It wasn’t a call at all, actually. It was an email. But you know what I mean: the moment you get an offer from a publisher. The moment you start dreaming of long before you finish writing a book and which haunts you for years, until you begin to doubt that it ever will come true.
Mine came a couple of weeks ago.
Let’s rewind. I started writing fiction during National Novel Writing Month in 2011. My first effort, Together is Enough, is a primal scream about graduate school and the politics of higher ed wrapped in a romance novel. It’s basically a hot mess.
Despite the fact that Together is Enough is cliched, badly plotted, and not infrequently hilarious when it shouldn’t be, I enjoyed the writing. A lot. After a lifetime of reading fiction — obsessively, compulsively, voraciously — I was creating it.
It was hard, yo. And I had a lot to learn. Oh did I have a lot to learn!
I had to learn how to sustain tension. I had to learn how to create conflict. I had to learn how much backstory was really necessary (hint: not very much). I had to learn how to write believable dialogue that communicated information about character. I had to learn how to writing change honestly and convincingly. And I am still learning.
But as the months crawled by with hours of writing fiction snatched in the evening and early morning, my writing improved. All the books I was reading about craft, all the hours reading for critique partners, and all the revision started to pay off.
Last fall, Brave in Heart, which is a second-chance-at-love story set during the Civil War, won the historical category in the Novellas Need Love Too contest.
At that point, I had a revised, polished work that I was fairly confident was not terrible. So I started sending it to publishers, beginning with the final round contest judge. She hadn’t requested a full but had provided positive feedback. Months went by and I never heard a thing. So I sent it to four more publishers.
Two weeks later, I got the call. I mean the email! I got the email offering me a contract with Crimson Romance.
My first thought was, “Wow!” Followed by, “Isn’t this supposed to take longer?”
But after dancing around my living room and calling my husband, I experienced more than a little hesitation. What really was the problem? I’d written a book — at this point, I’d written three — I’d revised it, I’d rewritten it, I’d shown it to people, I’d sent letters asking publishers to publish it: was I really so surprised when someone answered affirmatively?
To be clear: I love this book. I am writing the books that I want to read and as we’ve established, I read a lot. But I was worried. Was I really prepared to share it with the world, ask other people to love it, and discover that they might not? My soul shudders.
But … didn’t Margaret and Theo’s story deserve to be told? Didn’t readers deserve a chance to fall in love with them too?
So I signed the contract.
I have no idea when the book will be out — though if you know me, there’ll be no avoiding news about it, I’m sure. If you don’t already, follow this blog or follow on Twitter (@authoremmabarry) and you won’t be able to avoid it either.