My First Sale by Jennifer Ashley, Two Sales Means No More Mac and Cheese
Jennifer Ashley, wows readers in two different genres. Not only does she write romances – historical, contemporary and now paranormal, but she also pens historical mystery novels under the name Ashley Gardner. We’re happy to let her tell us all about her favorite dinner and how long it took to break into this business!
I'd wanted to be a writer from age eight, but when I went to college, I had this notion that I had to go for a "real" job. I majored in biology (so practical) but later switched to English lit (ever more practical). Not content with a B.A., I stayed in school and went for my master's (thus avoiding a "real" job for another year or so).
Armed with an M.A. in English, I found employment as an editor at a medium-sized publisher that published reference books. In five years I worked up to senior editor in charge of several product lines. I was sitting pretty until the company got bought by a NY publisher, and there went my fine job. I took another job, which I hated and quit in eight months.
Now determined to be a full-time writer (published) I wrote novels from dawn to dusk and beyond. We were flat broke and existed on macaroni and cheese, but I have a very understanding, supportive husband. :-)
I'd written about six romances, won contests, and even finaled in the Golden Heart, but got no bites. I wrote Perils of the Heart in early 2001 and sent it to Dorchester's "New Historical Voice" contest. This is before it became "American Title," where the work is critiqued in front of God and everybody. Tired of rejection I decided that Perils was my last shot at publishing romance. If I didn't win the contract, I was switching to mysteries.
I didn't win the contest. I didn't even final. But I got a letter from Dorchester asking if I'd let them keep Perils and consider it. Fine. I figured they'd stick it in a pile somewhere, and I'd never hear from them again.
About the same time, I got nibble from an agent I'd queried about a historical murder mystery, The Hanover Square Affair. He requested the full, and then signed me! Woo! Double helpings of mac and cheese.
Then, on Feb. 26, 2002, Kate Seaver at Dorchester offered to buy Perils of the Heart.
I'd been at the eye doctor and returned home, pupils dilated, to a phone message. The first play through didn't really sink in. After blinking blindly at the machine it dawned on me that I'd just sold a book!
I couldn't see to write down the phone number. I went through my files with severely blurred vision, trying to find letterhead with the number on it. At last, at last! I punched numbers, praying they were right–and got voice mail.
We eventually connected, and I accepted the offer. Almost on top of that, my agent called and said he sold the mystery series to Berkley. Because I accepted Dorchester's offer first, they asked me to take a pseudonym (Ashley Gardner), but that didn't phase me. After years of rejection I was suddenly published in two genres!
The lessons I learned? Never give up, take advantage of opportunities, and don't let rejection stop you cold. And when you go to the eye doctor, pay the extra fee for a laser photo so you don't have to get your eyes dilated. You never know when you'll have to search for the most important phone number of your life.