My First Sale by Portia Da Costa
Prize-winning multi-published British author Portia Da Costa had her first book accepted for publication way back in 1990, and has since gone on to have over 20 titles published and over 100 short stories included in magazines. She's principally known as one of the original Virgin Black Lace pioneers. Her most recent title is a reprint of her 1996 paranormal classic Gothic Blue, and in August her latest new title, the erotic romance contemporary Suite Seventeen hits US bookshelves. Later in 2007, she's contributed Buddies Don't Bite, a paranormal novella, to the Lust Bites vampire anthology and also has a new reprint of Hotbed, another steamy contemporary. You can find out more about Portia and her books at her website and her blog.
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My first sale story isn't like that of most romance writers. The book I sold wasn't a romance at all. Far from it– It was an erotic novel for men, and I sold it to the Virgin Publishing imprint Nexus, which is what you might call the elder brother of their now famous Black Lace line of erotica for women. Back then, there was no such thing as erotic romance, or even erotica for women. There were some books floating about, including classic titles by Anais Nin and a few collections of short stories, but no dedicated lines of sensual writing especially for women or by women. So if a female author wanted to write hot and sexy, she really had to do it for a male erotic fiction line.
Of course, I didn't start out wanting to write male erotica. My dearest wish was always to write romance, and I'd been submitting manuscripts to Mills and Boon for quite some time. But I kept getting what I call "good–? rejections ie. "We like your writing but this particular novel wasn't quite right for us. We would like to see something else.–? I knew from friends that a writer could go through this process again and again and again and never quite hit the right note. So after about six of these "nice, but no thanks–? letters, I sent one of my manuscripts to a book doctor for a second opinion. She said that my sex scenes were sizzling hot –" and well written – and that I'd probably stand a far better chance of getting published if I concentrated on erotic writing. I was a bit doubtful, to say the least, but once I got my first erotic short story published, I really got a taste for writing sex and I began submitting to British erotica publishers. My first attempt failed, mainly because my novel – called Adventures in the Pleasurezone – was a sci-fi sex romp, and that particular editor didn't want sci-fi. But he did recommend that I send the book to Nexus, and put in a good word for me there. So, I parcelled up Adventures and sent it off, with fingers and toes crossed, and lo and behold a few weeks later, I got a really nice letter from the splendidly named Peter Darvill-Evans at Nexus. [He's a tax inspector now, would you believe? I hope it wasn't me who put him off editing erotica!]
So yes, my "The Call–? wasn't a call, but a letter. And alas, I can't even find that letter now because it's buried deep in the bowels of what I laughingly call my filing system. But I do remember that Peter D-E said the most wonderful, flattering things about my writing. He even went as far as to say it was *better* than a lot of the books they were publishing at the time. Crikey! There were changes needed of course. My original story had some intense scenes of male/male sensuality and even though m/m is a hot ticket now for female readers, it was an absolute no-no for heterosexual male readers at that time. But I didn't care what changes I had to make to my book. I was prepared to take as much direction as was needed.
Knowing I'd had a book accepted for publication induced the most incredibly happy glow inside me. I was living a dream come true and I had a precious secret that I hugged to my heart. I walked around the streets of the little town where I live, thinking "you don't know what I know– I look like an ordinary person– but I'm going to be a published author, with real books written by me on sale in a real bookshop!–?
That first sale was under the fanciful pen name Delaney Silver. Since then I've written lots of books under lots of wildly unlikely pseudonyms, and after the first couple, they've all been either erotica for women, erotic romance, or just plain romance. Being a published author is an up and down business, and sometimes things don't always go the way you want them to – but not once since that first sale have I ever stopped thanking my lucky stars for it. And I still get that happy glow when the editor says 'yes'–