My journey to publication, like most people’s, has been long and bumpy. I didn’t know that I wanted to write until I hit my twenties. Before then, I’d always been a bookworm, but I’d been so focused on a career in psychology, that it didn’t occur to me to turn one of my loves into a profession. Alas, I didn’t follow the psychology path. Although I did complete my undergraduate degree, it took me eight years. I lost two friends to Meningitis during my first term at university which catapulted me into an anxiety disorder with OCD. I took a five year gap before I was able to return and finish. By that point, my future husband and I were engaged and we had just moved house; there weren’t the funds for me to carry on in academia.
I found myself in the business world as an inventory and demand planner for I.T. companies. Although the spreadsheets satisfied the geek part of me, my creative brain was left unstimulated. But I fully believed I didn’t possess a singe creative bone in my body. I can’t draw, or paint or sing, or even dance that well despite the theatre school I went to for ten years. It didn’t occur to me that I might be able to write.
It began with poetry. While my husband worked long hours, I would come home and find that I still had a lot of issues and emotions to work through. My anxiety could be managed, but it wasn’t ever going to go away. The poetry helped ease that tension inside.
I have always been quite a philosophical person, and my dad and I have long discussions about the origins of the universe, whether intelligent life existed elsewhere, if time travel was possible. These questions formed the basis of my very first novel, which turned out to be a 45k adult sci-fi with no dialogue. I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing and needed tuition.
I put that novel to one side and embarked on the Writer’s Bureau novel writing course. Finally, here was the formula I needed to write a coherent novel. But I didn’t stop there. The more I wrote the more I loved it and the more ideas came to me. I enrolled in more courses until I thought I had reached a sufficient standard.
During this time, I wrote was The Unadjusteds (due out November 2019). Without knowing anyone in the industry, I somehow came across the Writer’s & Artists’ Yearbook and taught myself how to write a query letter (not a very good one). I sent off my second-ish draft to every appropriate agent in the book. I was lucky I got some full requests and detailed notes and I landed one of Ireland’s top agents after six months of querying. We edited the novel and sent it out there. Where it died, along with the second, third and fourth book. After three years with this agent, it was time to reflect on what was going on.
Despite her being very good at her job and securing big deals for others, I realized we weren’t the right match. I was such a newbie and I needed more editorial input. I hadn’t even come across the expression “Show don’t tell” yet.
We parted ways. I did the rounds with freelance editors trying to raise the level of The Unadjusteds and to understand why it hadn’t sold. (Right on the back of the popularity of The Hunger Games– not good timing). I took an active interest in Twitter pitches and got a like for a start-up publisher in the States for my debut novel, The Shadow Keepers. That one still needed more work, and they passed, but offered on The Unadjusteds. At this time I had just secured my second agent, and she quickly sent out the novel again (it had been a couple of years and a few heavy revisions) to see if there were any bites. There weren’t and so my deal with small press Write Plan was secure. I loved the editor’s vision for the novel and felt it would be in good hands.
Things didn’t work out with agent number two either, and so I moved on.
Meanwhile, I had been editing The Shadow Keepers and got another like from Magnolia Press, who then offered on that. As it happened, The Shadow Keepers came out first even though I signed for The Unadjusteds first.
The road to publication has been paved with 100s of rejections and three agents. This year, 2019, has seen the publication of my debut – The Shadow Keepers – and will launch my second novel too – The Unadjusteds.
This publishing world is a crazy, unexpected, hodge-podge of different journeys for everyone. I haven’t landed myself a deal with a big 5, but maybe that’s around the corner. For the time being I’m content to get my words out there and sometimes consider myself the queen of the indie presses! I am also thankful that I signed with a new agent a few months ago who has already negotiated one of my other novels. This relationship feels right. And I am hopeful there will be more deals in the future.
Thanks so much, Marisa for sharing your journey with My Book Corner. You can reach Marisa on her website (click here), or via Twitter or Instagram – @MarisaNoelle77