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. 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 www.mcbourque.com
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.
Then 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.