My First Sale by Celeste Bradley
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.