Solid work day today. More than halfway through the revision, still on schedule for turning in Wednesday. Got the excerpt for WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE, if you're interested in reading it. Gnashed my teeth at the sandwich book, though Thursday, it will be mine.
So.... Rachel asked what turned me into a writer. My journey. It's a long story (aren't they all?) I've written about it before, so I'm taking a bit of a shortcut, if you'll allow me. I'll recreate it in blog entries for you:
The First Day - This was my first ever blog post, back on December 4, 2004
From Then To Now - This was my second ever blog post, on March 31, 2006. Note the two year gap. I was writing my fanny off during that time, learning the industry, making friends, joining organizations, working my fanny off (oh yeah, already said that.)
Whoo-hoo! - This was the third, and possibly most important, on May 6, 2006
And then, the whole shebang: From Murderati, on May 19, 2006
I’ve been walking around with a stupid grin on my face since last week, when I received what will be hereafter forever be referred to as “The Call.” The Call came from my agent, a spectacular guy housed high in a building in New York, where he gets to make people’s dreams come true. What a job, huh? As with many agents, he’s a busy guy, so if his number shows up on the caller ID, generally something’s up. And man, was something up last Tuesday.
Let me backtrack for a moment. When Murderati launched back in April, I told you I’d wait to tell you my story. Bits and pieces have come out, but the essential JT Ellison is still under wraps. Let me go over a couple of things that ultimately led to The Call, before we go into the details of said Call, okay?
I’ve been a writer my whole life. I started young, with picture book stories, little shorts with handmade felt hard covers that I illustrated and carried around proudly. I dabbled in poetry, read anything my parents would let me (which was pretty much everything) and dreamed of being famous one day. Then came my first introduction to the harsh world of publishing.
I won a contest when I was in the third grade – a poetry assignment for the local newspaper. I was studying slavery at the time, and wrote this poem from a slave’s point of view. The judges liked it and I won the contest. My grandmother on my Dad’s side, GranMary, was a journalistic type in Gainesville, Florida. She wrote a column in the newspaper, did some short romances, that kind of stuff. My parents sent her the poem. She sent it to TRUE CONFESSIONS magazine. I promptly received a very nice REJECTION LETTER. I was ten. I understood why they didn’t want my poem about slavery – really, what’s romantic about that?
Fast forward to college, senior year, and a professor who told me I’d never get published. That probably offhand comment by a frustrated artist killed my creative spirit. I stopped writing, took a job in politics, went to graduate school to learn how to run political campaigns. Met Hubby, so I guess I need to thank her at the same time. It’s one of those things, the road not taken, which baffles me. I can’t imagine doing it any other way, but what if she had been encouraging, thought I should go ahead with my MFA?
I actually was going that route until my French credits messed the application process up. Apparently, I didn’t have the appropriate language labs fulfilled. I could go back to school for a semester, take French III with language lab, and then I could go for my MFA. Like being able pour s'obtenir à la W.C. dans le Français parfait had any bearing on my ability to write in ENGLISH. So I started looking at MA programs in politics. I wanted to go to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, but at the last minute, decided to stay in D.C. So The George Washington’s Graduate School of Political Management was the way to go, on every level. I can only imagine what kind of damage that MFA program would have inflicted on my style.
All in all, a good move, because I met my husband the first five minutes of the first night of classes. He kissed me for the first time the next night, and we got married three years later to the dy. That anniversary happens to be coming up this Friday. Our 20th/17th. Unreal.
Fun political career: job in White House, then Department of Commerce, lose election, lose job, go to work for political sonofabitch, quit, start at Lockheed Martin, end up in marketing for two defense subcontractors. Husband unsettled, wants to move back home to Nashville.
Fast forward to 2003. I’m living in Tennessee, am in between jobs, and have some time on my hands. I’m reading John Sandford’s Prey series front to back. I have a wild hair. I’m going to write a book.
So I did. It was terrible. A true study in cliché, a perfect example of what not to do. Let me assure you, a brilliant first novel really is rare. If you’ve written your first, don’t submit it. Write another. See how much your style improves from one to the next. Then you can start submitting. I tell you this because I made the mistake of submitting the first novel. Egad, it was so bad. But it had a few passages that were very good. After a slew of rejections from publishers and agents, I started over with the best parts of Book 1. That became CROSSED, which got the attention of my agent.
I’m glossing over a lot of angst and sleepless nights because this is the good part, the strawberry days. When the book wasn’t getting the right attention, my agent had the foresight to suggest I write another. ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS caught the attention of my new editor Linda McFall (I love saying that) at Mira Books. I can't imagine a better fit for me. Now we’re up to date. Rewind to last Tuesday, when I received The Call.
What made this event so incredibly amazing, aside from the fact that I got to hear the magic words – three-book deal – my parents witnessed THE CALL. They are snowbirds, in a sense. The spend summers in my hometown in Colorado, when I spent my formative years. Twice a year they pack up their SUV and drive between homes. This year, they decided to come a day early, spend a few extra hours with Hubby and me. They’d been here for about half an hour, just gotten settled into chairs with drinks, and we had the movie A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE going, when the phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID and said something, well, rude. Along the lines of "Oh f**k". Remember I told you agents are busy folks? They don’t call just to see how your day is going. I knew this was something.
I don’t remember too much of the conversation, unfortunately. My agent teased me a little in the beginning, and since I’m the eternal optimist, I’m thinking, “Damn it, I’ve blown it. It’s over.” My heart was thudding so loudly that I didn’t even hear what he was saying until the words “three book” popped into my consciousness.
I made him go back and repeat everything he’d said. I managed to get through the conversation, half acknowledged when he said congratulations, you’re a published author now, go call your husband. I got Hubby on the phone and told the three most important people in my life the most important news I’ve ever received. And promptly cried my eyes out. I’ve finally done it. I have a book deal.
There are about 217 blogs on Murderati between then and now, if you want to see the whole bleeding mess from that moment on. : )
And here's a link to some deeper info - my inspirations and all that...
It was very fun to go back and look at all of this, so thanks, Rachel. Sometimes it's good to be reminded from whence we came...
'Til tomorrow.... I promise to be less-winded than today.