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My First Sale: Elizabeth Hoyt, Middle-Aged Ditherer Makes Good

elizabeth.jpgElizabeth Hoyt is a favorite of Jayne and Jane. Between the two bloggers, they’ve reviewed Hoyt’s three books and given them all a grade of B or better. Hoyt’s latest book, The Serpent Prince, takes a dark look at the emotional cost of revenge.

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The Serpent Prince (Warner Forever)You know those authors who start their bios with, "I've been writing since the age of two. I wrote my first full length manuscript at the age of eleven. It was about little furry people who lived in a redwood forest, wore leaves as headdresses, and liked to dance, and I really think it would've sold if George Lucas hadn't come out with RETURN OF THE JEDI and his Ewoks that year.–? That's not me. I never thought about writing until the age of thirty-five.

I had other career ideas.

In grade school, I was going to become a– wait for it– potter. How many other eight-year-olds do you know who have a burning ambition to become a ceramic potter? Alas, my ambition was stymied by my inability to center a ball of clay on a potter's wheel. In early high school I dreamed of being an artist, but as graduation neared I realized I needed to think of more practical careers. Which is why I majored in archaeology in college, there being so many archaeological jobs out there for people with undergrad degrees. Okay, so practicality wasn't my strong point, which was confirmed by my next career goal: Classical Archaeologist. Tragically my studies were cut short by my dismal ability to master (mistress?) either Latin or classical Greek.

I married soon after graduating from college and it occurred to me that while I seemed to have no clue as to what I wanted to do career-wise, there was one thing I knew I wanted to do in life. Become a mother. This I could do and did very happily for about the next ten years, until my own mother spoiled my idyllic life of car-pooling and peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunches, by pointing out that my youngest child would soon enter kindergarten and perhaps I should think about getting a job. A paying job.

Sigh.

Naturally, my mind leapt to the most practical career of all: Romance Novelist. Actually, I did consider other careers, Paleoethnobotany, for instance, but all my ideas seemed to involve a) going back to school, and b) pantyhose. Romance Novelist, by contrast, involved sitting in cafes sipping mocha lattes and gazing into space. Really, it was tailor-made for my skill set.

Approximately five years later, I had three historical romance manuscripts under my belt and an agent (an agent!) who was out shopping them. Unfortunately, though, the editors at most of the major houses in New York didn't seem to recognize my brilliance and kept rejecting me. (Fools!) I had pretty much given up hope of selling those manuscripts (which were, by the way, The Raven Prince, The Leopard Prince, and The Serpent Prince) and started to write a contemporary romance (shameless plug: HOT, coming out January 2008 under the name of Julia Harper,) when I got an e-mail from my agent with the subject line: Heads Up. Usually an e-mail with this subject line was my agent's way of gently breaking the news that I had been rejected yet again. (I suspect she was worried that the pile of mounting rejections would send me into a wrist-slashing tailspin.) But this time the content was different. She wrote to tell me that the editor at Warner (Devi Pillai, who has since transferred to Little, Brown & Co) had called her "screaming–? with excitement even though she was only a quarter of the way into the manuscript. "Huh,–? I thought, "perhaps this is a good sign.–?

And it was! On the following Monday my agent called with a two-book offer.

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

18 Comments

  1. Kerry Allen
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 05:23:30

    Join me for mocha lattes and eclairs, my dear. We would cackle at length about our questionable career choices, wasted higher education, and how pantyhose have limited our advancement.

    Love it. Best first sale story evah.

  2. Joanna
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 05:57:24

    Thanks for this – it was really refreshing. Personally I feel that most (though not all) authors have to do a bit of living before they can write something someone else will want to read. Perhaps it’s just coincidence but all the romance writers I love seem to have done other stuff before turning to writing.

    PS – love your books Elizabeth. Dying for my copy of The Serpent Prince to arrive (ordered a few days ago!)

  3. Jayne
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 06:44:59

    LOL, a former neighbor of mine was working on his PhD in archeology with an emphasis on ancient potshards. Yep, lots of jobs doing that. He can speak or read about 11 ancient languages, is smart as a whip, was a great teacher when he taught Hebrew in grad school for some extra moolah and now makes his living building roads in his father’s paving company.

    I for one am glad you never mastered Greek! :)

  4. sula
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 06:54:13

    lmao! I think it’s quite obvious where Simon Iddlesleigh got his sharp wit and sense of humor from. :) Great first sale story!

    Each of the Prince books has just been better and better. All have been keepers for me, but the Serpent Prince definitely was my favorite. I can’t wait to read it again!

  5. Jill Monroe
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 06:54:21

    If I weren’t already a fan, your account would have sent me straight to the bookstore.

    Great story – so funny!

  6. Jennifer McKenzie
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 07:13:35

    Ahhhh the things we do to avoid pantyhose. Great story!!!!

  7. Ann Bruce
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 08:12:31

    started to write a contemporary romance (shameless plug: HOT, coming out January 2008 under the name of Julia Harper

    I’ve been fixated on this for a while now: Why do you use a different pseudonym for the contemporary? Are you afraid your historical fans will not like the contemporary works? Is it for a different publisher?

  8. vanessa jaye
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 08:38:25

    This has got to be one of the wittiest First Sale stories I’ve read. I’ll second Jill, if I wasn’t a fan already, I’d run out to the bookstore post haste for one of your books!

  9. Elizabeth Hoyt
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 10:12:51

    Glad you all like the anti-pantyhose saga. ;-)

    Hey, Ann, pen names are a pain. Going with a different one for the contemps was a joint decision between me and my publisher, Grand Central Publishing, which used to have the much better known name of Warner. I actually sold HOT before THE RAVEN PRINCE came out, so I think they were hedging their bets a bit. I was also hedging my bets since I know several authors who have had to start over with new names. And, yeah, I thought there was the possibility that I’d get angry reader mail from people who hate contemporaries.

    And Jayne, my husband is actually a PhD. archaeologist! We met in a field school he was teaching (I was a lowly, but dangerously sexy undergrad.) He has his own consulting business now…

  10. Janine
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 10:13:56

    What a neat story! Thanks for sharing it!

  11. Jane
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 10:54:56

    Hmmm. Did you serve as a consultant for the latest Karen Rose book?

  12. Tracy
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 12:32:44

    This account had me laughing out loud.

    The Raven Prince just moved to the TOP of my TBR pile after reading this account! Great sense of humor! :)

  13. Elizabeth Hoyt
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 16:16:43

    No, alas, Karen did not use me for a consultant on her latest book, Jane. She did, however, mention recently that she has a snake phobia (she was wondering if there was actually a snake in THE SERPENT PRINCE.) Which I found pretty funny considering all the scary things her books deal with!

  14. stephanie feagan
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 18:20:21

    All I can say is, I’m forever grateful to Warner for buying your books. The squealing editor is clearly brilliant. Almost as brilliant as you, Ms. Hoyt. Ditch the digs. Just keep writing fabulous books.

  15. Michelle
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 18:44:30

    Also wanting to add how much I have enjoyed your books. I also loved the bookmarks that you kindly send out through your website.

  16. Gail K.
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 20:19:22

    She wrote to tell me that the editor at Warner (Devi Pillai, who has since transferred to Little, Brown & Co) had called her “screaming� with excitement even though she was only a quarter of the way into the manuscript.

    In addition to congratulating Ms. Hoyt on her books and on her success I want to congratulate this editor, Devi Pillai, on her good sense! Does anyone know any other (new) authors she’s responsible for? thanks. Hard to find good historical reads after TSP.

    P.S. Ms. Hoyt –> Christian & Pocket, Christian & Pocket (whose first name I don’t even recall I just refer to her as “Pocket,” like Simon).

  17. Elizabeth Hoyt
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 22:48:07

    Whoa. I saw Ned’s video review and got seriously sidetracked and had to go and look at all the other video reviews even though the sound is off on my computer and I have no idea how to turn it back on. (One of my lovely Offspring was playing on it earlier.)

    Glad you liked the bookmarks, Michelle! There’s lots more if anyone else wants one (or several.) Go to my website and click on CONTACT–there’s a form to order bookmarks (which are FREE!)

    And what is with the Pocket and Christian thing? I’ve had several reader e-mails about this. She’s only 8! ;-)

  18. Gail K.
    Sep 08, 2007 @ 14:58:59

    Yes, but Christian is what, 19-21? perfectly doable, especially in those times.

    If my dates and cursory history knowledge aren’t completely bonkers, TSP takes place in 1760, the War of Independence breaks out in 1776, excellent timing for TNG (the next generation) to mature and for Pocket to head over to the colonies and show those exiles what for. Especially since she seems to have budding talent in commanding Redcoats. :P

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