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My First Sale by Celeste Bradley

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Celeste Bradley has been a series girl from the start. Her first series, Liars Club, was published by St. Martin’s Press. Since that time, she has written 11 books. Her most recent series is a trilogy called “The Heiress Brides!” Desperately Seeking a Duke (March 1st), The Duke Next Door (April 1st) and Duke Most Wanted (May 1st). Bradley has a Muse called Edna who, unfortunately, “disappears for weeks at a time with her Vin Diesel wannabe biker boyfriend.” The two of them have “good days and … bad days.” Celeste shares one of her best days with us.

***

I came to writing fairly late. I’d been an art student, art teacher and ceramic artist for so many years that I rarely wrote anything but glaze recipes and price tags. Then came babies. Time in the studio became so scarce I decided to let it go and stay home with the children . . . and slowly began to lose my mind.

I don’t know how anyone does full-time motherhood. The Baby Channel–all babies, all the time. I was positively throbbing for something of my own. When I became addicted to reading romance novels, I told myself at least it wasn’t cigarettes or soap operas. Then I began to see how and why they helped me so much.

Women in this country tend to over-commit. We base our entire identities on the ways in which we are essential. Being a wife, mother of two, tireless pre-school volunteer, serious food gardener and dog-walker might have taken all my time, but it left something inside me untapped and twitchy.

Reading romance soothed that place. In that world I traveled. I had adventures that had nothing to do with packing extra diapers. I had sexy danger and dangerous sex. (My husband appreciated this inspiration very much)

The next step was to write romance. I’d never written anything but angsty teen poetry. I’ve been an avid book consumer my entire life but it never occurred to me to write them. Then I read a book with a great beginning and a lousy second chapter. I had the life-changing thought, “I know what should have happened next!”
I wrote that first chapter in a spiral notebook at a McDonald’s playland, thinking it was a silly exercise that might entertain one of my friends. She made me write another chapter, and another, insisting that she had to know what happened next.
I would not have continued without that insistence. It was simply too hard to fit in the hours needed to fill the pages. I finally settled into a routine. My husband worked late on Saturday nights so I had uninterrupted use of the computer for the four hours after the babies were in bed. But first, I had to learn to type.

With a computer program I learned to type in a week, dashing back to it in odd moments between doling out goldfish crackers and “Don’t dance on your sister!” By the time I entered the 100 pages of handwritten text I already had, I was a fairly decent typist. Now I can type nearly as fast as I can think.

So there I was, writing for four hours a week, spending all the week in between with that odd feeling similar to “where is that book I was reading?” and scribbling notes in that same spiral notebook about what I was going to write next.

Then at last, chapter by chapter dragged out of me by my friend’s delighted nagging, I finished the book. She read it, stared at me and said, “You have to try to get this published!”

That had never occurred to me. It was a lark, a craft project, a way to keep from going nuts in a world of Barney and spit-up and unspeakable stains that mocked my anti-Martha housekeeping skills.
Online I discovered that there was a group called the Romance Writers of America. The website recommended reading The Writer’s Market, an annual listing of editors and agents. I followed the directions inside and mailed out 19 very badly prepared proposals. All at once.

I had 18 rejections over the next year. I decided that the 19th must have forgotten about me. I moved out of state and started writing another book to compensate for the loss of the friends and community I had left.

One day I got an email from Chris Keeslar at Dorchester Publishing, mentioning that he’d been trying to get hold of me and would I send him the full manuscript of Fallen?

Um, okay. I tried not to get excited. I’d sent out a few fulls and received very kindly but positive rejections in the past. I went on with my new book, a story set in the Arizona Territory, with cattle and cowboys and mistaken identities and gossipy townsfolk (I still love that unpublished story!) and forgot all about the Regency-era ladies and gentleman I’d spent so much time with before.

Then one day, sitting at my desk writing (I’m very proud of that fact, for some reason) I got a phone call from Chris Keeslar at Dorchester. “I read your book and I liked it very much. I’d like to buy it.”

After I began to breathe again, I managed to say, “That’s a very interesting offer and can I get back to you tomorrow?” I’m also proud of that. How businesslike I was! Of course, I was going to take the offer. I’m not stupid. It wasn’t a stunning offer, but even then I knew the most important thing was to get published. Having a book on the shelves would open doors and get attention that I could never manage as an unpublished writer.

So the next day, I called Chris back and accepted the offer. We worked together on the book and it was quickly published and released eight months later–only two and a half years from the moment I impulsively wrote that first page at the McDonald’s playland.

Fallen went on to excellent sales figures and a nomination from the Romance Writers of America for Best First Book of 2001.

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

12 Comments

  1. katiebabs
    Feb 29, 2008 @ 07:51:47

    I have read every Celeste book and I love them! Even with heroes who have huge wee wees and can’t have sex because they are afraid they will hurt the woman they love. LOL

    ReplyReply

  2. Danielle
    Feb 29, 2008 @ 08:37:35

    Oh she is one of my favorite authors….I enjoyed all the books in her “Liars” club.

    ReplyReply

  3. Ciar Cullen
    Feb 29, 2008 @ 09:24:45

    That’s a lovely story, and I can tell from your blog why you are such a success. Thanks for the share.

    ReplyReply

  4. carolyn Jean
    Feb 29, 2008 @ 10:44:22

    I love the fun spirit of how you entered into writing. Congratulations on the great books!

    “I had sexy danger and dangerous sex. (My husband appreciated this inspiration very much)”
    Totally true. You have to wonder why guys would ever bash romances.

    ReplyReply

  5. Allison Brennan
    Feb 29, 2008 @ 10:59:19

    Hi pal! I couldn’t help but smile at your story. I could totally picture it. :)

    ReplyReply

  6. Jill Sorenson
    Feb 29, 2008 @ 11:43:09

    Thanks for sharing your story, Celeste. I loved the honesty of your description, how you felt “unfulfilled and twitchy” as a fulltime mom. I totally get it! The exact reason I started writing romance as well.

    P.S. (katiebabs) I like heroes with big wee-wees.

    ReplyReply

  7. Jody W.
    Feb 29, 2008 @ 13:44:14

    Hi Celeste! *waves wildly from back in ye olde hometown*

    As another fulltime mom/writer, I find it helps to volunteer for zero school things and pretend the house is clean enough for me, so everyone else can just shaddup. Husband is training children to vacuum, dust, etc. since obviously those are not skills I possess.

    ReplyReply

  8. Janine
    Feb 29, 2008 @ 19:48:41

    Bradley has a Muse called Edna who, unfortunately, “disappears for weeks at a time with her Vin Diesel wannabe biker boyfriend.”

    LOL!

    ReplyReply

  9. Devon
    Mar 01, 2008 @ 09:17:08

    Great Story! I really could relate to it, as it was the need for something to put my energy into besides Babies and Hubby that led me back to romance and my blogging addiction. Best of luck on your continued success.

    ReplyReply

  10. Jill Monroe
    Mar 01, 2008 @ 09:50:54

    This was a great story. Really inspirational!

    ReplyReply

  11. Caryn
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 13:07:33

    What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it. I always love stories about “The Call”.

    ReplyReply

  12. Celeste Bradley
    Mar 13, 2008 @ 00:58:06

    Hey, this is cool. I didn’t realize it was actually up yet! Hi Allison! Hi Jody! Thanks, all!

    That’s so funny that Jane tracked down that bit about Edna. She and I are still going strong–although she still refuses to be “on call”. She wakes me up in the middle of the night–”Hey, kid! I got somethin’ for ya!” (gravel-voiced, like a chainsmoking barfly)–and I climb out of bed and stumble to the computer, sometimes typing with my eyes closed because maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to get back to sleep afterward. I never ignore a gift from Edna!

    Then just as I slip back into sleep, I’ll dimly hear the roar of a motorcycle and I’ll know that Edna is gone, clinging to the waist of a bald, burly biker as they ride into the night and I am on my own once again.

    Makes me crazy, but that’s how it works.

    ReplyReply

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