Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Elizabeth Camden got published and a giveaway



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.

Here's Elizabeth:

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So that was my first, unpublished novel.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!

29 comments:

  1. That is truly an "Oh, WOW!" cover! And I loved hearing your story. Each path to publication is different, but I think they all come down to creativity and perseverance. Now, why didn't Bethany send me a copy of this for review?? Hmm, I may have to address this oversight. ;-) The book sounds awesome!

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  2. Oh I absolutely love the book cover. I so want to have a dress like that some day. It is absolutely amazing. Thank you for the chance to win this. this book looks great. I would love to read this. Thanks again.

    agent_beckster(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  3. I definitely will drop by!It sounds like a cool blog :) Stephanie I literally saw this book on Amazon Monday.And I was like "Ooh that book looks good!" But I didn't get it.If I don't win (hint hint) then I will go get it from the library and then I might end up buying it.Cause it sure looks awesome!It was the cover that attracted me...I'm a sucker for a great, awesome and historical looking cover. That was very informative Elizabeth!Thanks so much.And I liked it because it was kinda written like a story :) I was just thinking the other day that to be a good writer you need to read a lot, have a big imagination and keep on trying. I love this post!
    Sierra
    Sierrabooklover@gmail.com

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  4. Love the cover! This is definitely going on my to-read list!

    Thanks for the chance to win...

    faithinhim(at)gmail(dot)com

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  5. That cover is AMAZING! I absolutely love it! Thank you for the opportunity to win it!

    What was the HARDEST thing about getting published?

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  6. I LOVE that cover! I have yet to even think of a title for my story.
    I am such a reader. My mom was a teacher so we have a library in our basement and a smaller one up stairs. *counting bookshelves* Yep that makes 8 bookshelves full of books not counting all the boxes of school books and my personal collection of books.

    Alyson

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  7. That book cover is STUNNING. I just like to stare at once and awhile. I bought it at Barnes&Noble a few weeks ago, and I must say that it pretties up my book collection quite nicely. Because I already have a copy of this fabulous book, please don't count me in on the giveaway. :)
    Thanks for the words of wisdom, Elizabeth! The fact that you persevered with your manuscript, even after it had trouble selling at first is very inspiring. :)

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  8. Lovely cover...lovely model...lovely dress!

    Thanks to Roseanna, who hired me to make the dress for White Fire's newest historical’s cover (coming out in January) I have a love affair with the 1870s now.

    I'd love to win this book!

    Jordan Elizabeth

    BTW, you can see pics of the dress I made by clicking my Username.

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  9. Jordan, my friend, you are insanely talented.

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  10. Hi Everybody!

    The Book Blogger asked what the hardest part about getting published. For me, it was dealing with rejection. I got A LOT of rejection.... over 100 rejections over the years. You have to develop a pretty thick skin, but in all honesty, every single rejection hurt. The good news was that during those years, I became a better writer. I think you will know you have what it takes if you start getting jazzed by a flattering rejection letter. During my early years of writing, I got standard form letter rejections. Then personalized ones. Then I got really nice ones where the agent praised my work to the stars, but said there was no market for it. I think it was the gradual improvement in my rejection letters that gave me the confidence to believe I was getting better.

    And Princess..... it is always good to have a zinger of a title, but the sad news (for me, anyway!) is that your publisher will probably change it. The original title of this book was THE ROBBER BARON. My publisher thought it sounded too gloomy, and worried that younger people might not know what a Robber Baron was. What do you think? Does the term "Robber Baron" ring a bell with you?

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  11. I like The Robber Baron, but then, I may only know what that is because I'm a history geek. It sort of suggests another main character, though. It depends on the cover a lot too.

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  12. That is a beautiful book cover! I absolutely love the dress. I want to read this book! :)

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  14. Heavenly Princess..... you are right that THE ROBBER BARON suggests another lead character. The book is pretty much 50-50 about Daniel vs. Clara. My publisher wanted to be sure to appeal to a female audience, so this was another reason they gave it an ultra-feminine cover and title.

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  15. What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a writer?

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  16. Thanks for this post and the giveaway! I think it's amazing how you kept the same characters and concept, but rearranged everything to make it more market-happy.

    The cover's lovely, by the way! The pose and the dress and windows -- it's very eye-snatching. Sounds like a great read, too.

    jennab.writer(at)gmail(dot)com

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  17. My word, what a lovely-wistful cover...love all that blue!! Very Victorian.

    Okay, I have no idea what a robber baron is. Will have to look that up.

    Elizabeth, your story is inspiring. An amazing example of writing your heart's story while appealing to readers at the same time. This post had me hooked! :)

    Thank you for the opportunity to win... biblioprincess15 at yahoo dot com

    Congratulations, Jordan!

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  18. (Oh, forgive me for not including my e-mail thedestinyofone(at)juno(dot)come

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  19. That cover is insanely GORGEOUS! I'm in love already. I know they say never to judge a book by its cover, but doesn't everyone do it anyway?
    ellyn (at) gibbscorner (dot) com

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  20. Mrs. Camden,

    I LOVE your cover!!! When I saw first saw it, I immediately knew that I wanted to read it. I really love reading about anything in the Victorian era. I really liked the way you described changing the details in your novel in order to make it more market-worthy.

    rebekahdooley (at) sbcglobal (dot) net

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  21. Ellyn, absolutely everyone does! That's why writers get so bent out of shape when they don't like theirs :)

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  22. fortheloveofnarwhals at gmail dot comAugust 26, 2011 at 9:13 PM

    The cover is absolutely wonderful! I'm going to try to read it even if I don't win. The summary sounded great and it will make it super fun to read it while knowing some of the writing background.

    But, my question is: Why Victorian Science Fiction? (I'm assuming this is another name for Steampunk?) How did you first get interested in it? Also, as far as I've noticed, the market is certainly growing for it, so that's exciting.

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  23. Sarah asked what my biggest challenge as a writer is. Hmmmmm. I think it was dealing with rejection. As I said earlier..... I got a lot of that in the years while I was learning the craft.

    I have a great bracelet I wear that is engraved with an old Japanese saying: FALL SEVEN TIMES, STAND UP EIGHT. That was my mantra all those years. It still is!

    Someone asked why I had Daniel & Clara love Victorian Science Fiction..... I wasn't referring to steampunk, rather.... Daniel & Clara were fans of the very tiny group of writers during the Victorain Era who wrote science fiction.... like H.G. Wells and George MacDonald. These guys invented the genre in the 1880s and 1890s.

    Tip for aspiring writers: Give your characters a very unique trait. In today's world, almost NO ONE has ever heard of George MacDonald, but because Daniel & Clara were MacDonald fanatics, it gave them an immediate bond.

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  24. The cover is fantastic, definitely captures that era. :) I am intrigued!!

    How would you recommend finding out what the market is like when a new author is seeking publication?? Like what the market is offering for their genre of book?

    jazzdivagirl(at)suddenlink(dot)net

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  25. Once again, I fall into the category of "no one” :) I know and love George MacDonald! On top of that, he was recommended to me by another teen. There are a few of us, still.

    In fact, my next novel is greatly inspired by GM :)

    Jordan

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  26. The fact that your book has a BEAUTIFUL cover should go without saying! Wowza, I love it!!

    And, what a story! That's sooo neat that it was once a contemporary story with no interest, then you changed it to historical and, *BAM*, your now a published author. (Okay, so maybe it wasn't as easy as "bam", but that's still really cool!)

    Awesome story, Elizabeth!!

    Katie
    agirlslegacy(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  27. Jazmine asked how to learn what is selling in particular genres. My advice is to go to the local bookstore and see what is on the shelves. It is always dangerous to chase a trend if that is not where your heart is.....so don't dive into Steampunk just because it seems to be hot right now. But if you think you have something fresh to offer within the steampunk genre, go for it!

    Publishers are looking for someone with a fresh voice, angle, or spin. Just don't stray toooo far out of the boundaries. It is always risky for them to sign a beginning author, so you can get away with bending a rule or two...... but I wouldn't recommend straying too far outside of what is selling.

    And Heavenly princess..... you are amazing! I am curious where you first got plugged into George MacDonald. I discovered him when reading a biography of C.S. Lewis. Apparently, he and Tolkein had a lively corrospondance regarding MacDonald....as they were both fans. I figured I simply HAD to check him out.

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  28. I am already a huge fan of Ms. Camden's, I've read her book and loved it, not to mention loaned it to a friend :) Great advice, I really liked this post :) Don't enter me I already have this book:)

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  29. Tabitha is our winner, congratulations!

    Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for sharing your story with us!

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