Today we welcome special guest, Jenna Petersen. With multiple releases from Avon, including Lessons From a Courtesan, Scandalous, and the Lady Spies series, Jenna also writes for Avon Red as erotic romance author Jess Michaels. And, on top of all that writing, Jenna still manages to find the time to run The Passionate Pen...a valuable web resource dedicated to helping aspiring authors.
All that and she still finds time to blog with us. Thanks so much and welcome Jenna! (And readers don't forget that Jenna is giving away a signed copy of A Red Hot Valentine's Day AND Lessons From a Courtesan right here at Inspiration, Ink! She'll be choosing at random from your comments, so don't be shy! Today's the day to say hello!!)
Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be here at Inspiration Ink! I love that this blog really seems to be for new and aspiring authors in some ways (the blogs covering archetypes were great). I guess I know a little about that section of the writing population because of The Passionate Pen (http://www.passionatepen.com), which you guys so kindly gave a shout-out to a couple of weeks ago. But more than that, I know about being an aspiring author because I was one… actually for quite a long time.
So today I’d like to talk about the long and winding road that often takes us to publication. For me, it started in 1996 when I wrote my first romance novel. I was in college, I had never really read romance, I thought it would be “easy” and I wrote it single-spaced, on both sheets and handed it out page by page to the girls in my dorm. I fell back in love with writing (I say “back” because I’d always wanted to write) and also in love with the feeling that people loved reading my words. These girls would knock on my door at all hours asking for “one more page”.
But life intervened. I didn’t think I wanted to be a romance writer of all things! In 1998, I graduated with a degree in psychology, my husband got a great job at a major company and I took a year off to get field experience before returning to school for an MA in counseling. And then I started typing that story back into my computer, editing as I went. All the love came back to me, all the joy of writing and creating. We talked about it for a long time and ultimately my husband’s support convinced me to give up on my return to school and dedicate myself to writing romance full-time.
In my own backwards way, I decided hey… maybe I should read some! Instantly I started to question my decision to pursue my dream. I mean, these books were good. How had I missed that before? Anyway, I decided to keep on, and for years I slogged. I wrote books. I submitted books. I got rejected. I wrote more books. I cried. I got an agent. We parted ways. I cried. Lather, rinse repeat.
One day, four years plus into my journey and more than 12 books in… I gave up. I had parted ways with an agent a few months before. Since then, I had sold a couple of novellas to a small publisher and I was writing more erotic short novellas, but I had this thought that I would never sell a historical romance. Never. It was time to give up the ghost. But I had one little book in my collection that I had never sent out. I made a list of five agents I would love to have and sent queries and proposals out. I figured I’d try once more with an agent, when they all rejected me, I’d query it on my own. When THEY all rejected me, I’d stop.
To my surprise, one agent from one of my top picks called me. She wanted me. And she had faith in my writing as a historical romance novelist. Her enthusiasm picked me up, carried me back to my desk and had me writing books again. And believing, in some tiny part of me, that maybe she was right. She seemed smart enough, after all!
It turned out she was. Within six months of us deciding to work together, she sold two books to Avon, my dream publisher. And here we are, five years and 10 books+ later. There were so many stars that aligned for me to take me to where I am now. I decided to try for an agent just one more time. I reached for the stars when it came to agencies. I found an agent who loved me. She gave me back my faith and I gave her books. My editor was in the right mood and had a slot for me.
So I guess the moral of this winding story (sorry) is that it’s so easy to want to give up in this career. I certainly was on the cusp of doing just that. But it’s at those very moments of darkest despair and fear that sometimes we see a light.
Before I published, I used to wake up and say to my husband, “Today, today, it could happen today.” One day, it did. So even when you’re feeling down and like that magical call will never come, look yourself in the mirror and say, “Today, today, it could happen today!”
I’ll be around… um… today. Stop by and let’s talk!