Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Living the Dream: Three Thoughts from a Newly Contracted Author

Alley Pals, you're in for a treat today! We're hosting my (Laurie's) critique partner Kara Isaac, contracted author with Howard Books and creator of stories that never fail to leave me laughing and swooning. Without her, I never would have joined the ACFW or met my fellow Alley Cats :) Take it away, Kara!


In December last year I got the news that every writer dreams of. After years (and a few more years) of experiencing every high and low that comes with being an aspiring author, my agent had received that call from Beth Adams at Howard Books. Since I found out via email as I was about to start a meeting for my “real” job, I also had to try and be present there for an hour when all I wanted to do was scream, hug everyone in the room, and possibly break out into a jig.

Over the last six months, I’ve had to keep it secret for three, handed my baby over to my amazing editor, and survived developmental and line edits, talked cover ideas, growing my platform (good news – it’s so small it can’t actually get smaller!), had author photos done, wrangled with the IRS, and started writing my second contracted book that is due in October.

So, when I got invited to guest blog at one of my favourite places (not that you’d know; I’m more of a lurker than a commenter – sorry!) I thought it could be fun to share a few of the things I’ve learned along the way :)

It’s Easy to Forget You’re Living the Dream (But Don’t)

When you’re wallowing in the mires of agent rejections and disappointing contest results, when you’ve been to so many editorial and publishing boards it feels like you’ve casually dated every publisher in town, you know, you KNOW that should you ever get a contract, you will spend every breathing moment relishing the opportunity.

The reality is that, when the ink has dried, your heart has stopped palpitating, the excitement has died down, the Facebook congratulations have stopped, and it’s back to you and your laptop again, the dream looks a lot like, well, work. It can be easy to lose the joy for everything required to get a book published to become just another “thing” on the to-do list.

Every time this process starts feeling like a burden, I know I need an attitude adjustment. Out of the thousands of aspiring authors, I get to live the dream. If life was fair and publication was simply about talent, every single one of my amazing critique partners would also have a publishing contract, but they don’t.

I’m not saying that those of us with publishing contracts should feel obligated to turn into Pollyanna. Writing is hard, life happens, deadlines land at the worst possible time, but above all of that is the crazy reality that we get paid to do what thousands of others spend their years working toward and may never achieve.

Know Your Boundaries (or at least know you might have to work them out real fast)

I wrote under the radar for a long time. For years, the only people who knew I harbored aspirations of being a novelist were my family, a few close friends, and my critique partners. I had a great career that I didn’t particularly want having “wannabe romance novelist” tagged to and, besides, I knew the odds of my crazy big dream were about as likely as winning big in the lottery.  

When my book deal became public, I was suddenly faced with a tsunami of decisions. With some I already knew what I was going to do; others I had never thought about. Some of mine were:
  • What am I going to do with people wanting to be Facebook friends who I don’t know?
  • Am I going to provide personal details/photos of my family on any of my public platforms (FB page, Twitter, website, etc.)?
  • What public records are there of my address (and/or phone number)? Am I okay with that? If not, what are the options (if any) for getting it removed? 
  • How am I going to respond from requests from people to introduce/connect them with my agent or publisher?
  • How am I going to respond to requests to endorse other people's books (particularly writers I don’t have a personal relationship with)?
  • What do I say to people who expect/ask for free copies of my book?
Know Which Hill You’re Prepared to Die On

Characters, plot lines, physical characteristics. There’s very little in your story that is out of the realms of possibility of getting changed, even when it’s contracted.

As a New Zealander, there is not much that gets me more peeved than reading New Zealand (or Australian, British, etc.) characters who aren’t authentic. Most often this involves American versions of words or phrases or using products that aren’t even available in their country.

Then There Was You, my debut romantic comedy, is set in New Zealand, and Allie, my heroine, is New Zealand born and bred. The one thing I wouldn’t move on was anything that would turn Allie into an American version of herself.  There was no way that she was ever going to pick up trash (or use a trash can), drink soda (or pop), use ketchup, or put gas into a car.

Fortunately, my incredible editor got this. While we’ve had to make a few changes to avoid confusion or replace products that Americans wouldn’t know with more generic terms, Allie has very much retained her “Kiwi” identity.

Since I knew that was the one big thing in my story that I wasn’t going to move on, working through developmental edits became much easier. Everything else was up for negotiation in pursuit of the strongest story possible.

Thanks so much for having me, Writer's Alley! I’d love to chat and answer any questions, but apologies in advance that I won’t be here until later in the day. Morning in the US = middle of the night here in New Zealand. And with a three-year-old and a one-year-old, I need all the sleep I can get!!


Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Then There Was You, is about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien-themed tour of New Zealand. It will be an early 2016 release from Howard Books. 

When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. 


Kara Isaac said...

Thanks so much for having me here today, Laurie and Writers' Alley! Tuesday is all over in New Zealand so I'll see you all in the morning :)

Angie Dicken said...

Great advice, Kara! And congrats on your books! Yay!! Thanks for posting on the Alley today.:)

Pepper said...

Fantastic pub story and advice, Kara!! Oh my goodness, your novel sounds delightful!!! Can't wait to get my hands on it!!!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Great tips, Kara! Your point about boundaries is brilliant, and I love the reminder to be content wherever God has us. It's easy to think the "other side" is all glamour, but God has us where we are for a reason.

I'm sooo excited to read your book! Do we really have to wait until 2016?! :)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

I loved this post, Kara! And hearing your publication story. Just hearing your voice here makes me want to read your novel when it comes out! I've always wanted to visit New Zealand. I have a dear friend who lives there. :)

I especially appreciated your last point—knowing which hill I'm willing to die on. I noticed you didn't say hillS. As in, not everything can be that hill. :) This makes a lot of sense!

Thanks for sharing your wisdom today!

Mary Vee Writer said...

First of all, Kara, I love love your bio photo. You are in a place we all dream of walking.

Second, thank you for sharing your publication story. We can always learn from each other--gain encouragement, and see that light will come at the end of the tunnel.

Thanks for sharing!

Kara Isaac said...

Hi Everyone! Thanks for all your comments and encouragement :) This is going to be a little rushed because we're in the middle of getting the little people ready for daycare and the big people to work (7.30am Wed NZT) but I'll drop back later when I have a breather and reply properly!

KatieC said...

A fun post! Congrats on the books, and thanks for sharing :).

Laurie Tomlinson said...

So proud of you! I can't tell you how grateful I am to have your wisdom (and kicks in the pants) as a critique partner :) Thanks for posting today!

Kara Isaac said...

Pepper, Sarah, and Jeanne thanks for the encouragement! I can't wait for people to meet Jackson and Allie - I think they're pretty fun :)

Mary - Thank you! I love the photo as well. It was taken literally at the end of our street :)

Anonymous said...

Exciting news! Thanks for a peek at what's going through your head and heart right now. As an American living in NZ, I'm looking forward to reading your book next year!

Tiffany Jane said...

It's so awesome that you've written a book set in NZ! I tried and it wasn't easy (even though I'm a kiwi) I would love to read your book some time