I have the pleasure of a guest post by author Colleen J. Shogan, who shares her answer to...
ELF: What was the most difficult thing to overcome on your path to becoming a published author and how did you conquer it?
CJS: There are at least two distinct components in the life of a reasonably successful, published author. The first is writing. Authors need to tell interesting stories that readers want to consume. That is a necessary, yet not sufficient, condition for success.
The second part, which is no less important, is learning about the publishing industry and process. This is where most aspiring authors get tripped up. The “business of publishing” is a whole other world distinct from knowing how to write well. I’ve met many writers along the way who have written very good or even excellent manuscripts. But those manuscripts will remain unpublished unless the author decides to learn more about the world of agents and publishers.
I was in a similar boat. I’d written my first novel, Stabbing in the Senate. But I wasn’t doing anything with it because I’d had a few rejections from agents and didn’t know how to move forward. I also work a demanding job at the Library of Congress and had to restrict my devoted writing time to writing to evenings and weekends.
Two things happened which propelled me forward. First, I went to a book talk at the Capitol Hill Bar Association given by Allison Leotta, who writes a great crime series based in Washington, D.C. During her talk, Allison talked about how she sold her first book while she was working as a federal prosecutor. She inspired me to keep trying to sell Stabbing in the Senate. That day, I vowed to dust off my manuscript and get moving.
Second, I found out about a terrific event scheduled in Washington, D.C. organized by the Washington Independent Review of Books. They offer an annual one-day event about the business of writing. Agents are available to hear pitches in all genres, and panels comprised of writers, editors, and publishers provide helpful advice. By the end of the day, I understood exactly how to find an agent, how to pitch my book in a cover letter, and how to contact smaller, independent publishers. As a bonus, I had several concrete leads for representation. This experience eventually led me to my current agent, who sold my book about six months after I signed with her.
I am a political scientist by training. I didn’t study creative writing or earn a MFA. I didn’t hang out with fiction writers or know much about the publishing process when I wrote my first novel. But if I hadn’t learned about the business of the industry, I’m confident that Stabbing in the Senate would still be sitting on my computer hard drive, and Homicide in the House would have never been written.
Homicide in the House
by Colleen J. Shogan
by Colleen J. Shogan
GENRE: Cozy Mystery
During a government shutdown, Kit’s congresswoman boss is found standing over the dead body of a top staffer she tangled with in front of the press. The police are about to name her as the prime suspect. The weapon was the Speaker’s gavel, an item entrusted to the congresswoman the previous night. The killer knows Kit is on the case. Can she solve the mystery in time to save her job and her life?
Smartphones are great time wasters. I fiddled with various apps as I waited. The next level of “Angry Birds” was within my grasp when I heard footsteps and voices across the hallway. I got up and stood in the doorway to greet my boss.
From the look on her face, she was not pleased. She charged like a linebacker to the exit of the Speaker’s lair with Jack Drysdale on her heels.
“Stop, Congresswoman Dixon. You’re not listening to reason!” From behind, Drysdale placed his hand on Maeve’s left shoulder in an attempt to prevent her from leaving the suite.
Maeve had impressive reflexes. She turned her body toward him and grabbed his wrist with her right hand. “Don’t touch me! Is this how the Speaker’s staff treat members of the House?” Her voice was loud and filled with vitriol.
The gaggle of reporters who had been relaxing inside the anteroom trailed behind me. This was better than a boring pen and pad session. One of them murmured, “I think that’s Dixon from North Carolina.”
This was not a good development, but Maeve didn’t know that the press had a front row seat to her implosion.
Maeve clutched Drysdale’s wrist for several seconds until she let it go. Apparently her physical assault didn’t intimidate him. He ran ahead and stopped directly in front of her.
Stretching his arms out wide to slow her down, Jack made his last stand. “I apologize. I shouldn’t have done that. Please come back in the office so we can sort this out. You’re a valuable part of this caucus and the Speaker wants to work with you on this deal.”
Maeve shook her head. “You guys in House leadership are typical politicians. You can’t take no for an answer. I’m not ready to make a decision. Now get out of my way.”
Unmoving, Drysdale locked eyes with Maeve. She didn’t look away and squared her shoulders. I could almost feel the tension around me as the reporters anxiously waited for the outcome. What was Maeve going to do? Knee him in the groin if he didn’t back down?
After a moment that seemed like an eternity, Drysdale gave in and stepped aside. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and hurried into the hallway to catch up with her. As we exited the corridor, I glanced back to the doorway where I’d been standing. Every reporter was on his or her phone, ostensibly calling in the most salacious story of the shutdown thus far. A junior member of Congress and the Speaker’s top aide had nearly come to blows in the Capitol. A high school reporter could make that story fly.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Colleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. She writes the Washington Whodunit series published by Camel Press. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at Yale, George Mason University, Georgetown, and Penn. She previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate and as the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service. She is currently a senior executive at the Library of Congress. Colleen lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Rob and their beagle mutt Conan.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The tour dates can be found here