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My First Sale by Roxanne St. Claire, Starstruck

Roxanne St. Claire first came to my attention from a friend of mine who thought I would enjoy her new BulletCatcher series. My friend was right. The BulletCatcher series is “an elite group of security and protection specialists who are considered the cream of the crop of contract bodyguards.” I have found the series to be just as advertised: strong men, strong women, fast action and very sexy. I also had the pleasure of meeting Ms. St. Claire at RWA this year and found her to be a fun combination of proper lady and wicked sense of humor. First You Run is out now and the start of a new trilogy of BulletCatchers.

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Book CoverAs the new millennium loomed and we all braced for the digital Armageddon of Y2K, I battled with my own fear of failure — the four numbers in the right hand corner of the calendar would change, my Mr. Coffee would be frozen at 12:00 for eternity, and I would not yet have written the romance novel I’d fantasized about since I drafted “Here Come The Brides” fan fic in sixth grade. (Am I the only one who thought Joshua was the cutest of the Bolt Brothers?)

Motivated by the clock and calendar, and an idea that had been teasing me, I started a manuscript in August, 1999. I chose an astronaut hero because I live near Kennedy Space Center and I didn’t think I’d ever read an astronaut hero (ahem, red flag) plus the local paper was a daily source of research. I chose a PR professional heroine because I was one, but I made her better than anything I’d ever been – flawless, witty, rich, and, worst of all, so freaking healthy she ate egg white omelets while she mused her backstory. For several pages.

I wrote a meaningless prologue describing the launch of the space shuttle because I thought the book should start with, well, a bang. And then I crafted a killer conflict: he is a man of science who is only worried about safety, she is a spin doctor who wants to turn him into NASA’s poster boy to make space sexy again. (I know, I know. Impossible to believe it never sold.)

I called it STARSTRUCK – a clever play on the theme, the premise, and the poor ambitious author. I finished the first draft the day after Christmas, with five days short days remaining until the end of the world.

When that didn’t happen, I attended my first local writer’s conference, discovered RWA and launched my rocket man into the publishing heavens. More accurately known as the black hole of hell. On the way, he and I were flattened by the criticism asteroid, sucked into the rejection vacuum, and left to die on a planet ruled by contest judges who condemned the word “was.”

So, I learned. I learned how much I didn’t know about anything. I learned the craft, the industry, the players, the life. While I revised my manuscript into a totally different book (but still the astronaut and his PR girl), I traveled to conferences and met editors and agents and lots and lots of writers. I entered contests and finaled – even won a few. (Despite that wayward was.)

Somewhere in this time, I began to believe. I mean, I really believe, that selling a book – no, having a full time career as a romance writer – was the One Thing I Wanted Most in the World. Fueled by that goal, I created a database of submissions, turned my office into a printing shop, kept “five alive” every single day, sending another query the day a rejection came in, careful not to tear-stain the pages. Oh, and I optimistically quit my job and swore to my husband that it would happen, despite the odds that our nine-year-old Little Leaguer was more likely to play for the Yankees than I was to sell a book.

About a year and thirty five rejections later, I finally got an agent and the first thing she told me to do was to write another book. No rockets, this time. My daughter hadn’t even started pre-school, so I had to write between 5 – 7 a.m. and the running time of The Wizard of Oz. (To this day, when I hear “I’m melting…” I think, write faster, write faster.)

I finished that manuscript about the time the last astronaut book rejection reentered the atmosphere and crashed on my doorstep. Then it all started again, the submissions, the waiting, the initial rejections, the dashed hopes, the longing and longing and aching for a happier ending.

I was folding laundry at the precise moment that it happened. I remember that I didn’t stop, even when I heard my agent’s voice. I shouldered the phone and watched my fingers tremble over my son’s Derek Jeter T-shirt when she asked if I was sitting down. On January 28, 2002, at 3:27 in the afternoon, I learned that Pocket Books wanted to buy my second manuscript, TROPICAL GETAWAY, for publication one year later as a romantic suspense. Drafted by the Yankees indeed.

And in retrospect, it really wasn’t that difficult.

Because retrospect is a mind-numbing drug that dulls pain and erases memory. So while I can’t quite remember the pain, neither could I totally capture the delirium and joy that happened six years and many books ago. While writing this blog, I emailed a good friend who is an email pack rat of the highest order and asked her if she had anything I’d written to her around the time of my first sale. In less than ten minutes, she sent me back the email she’d received from me the day after I sold. I said:

I must be peeled from the ceiling immediately. I had a day to remember – one for the books. I am dancing on air, I can tell you. My editor (love that!) called me after she and my agent finalized the deal and said things that every writer dreams of hearing from an editor…”the most richly textured book I’ve read in a long time”…”the characters were in the room with me – I could hear them”….”superb villains”….and much, much more. She thanked ME for being patient and told ME she was having champagne tonight because she’s wanted to buy this book for so long. I’m reeling. And get this. When she presented the book to the exec editor, the response was, “Oh, I know that name. She wrote the astronaut book.”

There I was, starstruck.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

26 Comments

  1. Lara Santiago
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 07:02:11

    LOL
    My dear Roxanne I love this story. I can certainly understand why you were starstruck. :)
    I knew you had a mystery ‘first’ book out there somewhere. (I assumed it was under your bed as that’s where I keep mine)

    I’m reading First You Run right now. It’s in a word…amazing.
    It’s likely your best book.
    I know, I know. I said that about your last book.
    But it’s still true. :)
    Thanks for starting me out with a smile today.
    Lara
    p.s. So…is there no chance at all for the Astronaut and the PR Girl? :)

  2. C.L. Wilson
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 07:23:52

    Rocki St. Claire, you are an amazing talent. Everyone should rush out – right now! – and go give your to-die-for Bullet Catcher heroes a try!

    I love your road to publication story. Love your optimism. Love your ecstatic response to what truly was a fabulous Call.

    And, dang it, I love astronauts too. I mean, c’mon. They are Heroes. Brilliant nerds with muscles and nerves of steel! What’s not to love?

    Space cowboys will get their day…just wait. :)

  3. Cindy Miles
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 07:54:05

    What a fantastic and heart-felt story, Roxanne! Such a motivating and inspirational experience! Your BulletCatcher series is fabulous, and I can’t wait to see just what else you cook up!

    Thanks for sharing your story to publication!

  4. Gennita Low
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 07:59:58

    Hey, Rocky, you wrote that astronaut book? I’ve heard about the astronaut book, bwahahahaha.

    Fabulous first sale story, girlfriend!

  5. Priscilla Horn
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 08:19:31

    Rocki, what a fabulous first-time-call story! And it’s true, your writing is just as warm and witty as you are (AND full of surprises!)
    I love your Bullet-Catcher Series, and I was delighted to overhear a bookstore customer make this remark while buying First You Run: “I would buy anything from this author, she’s terrific.” With a sparkle in my eye and a big smile, I confided to her that “I know Roxanne St. Claire. We’re members of the same romance writer’s club.”
    You are an inspiration for all of us, Rocki.

  6. Leslie Kelly
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 08:59:31

    Oh Rocki, I so remember how exciting it was to watch you shoot for those goals. You were an utter inspiration, had such talent from the very beginning, and I’m so happy that you’re now becoming the star we ALWAYS knew you would be!

  7. Terry Odell
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 09:18:39

    I remember my first RWA chapter meeting when you came in and everyone cheered for your first release. And that wasn’t very long ago. Congratulations on all your success. Things are ‘happier’ but certainly not ‘ending’.

  8. Maya
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 09:24:44

    so, the moral of the story is – make sure your executive editor has an excellent memory!
    *g*

  9. Julie Leto
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 09:56:05

    I just started re-reading FIRST YOU RUN yesterday. This is a book that other authors should dissect. It just WORKS.

    I can hear this story over and over…perseverance and talent win out, yet again.

    But Maya, I think the moral of the story is…write another book. A better one. (And Rocki, didn’t you eventually sell a book with an astronaut?)

  10. Sarai
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 09:58:09

    WOW I have always been a big fan of your writing. I have to say this story gives me hope as an aspiring writer. Maybe that first story I’ve been struggling with might have to take a break.

  11. Janine
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 09:59:35

    Wonderful story! I really enjoyed it.

  12. Lynn Raye Harris
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 10:07:20

    I’ve been a Rocki fan since I first discovered her on a bookshelf in Hawaii. I believe it was French Twist. OMG, what a way with words! Of course I’ve devoured everything since, and First You Run is fabulous!! (I am so lucky — I have a signed ARC of Then You Hide! And I can’t wait to dive in!)

    Wonderful story, Rocki! I love Call stories, especially when there’s that element of perseverance and grit that precedes it. :) Too cool your friend still had the email!

  13. Jill Sorenson
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 10:33:08

    he is a man of science who is only worried about safety, she is a spin doctor who wants to turn him into NASA's poster boy to make space sexy again.

    I swear I’ve read this. And would read it again!

    Love your story, can totally relate to “I’m melting”, congrats on your success.

  14. Shiloh Walker
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 11:03:25

    I was folding laundry at the precise moment that it happened. I remember that I didn't stop, even when I heard my agent's voice. I shouldered the phone and watched my fingers tremble over my son's Derek Jeter T-shirt when she asked if I was sitting down.

    *G* Love it. I got chills reading this and remembering what I was doing with my first call. It’s one of those never-to-be-forgotten moments.

  15. Rachel
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 11:10:26

    Rocki, great blog! I love hearing your story. What an encouragement. You “wrote” it well. :)

    Rachel

  16. cj lyons
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 12:19:40

    Rocki! Wow, what a story!!!

    Congrats on launching such a stellar career!!! (yes, couldn’t resist the astronaut puns, lol!)
    CJ

  17. Meanne
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 14:13:45

    I just finished devoting several hours reading the almost 500 ( and still increasing!! ) comments over the mind-boggling DAM affair in the previous 2 threads and feeling heartsick over the plight of struggling authors caught in the debacle…

    Boy did I need a breath of fresh air!

    Thank you for sharing with us your wonderful and inspiring First Sale story and restoring my faith in the fact that great things can still happen to intelligent, talented, and eloquent ladies who aspire to be authors…

    Now I'm off to search and enjoy your books!!

  18. Marilyn
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 15:08:24

    I’m so glad you never gave up. You’ve given me so many hours of terrific reading and I’m eagerly awaiting more.

    Thanks for sharing about your road to publication.

    xoxo

  19. Erica R
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 16:13:58

    Awesome call story, Rocki!!

  20. Allison Brennan
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 19:05:44

    LOVED your call story, Rocki! Can’t believe I haven’t heard it before :)

  21. Roxanne St. Claire
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 20:26:56

    Wow – spend the day at the beach (it’s spring break in FLA, ya know) and miss an outpouring of lurve! Thanks for letting me re-live the thrill of the first time. And, yes, the astronaut lives. I retooled him into a Bullet Catcher for my novella in WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE. Astronaut to bodyguard – a typically career path, don’t you think? (Don’t worry, I *motivated* it.) And, yes, Maya, the lesson is: executive editors remember everything that ever crosses their desks!

    Now, back to your regularly scheduled amazon review debacle.

  22. Jenyfer Matthews
    Apr 12, 2008 @ 00:04:21

    She wrote the astronaut book.

    Glad they didn’t hold that against you, LOL.

    Great story! Thanks for sharing it.

  23. raine
    Apr 12, 2008 @ 01:42:16

    Great story, Rocki. You never cease to inspire.
    (And I thought Jason was the cutest brother, btw…) ;)

  24. Kristen
    Apr 12, 2008 @ 12:56:34

    Awesome story from an awesome author! Rocki, you rock. lol

  25. MarilynS
    Apr 13, 2008 @ 17:40:03

    I’ve read everything you’ve written and only ask you continue on your road to greatness! Yes, that’s what I see for you Rocki. You always deliver to your readers and fans!

  26. Tabitha
    Apr 13, 2008 @ 19:16:09

    I’ve never read a book by Roxanne St. Claire before but I thought I give her book a try after reading about her on here and the reviews on some of her books at Amazon. I started First You Run yesterday. Sadly to say, the book didn’t hold my interest. I forced myself to read the first half of the book before jumping to the last chapter of the ending. For some reason, Fletch’s character just didn’t appeal to me. I am tempted, though, to follow-up on the next book, Then You Hide, just to see how the next sister story pans out.

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