I'm so excited to feature Elizabeth Camden today! Ms. Camden's debut novel, Lady of Bolton Hill released just a few months ago. I'm always thrilled to read a debut because I know what kind of work goes into accomplishing that feat. Not just the process of acquiring a publishing house, but all the rewrites and frustration and determination that go into that first good manuscript a writer produces.
Bethany House was gracious enough to send me a copy to review, and I believe in sharing excellent books with other people. When I was trying to figure out an occasion for giving away Lady of Bolton Hill, I wondered if Ms. Camden would have time to come on Go Teen Writers and talk about what most helped her cross over from writer to novelist. Fortunately, she did.
To get entered to win a (very gently used) copy of Elizabeth Camden's Lady of Bolton Hill please leave a comment either asking Ms. Camden a question or verifying that, yes, that's a gorgeous book cover. Don't forget your email address, because it's tough to hunt you down without one. This contest closes Thursday, September 1st and is unfortunately only open to US residents.
Thanks for asking me aboard!I thought I’d talk about a trick that helped me land my first publishing contract.For my first novel, I picked a storyline I imagine most teenagers have a lot of experience with. Have you ever noticed how young people can form an intense friendship based on something like a shared love of music or books? I wrote a story about two teenagers living in modern-day Houston who shared a passionate interest in the rare genre of Victorian science fiction. Daniel and Clara meet in a used bookstore and become inseparable. They fall in love and plan a life together. The problem is that he is rich and on the road to a magnificent career in Houston, while she is dirt poor and fighting for a college scholarship that will take her to London. She gets it, goes to London, and their grand, passionate love affair fizzles. Years later, Clara returns to Houston and sparks fly again. The remainder of the book is how these two people struggle to recapture the love they once had.So that was my first, unpublished novel. I loved it. I thought it was a masterpiece, but no one else thought so! I did my best to sell that manuscript, but had no offers.Then I got smart. I looked at the market and the genre I was targeting for publication, and realized that historical novels were smoking hot, while there wasn’t a lot of interest in contemporary romances.Could I turn that story into a historical?My original characters were passionate fans of Victorian science fiction, and their quirky interest in history made it easy for me to re-write them as characters in Victorian Baltimore. In this new version, Daniel and Clara meet in a music shop because they are both passionate fans of the composer Frederic Chopin. Since college wasn’t an option for women in this era, I decided to have my characters undergo a role-reversal. I made Daniel a dirt poor steel worker struggling to get into college, while Clara was the daughter of wealth and privilege.I had to make lots of changes to the plot in order to make it work in the Victorian era, but the heart of the story was the same. In both versions Daniel and Clara were fiercely intelligent people. They had huge dreams and reached out for them with both hands. I love a good turbulent story with love, betrayal, heartbreak, all punctuated with periods of soaring joy and utter delight. Although the setting and the details changed, the heart and soul of the manuscript was the same.What a difference that change made! I had a ton of interest in the re-written historical version of my story, and sold it to a very good publisher.What did I learn from all this?• Be true to the story you want to tell, but be mindful of the market, too!• Be willing to play around with your setting. What if you took your contemporary story and plopped it into the Roaring Twenties? Or took your New York City girls and plopped them into a small town in Iowa? This is a great way to inject a little freshness into your plot, especially if you have run into a brick wall and don’t know what to do next.• Don’t give up! Writing takes a lot of work. If you like what you are doing, keep learning and investigating alternate strategies until you find something that works. It took me almost a year to re-work my contemporary romance into a historical romance. It was a gamble, but I believed in the characters and it paid off.Here is my final piece of advice to an aspiring writer. Be a reader! Read widely and deeply. Good stuff and bad. Read Shakespeare. Comic books. Keep your eyes and you mind open, and it is amazing the wisdom you will glean along the way.Thanks to Stephanie for inviting me aboard. I love to write about good genre fiction, especially the romance genre. I blog at http://elizabethcamden.com/blog where I ramble on about the romance genre (in novels, movies, real life, etc.) Since I am a librarian, I also post lots of pictures of mouth-watering libraries. I hope you’ll swing by for a peek!