Yes, this post is going to be long, but so was my journey to get to this point. The short summary is this:
When I started writing EMPIRE OF LIGHT, I honestly had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I wanted to write the books that I could never find on bookshelves in stores. I wanted to see queer characters as protagonists of more than their coming out stories and tragedies. I wanted to see LGBTQ+ action heroes rock science fiction and fantasy.
I honestly wasn’t sure if anyone would ever want to read this, but I knew I owed it to myself and to this book to at least try.
EMPIRE OF LIGHT is my first novel and it taught me so much, including writing fluently in English of all things (though I guess I have fan fiction and online RPGs to thank for that–Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl basically sums up my college life).
Writing EMPIRE OF LIGHT taught me that writing is rewriting, because yes, it’s my first novel, but at this point it is absolutely unrecognizable from the scraps I first started with. It also taught me that I can’t do this on my own. Community is a HUGE factor in writing and I have been fortunate to make friends with some incredibly amazing people who have become my critique partners, best friends, and all around support system.
It also told me that writing is a crazy balancing act between working nights full time while being a full-time student, and eventually graduating and becoming a teacher. At times writing had to give and it honestly felt like I had to leave a part of myself behind while I kept on keeping on, but I always came back to it. I had to.
Thanks to my fantastic CPs I also finally realized that I had to get this manuscript out the door and actually *gasp!* query the bloody thing. To say I was worried about that stage of the process would be the understatement of the century.
It wasn’t until I had attended some writing conferences where I shared my query and first page with agents and received great comments and full requests that I felt more confident in my ability to actually shove this book out into the world.
And so my journey began. I was excited and scared, and mostly just tried to tell myself to expect nothing to avoid crushing disappointment.
I sent out the first batch of queries (along with those full requests that I had been too much of a scaredy cat to send before) and waited. And waited.
While I waited for responses, I did what so many of my CPs and other writers encouraged me to do: I started the next book, an alternative history fantasy with the working title MENTAL NOTE which I loosely pitch as lesbian Agent Carter with monsters. While I was working on MENTAL NOTE, I received partial requests that turned to fulls, full requests, and of course, rejections. Buckets and buckets of them, or so it seemed.
I’m terrible at waiting and since obviously writing a new book, while teaching full time, and getting into grad school to start my master’s degree obviously wasn’t enough to do, I also decided to keep getting my work out there and continue pitching at local conferences. If anything, in-person pitching is even more nerve-wracking than writing queries, but I felt that I had to do it. So I wrote out my pitch and practiced it with my CPs, with my wife, with random strangers, with my cats… I also went to conferences to learn more about craft and to pitch to agents and publishers directly. After the initial flutter of nerves, I learned a ton about talking to editors and agents in person, namely that it’s okay to ask questions and that maybe, just maybe I should widen my net.
So I kept on querying and eventually, 11 months, 60 queries, 10 requests for fulls, 10 for partials, and 32 rejections later, the first offer came in. Someone actually wanted to make EMPIRE OF LIGHT a real book!
Agent calls followed along with emails to everyone else letting them know I had received an offer and to get back with me within the next two weeks.
All of this was right at the beginning of a long holiday weekend, so I didn’t really expect anything, but oh, was I wrong. The next days basically were a whirlwind of waking up to emails offering representation and asking for a call.
In the end, three agents loved my book enough to offer representation and I even garnered interest from small presses. I honestly couldn’t quite handle life for a bit there, I was flailing so hard.
It’s probably good for my sanity that I didn’t have to wait out the full two weeks for all agents to get back to me and for me to reach a decision.
Again, let’s talk about a surreal moment. I actually had to choose one out of three amazing agents who all loved my book and shared my vision of where I wanted to go with this book.
So, yes. That’s happening. The moral of the story: Never give up, never surrender, and try lots of things, because you never know what’s going to work out in the end.
Cheers and don’t let any power in the ‘Verse stop you.