Although I wrote stories for myself on and off since middle school, I never quite believed I would be an author one day. It wasn’t until I was almost finished with college (where I double majored in creative writing and psychology) that I began to chase that particular dream.
I finished my first non-fanfiction book in 2008. It was about angels. Kind of. A version of them, anyway. Once it was finished and edited, I researched what to do next and started querying agents. Although I got some pretty decent interest from several respected agents and an offer of publication from a small independent press, eventually I put that book away. My second attempt at a novel—this one a twist on the boy next door trope—never quite reached “the end,” but I kept pushing forward.
In 2010, my friend Lani Woodland called me and said, “You don’t happen to have a paranormal short story you want to submit to an anthology, do you?”
I laughed. “You know me. Of course I don’t! I don’t do short well.”
“Well, think about it and let me know if you manage to get something together,” she said. “The deadline is in a couple of weeks.”
I was working at Borders at the time, and I had Lani’s question in the back of my mind one morning when I opened the store. Early morning brain fog combined with two random songs back to back on my iPod created the spark of an idea that became a short story and then a novel. Eventually, after a NaNoWriMo marathon of 106,000+ words, it became Sing Sweet Nightingale.
Near the end of 2011, I submitted the first bit of Sing to a contest for unpublished authors run by the D.C. chapter of RWA. I found out it had won the Marlene Award in 2012, just before my trip to New York for Book Expo America. BEA is a massive, annual, industry-only event. Technically, I had no reason to be there, but Lani had been recently published by a small press, and so I went as part of her entourage. Now, Lani hadn’t been to NYC often enough to know her way around, so when she was supposed to attend an invitation-only event after the convention on night, I offered to guide her there and then wander off on my own. Go to dinner or find a bookstore and just hang out until she was done. By the time we got there, though, I really had to go to the bathroom. I talked my way past the door guards and then…didn’t leave. Can you blame me? It was at sunset on a rooftop overlooking the Hudson River in Tribecca. The views were incredible.
I kept to the edges of the party to keep from getting kicked out, but Lani mingled. There were editors from Spencer Hill at the party, and she had wanted to meet them. Well, she did, and she started telling them about my book. At the time, I was on the other side of the roof, but Lani called me over and said, “Tell them more about your book!”
To this day, I’m not quite sure what I said. The words spilling out of my mouth must have been interesting, though, because the pair of editors I talked to that night requested my manuscript. By the end of the summer, I had sold my debut novel. But I still didn’t have an agent.
The partnership with my first agent didn’t happen until 2013. At a Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Miami, I got a critique from Michael Stearns of Upstart Crow Literary, and he liked my pages well enough to recommend me to Danielle Chiotti, one of the other agents who worked with him. I signed with her not long before Spencer Hill requested the rest of the Dream War Saga books, and she also went out on submission with two other series—one contemporary and one fantasy.
However, having an agent doesn’t mean my path suddenly straightened out.
Neither of the projects I had on submission with Danielle sold, and the books I was trying to develop after that weren’t working the way I wanted them to. By the beginning of 2015, I was actually on the verge of finishing out the Dream War Saga and calling that my one story to tell; making writing a career didn’t seem to be working for me. My friend Liza Wiemer encouraged me to stay positive and attend the upcoming convention I’d signed up for with as positive an attitude as I could. I followed her advice and, because of two people I met during RT, ended the summer with two new book deals—one for the Assassins duology and one for The Ryogan Chronicles trilogy. But by the end of the summer I was also less one agent; Danielle and I split that summer.
So, three series deals with three different publishers, but no agent suddenly, and nothing new that I could query anyone with. Living in limbo was tough, but I had a lot of writing to keep me busy. A LOT.
In 2015, before I split with my first agent, I put together a proposal for a book I’m calling Conjured—although that title will definitely change before the book ever gets published…if the book ever gets published. As I finalized book two in the Assassins duology and book one of The Ryogan Chronicles, both Riptide and Entangled started asking what I had up next. I may or may not have panicked slightly at this point because A) I had no idea what would work next, and 2) I was once again agentless.
Once again, my friends came to the rescue. Tristina Wright, an amazing writer who had previously shared an agent with me, had become friends with Eric Smith, a new agent with P.S. Literary. She knew I was looking for an agent and recommended me to him. By the time I sent him my query and the full proposal for Conjured I had prepared earlier, he at least recognized my name. Not long after he got the file, he emailed me back saying, “Did you… did you finish anymore of it by any chance? That was such a tease! It’s SO GOOD I WANNA FINISH IT.” Two weeks later, I had an agent again. Just in time for him to help me negotiate a deal with Entangled for the Pax Novis trilogy.
So two agents, four series (one self-published), and ten years after my journey started, I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate this path. There are major ups and downs, unexpected turns, and unpredictable successes and failures. When things go right, though, it’s worth all the other trouble.
Don’t forget to check out Erica Cameron’s new book, Island of Exiles, out now!
by Erica Cameron
Series: Ryogan Chronicles #1
Published on February 14, 2017 by Entangled Teen
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.
On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.
But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.
To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.
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