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. New York Times Bestelling Novelist Kerrelyn Sparks is on her 7th book in the “Love at Stake” series for Avon with the April 28, 2009, release of Forbidden Nights with a Vampire.
My journey on the road to becoming a published author veers a little off the beaten track because my initial start turned out to be a false start.
When I first began writing, I gravitated toward historical romance because that’s the genre I grew up reading. At the time, my sons were playing a James Bond Nintendo game, so I heard the James Bond theme song nonstop for several weeks. I got to thinking, hmm, a James Bond type spy during the American Revolution with all sorts of fun spy gadgets! I wrote the book, blessedly unaware that I’d have a tough time ever selling an American-set historical. Meanwhile, a brand new editor in New York was also blessedly unaware that she’d have a tough time marketing an American-set historical. The result of all this ignorance: My first sale!
Too easy you say? Now that I’m older and wiser (and more jaded), I would agree, but at the time I was…blessedly unaware. My ignorance was soon cured. Before the book could complete the publishing process, my brand new editor quit. This particular publishing house is better known for its MANLY books (espionage, eco-thrillers, westerns, etc), all managed by MANLY editors, and none of them wanted to take on a book that was suspected of being romantic fluff. The fact that it was titled Insatiable and Saucy didn’t help. By the time the book was released, my agent had lost faith in me and disappeared, and my career appeared to be over.
Have you ever heard of the Fraud Syndrome? This is a form of paranoia that strikes most authors. We live in fear that somehow, someday, someone will figure out that we have no earthly idea what we’re doing. Where do your ideas come from? Gee, I don’t know. Something weird happens in my brain? How do you write humor? Gee, I don’t know. Something weird happens in my brain? And the Fraud Monster comes creeping out of the closet. In my case, since my first book took a dive into the Dumpster, it seemed that I was, indeed, a fraud.
And here is where we hit the nitty-gritty truth of the matter. You have to believe in yourself. Not that easy to do when you’ve run into a brick wall. I kept writing, and I started looking for a new agent. I found myself in the strange situation of racking up a lot more rejections after getting published than I had before getting published. This went on for several years. The Fraud Monster came out of the closet and threatened to bring down the whole house. I finally found an agent who believed in me-‘Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas-‘but still the rejections came.
You have to believe in yourself. Eventually, I realized I needed a "new’ me to believe in. No one was buying my American-set historicals, so I needed to write something else. But what? I decided to go with my strengths. I took a look at the fan mail from the three people who actually read my historical romance, (re-titled For Love or Country), and they all liked my sense of humor. Great! I would write comedy! Unfortunately, I know from experience that if I sit down at the computer and tell myself, "Now, you will proceed to be hysterically funny," that it’s not going to happen. It’s not something you can force. It has to happen naturally with a funny situation and funny characters.
Something weird happened in my brain, and I got an idea about a debonair, sophisticated vampire losing one of his fangs from biting something he shouldn’t have. How embarrassing! He might be condemned for all eternity as a lopsided eater. Other vampires would make fun of him, calling him the One-Fanged Wonder. It was a crazy idea, but I couldn’t shake it. It would be a contemporary paranormal romance, and I’d never considered writing one of those before. Could I do it? Did I even have the right voice for it?
"Vampires?!" my critique partners shrieked in horror. "You can’t write vampires. You write about nice people." And I thought-‘Hey, maybe the world needs a nice vampire? And while I’m at it, I’ll make him extremely handsome and rich, too! And why not throw in a few Scottish vampires? Everybody loves a man in a kilt. How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire was born!
My agent mailed out the proposal, and within a week, several publishing houses were bidding against each other. I’m thrilled that I ended up with Avon Books, and we’re all thrilled that How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire has grown into a whole series of books, now called the Love at Stake series. Thank God those vampires refuse to die! Books number six and seven will be coming out at the end of March and April: Secret Life of a Vampire and Forbidden Nights with a Vampire. I’m having a great time. The Fraud Monster is securely locked away until it’s time to start a new book. That’s when the old fears come back, and I have to keep reminding myself: You have to believe in yourself.