Welcome to the My First Sale series. Each Friday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Jade Lee writes romances for both series books for Harlequin and paranormals. The Dragon Earl from Leisure and The Concubine which was a February Dear Author Recommended Read. Dragonbound is due out in April.
The story of my first sale is a long and torturous one. For those people who have sold their first manuscript at auction for a ton of money…I say BTTTH! That wasn’t me. It took me fricking forever to break in!
It begins with a terminally bored technical writer we’ll call Sad Jade. Sad Jade loved romance, especially regency era. One day, she read a very badly written book. Sad Jade said, I can do better! And went on to write her very first screenplay.
Yes, I said screenplay. Sad Jade wasn’t so bright. Actually, I just thought that film was way cooler than novels, and so that’s what I wanted to do. So I wrote a fantasy romance screenplay titled Ringwolves about a woman mentally bonded to a wolf pack and the man who hunts her down and…um… doesn’t end up killing her. Fantasy romance before there was a genre!
It was enough to get me into the USC Professional Writing Program. I ended up with a MPW degree (Masters of Professional Writing) and a handful of romance screenplays: one comic, two science fictiony, and one weird, depressive thing. And then I moved to Central Illinois (see above about Jade not being very smart).
The truth? I wanted to have babies and my family lived in the midwest. Plus, Mr. Lee had a job offer back in Illinois. Disliking the idea of being pregnant and poor, we packed up and moved back to Illinois. Once there, I continued to write screenplays. Lots of fun, but there was no film market out here in the cornfields. Go figure.
Eventually, I caught a clue. Remember, there was no internet back then (dinosaurs kept stepping on the cables) and I thought: Hey, I love reading romance. Even my screenplays are romance. So what about trying a romance novel?
So I did. And I did. And I did. I wrote five manuscripts plus their screenplay adaptations to no success. I may be dumb, but at least I work hard. And you know what? That’s when I finally learned how to put a story together. I had to write long and then learn to tighten.
At this point, I was years past my first day at screenplay school, finally moving past diapers and mush (aka baby food), and still not selling. Or at least not selling to a company that stayed in business long enough to pay me. I had sales to an audio company that went under the month before my story came out. To Romantic Interludes which went belly up soon after that. Then there were the strong leads or verbal agreements with just about every small press out there. Over the years, I had quit 3 times only to go back to writing, ultimately-finally-writing a story for just me. A futuristic romance (before there were futuristics) titled Oracle. It sold to a small press.
On the upside, the book went up for a Rita, everyone (in my circle) was talking about the awesome opportunities in small press, and I didn’t slit my wrists out of frustration. In retrospect, I wish I had just waited for the Love Spell line to be born through Dorchester. Oh well, patience was never my strongpoint.
Next came the sale of the screenplay adaptation of regency romance Rules for a Lady (by my other penname Katherine Greyle) to be done as CBS movie of the week. Oh wait…writers strike (SAG went with them) and the discovery of reality tv. So disappeared my movie of the week. Why would CBS produce a costume drama when they could put castaways on Survivor for a tiny fraction of the price? *sigh* Fortunately, Dorchester still wanted to traditional regency despite the lack of a movie. And a career was born as Katherine Greyle who wrote light, funny regencies for Leisure Books.
And then, five years later, dark, sensuous Jade Lee was born! Turns out, sex sells. (Remember, not so bright here.) Even more shocking, I’m really good at writing sensuous romance. Even stranger still, I really enjoy writing a great love scene-or three. I like the challenge of writing more than just body parts and delving deep into how people make love and why. Tender, angry, passionate, even cold-‘all those notes show up in lovemaking, and I want to explore them all. Next, my editor created the Asian brand by suggesting I do something with my heritage. Dorchester is known for taking risks, so then the tigress series was born, set in China. Then fantasy romance made a come-back and I could finally publish Dragonborn and Dragonbound (coming out this April). And lastly, I’m bringing China into the Regency with The Dragon Earl.
Whew! So that’s the story of my writing career beginning. Of course, after 22 books, I still feel like I’m searching for my best story, my best voice, my best book-of-the-heart. And that only comes when I stop thinking about publication or production. Oracle happened when I just wrote what I loved, and it was groundbreaking. Same with Devil’s Bargain, Jade Lee’s first dark, sensuous story. Even White Tigress (Chinese tantrics) and Dragonborn (fantasy romance with dragons!) happened because I loved the story idea, not because I was trying to hit a market. So tell me what you think! Do you love multicultural and/or dragons as much as I do?
USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR
Dragonbound April 09
The Concubine (Blaze historical) Feb 09
Winter Heat (anthology) Jan 09
The Dragon Earl Sept 08