An Author’s Journey (The Dream vs. The Reality)

Guest Blog by B.K. Raine

When I was 16, I wrote my first novel.  I taped myself reading it, and that tape made it into the hands of my first editor and mentor.  In my naiveté, I imagined I would be published before I graduated high school.  I would inevitably get a stack of rejection letters—every author does, right?—but eventually a publisher would snatch me up. Then I would embark on my nationwide book tour, culminating with an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show (She still had a last name back then).  I even had the outfit picked out I would wear to my launch party.  It may or may not have looked something like this: 

“Leave your pride at the door,” my mentor had said, “and I will teach you to write.” And for the next two years until I headed off to college, that’s what he did.  I don’t remember exactly when I began to suspect that first book had been little more than a 100,000 word creative writing lesson.  I revised and polished my first novel, Mice of the Maze, until it shined…but I never submitted it to any publisher for consideration, because I knew it was inherently flawed. I was just a kid with decent ideas when I started that manuscript.  I was a burgeoning author when I finished it. 

More than twenty years later, the only thing that remains of that first novel are the names of my characters and the twisted yearning between my protagonist and her vampire stalker. A friend who had the privilege of reading Mice of the Mace said of Blood Toy that my writing had never been stronger.  But better writing isn’t all that makes a better book.

My mentor recorded an interview with Piers Anthony called ‘Conversation with an Ogre’ in the mid-90’s (I may have the only VHS tape copy of it left in existence in my filing cabinet) wherein the author talked about the importance of life experience to good writing.  I was offended at the time I watched the interview at 16. My life experience was no less valid and powerful than an experienced author just because it was short!  And as for ‘writing what you know’, well, smarty pants, there are no such things as vampires or witches or werewolves, so if I’m writing fantasy, that doesn’t even apply.  Right?  Wrong.  

Try writing about relationships if you’ve never been in one. Friendships if you’ve had trouble making them. Being strong, when you’re the shy kid that gets picked on for being weird.  My version of tough-as-nails heroine was a bit of a poser, if I’m being honest. My protagonist is still as socially awkward as they come, but in adulthood, I finally became comfortable in my own skin.  I learned how to have confidence in myself, how to be strong even when I felt like giving up, and how to kick butt when necessary. By the time I hit my thirties, I had gained the life experiences I lacked when I was initially trying to write about them.  

That vision of becoming a published author I had when I was 16 is very different from the reality I see today, less than three weeks before Blood Toy’s launch. The book tour I planned…will be a blog tour.  My inevitable rejection letters come in the form of emails from potential ARC reviewers.  My launch party will be a celebratory dinner with family and a few close friends, as I write under a pen name to keep my creative and professional life separate.  And I’m afraid Blood Toy will never be Oprah's Book Club material. 

The publishing landscape is very different that it was twenty years ago.  Who could have imagined then that it would be possible to create an author platform and amass 1200 followers for it in less than 3 months? Or find dozens of editors, instantly read samples of their work (thank you Kindle Unlimited) and arrange to interview them all in days, sometimes hours?  To print a single copy of a debut novel?  But most importantly, who could have imagined the possibility of becoming a best selling author without the backing of a major publisher?  Today, with the indie publishing movement and the myriad self publishing tools at our disposal, it is a very real (if remote) possibility!