Phew! The secret that I had to try and keep for almost three months is out. Last week I finally FINALLY got to tell the world that I've signed a two-book deal with Howard Books/Simon & Schuster. The first book, Then There Was You, is a romantic comedy about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand. So I'm so excited to be able to share on the blog today about how it all happened :)
I'm going to be honest. Of the four manuscripts I've written, none have broken me quite the way that Then There Was You did. I started writing it in October 2013 after a conversation with an editor at a writers' conference. I was six months pregnant. Nine months, and a new baby later, I finished it in July 2014.
I literally have no idea how it got written except to say that God carried me. What I remember from the time of sleep-deprived, new baby, haze is a lot of tears, a lot of being talked off the ledge by my amazing writing sisters, a lot of staring at the screen with nothing to write, dreaming up various ways that I could kill Jackson and Allie in a blaze of romantic glory, and a horrible weight that if IF I ever finished it, it would be the manuscript that convinced Chip, my agent, he had made a truly monumental error of judgement in signing me.
And then, somehow, there were 90,000 words on the page. Not only that but, when I read them, to my utter amazement they were pretty good. And once my wonderful sister and writing sisters were through with them, they were better than good. And so, in mid-July, off they went to my agent and the editor who I had had that first catalyst conversation with.
Honestly, I wasn't holding my breath. I knew that the publishing house that editor worked for wasn't currently acquiring contemporary romances and I really didn't think any one else would be interested in it. After years of being told to write stories in America, that international settings didn't sell, here I was pitching a book set in New Zealand about Tolkien and Lord of the Rings of all things, and into a super tough publishing environment against so many other amazing books.
This was the worst part because some of those other amazing books are written by my best friends! I had read their awesome, award-winning, writing. I had critiqued it. I had helped them make it even better so it could beat me! I didn't even ask Chip what other houses he had submitted it to because I was terrified the answer would be that no one else had wanted to see so much as a sentence.
Fast-forward to mid-October. I'm on holiday with my family and get an email from Chip forwarding an email from an editor at Howard saying she loves my proposal but has a few questions. I almost fell over. Howard? The same Howard that publishes some of my favourite authors not only has it but might be interested?
Questions were answered, every word scrutinised, just in case that one particular word might cause her to change her mind. Or worse, a misplaced comma, my particular specialty. Then came a Skype conversation. Then a week waiting in agony for another meeting to discuss my book again.
That meeting was Wednesday 3 December, New Zealand time. Tuesday 2 December in the USA. The best I was hoping for was news that my book might be progressed to the next step in the publishing decision process. I kept telling myself that I probably wouldn't even hear anything that day.
After a morning of meetings, I walk into my next one with fifteen minutes to spare. My writing sisters are checking in frequently, "Anything? Anything yet?! What about now? Now?"
I check my emails. Tell myself not to hold my breath. It's 4.45pm in New York. 1.45pm in Oregon. 10.45am in New Zealand. Even if they have made a decision the editor probably hasn't had a chance to tell Chip yet what it was. Even if she has, he definitely won't have had a chance to email me.
Then my screen flashes. An email from Chip with the subject line "BIG news!!!"
And then, underneath it, in tiny little evil italic font, where the BIG NEWS SHOULD BE are the words "Unable to download email from server."
I try again. Same message. And again. Same message. My colleague walks into the room. I try to act normal and not like the DESPERATE CRAZED WRITER WHO CAN'T ACCESS THE EMAIL THAT MIGHT BE ABOUT TO CHANGE HER LIFE THAT I AM.
I text and Facebook my writing sisters that THERE IS AN EMAIL! I CAN SEE IT BUT I CAN'T READ IT. They make so much virtual noise I think they might melt the internet.
And then, as the people who we're meeting with walk into the room and the meeting begins, the email downloads. Before the screen fades out I catch the words Call... Howard... two-book deal.
I have endured some long stretches of sixty minutes in my life. Labour. Right up there. Trying to finish a marathon while struck down by a tummy bug. Pretty high on the list. But that meeting. Longest sixty minutes ever.
I finally escape Writers' Hades and call my husband. Then my sister (who doesn't answer and who I need to do some screaming on my behalf since my husband offers the to be expected low-key guy response). I buy lunch. For some weird reason something that I don't even like that much. I call Chip. I'm pretty sure my colleague thinks I'm having some kind of family crisis because I bail on our next meeting and keep ducking into meeting rooms to make phone calls. I call one of my writing sisters who is also woefully lacking on the screaming front because it might wake her children. I text another one. Facebook the others. Finally talk to my sister. Who is very obliging with the screaming.
I email my parents at some point. Three seconds later I remember that my father is the worst secret keeper in the whole world and email him back telling him to shhhhhh. Too late. He's already told every living creature in the vicinity. Fortunately he lives in Cambodia so it doesn't matter.
And then I head off for my next set of meetings and try and maintain some sort of facade of normality and productivity for the rest of the afternoon :)
And then, finally, ten weeks later, with all the contractual ts crossed and is dotted, I get to tell the world. To celebrate today I'm kicking off the first ever giveaway of Then There Was You because i get author copies to do cool stuff like that with (which you won't get for about a year but trust me, I'm awesome with spreadsheets, I will keep track of who you are and one day in early 2016, when you're least expecting it, it will show up in your mailbox!). Just leave a comment with your email address and the winner will be announced in the weekend edition :)
Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand where she spends her days working in product management and being double-teamed by a ninja preschooler and his baby sister. By night she writes romantic comedy and still can't quite believe that the world will get to meet Jackson and Allie in 2016. She loves to connect with writers and readers on Twitter and Facebook