Becoming A Published Author
Agony and Ecstasy of Writing a Book
By Evan and Lois Swensen
I have always loved to write. Since I was a kid, I was always sitting at a computer working on something. At one point I even had a really neat typewriter, until I lost it. Or something. Maybe it escaped. I never did find out what happened to that typewriter.
When I was perhaps thirteen years old, I began to think about an idea in my head, which would form the basis for what is now The Temple. There were two boys named Halas and Garek, and their father, Harold. Harold was a very stern man, and his sons were far more innocent, naïve to the ways of the world. I knew these characters existed in some sort of fantasy setting. At the time, I was calling the world Cordalis.
I spent the next few years thinking more and more about this idea, the only constant being the names Halas and Garek. I wish I could remember where I came up with these names, but unfortunately I do not.
I was fifteen when I first put my thoughts to the keyboard. The first draft, as to be expected of a fifteen-year-old, was atrocious. I let it sit for a while after maybe thirty pages, and I went back to brainstorming. After a time, I began to fuse the processes. Most of the work still went on in my head, but I began writing and rewriting those first thirty pages. They eventually made their way into what is now The Temple. Readers may recall the scene where Halas and his love, Cailin, spend his birthday night outside the forest. That was my first scene.
Much of the writing process was a blur. I would sit down in the latest hours of the night and type away, stopping every so often to pop open another soda. I wrote most of it during my junior year of high school, while I was being homeschooled, which meant that I could use it to count toward my credits. I finished the book, wrote it again, and decided I was ready for publishing.
I was very wrong.
Over the next year, I would redraft the book again and again, each time deciding that this was the one. I could feel it in my bones. I first sent it off to the publisher Tor/Forge, eager for the acceptance letter I knew was to come.
I was on a big Stephen King kick at the time. He taught me that rejection letters were normal, just par for the course. He wrote about how thrilled he was when his rejection letters started coming back with personal notes, scribbled to him with words of wisdom and encouragement. So imagine my surprise when my very first rejection came in with a few red scribbles at the bottom. I wish I could remember exactly what was written, but it was in the ballpark of, “Maybe not for us right now, but you show a lot of promise. Keep writing, and good luck!”
I had the biggest grin on my face all day.
That was the only time I ever received a personalized rejection. I sent the next few drafts off to different publishers (and two or three more times to Tor/Forge) and all were rejected. I never took it negatively. Each rejection just meant I had to spend another sleepless few weeks writing and polishing. Eventually, my mom approached me. She had a friend who was published with a local group called Publication Consultants. I had never heard of them before. My mother’s friend told me that I could do a lot worse. I emailed Evan for the first of many times, asking a bit about the process. He told me to send him my manuscript, and he would see what he could do.
A few days after I had done so he emailed me again. Publication Consultants would publish my book. I was understandably elated.
And then I put it on the back burner. I stopped writing for a while. Some things happened. A few months after my first exchange with Evan, I was hit with that burst of inspiration I absolutely need, and went at The Temple once more. I pored over the entire manuscript, adding things I liked, removing things I didn’t, and polishing up everything in between. The ending received a complete rewrite. As I was doing that, I realized it was the reason I had lost interest in the book. I had not been happy with my ending. So I scrapped it, and wrote something entirely different. Originally, the Temple of Immortals was much less of a location, and Gilshenn Sidoor’s role in the climax was virtually nonexistent.
Finally satisfied with my book, or as satisfied as I was ever going to be . . . so I thought at the time. I’ve since decided that no writer can ever be fully satisfied with his or her book. I emailed Evan again. He said he was still interested in publication, but that our original agreement was for a much smaller manuscript. If I remember correctly, he also mentioned his surprise at how much it had grown since last I showed it to him. But Evan made it work.
A few weeks later I received two boxes filled with copies of The Temple, for my release party. It was more surreal than exciting, to see what I had labored so hard for finally come to fruition. I had an actual book in my hands! I could not believe it.
It has been a little over a year since The Temple was first published. In that time I have done many signings, and have seen the full spectrum of sales. I have sold nearly fifty copies at Costco, only to turn around and sell only two at Barnes and Noble. They say you have to be prepared to sell as few books as possible, but that is a lesson you can’t truly believe until you see it for yourself. It really is a mixed bag. But Evan has organized them all. Words cannot express just how grateful I am for that.
It’s like it says on the website: If you have written a book, are writing a book, or are thinking about writing a book, you could certainly do a lot worse than Publication Consultants.books, that will be good enough for now.