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My First Sale by Julie Kenner

For anyone who is a long time reader of Dear Author, you’ll know that Julie Kenner is one of Jayne’s favorite authors. Ironically, Kenner’s books are ones that we rarely receive review copies of. Many of the Kenner books that Jayne has reviewed she has purchased herself. What’s even more amazing is Jayne is off paranormals but one of her favorite series is Kenner’s Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series. Kenner must have some magic in her pen. Her latest release, Deja Demon, is Book 4 in the Demon Hunting series and on shelves right now.


My first sale came in June of 1999, and although I kinda-sorta-maybe-please-please-please knew that it was coming, it was still a shout from the rooftops, dance around naked kind of experience. (Except for the naked part, since I was at work, and attorneys tend to frown on that; and the rooftop part since there was no public rooftop access in my office building. But you get the idea.)

It all started in a small mountaintop village – oh, wait. That’s not me. It actually all started in California. I was working as an attorney, and trying to write novels and screenplays on the side. I’d been writing my entire life, but at that point in my personal history, I’d really been hit with the want-to-be-published bug. The trouble was that as a young attorney I had no time – as in no time – to follow this dream. Now, that’s a poor excuse, because if you want something badly enough, you’ll find the time, and in fact I did. But I went about it in a very Type A personality kind of way: I decided to write a category romance specifically because of the word count. At about half the length of a traditional novel, I figured there was a much higher likelihood of finishing at 240 manuscript pages, than 400+.

book review So I dove right in. At the time, I was passionate about SCUBA diving, and my undergraduate degree is in film. I didn’t want to write about the law, so I wrote a Temptation about an underwater archeologist and a documentary filmmaker. Let’s just say I did not discover the character combo that bursts like a star onto the category scene. Actually, though, I did get nice comments back about my voice, and editor Brenda Chin’s comment was that it didn’t have a sexy enough hook. Always up for a challenge, I came up with a first line: "You need a man." Sexy, decisive, worked for me. And after that, I came up with a story to go along with it.

I was about 90 pages into that novel (and about 2 chapters into a 400 page paranormal – after all, I’d finished one! That meant I could write a long one, too, right?) when we moved to Texas and I discovered RWA, and the various contests sponsored by chapters across the country. I entered, and the story (then called Inventing Alexander) finaled in several contests, including the Tampa Area Romance Author’s first chapter contest. The final judge was Brenda Chin. And when the book won (yay!), I was about 120 pages into the manuscript. I whipped out the last half of the book in two weeks and shipped it off to Brenda, who had requested it. And then – nothing. As is the way of publishing.

Meanwhile, though, I saw Brenda twice. First, at small conference in San Antonio, where she judged another first chapter of mine, and where Chris Keeslar judged the paranormal and requested a full. And also at a regional conference in Memphis where – oh-my-gosh – she actually mentioned my premise during her workshop. (I assured her I wasn’t stalking her.) I was over the moon and trying very hard not to let myself believe that her kind words meant a sale. At that time, Brenda wasn’t the final word for her line, and we were waiting for a thumbs-up from the senior editor.

At one point – I forget why – we spoke on the phone and she told me that I should go to National and come to the Harlequin party (though I hadn’t sold). She thought she’d be able to get me an invitation. This was my first RWA conference, and I didn’t really know how it worked, but that sounded awesome – and encouraging.

I remember being in court one morning. I came back, and the receptionist told me that Brenda Chin had called with "good news." That, of course, about stopped my heart. I called her back right then – and got her voice mail. And I still remember being amazed at my own boldness when I told her I hoped good news was more than just landing a ticket to the Harlequin Party!

She called me back and – yes – my first sale! Leaping around a law office is decidedly unprofessional, but I’ll admit I did it anyway! And I’m happy to say that Chris bought the paranormal a few months later – and Brenda bought the book she’d judged in San Antonio. So my first year as a published author (2000) saw three books on the shelves. NOBODY DOES IT BETTER, THE CAT’S FANCY, and RECKLESS.

The year 1999 – yeah, it was a good one. Ushered in a new millennium, and, more important for me, ushered in a whole new career!

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Jayne
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 04:50:28

    Wow, you passed the bar exam in California? That alone is awesome!

  2. JulieLeto
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 07:34:03

    Jules! Great story, even if I knew it already. And for anyone who hasn’t read the Demon series, WHY NOT? It’s my favorite, feel-good read. Just the right balance of action-adventure and humor. Awesome!

  3. Jane Sevier
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 08:31:24

    What a great story, Julie. My children and I are fans of the Demon series and looking forward to reading the rest of the Kenner oeuvre. Thanks for the reminder that if you really want something, you’ll find time for it.

  4. Julie Kenner
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 08:56:17

    Jayne, not only did I pass it, I took it during the Pomona earthquake (she says, dating herself)…

    I’d flown out specifically for the Bar, and at the end of day two (the multistate) the room starts shaking. I was at the Pomona fair grounds, and it was an … interesting … little intro to California!

    (Later, I was living about 3 miles from the Northridge epicenter. Got a lotta quakes in my California years!)

  5. Julie Kenner
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 08:58:04

    Hey Jules! You do indeed know the story! I clung to Julie Leto like a little puppy at my first national! Bless you for and Janelle and Carly for letting me hang with y’all!

  6. Julie Kenner
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 08:58:33

    Thanks, Jane! I’m so glad you all love Kate!

  7. Julie Kenner
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 08:59:05

    Ja(y)nes … Thanks so much for asking me to write up my story! Much fun!

  8. Jayne
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 09:07:35

    I'd flown out specifically for the Bar, and at the end of day two (the multistate) the room starts shaking. I was at the Pomona fair grounds, and it was an … interesting … little intro to California!

    And did anyone raise their heads or stop taking the exam? I’m betting very few.

    (Later, I was living about 3 miles from the Northridge epicenter. Got a lotta quakes in my California years!)

    So will Kate ever have to deal with an earthquake while kicking demon butt?

  9. Julie Kenner
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 09:24:50

    Oh, it was worse than that! 20 minutes to the end of the exam, and people ran out WITH the papers! And the Bar folks were completely freaked. They were going to just cancel, but then they had us back for the next day (after a billion aftershocks … yeesh!). And then we went home … without them telling us if we were going to have to re-take the multistate. After months and months, they finally decided that that particular MS exam would be good for California only (usually, you can use the score to waive into another state if that state has reciprocity), and they said if you got X on part 1, you would have gotten Y on part 2 (based on National scores).

    As for Kate and a quake — that is a total V-8 moment! And since I’m working on Book 5 right this very moment (nameless … if anyone has brilliant titles, shoot ’em my way and get a free book if your title is picked!) you just might see that one in print!

  10. JulieLeto
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 10:20:54

    And now we just miss you like crazy when you don’t come to a conference! We’d better see you in DC.

  11. Julie Kenner
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 11:44:03

    I’m already planning on it :) Even going to submit workshop proposals, LOL

  12. Janine
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 11:55:43

    Great first sale story, Julie. And the story about the California Bar exam is just as good.

  13. Jill Monroe
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 13:38:22

    Julie – Carpe Demon made jury duty tolerable! Love the series.

  14. Julie Kenner
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 17:00:07

    Thanks Janine and Jill! (And I still have never been on jury duty! And I actually want to!)

  15. Great post from Julie Kenner : Emma Clair
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 17:57:55

    […] wonderful authors in our Austin RWA chapter and one of them is Julie Kenner. Today she posted her First Sale story on Dear Author and it’s a great one, so I thought I’d share. […]

  16. Lexi Connor
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 18:06:32

    Great story, Julie! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Julie Kenner
    Aug 23, 2008 @ 01:09:02

    Hey! Waving wildly to the Austin folks :)

  18. Irene Preston
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 13:13:56

    Awesome story, Julie!

    Along with everyone else, I LOVE the Demon series.

    I’m so inspired to find I share a decision-making process with someone as talented as you are.

    One of the reasons I decided to try my hand at category was the word count (sorry, Greek Billionaire Yachtsmen). I needed to feel I could finish a book despite the demanding day job. Hey, if I couldn’t pound out 50,000 words, I should retire my keyboard. Of course, I found out it was a lot harder than that (yoo hoo, Mr. Greek Billionaire Yachtman). . . .

    I’m looking forward to your future releases!

  19. Julie Kenner
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 16:17:31

    LOL!! Good luck with the Greek Billionaire Yachtman thing. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

  20. Pleasant Fantasies | Literary Escapism
    Nov 07, 2009 @ 14:11:06

    […] Julie Kenner, author of Deja Demon, is guest blogging about her first sale over at Dear Author […]

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