The Beginning of the Journey; Debut YA Author Reports
18 July, 2012
Hey Guys! So today I am introducing you to the talented Rachel Hartman, author of Seraphina. She has written you all a guest post about how she got Seraphina published. It is truly amazing and gives you a small insight into the publishing world. Hope you enjoy it!
The great mathematician Euclid is supposed to have told King Ptolemy: “There is no royal road to geometry.” A king has to work as hard as anyone else to understand mathematics.
There is no royal road to getting published either. I know it sometimes looks like there is. Sometimes writers get exceptionally lucky and appear to encounter no obstacles. Such cases are rare, however, and they certainly should not be used as the measuring stick for success – or worse, as a stick to beat yourself with when your own path turns out very differently.
No two writers follow the same road. Mine has been long and sometimes distressingly bumpy. Two things got me through: patience and stubbornness. Patience is commonly extolled as a virtue; we all know how it’s useful. Stubbornness can be a character flaw if it makes one inflexible and unwilling to change, but it can be a blessing if it comes out in response to a challenge. The greater the challenge, the louder the voice in my head says, Oh yeah? We’ll see about that!
Early on I got rejections. Most writers do. I had fewer than average, perhaps, in part because I got some feedback that I took immediately to heart. If I had only heard it from one agent, I might have ignored it, but multiple agents wrote me back saying: you really have a way with words! Once you figure out what a plot is, think of me again. In fact, one agent was so irritated by my incapacity in the plot department that he called me up and scolded me.
That’s the agent I eventually signed with. If he was passionate enough about my characters, world, and writing that he would take the trouble to phone me when the plot disappointed, I wanted him on my side.
Still, in the moment it was discouraging. I cried. My husband, seeing my distress, said, “If writing is going to upset you this much, you can do something else, right? You could be an accountant.”
I think those words were intended to reassure me, not goad me into action, but goad me they did. My stubbornness kicked in. I rewrote the book – with a plot this time – and I sent it back to that agent. He signed me; he sold the book in short order. I thought my publishing journey was nearly done.
My plot had two arcs, and my editor thought it would be better divided into two separate books. I got a two-book contract, and a pile of rewriting to do. I rewrote the first half as its own book, submitted it , and waited. And waited. I believe I waited about nine months. This is where patience comes in. There is a lot of waiting in publishing, which I hadn’t realized. My agent gave me the most useful analogy: it’s like being on the tarmac at the airport. It’s not that the control tower has forgotten you’re there. It’s that there’s a whole line of other planes that have to take off before yours can.
In this particular case, however, there was also something else going on. My editor quit the publisher without ever giving me notes on the manuscript. I don’t hold a grudge; it was nothing personal, and it was merely bad luck that I happened to be waiting. She left, and my book was effectively an orphan.
This is why it’s good to have an agent, friends! My agent was able to buy back the manuscript and shop it around other places. That’s when I finally arrived at Random House.
At last, I thought, my long road is really over.
It was many months more (during which I worried, certain this second editor was also going to evaporate into the ether) before my new editor finally came to me with a different kind of bad news: he loved my writing. He loved the characters, world, themes, everything about my book… except the plot. He’d been racking his brains all these months trying to devise a way to fix the plot and he just couldn’t think how it might be done. I had set an intimate family drama in the middle of this enormous, complicated, wonderful world that I made practically no use of. It was as if I had been obsessively tending a begonia for years, all the while ignoring the great beautiful garden all around me. Maybe it was the best begonia ever – and surely he was a begonia fancier at heart, because he’d signed me after all – but he thought I could do something so much bigger, if only we could work out how.
And so I rewrote the book, completely, from the beginning. The characters and world were mostly the same, as if I were a director, working with the same actors and sets, but the plot was entirely new. After that came revisions, because my editor and I are a matched pair of perfectionists. It will be released almost a year after it was finally declared finished.
That was my road to Seraphina, nine years altogether. Aspiring writers, take heart! Your road will be different from mine, and it’s a road well worth taking even when it’s difficult.
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina’s tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they’ve turned the final page.
* My review of Seraphina to be posted next week; keep an eye out for it *