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My First Sale by Kathryn Smith

Kathryn Smith aka Kate read her first romance, a classic Woodiwiss, at age 10 and decided then and there to be a romance writer. She began to fulfill her dream in 2001 when Avon published her first romance, Elusive Passion. Since 2001, Kate has published over a dozen books and recently became a USA Today bestselling author. Her June release was part of her Brotherhood of the Blood series, Let the Night Begin.

What Kate’s bio doesn’t tell you is how nice and genuine a person she is. Her newest writing foray is into urban fantasy with the August release of Before I Wake.


Back in ‘ 97 I was working at a photo-finishing store. My manager was a real piece of work who liked to call me ‘lardy.’ When I complained, I was moved to another store, in the bowels of hell — a mall people rarely visited and required me to take a very long bus ride. I was miserable. Even the photos pudgy middle-aged men took of themselves naked couldn’t cheer me up. My boyfriend (who I later had the good sense to marry) said to me, “Why don’t you quit, go back to university and give writing a shot?” He knew I wanted to be a romance writer, having seen me tinker on several (awful!) attempts. I listened to him. One morning I walked into that crappy store, gathered up my stuff and said, “Here’s my key. Kiss my ass.” And I walked out.

book review I went back to university that fall and majored in English. Most of my classes focused on the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods. I figured I might as well do some research while I was learning! In Canada, it’s not that expensive to go to school, so I could live off my student loans along with a part-time job. When I wasn’t working or in class, I wrote. It wasn’t until 1999, after reading a slew of Amanda Quick’s that I wrote a little book I called ‘Elusive Passion.’ The heroine was a Russian princess (of course!) and the hero was an English marquess (Dukes weren’t as in vogue then as they are now). There was a murder mystery, lots of insults and distrust, and of course, hot sex.

During this time I was building an online presence as a reviewer and board poster. I met a lovely author named Lisa Kleypas who gave me so much advice it wasn’t funny. She also gave me the courage to send out a query letter and partial to several publishers. I picked my top four, but Avon was where I really wanted to go. Avon published so many of my favorite authors and I thought they might like my work as well. So, I picked Lucia Macro as my editor of choice, because not only was she Lisa’s editor, but she also worked with the majority of my avon favorites — people who I thought my work might compare to. Back then, I had an ego, naive as it was.

I sent a partial to Lucia. Got rejections from two other publishers (I’m still waiting to hear from another! lol). And then, something amazing happened. I got a letter from Krista Stroever, who was Lucia’s assistant asking to see the full of Elusive Passion! I was dumbfounded, but I sent her the book. And then…I waited. And waited. And waited.

On July 8th, 1999, I was working part-time at clothing store. At approximately 7:00 my boyfriend, Steve, called to let me know that Krista Stroever had called. Halifax is on Atlantic time, so we were an hour ahead of NYC. I took my fifteen minute break, went out back and used my calling card to return Krista’s call. Her first words to me were, “Are you ready for the talk?” Not only did Avon want ‘Elusive Passion’ but they were interested in seeing the book I’d just finished as well — a book that would go on to be ‘A Seductive Offer’ my second Avon. They didn’t offer a truck load of money, but it was more than I’d seen outside of student loans, and more importantly — I WAS GOING TO BE A FREAKING PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!!! I called Steve, who cheered. I called my oldest sister who said, “You’re joking.” Why, I asked her, would I joke about something like this?!?!? Then she cheered as well.

I was useless for the rest of the evening, floating on a cloud of disbelief. When Steve picked me up after work, he had a bouquet of roses, and a smile ten miles wide waiting for me. I don’t think for a minute that I could have done it without him.

‘Elusive Passion’ wasn’t released until April 2001. Some people loved it. Others called it ‘drivel’. But to me, it will always ‘my baby.’ I’ve written 17 books since that one, but never have I experienced that same weak-knee thrill as I did in the back room of that clothing store when Krista offered me my dream. Oh, and as for that manager who called me ‘lardy’? As far as I know he’s still working for that photo-finishing company. I should stop by and say hi sometime.

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. Fae Sutherland
    Jul 04, 2008 @ 07:02:32

    This is my favorite feature of Dear Author. I LOVE to read these first sale stories, they never fail to make me tear up. I’m such a sap.

    Congrats, Kathryn, and I agree, you *should* stop by that photo store lol!

  2. Marisa
    Jul 04, 2008 @ 07:33:27

    Kate, this is a great story and thank goodness you took Steve’s advice and quit that photo store and went back to University, or I would never have the pleasure of reading your books. Before I Wake is on my top 10 favorite books this year and the very thought of you not having ever written it gives me the shudders!

  3. katiebabs
    Jul 04, 2008 @ 10:13:32

    Wow 17 books! :D That is great!
    Congrats to all your success.

  4. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 04, 2008 @ 10:14:30

    Oh, and as for that manager who called me ‘lardy'? As far as I know he's still working for that photo-finishing company. I should stop by and say hi sometime.

    This part made me want to stand up and cheer. I love it! Huge congrats.

  5. Wendy
    Jul 04, 2008 @ 10:45:06

    She-it, you’ve written 17 books since Elusive Passion?! Where the hell has the time gone?

    And I was one of those that liked Elusive Passion – quite a bit. It’s one of the very few books (not just romances!) that I can actually remember a whole line from:

    “The rich man's disease, after gout, was boredom.”

    Tee Hee.

  6. Christine
    Jul 04, 2008 @ 14:06:39

    Hi Kathryn!
    Great first sale story! I always enjoy hearing about “the call” moments from authors–each one is exciting! I’m reading Let the Night Begin right now and am looking forward to Before I Wake later this month. :D

  7. Janine
    Jul 04, 2008 @ 14:24:46

    What a heartwarming story! I enjoyed reading it very much.

  8. Jeaniene Frost
    Jul 05, 2008 @ 10:24:55

    Yay Kate! So glad you chased your dream, because readers like me get to enjoy the results of that :)

    Oh, and “Even the photos pudgy middle-aged men took of themselves naked couldn't cheer me up.” LOL!

  9. Kathryn S
    Jul 05, 2008 @ 12:29:50

    Thanks, gals! I admit that I’ve REALLY wanted to look that manager up since making the USA Today list. Petty, I know. lol. As for the photos of nekked middle-aged men…well, maybe someday I’ll blog about some of the things I’ve seen! lol.

    I once had a nice looking young man walk into the store (he’d been in before), come up to the counter and hand me a roll of film. He asked specifically for me to develop and print his pix. When I so, I discovered the entire roll was of him naked in the forest. I’ll just say that he was impressive and leave it at that. When he came back in an hour, I handed him the envelope and he asked if I saw the photos. I said that I had, since he’d asked me to develop them. Then, he smiled and said, “So, how about coffee?”

    Of course, I said yes. lol. We never did make it out on a date though. As lovely as he was to look at, he was somewhat vacant and not much for conversation. Shortly after that I met my Steve who is not only lovely, but a conversationalist as well. ;-)

  10. Sherry Thomas
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 09:43:32

    LOL, love the story of the impressive young man who wanted you specifically to develop his photos.

    Love even more the wonderful man who helped you make your dreams come true.

    Wish you continued success.

  11. Sarai
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 11:22:01

    I love this section on Dear Author. It gives those of us hope of someday being here as well!!! Congrats I agree with everyone you should go back to that nasty photoshop and tell him to bite!!!
    PS Love your books especially the Brotherhood ones OMG!

  12. Kathryn S
    Jul 08, 2008 @ 10:30:48

    LOL! Thanks Sarai. Actually, I just want to go into the store and thank him for being such an as*hole. And of course, comment on the fact that he’s still there, while I chased my dream…lol. I’m *SO* petty!

  13. Sarai
    Jul 08, 2008 @ 13:25:47

    Petty you naw. Awesome now that fits ya better!!! I hate people like that and Lord I’ve had a few in my life LOL it’s always fun to rub it in people faces well in as*holes faces! Good luck with everything can’t wait until the next book!

  14. Teresa
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 16:08:20

    Kate is indeed a lovely person and I never tire of hearing this story :) It’s inspiration for us all!

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