Tag Archives: Summer’s Winter

How I First Published: Robin Johns Grant

First time holding a copy of my first book,  Summer's Winter.
First time holding a copy of my first book, Summer’s Winter.

This is the first in what I hope  to be a regular series of posts in which authors tell us about their first publication experience. I’m going first, experimenting on myself, as usual. If you’re a published author–indie, traditional, small press, whatever–and would like to be featured, use the Contact tab at the top of the page and let me know. You would be answering these same questions–and can plug  any current project you would like to, naturally! Your book(s) don’t have to be specifically Christian, but I won’t feature books that are offensive or contrary to a mainstream Christian worldview. Hey, it’s my blog, right?

HOW I FIRST PUBLISHED

What was your first published novel?

Summer’s Winter, which I published in January of this year. I just happen to have the tagline handy: When preacher’s daughter Jeanine meets her obsession, movie star Jamie, his dark secrets threaten her faith and her life.

I call it a love story wrapped in a mystery. When forced to choose a genre for it, I have to choose Christian romantic suspense. There is most definitely love and suspense!

Was it a traditional publishing contract or did you go indie?

After trying to land a traditional publishing contract for literally decades, I finally went indie, although I used Story Merchant Books to do the publishing work for me instead  of doing everything myself.

How did that come about?

It came at the end of an incredibly long and winding road. If you want to know more about that journey, click on the tab at the top of this page that says The Queen’s Archives. That’s my old blog, from the days I was trying so desperately to land a contract and dealing with frustration and particularly with learning to trust and wait on the Lord. This post is my announcement that I had finally decided to go Indie. I was afraid my writer friends would see me as a quitter, but they’ve been very supportive.

But I digress. As I reached one of those points in my life when I was ready to give up on the whole thing and take up knitting or quilting or almost anything other than writing, I went to a Nancy Grace book signing. Nancy is a well-known TV personality and has her own show on HLN, as well as having written two NYT best-selling suspense novels. She is also a childhood friend of mine. She asked about my writing and then, hallelujah!—she offered to help me.

Now, if I was telling any story other than my own life story, at this point Nancy would have gotten me a fat publishing contract and I, too, would be a best-selling author today. I would also have lived happily ever after. Possibly in a castle.

But this is my life story and if there’s one thing God wants to teach me, it’s patience. Nancy referred me to a man named Ken Atchity, who has worn many hats: writer, literary agent,  publicist, even film producer. He suggested major edits to the manuscript of Summer’s Winter, and then when we both thought it was in great shape, he gave me a choice. Choice one, he would represent me as a traditional literary agent. But he warned me that the traditional publishing model was getting harder and harder for a new writer to break into. I should be prepared to…guess what…WAIT. It might take a long time. Choice two, I could go ahead and get Summer’s Winter out there. Based on what he was seeing happen in the publishing world, he believed not only that indie authors can be successful these days, but also that traditional publishers get a lot of their new talent by scooping up successful indie authors. It sort of stinks, but it also makes sense from their point to sign authors who have already proved they can market their books—and write stories that people want to read.

So, I opted to go indie and see what would happen. I was just coming off an unsuccessful five-year stint with another agent and was ready to try something different.

How did this first publication make you feel? Has it been as good as you expected, or a letdown, or exhausting, for example?

All of the above! Plus just about every other emotion you can imagine. I have loved interacting with readers who enjoyed Summer’s  Winter.

 

It's a great book. Really. I swear.
It’s a great book. Really. I swear.

I’ve had really exciting times when I was receiving good reviews and selling well. Probably the most exciting thing to me was that John Granger, who writes books of literary analysis and is a Harry Potter expert, read my book, loved it, and interviewed me on his blog! What an honor that was! (I mean, hey, this man is an expert on REAL literature!)

And then there have been times like this past week, when sales and reviews have dried up and I’m incredibly frustrated again. I never would have dreamed how much time it takes to market a book. I have a full-time job as a librarian, and I feel like marketing is another full-timer. And oh yeah, I need to squeeze in family and writing more books somewhere!

When you self-publish, you can feel it’s all on your shoulders, that you’re bearing the burden alone. Fortunately I belong to a wonderful Christian marketing group called  the John 3:16 Marketing Network. Just today, they were reminding me that it’s NOT all in my hands, but in God’s. I should know that myself, but sometimes you need brothers and sisters around to remind you.

Tell us what’s happened with your writing journey since.

I finished writing my next book, Jordan’s Shadow, which is a creepy gothic young adult novel. It’s still in the hands of two traditional publishers who have shown interest, but the process is just so slow. I’m trying to decide whether to keep waiting on them or continue this indie path. It’s still up in the air right now. I also just started writing the sequel to Summer’s Winter.

 

 

 

 

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WORLD BLOG TOUR – Romantic Suspense Author Robin Johns Grant

My writing process generally involves a cat.
My writing process generally involves a cat.

The Author’s Writing Process and the Discovery of New Books

May 26, 2014 Stop

When Lorilyn Roberts asked if I’d be interested in following her on the World Book Blog Tour, I was intrigued. Here’s how it works. Writers all around the world are asked the same questions about their writing process–if they’re invited by one of the authors who have already posted. And then the next author invites authors to follow them, and so on, and so on.

Just think of this tour of writers snaking around the world, through so many different places, and involving so many different kinds of writers! I’m so honored to be a part of that.

Before I start droning on about myself, though, let me tell you a little about this tour, where it’s coming from and where it’s going. I followed Lorilyn Roberts, who came after Emma Right’s blog here.  If you want to follow it even further back, you can go to Diane’s blog which you can follow here.  After me will be Marjorie B. Hill on June 2.

WHO AM I?

I’m Robin Johns Grant.  If I look tired and stressed when you see me (or my pictures!), it’s because I’m a little overwhelmed with a full-time job as a college librarian, marketing my first published novel (Summer’s Winter), trying to get the next one ready to publish and and write the sequel of Summer’s Winter. And trying to do all that and still give time to God, and take care of my elderly mom and my husband, and all the rescue animals…whew. Just thinking of all that, I may need to take a quick break before I can go on.

Summer’s Winter is a love story wrapped in a mystery, about a preacher's daughter named Jeanine and her obsession with movie star Jamie. At the age of ten, Jeanine believed that God Himself whispered to her in a dark movie theater and promised that the young star would someday be a part of her life. So began an eleven-year test of faith as Jeanine waited for her knight to arrive and rescue her from boring middle Georgia. And then, just as she’s graduating college and about to settle into the dreary nine-to-five life that stretches ahead of her, Jamie bursts into her life in an amazing way. He even seems to be falling for her, just as she’d dreamed. Trouble is, loving Jamie is nothing like she expected. Instead of carrying her away on a white charger, he’s hiding out in Georgia following the suspicious death of his former girlfriend. Jeanine longs to prove his innocence and get at the truth. Unless she can, Jamie’s dark secrets may shatter her faith—and her life.
Summer’s Winter is a love story wrapped in a mystery, about a preacher’s daughter named Jeanine and her obsession with movie star Jamie. At the age of ten, Jeanine believed that God Himself whispered to her in a dark movie theater and promised that the young star would someday be a part of her life. So began an eleven-year test of faith as Jeanine waited for her knight to arrive and rescue her from boring middle Georgia. And then, just as she’s graduating college and about to settle into the dreary nine-to-five life that stretches ahead of her, Jamie bursts into her life in an amazing way. He even seems to be falling for her, just as she’d dreamed. Trouble is, loving Jamie is nothing like she expected. Instead of carrying her away on a white charger, he’s hiding out in Georgia following the suspicious death of his former girlfriend. Jeanine longs to prove his innocence and get at the truth. Unless she can, Jamie’s dark secrets may shatter her faith—and her life.

Okay, I’m back. Deep breath…here we go!

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON? 

I recently completed a draft of a creepy YA supernatural suspense called Jordan’s Shadow.  I, of course, think it’s perfect, but it’s in the hands of Beta readers right now and they will probably think a little bit differently. I’m also planning out the sequel to Summer’s Winter.

HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?

I hate to admit it, but my “process” is messy and disorganized, and it’s also changing and evolving.

I’ve been writing full-length novels since I was 16, and I started trying to land a publishing contract when I was 18.  For decades, my process was to write for a few minutes here and there on whatever story interested me. If I stayed interested, I would have a novel manuscript–possibly years later! And of course, there are a few unfinished bad ideas in a drawer, or on my hard drive.

When I actually had a manuscript finished, I started trying to find a publisher–or an agent–who would love it. I often discovered that agents and editors liked my writing or my premise but thought the manuscript needed some sort of change to make it fit the market, so then I would start rewriting, trying to force my square peg into a round hole.

The only thing this accomplished was stressing me out, causing me not to enjoy my writing, and causing no one else to enjoy my writing–which had become a confused mess of other folks’ ideas.

So finally, I decided to go indie. For Summer’s Winter, I had a wonderful professional editor who truly helped me make the story what I wanted it to be. However, after discovering how much indie authors like myself make, I probably won’t be able to do this again. That’s why Jordan’s Shadow is with Beta readers.

So now, as an indie writer, I am writing for myself and for readers’ enjoyment, rather than for a specific market, or trying to hit what a publisher or an agent will like.

At the start, I usually have characters in mind, not a story.  I sit down and just start playing pretend. What if this thing happened to this character? How would that affect the other character? What would they do? If the idea gives me a little shiver and sounds interesting to me (which usually means creepy, mysterious, weird, or sometimes romantic), I try to fit it into a linear plot. (If I zone out and sit at the traffic light a bit too long after it’s turned green, I’m probably plotting. In a good way.)

When I get stuck and am just sitting and staring at my notes, I start doing research. Or something even more informal–just reading nonfiction about something related. For example, for the Summer’s Winter sequel, I’m reading a book written by a skip tracer about how people can “disappear.” Yep, hiding in plain sight will be important for someone in the sequel, and as I read this kind of background info, it gives me ideas and fires my imagination so I can go back to my story outline.

When I have a rough outline, I start writing actual scenes. Even though I have to grab time where I can find it (still disorganized and messy), I try to write at least a few scenes a week, and I write quickly. If I can’t figure out what to do at some point, or I need more information, I switch to all caps and make notes about what I need to fill in or research.

Once I have a rough draft, I work on filling in those missing bits, and rewriting the parts that don’t work for me.  Now–first time I’m trying this process–I’m giving that completed draft to several Beta readers for feedback. I’ve asked them to tell me whether they love or hate the characters, if the story drags in certain areas, if there are plot holes or inconsistencies, things like that.

I’ve found readers all kinds of places–librarian colleagues, friends, student assistants at my Library who enjoy weird, creepy stuff like my story, and members of an organization called Fans for Christ. I’m hoping this crowd of readers will actually provide better feedback than one professional editor. After all, once it’s published, professional editors and agents won’t be my target audience. I’ll be aiming for real readers like these.

Once I get the draft back, I’ll consider what the Beta readers said and rewrite accordingly.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS? 

According to all the editors and agents I’ve approached, I have a nasty tendency to mix genres. Of course, I think this makes my writing fresh and surprising, but others may beg to differ. I define my first published novel, Summer’s Winter, as a Christian romantic suspense because that’s the closest I can come to a genre, but the language and approach are different from most romantic suspense novels. The writing has been described as “lush” and “lyrical.”  Other editors said  it had a “literary feel,” although another said it was “more than escapist romance, but not literary fiction.” I also tackle some themes that are different. John Granger, a literature professor and author of several books about the Harry Potter series, said Summer’s Winter “explores the important intersection of literature, spirituality, and imagination.”

And as for Jordan’s Shadow, I have once again been told that it mixes genres. A little science fiction, a little women’s fiction, YA. I once pitched it to an agent, and when I told him about the super secret plot twist, his mouth fell open and he said, “Well that’s just weird.”

Yep, that’s me.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I started writing as a child–a child who loved stories, had a wild imagination, and was stuck out in the country with a mother who didn’t drive and not enough to do. So I started making up stories. Much of what I’m writing now comes out of those childhood pretend sessions. And as I’ve matured, I also use the stories to explore ideas that interest me. Summer’s Winter is partly a continuation of stories I made up as a kid, when I would become overly-fascinated with certain books or movies and dream about meeting the actors who played my favorite characters. Now, as an adult, I use the story to examine what that fandom fascination means. Why do we get so caught up in stories?  Is there an eternal, spiritual dimension to our yearnings? (By the way, if all that sounds interesting to you, John Granger did a more in-depth interview with me about it.)

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 WHO IS NEXT ON THE WORLD BOOK BLOG TOUR?

Please visit Marjorie B. Hill on June 2, 2014, for the next stop on the tour.

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Marjorie B. Hill makes her home in Walterboro, the front porch of the lowcountry. She is blessed with four children and seven grandchildren. “My parents and grandparents were storytellers. The ‘never-ending story’ continued as chapters were added. I thought everyone created stories in their heads.”

She has been published in Moody Monthly, Pee Dee Magaziner, Mustard Seed Ministries and numerous newspapers. Xeno Oaks is her first novel. You can get better acquainted with her on her blog.

 

 

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