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My First Sale by Marie-Claude Bourque

Marie-Claude BourqueWelcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Marie-Claude Bourque is the American Title V winner and author of Ancient Whispers, a sensual gothic paranormal romance filled with sorcerers and Celtic priestesses in search for eternal love in modern time.   She worked as a climate research scientist, a scientific translator and a fitness expert until she turned to fiction writing. She draws her inspiration from the French legends of her childhood and a fascination for dark fantasy. Ancient Whispers will be released by Dorchester-Love Spell tomorrow (May 25). Find more at


First I have to apologize for not entertaining you with tales of the American Title V competition. While it's true that my "call" came when Liz French from RT BOOKreviews emailed me to announce that I was the winner and hence earned a publishing contract with Dorchester, my true "call" came much earlier than that.

It came when Leah Hultenschmidt, now editorial director at Dorchester, emailed me to say that she had read the first three chapters of ANCIENT WHISPERS, had really enjoyed it and could I please send her the full manuscript for a chance to be one of the American Title V finalists.

At that point, I had absolutely no idea that I had something that was worth reading, that I could actually call myself a writer. Here I was, French speaking, scientist, fitness professional with no degrees what so ever related to writing and with my first manuscript. How on earth could I call myself a writer?

But no, this was an NYC editor with a major publishing house telling me she liked my story. Surely that meant something. And it's on that day that I started to believe in myself, that I started to work even harder to make this dream of becoming a published author happen, that I started to call myself a writer.

Oh sure, I had a typical writer's background. An only child, I was reading at three and spent my days daydreaming and buried in books. I started to write my journal at 11 and never stopped. In High School, I was part of the student paper, wrote the usual angsty poems and got in trouble with the nuns for writing love scenes.

Growing up in Québec, I spoke only French.

And real life came running, degrees in literature were not a smart move according to my parents, and I took the serious route to become a scientist. I learned English while doing my BS in Physics at McGill. Even wrote my MS and PhD Oceanography theses in English, then some scientific papers.

But a novel? No, I couldn't do that. You need an MFA to be an author, right?

My dream of writing faded away while tales and stories kept popping in mind as I envied the writers portrayed in the NYT Book Review that I read every Sundays.

Ancient Whispers by Marie-Claude BourqueThen dark time hit. My father died very suddenly at 65, a heart attack while doing field work in the desert of Morocco. And a few months later, my husband lost his career, the one we had immigrated to the US for, our future, we had to move again. Everything I had worked for in all these years was lost. I felt I could no longer hope for a better life, could no longer try to achieve excellence in anything. That was us and nothing would change, I was too old.

For months, I was dying a slow death.

Then one day while camping, I looked at my boys who were playing wizards and it struck me that it was okay to get lost in an imaginary world. And I recalled my father, how his life up to the end had been filled with all the things he loved: his work as a Professor of Paleontology, his appreciation for good food, wine and classical music, travelling all over the world, playing guitar, his constant quest for excellence no matter what.

That is when that old dream came back. I knew then that my life was not over. I saw that I had maybe 25 years left, that life was so short. I knew that I had to pack every minutes of my life with all that mattered to me. That I had to reach for that dream. Give it a chance.   Even if it meant just writing stories as a legacy to my children for when I was gone.

So I went to the camp store and bought a plain spiral note book.   And I wrote the first chapter of ANCIENT WHISPERS. I came back home from camping and wrote some more. Each morning, I woke at 5 a.m. to write one scene before heading to work. At night, I read every book on the craft of writing that I could find. I was working really hard but still never dared call myself a writer. Nine months later the book was written to the best of my abilities.

We moved, I started another book and entered ANCIENT WHISPERS in some RWA writing contests, with the usual wide range of feedback. Because the manuscript was ready, on a whim I sent it to Dorchester when they made a call for submission for the American Title.

Then Leah Hultenschmidt sent me that email-. And made my dream come true, she made me a writer.

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. Laurie Ryan
    May 24, 2010 @ 10:39:59

    What an inspirational First Sale story. Thank you for sharing it! And best of luck with Ancient Whispers. That is a very evocative cover!

  2. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 10:51:52

    Thank you Laurie :)

    I do have to say that I was very lucky to get such a nice cover!

  3. Erin Kellison
    May 24, 2010 @ 11:04:27

    Great first sale story. I am so glad you were able to find your way (or write your way) out of such a dark time in your life. And then to go on and win American Title… Wow! Huge congrats. You can bet I will be picking up your book tomorrow!

  4. Blythe Gifford
    May 24, 2010 @ 11:06:13

    What a wonderful story. I know many of us have been through the “dark times” that, ultimately, make us able to do those things we never thought we could do. Congratulations and all best wishes on your first (of many!) book.

  5. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 11:12:33

    Thank you Erin :) We all have ups and down and it’s good to finds ways out of that. Hope you like the book :)

  6. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 11:14:21

    Hi Blythe :)
    Sometimes we get to such dark times that you feel you have to do what your heart really tells you to do. Thanks for your congrats!

  7. Joanne Elliott aka soulsprite
    May 24, 2010 @ 11:22:30

    I’m so glad you decided to live your dream and write. Thank you for sharing your story and the stories you create.

  8. Barbara Monajem
    May 24, 2010 @ 11:23:47

    Bonjour, Marie-Claude! It’s a huge accomplishment to write in a language that’s not your mother tongue. I am totally in awe of you.

    I’m looking forward to my next trip to the bookstore… to get your book… whoopee!!

  9. Susanna Fraser
    May 24, 2010 @ 11:54:00

    What an inspiring story, Marie-Claude! I too have come to believe that life is too short to not pursue my dreams NOW.

  10. Judy Wiebe
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:00:04

    What a wonderful story. I had only heard the American Title part, not about “the call” Can’t wait to get Ancient Whispers on my Kindle.

  11. Elisabeth Naughton
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:00:29

    What a great story, Marie-Claude. Can’t wait to pick up your book!

  12. Lynne Connolly
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:02:00

    Marie-Claude congratulations, I’m cheering you all the way! It seems such a long time since you won American Title!

  13. Anais
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:15:54

    I am picking up your book tomorrow! I think that in spite of your literary gifts,your humble attitude is so refreshing!

    Thanks for sharing your story.It is very inspiring,and offers hope for the future, & a belief in second chances.

    I know that your father is smiling,and is so proud of the legacy that he has left behind,yet resides with him always.His spirit lives on as you instill these qualities in your children.

    I wish you much success!

  14. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:20:17

    Thank you Joanna, I’m so glad you enjoyed my “call:” story :)

  15. Jan Lorman
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:20:42

    A very inspiring story, Marie-Claude. Your book sounds fascinating. Your story of how you got there gives hope to all of us striving-to-learn-the-craft writers transitioning from another life. Thanks. And, best of luck on your future novels.

  16. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:21:34

    Salut Barabara!!!
    Well, as far as being in awe…. I’m in awe of the fact that you can write in 2 genre! Hope you like Whispers :)

  17. Cecilia Grant
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:40:04

    Thank goodness that camp store carried spiral notebooks! I love the image of you sitting at a worn picnic table or on a tent floor, scribbling away. What a great origin story for your book.

    Congratulations on your release. Can’t wait to read it.

  18. christie craig
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:42:48

    Great story, Marie-Claude. Here’s to more phone calls and many, many more sales.


  19. Anthea Lawson
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:47:21

    Thank you for sharing your story with us, MC! :)

    I’m cheering for you tomorrow, as your book hits the shelves. You deserve wonderful success with Ancient Whispers, and many more published novels!

  20. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:55:06

    Hi Susanna :)
    I’m glad to hear you feel that way since you have your own first sale story with your Carina Press upcoming release and gorgious new cover! Yeah you :)

  21. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:56:42

    Hi Judy, Yes I wrote Whispers just before I moved to Seattle while I lived in RI. And it’s on Kindle! That’s pretty cool :)
    Thanks for your kind words.

  22. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:57:26

    Thanks Elizabeth, I hope you like it :)

  23. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:58:41

    Hi Lynne,
    Thank you so much for the congrats and all the help along the way. It’s been 14 months since I won. It is a long time, but I think I needed it to regroup :)

  24. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:00:56

    Anais, you are so so sweet. I do like to think my father would be proud. The contest made me reconnect with so many of my family in Quebec like my father’s cousin and others who do write and I know how happy they are for me to have this book published in the US. It’s a wonderful feeling to have the whole family behind me!

  25. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:03:22

    Thanks for the congats, I hope you like the book. I was actually writing sitting on a rock, my feet in the water, while making sure my two little boys wouldn’t drown in the lake LOL But I still have that notebook. It’s kind of cool to look back at it!

  26. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:04:32

    Hi Christie, Thank you so much :)
    You are my inspiration, so coming from you, I’m hoping it will make those sales happen!

  27. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:06:29

    Anthea, You are wonderful. Thank you so much for your good wishes! I think I’ll be working hard tomorrow, but maybe I’ll have a chance to visit a bookstore or two this week-end! it would be cool to actually see the book in a store LOL

  28. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:09:04

    Hi Jan,
    Thank you for finding inspiration in my “call” story. We have to keep hope and keep writing. If we don’t write it, then we can’t sell that book. Good luck with your writing :)

  29. Alexis Morgan
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:17:47


    What a terrific story of how you came to be published. I love that you didn’t waste a minute to get started–buying that spiral notebook changed your life!



  30. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:37:02

    Thank you for your congrats Alexis :) It’s weird how sometimes it just takes a small little thing like buying a notebook to change your life.

  31. Janine
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:21:31

    What a moving first sale story. You are so right about getting lost in an imaginary world during difficult times. That is what both writers and readers do, and it can be so comforting.

  32. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:30:35

    Thank you Janine. Reading is definitely what comforts me most. When everything was so hard for me, before I decided to write, I told myself I would read all the Dragonlance books (those are the novels based on the Dungeons and Dragons game) and that when I was done, things would be better. I read like 40 books in a very short time, and things were a little better after that.

  33. Rose Lerner
    May 24, 2010 @ 15:16:06

    Today is the anniversary of my mom’s death and I just feel so sad that she never got to see my books get published. It was so hard for me to keep writing after her death but I’m glad we both managed it. I can’t wait to read Ancient Whispers!!

  34. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 15:25:01

    (((hugs)) Rose. It must be so hard today. I know she would be proud of you, you have such a wonderful book. It’s not easy but we did it. Hope you like Whispers as much as I’m liking In for a Penny.

  35. Kris Kennedy
    May 24, 2010 @ 16:04:04

    What a fabulous story of persistence and re-envisioning yourself–letting yourself dream, literally. :-) Mega congrats. Tomorrow has been a long time coming. Enjoy.

  36. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 16:29:40

    Kris, Thanks you so much for your congrats :) It has been a long time coming. I hope I can take ten minutes tomorrow to let it sink in lOL

  37. Edie Ramer
    May 24, 2010 @ 21:06:07

    Marie-Claude, that’s a wonderful story! I’m looking forward to reading Ancient Whispers.

  38. Barbara Monajem
    May 24, 2010 @ 21:21:10

    Yay! I got my copy at B&N tonight!

  39. Mary McCall
    May 24, 2010 @ 21:23:43

    Marie-Claude: I’m chiming in late as usual. What a wonderful first sale story! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who writes a first draft longhand. I look forward to Ancient Whispers.

  40. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 21:30:13

    Thanks Edie, I do hope you like it :)
    I’m sure I’ll be reading yours very soon!

  41. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 24, 2010 @ 21:31:20

    I do hope you like the book and no you are not the only one. I am on my 4th manuscript right now and I still have my spiral notebooks!

  42. Laurie London
    May 24, 2010 @ 22:55:09

    What a great story, M-C! That little notebook was powerful. I can’t wait to read Ancient Whispers. Can’t believe that tomorrow is finally here!

  43. Tweets that mention My First Sale by Marie-Claude Bourque | Dear Author --
    May 25, 2010 @ 00:34:10

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Candi Wall and Marie-Claude Bourque, dearauthor. dearauthor said: New post: My First Sale by Marie-Claude Bourque […]

  44. Gayle Ann Williams
    May 25, 2010 @ 00:55:15


    I’m late, lol, but here. Thank you for sharing your very wonderful story. I loved it, every word.

    Can’t wait to read Ancient Whispers, my copy is on the way.
    Congratulations. ~hugs~

  45. Amanda Forester
    May 25, 2010 @ 01:47:38

    Thanks for sharing your story. What a wonderful example of persistance and finding something you love to do, even when life is difficult. I wish you all the best!

  46. Helen Scott Taylor
    May 25, 2010 @ 06:24:25

    Great call story! I’m looking forward to getting my hands on your book. I’ll have to wait a few extra weeks for it to reach UK Amazon.

  47. Lynnette Baughman
    May 25, 2010 @ 06:44:26

    What an inspiring story! Thanks for telling us. Will you be attending Write On, Vancouver or Emerald City?
    Best of luck with the next book.

  48. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 25, 2010 @ 16:44:03

    Hi Laurie :)
    Hope you like it. And yes it’s here and a bit surreal LOL

  49. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 25, 2010 @ 16:45:04

    Thanks Gayle for your congrats and kind words. Hope you like Whispers :)

  50. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 25, 2010 @ 16:46:23

    Thank you Amanda for your good wishes. I’m glad you liked my story.

  51. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 25, 2010 @ 16:48:07

    Hi Helen :)
    Thank you. It must be frustrating for you to have to wait for your own books for a few days after your release. Mind you own B&N won’t have it until June 1st!

  52. Marie-Claude Bourque
    May 25, 2010 @ 16:48:54

    Lynette, I will be at the Emerald City. Could be my first book signing and I am also giving two workshops.

  53. Gwen
    May 28, 2010 @ 12:36:13

    Wonderful post, M-C! I love how it was your children who reminded you to treasure your imagination and your father who inspired you to reach for your dream – a perfect trifecta. I wish you all the best!

  54. Back to Basics: What and Why. « Bob Mayer – Author Blog
    Jun 01, 2010 @ 20:48:52

    […] happened a lot faster than I expected. I started to write after a dark period in my life (see account of this at Dear Author). Once my first manuscript was finished after 9 months of writing and polishing it, I entered it in […]

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