The Emotion of Writing and Publishing
I have been writing most of my life. Unsuccessful attempts at novels, reams of bad poetry, more success in academic writing, and finally finding my way in fiction. As I contemplate the release of my first novel, timed to coincide with my seventieth birthday, I have been thinking about the emotions involved in sending your work out into the world.
It is no accident that my heroine, Cress Taylor, writes historical fiction. Successful historical fiction. New York Times best-seller list fiction. Historical fiction is not my forte. As a historian, I have taken stabs at that genre a few times, spurred on by my admiration for the writing of Dorothy Dunnett. She did inspire some of my later historical research. Although I had a marginal interest in the Court of Burgundy and in fifteenth-century Venice, I was resolutely entrenched in late-medieval (now reclassified as early modern) English history. I turned to the continent after reading her House of Niccolo series. I taught the eight books several times and have been a member of the Dorothy Dunnett Society for many years.
As an avid reader of mysteries, what I really wanted to write was mysteries. So my goal was to be Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers. Not much luck there either, although right now I am developing a mystery that I think will be successful now that I have a better understanding of constructing a plot.
After my husband died in 2013, my reading changed to romantic comedy. So when I decided to try writing again in 2018, I thought that was what I would write. But I needed more plot than I could manage in rom-com. I admire writers who can make the whole book a romance, but my mystery roots were too deep. In the end, romantic suspense seemed work best.
Sending words out into the world takes a certain amount of courage. Courage that, in my case, has waxed and waned over the years. Poetry was my main form of writing when I was fifteen and sixteen. When I think back, I'm amazed that I sent it, not to small poetry journals, but to "The New Yorker" and 'The Saturday Review"! Where did that boldness come from? I was undeterred by the rejection letters that could have papered my walls. The courage of the clueless teenager.
Over the years, I joined several writing groups and wrote some nice, unpublished pieces. At that point, writing was a hobby. Once I started working on my PhD, I turned to academic writing and I was lucky to have some of my work published over the years.
When I finally started writing the novel that became At First Sight, I had two characters in search of a plot. And for all my reading, I couldn't really figure out how to create a good plot. Between classes, craft books, and writing groups, I was able to write a first draft between July and New Year's Eve, 2018. When I wrote, the last words, I was in a coffee shop down the street from my condo, writing with friends. I announced my accomplishment and my friends congratulated me. After all, many aspiring novelist never get that far.
Revisions, rejections, and more revisions, I finally felt I was getting somewhere when I was a semifinalist in the 2021 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author contest. I threw myself into more revisions, had my developmental editor read the new version and make suggestions, did more revisions, and sent it to beta readers. There was enough positive comment to make me decide to go forward.
Still, sending your writing out into the world brings not only excitement, but anxiety. I am getting some good early reactions, so I think I made the right choice as I push on with the second book. The anxiety isn't gone, but it is tempered with optimism. Roll on the release day.
At First Sight will be available on October 22, 2021
At First Sight is available for preorder. The ebook can be found at Amazon for the preorder price of $3.99. The paperback preorder is available on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites or can be ordered from your local bookstore.