The veil I’m talking about separates the unpublished from the published author.
Ever wonder what’s on the other side? Want to peel back the veil for a peek? Or to actually speak to someone who has crossed over?
Now you can. I’ve lined up talented friends to talk about their experiences in getting stories published.
Renee Wildes’ many books with Samhain Publishing are receiving rave reviews and I, for one, can see why. Even though her characters are dragons, trolls, fairies and the like, they are so authentic and real that a reader feels she knows them. Renee’s descriptions make it possible for the reader to escape into the worlds she creates. Her stories bring the fantastic to life.
Renee agreed to answer my publishing questions which, I’m hoping, are yours, too.
1. How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve been a writer my entire life – I wrote horse stories when I was six, and was the only grade school kid w/a MAXIMUM word/page count. I’ve been writing professionally since 2002, when I joined RWA. I entered my first finished manuscript “Second Chances” in the NJ RWA “PYHIAB” Contest, it finaled, and final judge Suzanne Brockmann said she loved my child character, Alastair. Her encouragement made me determined to someday succeed.
2. Getting The Call is the moment many unpublished authors fantasize about. It’s that moment when authors hear that a publisher wants her work. Can you describe your experience?
I pitched Duality (Cinderella-themed fantasy romance) to Angela James from Samhain at the 2007 NJ RWA PYHIAB Conference. (Funny, I’m a WI writer but NJ seems to be my good-luck charm…) She asked me to submit the full. I was very excited, because I really don’t write for the NY “box” and Samhain’s done well specializing in “out of the box.” So I submitted it – twice. (This is the story of nightmares.) I was halfway done w/my query letter email, no signature or attachments yet, when my cat walked across my keyboard and sent it. UGH! Had to retype the thing, sign it, attach the actual manuscript, and REsend it. I wanted to cry – and kill the cat. I figured I was dead. It was beyond embarrassing. (Now I know the LAST thing I put in an email is the addy of the person it’s going to!) But two weeks later Linda Ingmanson got back to me with the following:
Thank you for sending Duality for consideration for publishing. I think it's a terrific book, really well written, with great characters and an interesting story line. I would like to offer you a contract.
The only caveat is that I probably won't be able to schedule the release for any earlier than late summer/early fall next year. If you don't mind a bit of a wait, then I'll go ahead and put in for the contract. Please let me know.
Linda Ingmanson, Editor
I was so used to people taking MONTHS to get back to me that my first reaction was “Gosh, did she have time to read it?” and then my second reaction was to finally notice the word CONTRACT and scream so loud I darn near scared the cat right out of her furry calico pajamas. Bought a bottle of champagne – my husband bought my flowers and a little card that reads “A little fanfare from your biggest fan.”
3. How long was it from the initial publisher’s request to see your manuscript until it reached published form?
October 2007 conference pitch to October 2008 ebook release to August 2009 print release.
4. What steps were involved to elevate your manuscript from a submission to a published novel?
MANY MANY levels of edits and P.S./P.S.S. emails. I’m a pretty clean writer, so there’s not a lot of grammar/punctuation stuff, but we worked hard on getting the “thee/thou” grammar consistent. Samhain’s known for pretty hot stories, so on top of the usual “expand here, cut there” stuff we worked on getting Dara and Loren together more, and increasing the level of sensuality. There was a lot of talk about trying to shorten the book, and about cutting characters. We didn’t lose any characters, and the broad tapestry remains. Once Linda and I had worked it to death through three official rounds of edits, they bring in a line editor. Angel’s fresh eyes ensured we didn’t miss anything embarrassing before it went to final galleys. We’ve all seen glaring errors in published books, and Samhain works really hard to make sure that doesn’t happen to us.
5. What surprised you most about being published?
It’s a lot more work. There’s no “I’ve arrived.” You’re marketing one (or more) book that’s out there, editing another under contract, and hopefully working on the next and plotting the next ten behind that one. There’s Yahoo group chats, blogs, reviews and awards. Suddenly everyone’s inviting you to judge a contest or teach a class. Funny how much of being a “writer” doesn’t involve actual WRITING. And that doesn’t include the day job – or kids.
6. What advice would you give other unpublished authors who hope to interest your publishing house in their manuscript?
Samhain specializes in hot and/or “out of the box.” They do a lot of GLBDT, ménage, and new twists on old classics. They do a lot more in paranormal than vampires and werewolves. There have been remade fairy tales, gargoyles, ghosts, selkies, Phoenixes, raven shapeshifters. If you’ve got something truly “out of the box,” make it hot and send it in. They do a lot of contemporary, too, I’m just more familiar with the paranormal end of the spectrum as it were. Watch for contests and anthology “calls for submissions.” The do all lengths from red-hot shorts to “plus” novels like Duality. Don’t forget they publish for both the ebook and print markets, so you get double the audience.
7. What reasons would you give an unpublished author for sending his or her manuscript to Samhain Publishing? In other words, what do you particularly like about your publisher?
They’re professional, on the cutting edge of publishing technology, and work incredibly hard to make a story sing and shine. They have amazing cover artists. Authors have a lot of say throughout the creative process. And the best thing is if there’s a problem, there’s open communication. They really work with you to get a question answered or an issue resolved. There are a lot of marketing tools, including a stellar website they’re always updating and a huge readership “Café” (Yahoo Group). They have a good working relationship with several major review sites and have a presence at all the major conferences.
8. How has your life changed since being published?
It’s gotten a lot busier, but my name’s slowly getting out there. It was very odd to get asked to do an interview for a newspaper feature article, and then have someone stop you in the grocery store and go, “You’re that writer, aren’t you?” (Okay, I live in a small town, but still!) People at work ask how the book’s coming. Some of them have brought me books to sign.
9. Typically, how long does it take you to write a book? What’s your writing schedule?
I’m slow. I write a book a year, even though each book has been getting progressively shorter. Honestly – SLOW. That’s around two kids and a day job. (Today, for example, I’m making swords and daggers with my son for social studies “Greek Week.”) I usually check my emails/do marketing stuff in the morning while the kids get ready for school, and then write after they go to school & before I have to go to work, and then at night after they go to bed. I tend to do a lot of writing on weekends & holidays. My biggest challenge is time management and remembering things – I’ve gotten dates confused and missed an occasional chat or writer’s meeting b/c I had the wrong day. I write it down – and then lose the paper. My daughter tells me I have the memory of a goldfish. My son’s kinder – he compares me to a hamster, which has a slightly bigger brain.
10. How do you generate ideas for your stories?
I watch old sword/sorcery or fantasy movies for inspiration, read mythology. I’m deep enough into my series now that a minor character in one book can usually be developed into their own story. I like taking one culture and putting it into a foreign setting – like a Dark Ages werewolf in a colonial fishing village (Lycan Tides) or a mountaintop faerie in underground goblin caves (upcoming Dust of Dreams) or Spartans in Iceland (my current WIP, Riever’s Heart). I’m becoming known for taking something sort of similar to what’s out there and then standing it on its ear.
11. What excites you about your current work in progress?
I’ve wanted to do Verdeen’s story since she was Dara’s starry-eyed lady’s maid in Duality. She became the first girl to enter the elven military academy, and graduate top of her class. She’s the ultimate tomboy, and it’s fun reminding her she’s a girl. I took Eowyn from LOTR and paired her w/Stelios from 300. (Miranda Otto & Michael Fassbender) Verdeen gets assigned to be Prince Aryk’s bodyguard, which is a fun role-reversal.
12. Could you share an excerpt from your books?
This is a snippet from my EPIC Finalist, Hedda’s Sword:
Tzigana stepped forward. “Go in peace. There are better days ahead, for us all.” She led the way back down the stairs. In the throne room, she turned to Maleta. “I found something that belongs to you. Wait here.”
Wolf gave a slight nod of encouragement. Tzigana disappeared into a side room, returning minutes later with her hands behind her back. “Sunniva kept her most prized trophies of conquest in that room,” Wolf said, his voice grim. “Where we found my standard, among others. It’s where we found this.”
Tzigana brought forth a folded green cloth. Unfurled, it revealed a leaping brown stag against a green background, all surrounded by a border of white interlocking knotwork. She handed it to Maleta. “Yours.”
Maleta stared at the standard of Kunigonde, the symbol of her family, her father, clutched in her hands. A great yawning chasm of pain opened, and she dropped to her knees, burying her face in the stiff cloth. She fought tears. What use were they now? ’Twas a miracle anything of hers, of her family’s, survived, and she was more grateful than she could ever express to Tzigana. Mayhaps Wolf alone understood the conflict in her heart. She might well have tried to hold back the sea as her own tears. She strangled on them until she could barely breathe.
A pair of hands clasped her shaking shoulders, pulling her back against a warm, masculine chest. Cianan, as always, offering his support and love despite her earlier rejection of him. She leaned back against him, accepting the comfort he gave as Tzigana and Wolf knelt afore her. “It deserves to fly over its own once more,” Wolf stated. “Take it home, Van Marete. Fly it with pride and with honor in your family’s name.”
She raised her gaze to Wolf’s. His eyes reflected her own pain and sorrow. “And you and yours?” she whispered hoarsely.
He nodded. “Aye, and me and mine.” Tzigana slipped her arm around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. She looked up at Wolf, and their gazes met for a moment. They shared a gentle smile afore he turned his gaze back to Maleta. “At long last, we all fly free.”
13. Where can readers find you on the Web? (Twitter, blog, Facebook, Website)?
Samhain Author Page:
Yahoo Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/reneewildesromancefantastique/
Here are just a few of the awards Renee's work has won.
We hope you’ve found Renee’s interview interesting. We appreciate your questions or comments.