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My First Sale by Caroline Linden, from Unsellable to Sold

caroline.jpgCaroline Linden caught my attention with her second book, What A Gentleman Wants and I rushed out after that book was finished and bought her first book, What A Woman Needs. If I were to label Linden’s books, I would say enigmatic heroes and common sense heroines who show us that the path to love is never straight and easy, just like Caroline Linden’s road to publication.

Her latest novel, What A Rogue Desires is out in stores now and while I haven’t done a formal review of it, I have read it and it’s one that I would recommend.

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What A Rogue Desires (Zebra Historical Romance)The first book I wrote was utterly unsellable. I didn’t know that at the time; I didn't even care. It was just for practice. The second book was better, but only a little. The third book, though, I knew that book was good.

The opening scene popped into my head one night, while I was making dinner, and wouldn’t go away. I wrote it down thinking, 'maybe some day there will be a book to go with this.' I just didn't know what it was. But the second book was dragging, and I had an appointment to pitch to an agent at an upcoming conference. I knew my first two books weren't really good, and that scene wouldn’t leave me alone. So I let go of the second book, and like a bolt from the blue, the rest of the plot for that lonely, lovely, scene came to me. I was in love with that story. The hero was sexy, daring, and not your ordinary hero. The heroine was sensual, unusual, and no helpless damsel. Two months later the book was done, and I had hope–real hope–that the agent I pitched it to–even before it was done–would like it.

And she did! She loved it. She wanted to represent it, and me. She was sure she could sell it, and that this would be the beginning of a beautiful career. Excitedly, I signed on with her and she began submitting it to Major New York Publishers, while thrilling but vague visions of success danced in my head.

Then the rejections started coming. A few here, a few there. The hero was not noble enough. The romance wasn’t compelling enough. The heroine was too slutty. Some editors liked it, and sent it up the ladder for further approval, but the answers all came back the same: “Not right for our line at this time.”

I have always been a rejection-averse person. I only applied to one college; when I got in, I didn’t bother trying other colleges. I only took job interviews I was reasonably certain would lead to a job offer. It’s not that I can’t handle rejection; I just don’t like it. Having the book I loved be rejected over and over again was not pleasant, and the fact that my husband had sold his business and gone back to school did not help. We needed money, not rejection letters. My agent began to ask, tactfully, what other projects I had. I looked at my other books in progress with newly critical eyes: not this one, the hero is cold and arrogant and he doesn’t even show up for three chapters. Not this one, the heroine is a rabid Red Sox fan and there are witches and demons running amok at the World Series. In desperation, I started a completely new book at the same time I began re-writing my resume because it was clear I was not, in fact, a writer, or at least not one who could write a publishable book.

And then the phone rang, one rainy school vacation day over a year after my agent had started submitting the book. She had an offer. I may have literally jumped up and down in excitement. It wasn’t a lottery-winning offer, but it was enough. I took my resume off Monster.com, enormously relieved not to be reading SQL anymore, and my husband and I drank our last bottle of good wine.

I hope I'm getting better at writing fiction; it's much more fun than writing code (my previous profession). The book with the cold, arrogant hero who didn't show up until chapter three turned into WHAT A GENTLEMAN WANTS, and from that book came my next, WHAT A ROGUE DESIRES. Every new book is a challenge, beginning with only the slightest idea for a plot or a character and somehow developing into a 400 page manuscript. Some days it's fun to write, and I can hardly type fast enough to keep up with the story going on in my mind; some days each word must be pulled out one painful letter at a time; but man, I love this job.

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

10 Comments

  1. Eve Silver / Eve Kenin
    Sep 21, 2007 @ 07:40:19

    I love Caroline’s historicals. Jane, I agree completely with your assessment that her heroes are enigmatic and her heroines have common sense, and I enjoy the mix of the two. But…hey…I wanna read the one about the demons and witches running amok at the World Series :)

    Eve

  2. Laura Drewry
    Sep 21, 2007 @ 10:11:49

    I LOVED Caroline’s first 2 books! In fact, I think I stalked her a bit afterward. :) My copy of Rogue is in my TBR pile, smiling up at me, and I can’t wait to read it.

    Great ‘sale’ story, too – especially the part about sometimes it’s fun to write and sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. Truer words were never spoken. LOL

  3. Sally MacKenzie
    Sep 21, 2007 @ 10:38:01

    I LOVE first sales stories!! And I’m with Eve–Caroline is a fantastic writer and i WANT TO READ the demons and witches and the World Series! If you’ve poked around Caroline’s website, you know she has a sly sense of humor–I bet the World Series story would really rock. But I’m not an editor, sigh. Hey, maybe Caroline could throw in some time travel from the Regency, too!

  4. Caroline
    Sep 21, 2007 @ 11:50:32

    Thanks, everyone!

    See, I was told that no one outside of New England would really like the witches-n-demons. Something about making the villain a magical, satanic, Yankee fan. I thought it was perfect! (But there was no time travel…just some immortal beings) My paranormal ideas, it seems, are not ready for prime time.

  5. Laura Drewry
    Sep 21, 2007 @ 12:31:15

    {{ahem}} I take issue with the villain being a satanic YANKEE fan. I breezed over the part of your original post where you mention the (gag) Sox, but now you’ve gone too far! Pickin’ on my Yankees (again!!). . . . :)

  6. Ann Bruce
    Sep 21, 2007 @ 13:13:41

    villain a magical, satanic, Yankee fan

    This book I want to read.

  7. Rebecca Goings
    Sep 21, 2007 @ 13:56:36

    Witches + Demons + World Series = Kick Ass!

    I don’t know who told you witches/demons/et al. weren’t popular in romantic fiction, because girlfriend obviously had no idea that paranormal romance is **HAWT** these days. Just ask Sherrilyn, Mandy, Michelle, Cheyenne, & Lora.

    :)

    Congrats on your first sale. These books sound delicious.

    ~~Becka

  8. Janine
    Sep 21, 2007 @ 14:04:34

    Great story. I think the “too slutty” heroine and the “not noble enough” hero were my favorite things about What a Woman Needs.

  9. Caroline
    Sep 23, 2007 @ 11:13:16

    Witches + Demons + World Series = Kick Ass!

    Well, I thought so, too. But…

    “You can’t equate the ALCS with the Apocalypse.”
    (me) “Why not? Were you watching those games??”
    “And you really shouldn’t say the Yankees won all their World Series rings with Satan’s help.”
    (me) “Why not? Just because there’s no PROOF…”

    My poor agent…

    I think the “too slutty” heroine and the “not noble enough” hero were my favorite things about What a Woman Needs.

    Now, that’s why I like this site; you just don’t hear that sentiment everywhere. :-)

    Thanks, everyone!

  10. REVIEW: A Rake’s Guide to Seduction by Caroline Linden | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Apr 16, 2008 @ 05:42:39

    […] Dear Ms. Linden, […]

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