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. Deirdre Martin writes contemporary romances for Berkley, most of which feature a member of the fictional New York Blades. Body Check, her first sale, is one of my favorite contemporary books and Martin is one of my favorite contemporary authors. While every book in the series hasn’t worked for me, I like her voice and her very smart heroines. Her book 7th book, Power Play, has an official release date of October 7, 2008, but may be in stores now.
I’ve always written. Maybe it’s because my father was a high school English teacher who encouraged me, or maybe it’s because I loved to read. Maybe it’s a combination of both. But whatever the reason, there have always been stories inside me that needed to be told.
My first foray into fiction was in first grade, when I wrote a book about Linus and Lucy from "Peanuts" that a boy in my class illustrated. By sixth grade, I’d written a bunch of G-rated stories about me and Beatle George Harrison (Please stop laughing). Junior high saw me writing bad, maudlin, adolescent poetry ("I am an empty plastic bag flapping in the wind/caught on the thorny tree branch of your love.") In high school, I turned to journalism. But always, always in the back of my mind, I yearned to write fiction.
After college, and a very brief stint writing for Soap Opera Digest (Which was a great job, by the way. There were TVs all over the office that blasted all afternoon, and periodically, someone would yell out something like, "Put on Guiding Light now! Reva is back from the dead!"), I began a career as a freelance magazine writer. For twelve years, I wrote articles for everyone from Seventeen to Sports Illustrated. But I still yearned to write fiction, specifically romance, which had always been like comfort food to me when I was down.
In 1998, I took the plunge-‘plunge being the operative word. I plunged straight into the pit of "Girl, you have no idea what you’re doing." My first romance will never see the light of day. Let’s just say it involved a rock star, a journalist, the Russian mob, and British spies. There were no conflicts. There was no sexual tension. I might actually burn it this year if fuel costs don’t come down. Luckily for me, though, an agent whom I’d sent it to actually took the time to explain to me what I’d done wrong, and what I needed to do to write a good romance. I took her advice to heart.
In 2000, I decided to write a romance with a hockey playing hero, since I’m a huge hockey fan. The prevailing wisdom at the time was "Sports heroes don’t sell," despite the success of SEP’s Chicago Stars series. I wrote it anyway.
After 10,000 rejections from various literary agencies (Okay, slight exaggeration) I finally found an agent willing to take me on. She was new to the game; in fact, I was her first client. Her belief that she could sell the book excited me, even though deep down, I was convinced it would be rejected across the board.
In late August, 2001 (Sadly, I don’t remember the exact date), I was cooking dinner, yakking with my best friend who was visiting, when the phone rang. It was my agent. Berkley wanted the book. Not only that, they wanted to make a two book deal. Unfortunately, the rest of our conversation after that is a complete fog. I just remember hanging up the phone, telling my friend the good news in a stunned voice, and then running upstairs to tell my husband. The three of us promptly celebrating by buying a heap o’ Ben and Jerry’s to devour.
BODY CHECK came out in February, 2003. I’ve written six more books since then, all of them connected in what’s called The New York Blades series. Four of them feature hockey playing heroes. I guess sports heroes do sell, which leads me to a piece of advice for aspiring romance novelists: forget what you’ve been told when it comes to the "rules" of what does and doesn’t sell in the romance genre. Write the best damn book you can. If it’s good enough, an editor will buy it. You just gotta have faith.