Welcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Denise Rossetti writes erotic romance for Berkley and Ellora’s Cave. Her latest book, Thief of Light, is in stores now.
I started writing because I was miserable and it helped to take my mind off my troubles. That’s all.
Well, that’s how it started-
A good book always reminds me of a magic carpet. As a reader, I leap on board with enthusiasm, but unlike most authors, I’ve never been driven by the innate desire to write. In fact, once I left school, I didn’t write any fiction at all, though I certainly thought about it now and then.
When I hit rock-bottom (I’m fine now, by the way), reading didn’t cut it any longer, but heavens, writing did! The process of creation was so empowering, so astonishingly vivid, that once I started I couldn’t stop. My first attempt was a category romance for the sole reason that they’re short. Even sixty thousand words seemed like Everest of effort-‘which just goes to show how little I knew about myself. Nor did I bother to glance at any of the Harlequin guidelines, despite the fact I’d only read a handful of category romances in my life.
The end result will live forever in the sock drawer, but it placed third in the Clendon Contest (run by the Romance Writers of New Zealand) and earned a very nice rejection from Harlequin. It’s funny now to look back and remember how annoyed and disappointed I was with that wonderful, encouraging two page rejection letter!
I discovered Romance Writers of Australia, a fabulous organization of which I remain a proud member. I found critique partners, entered contests and attended conferences. I gravitated to fantasy and then to erotic fantasy. Gift of the Goddess was a personal challenge, to see if I could move past my inhibitions. No problem, rather to my surprise, though it soon became clear that squashing my inner "good girl’ was the easy part!
I pitched Gift of the Goddess to Suz Gower from Ellora’s Cave at an Australian conference. Some months of silence later, I took a deep breath and sent a follow-up email. Suz’s response was enthusiastic, but not definite. She’d get back to me in a week, she said. Huh! I still don’t know how I lasted thirteen whole days before I cracked and emailed again, but I did.
When Suz called, I was at work, so I left the office and went outside. My knees shook so hard it’s a miracle I didn’t fall down the stairs. Suz was delightful, but she didn’t say straight out she wanted my book. After some time, it dawned on me that a ten minute discourse on title changes probably meant something good. In the end, I gathered my courage and asked. And hey, I was right!
Even better was the cover-‘the best cover any newbie author ever had, thanks to Syneca, staff artist at Ellora’s Cave. I refer to him simply as Mr Gorgeous and he’s still my screensaver, more than three years later.
That was Call Number One. (I’m kind of double-dipping here.) Call Number Two was from Wendy McCurdy, Executive Editor at Berkley.
Is it any wonder I consider romance writers to be the best, most generous people in the world? Without my knowledge, a fellow author recommended me to both her editor (Wendy) and her agent. This wonderful, discerning woman wasn’t my critique partner or even a close friend, though we’re certainly friendly now! These days, I buy her champagne at every possible opportunity.
But when Wendy asked if I had anything for her to read, I couldn’t believe my bad luck. The opportunity of a lifetime and I was all written out, having just handed Tailspin over to Ellora’s Cave. In desperation, I sent the first few chapters of Tailspin and an abbreviated proposal for The Flame and the Shadow, not much more than a couple of paragraphs.
Fortunately for me, Wendy must have liked the idea of a dark hero with a sentient shadow, because she rang early in the morning (Australian time) with an offer. What a fabulous feeling it must be to deliver someone their heart’s desire! I suspect editors swap "call stories’ during coffee break. At the very least, they must have a quiet chuckle from time to time.
Wendy was so kind and patient with me, because all I could say was, "Are you sure? Are you really sure?" Duh. What on earth would I have done if she’d admitted she wasn’t?
In a lovely coincidence, it was my wedding anniversary and also a public holiday, so My Beloved and I went out for lunch by the water. I no longer even remember exactly which restaurant. I spent the whole day in a sort of delirium.
Later, of course, I wrote a proper proposal for the quartet that comprises the Four-Sided Pentacle series. It nearly killed me, planning not being my best thing, but it was totally worth it.
It’s been eight years since I was so unhappy I had to invent an imaginary world to live in. That’s no longer necessary though I’m delighted to say the Muse and I still visit there every day. We do it for pleasure and joy, with a healthy dollop of fun mixed in for good measure.