me. I still remember all of it vividly and will until the day I die. 

"The Love of a Stranger" hadn't even gone to print before she quit the publishing company and moved away from New York. Another landmark event for my writing future. I will always feel that losing her affected my career in a negative way from which it never recovered. I still believe that I'm as good an author as Jodi Piccoult--if I don't believe in me, who will?--and I still have a yen to write mainstream fiction. I have always had a hard time believing that I'm truly a romance author.

So, for what they're worth, there are a few of the landmarks in my writing career. Hopefully, there will be more. After spending so much on this, I can't give up.

1 comment:

  1. You ARE as good as Jodi Picoult and other bestsellers. You need a dose of good luck to come your way! Even with mediocre luck, you've had some good sales between Anna Jeffrey and Dixie Cash.


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