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. Elizabeth Chadwick is the author of The Scarlet Lion*, her latest US release.
The first story I ever remember telling, was to myself was when I was three years old. It had a beginning, a middle and an end, and it was about some fairies printed on a cotton pocket handkerchief I owned. Throughout my childhood I made up verbal stories for my own amusement, often inspired by TV programmes or pictures in story books.
I started writing my stories down in my teens and at the age of fifteen I penned my first 500 page romantic historical novel, inspired by a knightly hero in a TV programme called Desert Crusader. He was tall, dark and gorgeous and I was smitten! It was while writing that first prototype novel that grew out of and then went beyond fan fiction, that I realised I wanted to write historical novels for a full time career.
Achieving that career was much easier said than done, as I quickly found out. Throughout my teens and twenties the rejection slips piled in, but they never put me off my chosen path. I saw rejection as a stepping stone, not a stumbling block. I worked in mundane jobs in shops to bring in enough money to keep my head above water and in my spare time I wrote. I got married, had kids and stayed at home to look after them with my desk set up in their playroom. I went out filling supermarket shelves at night to earn the money to buy an Amstrad "Green Screen' instead of my old typewriter, and I kept at it.
My boys were 5 and 2 when I sent off the chapters and synopsis of my latest offering, a medieval novel titled The Wild Hunt to an agent in London. Three weeks later to my joy, she wrote back asking for the full manuscript and offering to represent me. 17 years after writing my first novel, I had an agent. Within 3 months she had sold it by auction to a major UK publishing house that was a part of the Penguin group, along with a contract for an as yet unwritten second book. I'd finally arrived!
The Wild Hunt went on to win a Betty Trask Award, which is a UK award for young writers under the age of 35 for a first novel of a romantic or traditional nature. That particular year, the award was presented at Whitehall by HRH the Prince of Wales. It was rather surreal to go from being a stay-at-home mother, writing amongst my children's toys, and filling shelves at night, to accepting a cheque from the heir to the throne amongst the great and good of London's literary scene!
Since that time, The Wild Hunt has sold around the world and been translated into 16 languages. Although it went out of print for a little while, it has now beein re-issued in the UK and is selling steadily and well. Indeed, since it had gone out print, I received a new advance this second time around and it is still earning me a wage even though I'm now writing my 20th novel. I have my dream job. It didn't happen overnight; these things rarely do. I had to work at it for a long time, but I also know how very lucky I am!
About the Author
Elizabeth Chadwick lives near Nottingham with her husband and two sons. She is the author of 17 historical novels, including The Greatest Knight, A Place Beyond Courage, Lords of the White Castle, Shadows and Strongholds, The Winter Mantle, and The Falcons of Montabard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Awards. Much of her research is carried out as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval re-enactment society with the emphasis on accurately re-creating the past. She won a Betty Trask Award for The Wild Hunt, her first novel. The Scarlet Lion, her latest release in the US, published by Sourcebooks Landmark, will be in stores in March 2010. For more information, please visit http://www.elizabethchadwick.com/ and http://livingthehistoryelizabethchadwick.blogspot.com/.
* I would have linked to an excerpt but I couldn’t find one on the site.