Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Dreaming and Catching Rainbows: One Author's Story to Publication"

I asked my friend and cp, Kelly Parra if she would write about her story to publication because she had some big, close-call disappointments before seeing a book in print. I thought her story might inspire those who are thinking of giving up that it can still happen and those that are trudging along to keep on trudging.

In celebration of Kelly's debut, I am giving away a copy of her YA novel, Graffiti Girl, to one lucky blogger. Enjoy her story:

"Dreaming and Catching Rainbows: One Author's Story to Publication" - by Kelly Parra

I wish I could say I was an avid reader all my life, but that would be stretching the truth. The real truth is, I've been an avid lover of stories all my life. I've loved movies since I was a kid and was hooked on VC Andrews as a teenager. Beyond television, it was art.

So when I became pregnant with my first child and someone gave me a Nora Roberts Romance novel, I was hooked from there on out. I had caught the Nora Roberts fever. When I got my hands on as many NR books as I could, I started exploring new authors with a special enjoyment for Romantic Suspense. One day as I was reading an Intimate Moments author bio, I discovered a stay-at home mother and author not far from my hometown who wrote books for a living. There was nothing glamorous or mysterious about her life. She was in fact a regular me.

That day my dream of publishing a book began. I sat down to begin writing a novel and joined Romance Writers of America. There were fits and starts, of course. Short stories and novels that never made it past the first chapter. I like to call that the "stretching the writing fingers" phase, so to speak. My first novel, titled Deadly Adam, finally stuck with me. It took me a year to write a really bad version of DA. But during this year, I fell in love with my characters and their story. I joined RWA's KOD suspense chapter and hooked up with two of my critique partners, Tina & Dianna. It took another year as I participated in on-line workshops and entered contests with lots of losses before I rewrote the entire book. Even though no one really got my book besides the three of us, I still loved it. I felt there had to be something special about this book if I enjoyed writing it so much.

So I ignored the negative feedback I was getting and started querying agents. I got a few partial reads, and hit pay dirt for two request for fulls and offers for representation by two agents around the same time. Nothing for at least 4-5 months and bam--interest. After a few conversations, I choose the right agent for me, then the real work began with revisions. A month later I was off and running. About 11-12 editors had my novel on their desk. All I had to do was wait...and wait...for the first, second, and third rejection. Yes, the rejections started piling up. The story, the voice, the writing, something was always different with each editor. I revised the novel again based on editor feedback. Months stretched on where I'd catch an editor's interest, even getting as far as acquisitions a couple of times...and...REJECTION.


Maybe I wouldn't be published in Romantic Suspense. I'd also been working on and off on this Young Adult novel. I felt I might be able to connect with teen readers. Editors were looking for a fresh voice and a high concept idea. I just had to write another book while I waited.

I think I was up to 11 rejections when the last publisher finally made an offer for Deadly Adam over Christmas break. I'd been on submission for 11 months. I had just as many rejections, and I had begun to think RS wasn't in the cards for me. What I didn't realize was that all it took was one editor to believe in my writing. I finally sold DA on a two-book deal to Harlequin Bombshell.

I saw rainbows. I had over 40 comments of congratulations on my blog about my sale. My hard work finally paid off. This is what I'd been working toward for three and a half years. A week later my agent sent out a proposal for my YA novel, six weeks later Graffiti Girl sold to MTV Books. The previous year I was struggling past rejections, and the next I had three sales under my belt. Was I dreaming?

Unfortunately, the mumblings started. The "Bombshell line isn't being marketed right" cyber mumblings. The "Bombshell sales aren't that great" mumblings. Next thing I know Bombshell is closing before my publication date. But wait, I could get shifted to IM, right? Maybe...pretty please?

I get the call from my agent, DA would not be published because the romance didn't follow the HEA story line. My heart literally squeezed. To know after all this hard work and all these years with this book, to sell it and now it's taken away? I still had my YA to finish on a very brief deadline. Yet, I couldn't focus. I was experiencing a mourning stage with my first book. When I struggled to make the YA deadline, my agent wasn't happy with the book. I took two weeks to rework it, and got a new and improved version to my editor. She loved it. Whew.

Now, months later Graffiti Girl has finally hit shelves. It's not my first book, it's my second. It's not the original genre I'd started in, but I've come to love writing YA just as much as RS. And I've reached my dream. I'm published. Have I given up on being published in adult Romantic Suspense? Not a chance. One day it might happen. Maybe not...

All I know for certain is that holding my first book in my hands is not only like seeing rainbows, but like catching them too. :)

~Kelly Parra :)


Anonymous said...

Kelly, thanks for sharing this from your heart. Reminds me of a story I once heard about a dance master. At the end of a performance, a housewife with several children came up to him and said he was the reason she was not a famous dancer. She had performed for him in her youth, and he had not given her any encouragemant, so she abandoned her dream, married, and became a housewife. She felt bitter toward him and felt he had ruined her life. He replied to her. "I never even watched you dance, nor did I watch anyone else. I discourage all aspiring dancers, because this life is hard, demanding, and not for everybody. If you had truly had what it takes to succeed in this business, it would not have mattered to you what I said, because you would not have listened to me."
Bette Davis said it was not her beauty or talent that set her apart from other actresses. "There were those with greater beauty and more talent, but I had determination."
I am looking forward to reading your books and am sure there will be many more. Good for you! Best wishes, Helen Dagley

Wendy Roberts said...

Kelly, a very inspiring story.

Jana, thanks for posting it :)

Kelly Parra said...

Hey Jana, thanks for inviting me on your blog!

Helen, thanks for reading and wow, what a interesting story! I appreciate the best wishes!

Wendy, thanks for reading! :)

Jessica Burkhart said...

Great story, Kelly. So honest and inspiring. :)

Heather Harper said...

Oh Kelly, I was unaware that your Bombshell never made it to print. I'm so sorry. Looks like things worked out swimmingly for you, though. I've been looking forward to reading Graffiti Girl. :)

Congrats on finally getting published!

Tori Lennox said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Kelly! It's very inspiring. :)

Kelly Parra said...

Thanks, Jessica, Heather & Tori! :)

M. G. Tarquini said...

I draw a lot of strength from your story, Kelly. You're so real and your story gets repeated over and over. You write write write and...nothing. Then...SOMETHING. Then...nothing... until one day, maybe, what we hope for and


That Bombshell thing was a real blow and you came back beautifully and graciously.

Good on you.

Cheryl said...

Enjoyed reading about your road to publication and looking forward to reading Graffiti Girl.

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