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My First Sale by Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr really broke out with her Virgin River series. Readers became so enamored with the series that they launched their own site called “Jack’s Bar”, a local watering hole for Marines who have made Virgin River their home. This year was the second time that Robyn met with the “Jack’s Bar” gals at RWA. Virgin River is a fictitious town set in the redwood forests of northern California. The Fourth Virgin River book, A VIRGIN RIVER CHRISTMAS, will be published in November by MIRA Books, and there will be three new Virgin River novels in February, March and April of 2009, with more contracted for 2010.

Because of the success of Robyn’s Virgin River series MIRA Books is reissuing her Grace Valley series, which preceded Virgin River. (Grace Valley is located near Virgin River.) Some of the major Grace Valley characters appear in the Virgin River series–Dr. June Hudson, Dr. John Stone, old Doc Hudson (June’s father), Harry Shipton, the preacher from Grace Valley, and, later, Jerry Powell, a counselor from Grace Valley. The two series are loosely linked.

Carr writes books for woman. According to her biography, “The greatest compliment I have ever received came from one of my readers who labeled me “a woman’s woman.” She told me I wrote as knowingly about being single as being married, about being old as young, about the happily married and someone suffering from spousal abuse.”

***

book review As I write this column, my three-month-old granddarling is finally having her nap on the leather ottoman two feet behind my desk chair. I’m babysitting, because her full-time sitter is on vacation. Just a couple of days. But as I do this, I’m trying to recall how it was I actually wrote books while held captive by two babies. In fact, I’m trying to remember when it is you go to the bathroom. And I am failing.

It’s not a new story–half the women writers I know embarked on this journey while at home, raising a family. It’s not that young mothers are smarter than everyone else (although it’s arguable!). But we have an opportunity, because children actually do sleep. Eventually.

While my husband worked and I managed the house and children, I began to write. I was a kid myself, and the children were five months and two years old. I had been reading romances voraciously, a few a week, and I thought, Aw shoot, anyone can do this. Well, no, it’s not that simple. But that was the thought that got me going. And then I was trapped by sheer pleasure. It was more fun to write them than read them! Even if what I was writing was unadulterated crap, I thought it was brilliant. I was writing in longhand on lined paper in between loads of laundry, diaper changing, cleaning and cooking, like so many of the women I would come to know through writers’ organizations.

RobynCarrFirst came a typewriter–a huge expense for me at that time. Then a writers’ group that critiqued. Back then, we made carbon copies. Nasty, messy carbons. Copying cost about fifteen cents a page. Sixty dollars for a copy? That was my weekly food budget! And I used White Out by the gallon. That final manuscript usually looked like pop art. And it was valuable! It wasn’t instantly reproducible.

My first writers’ group had a couple of experienced writers present, and when they told me that most people get tons of rejections before they sell, I actually believed them. When they said you could only submit to one publisher at a time, I believed that. Even though it was expected, rejection was painful. So I began a process–as soon as I mailed a manuscript, I wrote the cover letter and addressed the envelope for the next one. That way, when the book came back with a big No Thank You, I would slip it into the next envelope and send it off before I had time to think about how disappointing that was. Disappointment could cost you one, maybe two weeks of down time.

book review A couple of years into this adventure, I found an agent in Texas. He had experience in publishing but hadn’t sold a book for an author yet. He took on my third completed effort, because I had gotten positive responses on my rejections. Reponses like, "No thank you, but I’d like to see your next one."

In the meantime, we moved to California. The agent, braver and smarter than I, sent the manuscript to several publishers and reported in with each rejection. I was caught up in trying to buy my first house, get the kids enrolled in preschool, figure out how to get around town, trying to make new friends. Meanwhile twelve of the thirteen publishers submitted to rejected my manuscript. Pretty much convinced the book wasn’t going to sell, I concentrated on unpacking boxes and chasing little kids. And then the phone rang–Little, Brown & Co. had made an offer. They wanted to publish it in hardcover.

book review Roughly three years and three completed manuscripts later, I had my first deal. And of course my husband was out of town, and I had no friends yet. This was before RWA, so there were only those people I knew from my old critique group back in Texas. After I made a couple of long distance calls, I remember that I waxed the floor.

The next morning, I signed the kids up for a community parks pre-school. Bursting with my private joy, I told the pre-school teacher. She was so nice to me, congratulating me effusively, as though we went way back to childhood. The next day when I showed up with the kids, she had baked me a cake in the shape of an open book. Chelynne by Robyn Carr was iced on the pages.

Miss Janet is still a good friend to this day. Our kids have grown and married; Miss Janet still teaches pre-school. And I still write books.

Now, in addition to writing novels, I host a visiting author’s program for my public library system, as a community service. It’s called "Carr Chat," and I have the privilege of interviewing authors before a live audience and learning about their creative process, sources of inspiration, works in progress–everything and anything about writing. Including how they celebrated their first sales. I hold the singular distinction of being the only writer who celebrated with cake and floor wax

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

22 Comments

  1. Ing
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 08:15:15

    Great story Robyn. All I can say is thank god the Texas agent was so persistent! Go Agent! Wax and chocolate nothing says celebration like that combination. Can’t wait for Virgin River Christmas.

    Hugs,
    Ing

  2. Keri M
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 08:51:56

    That is a great story Robyn. Chelynne was my first Robyn Carr and I even know where I got it. I was a freshman in high school and it was in our library no less…I checked it out many times and read and enjoy. Tempted however, is my all time favorite book and one I reread time and again.

  3. TracyS
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 09:04:09

    I love the Virgin River series and am looking forward to the Christmas one.

    Great first sale story! I can see why Miss Janet became such a good friend!! Neat lady!

  4. Robyn Carr
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 09:40:51

    Oh KeriM — I should probably keep my big mouth shut, but I can’t resist. If you liked Joe Clark, the minister in Tempted, you’re going to LOVE Noah Kincaid, the new pastor in Virgin River. You’ll meet him in 2010 in Forbidden Falls. He’s wonderful.

    Thanks, girls, for the nice comments on the Virgin River series — it’s been the perfect life, living everyday with the Virgin River folks.

    xoxoxo

  5. Keri M
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 10:08:04

    Robyn, ohhh thanks so much for the heads up! I am putting it on my book buying list right now! :-)

  6. Jessa Slade
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 12:27:15

    A cake in the shape of an open book… That’s so sweet. How cool to find someone who “got it” after all your hard work.

  7. Bev Stephans
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 13:02:24

    Last year I bought and thoroughly enjoyed the Virgin River Series. I was so frustrated over the fact that I couldn’t read the Grace Valley Series as even the used book stores had priced it beyond my means. That was rectified this year with the release of the GVS this month. I have them on order and can’t wait to read them!

    In the meantime, I decided I liked Robyn’s ‘voice’ so much, I started to look around for other books in her backlist. I found a whole bunch that were reasonably priced and have been stuffing my mind with her wonderful stories. Every one of her books that I have read, I have enjoyed…..some more than others, but nevertheless all good.

    Her early historicals with Little Brown are particularily interesting. They are full of treachery and skullduggery that was a part of life in medieval England.

    Her more recent books deal with issues more than action but still tell a wonderful story. The House on Olive Street is a good example. Over all, I haven’t read one clunker. Way to go Robyn!

  8. SusanL
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 13:42:41

    Thank you for your story.

    My mother loved the VR books too and will be so happy to know there are more on the way!

  9. stephanie - the brooklyn one
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 14:05:20

    Hi Robyn,
    What a good story — I love hearing from authors I adore, about their first sales, their tales of writing while managing life. You’re the best. Thank you so much for the Virgin River series — I’m so excited about the next installment; plus the fact that we have oodles of books to come.
    Thank you! Thank you! See at Jack’s
    Hugs,
    Stephanie

  10. Rose
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 15:38:16

    Robyn

    What a wonderful story! And why does it not surprise me that you inspired Miss Janet to bake that cake :) Loved meeting up with you again at RWA! Fingers crossed I came make the next one too!!

    Hugs
    Rose :)

  11. AnneM-SC
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 16:05:10

    Hi Robyn,

    Great story! It’s always fun to hear how our favorite authors started out. Floor waxing and a home baked cake – I’m sure that’s a unique way of celebrating! :-)

    You already know how much I loved Tempted, so YES! I am looking so forward to ‘meeting’ Noah. But I have lots to read before then and I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m looking forward to reading every word.

    My new set of the Grace Valley series has been ordered and will sit side by side with the orignials. Have already sold two sets at the store and I still can’t keep Virgin River on the shelf! How cool is that?

    It was such a pleasure seeing you in San Francisco. Hope our paths cross again soon.

    Many hugs,
    Anne

  12. Beki
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 16:17:22

    Robyn,

    Cake and floor wax, yum! lol Great story and Miss Janet is a great friend. I am really looking forward to A Virgin River Christmas and the other upcoming new books. Your granddarling napping on your ottoman while you write will be wanting paper and crayons to help you write before you know it—wouldn’t that be cool if she wants to be a writer when she grows up?!

    Hugs, Beki

  13. Kelly K-Michigan
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 22:09:46

    Robyn,

    What a wonderful story! How nice of Miss Janet to help you celebrate like that…I have to say cake is much better than waxing the floor in my book :-)

    Wish I could have come to SF, missed seeing you and everyone from Jack’s Bar, but I was there in spirit.

    Hugs,

    Kelly

  14. Kate Douglas
    Aug 09, 2008 @ 09:41:39

    Robyn, I love first sale stories…how about a “how I discovered Robyn” story? VIRGIN RIVER was left in my room at a conference, Romantic Times, I think, and I read the book on the plane on the way home. I fell in love with the characters and started hunting for the next stories in the series, which were every bit as addictive. When the next conference came around and I saw Robyn was attending, I stalked her. There’s no other description–I left a note at the spot where she’d be signing and finally chased her down. (I can run real fast for an old broad…) What’s so terrific is that she is every bit as neat in real life as are the characters she writes. I’m hoping to pick up the Grace Valley books next time I get to town, but in the meantime, I just love eavesdropping on the visitors to Jack’s Bar. Congratulations on your success, Robyn. It’s well deserved. And thanks to the ladies who keep Jack’s Bar hopping! I’ve gotten to meet a couple of them and they’re just as cool as Robyn!

  15. Miss. Janet
    Aug 09, 2008 @ 12:26:07

    Hi Robyn,
    I was surprised to read about the book cake story on your blog! When I first met you, I felt as if I’d known you forever…one of those instant connections! I remember after we got to know each other a little better, my girls babysat for Brian and Jamie while you pounded the keys! I have and treasure every one of your books. I have my favorites but there isn’t one that I didn’t love! I treasure our friendship to this day. Hope to see you soon. With Love, Miss. Janet

  16. colleen gleason
    Aug 09, 2008 @ 12:33:37

    I looooove Robyn Carr…and her books. I have been rereading the Grace Valley books with great pleasure and am looking forward to the next installment of the Virgin River saga.

    I was disappointed that she wasn’t a RITA finalist this year; I’m hoping that we’ll see her name on the finalist list next year!

    Go Robyn!!!

  17. Janine
    Aug 09, 2008 @ 12:50:44

    Wonderful first sale story. Miss Janet sounds like the loveliest person.

  18. KeriM
    Aug 09, 2008 @ 18:09:15

    Okay confession time…even though I am a huge fan…I had never read any of the Virgin series…oh man was I in the wrong. Well after this popped up yesterday I have been intrigued and went this morning and bought everyone that I could get my hands on. I am in the middle of Shelter Mountain and am so in love with Preacher…I could just eat him up! :-) My bad Robyn, my bad. I shall soon have every book in the series. Keri

  19. Robyn Carr
    Aug 10, 2008 @ 12:51:36

    Well, I turn my back for one minute, and all my good friends show up! Janet, Colleen, Kate — thanks for dropping by. I miss you all! Well, Kate, I just saw you so the missing isn’t too fierce yet! xoxoxoxo Robyn

  20. Robyn Carr
    Aug 10, 2008 @ 12:53:04

    KeriM — I’m just so delighted that Shelter Mountain didn’t disappoint! Thanks for letting us know you’ll now be residing in Virgin River — we’ll know where to find you! xoxoxo Robyn

  21. Joely Sue Burkhart » Blog Archive » Virgin River by Robyn Carr
    Sep 21, 2008 @ 08:03:35

    […] stayed up until 2:00 a.m. last night to finish this book.  I first heard of this series over at Dear Author and was highly intrigued.  I’ve never read much contemporary romance.  Name a famous […]

  22. Pam Krueger
    May 07, 2009 @ 11:02:37

    Robyn –

    I LOVE YOUR VIRGIN RIVER SERIES! I am a book of the month subscriber and that is how i first got introduced to you. I must say i have lost myself in the lives of your characters – from Uncle Walt, to Murial St Clair, Vanni & Paul , Mel & Jack, Abby & Cameron, Mike and Brie, Shelby & Luke,and on and on! I hate when i am coming to the end of a book…. I hope you will continue to follow all of these characters in coming books. You have such a way with words i feel like I am at Jack’s bar for Preachers dinner! You have gotten yourself another devoted fan!

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