What was the most difficult thing to overcome on your path to becoming a published author and how did you conquer it?
MCB: Multiple difficulties face aspiring writers. Getting published is only one of them. My breakthrough was a combination of factors, the most important of which was finding the right reader.
I began to write Where Your Treasure Is in 2011 while I was teaching high school and helping my mother, so an immediate challenge was time management. I rose early and stayed up late. Because I wrote for pleasure, this wasn’t a chore. Nights when my husband worked, I rushed from my mother’s house to my manuscript, as eager for the next installment of Winifred and Court’s romance and adventures as I had been for episodes of Masterpiece Theatre or Mystery when I was a girl. It was only after I’d finished the draft and a few people read it that I realized it might have potential. The manuscript was far from being in shape, so I set it aside and began another book.
I also began investigating online writing journals, and was overwhelmed by the abundant advice. I continued writing—for six more years and several more books, only dipping into the swiftly-changing currents of publishing from time to time. On the one hand I wrote for myself, and on the other, tried to incorporate what I’d learned about genres and marketing without letting all of that derail what I wanted to express.
Almost no one knew I wrote, but a friend who did introduced me to a writer who agreed to read Treasure, which was by then on its third draft. After contacting many editors, I realized it was a long book for a first-time author. Could I cut it in half and make two books? In publishing’s early days, novels were often released in multiple volumes (think of Little Women), but I knew this wouldn’t work for Treasure’s plot. The editors hadn’t read my manuscript. They made their suggestion based on the page-by-page cost of reading and putting a long book through various editorial stages. They were trying to help me save money.
Cost is an issue all writers must consider. Many first-time authors with Big 5 publishers will have to finance and implement at least part of their publicity campaigns. Writers part ways with publishers and are sometimes dropped. Books may not sell enough copies to make it to the back lists and go out of print. Small and hybrid presses (such as Bellastoria), self-publishing—all these options require writers’ time and money. Publishing always has.
Two instances may provide comfort: Samuel Richardson and Jane Austen. Richardson, a master printer, self-published Clarissa (970,000 words; two volumes) in 1747. It became an international best-seller and one of the most influential novels of all time. Austen used her limited funds to pay for Sense and Sensibility to be published on commission. She would share the profits if it sold and bear the loss if it didn’t. You know the rest of that story!
The wonderful part of current publishing is the variety of ways to print. Someone wants to read your manuscript, perhaps for pay, but maybe for free. Decide why you write; define your goals; then think about your audience. Investigate the expense and plan for it. Most of all, work at your craft and share it. Writing’s your gift, and there’s someone out there who will treasure your words.
A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted
Approaching the right turn that would take him to Swift Street and the Royal Empire Bank, Court Furor concentrated on traffic. Cold bit his cheeks and hunger gnawed his belly, but he ignored both through force of habit. The soles of his boots were thin and his gloves pointless…No point worrying about what the day would bring, never mind the next one…He was a man of no prospects and no property but preferred to think of it as freedom from responsibility…It was no secret he fancied himself a bit of a lad though he wasn’t overly tempted by long, romantic entanglements. An hour or two with a willing girl would suit…
He directed the horse to a slow walk, trying to secure a place in the queue for the curb. In the gleaming brougham beside him sat a woman, her face hidden under an enormous, bright green hat trimmed with black ostrich feathers. Her driver signaled, and Court tugged his reins…Though a thick veil covered her face, Court caught a glimpse of golden hair, coiled in heavy masses on her shoulders. The wind lifted the edge of her mantle, and he was briefly amazed by the brilliant green of her dress…She’d obviously never missed a meal in her life.
Suddenly Geoff and a woman appeared at the bottom of the stairs…Their progress was impeded by the woman’s wildly kicking little boots. Her struggles and the flashes of her bright green and purple silks made her look like an exotic bird thrashing in Geoff’s arms….
Geoff…thrust the woman at him…the woman struggled and kicked…and cried for help. Involuntarily, he clapped his hand over her mouth. She only screamed louder.
“Shut up, you fat sow!” Geoff swatted her across the temple….
The woman’s eyes rolled and she went limp.
Court howled in dismay and caught her… In his arms, she was a mountain of soft cashmere and folds of velvet. Her mantle fell open, and her scent hit him. Lilies and some dark, exotic spice. It was so unexpected and heavenly that the alley and the hackney disappeared. Even his panic was gone.
“…We can’t take ’er!”
Geoff clicked off the safety and waved the pistol under Court’s nose. When Court did not let go of the woman, he pointed the pistol at her head. “I ain’t arguin’! Drive!” He slammed the cab door…
His heart hammering, his head whirling, Court untied the horse, swung up onto the box, and grabbed the reins. As he turned the cab into the street behind the bank, yet another fire truck raced past. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! They were in for it now.
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