Some people know from a very early age that they want to be an author. They grow up telling stories, working on the school newspaper, studying English in university, and writing manuscript after manuscript because they just know it’s what they want to do.
I was never one of those people.
As a kid, I never once seriously thought about becoming an author. I knew it was technically possible, but only in the way that becoming the prime minister or a millionaire veterinarian that only worked with kittens was technically possible. Books had always been a regular part of my life, and I was just fine with being a reader. I remember the first “adult” book my dad encouraged me to read: The Hobbit. At the time, I thought that a story about short, hairy people living in the ground was the worst thing I’d ever heard of. Eventually I read it and fell in love, and one of the first stories I ever wrote for myself was a LOTR fanfiction in the 8th grade (we’ve all got to start somewhere).
I also kept a journal for several years. Writing down my thoughts helped me cope with depression in university. When I looked back on those journal entries, I didn’t like what I read. I saw someone who was extremely uncomfortable with herself. I began typing up those entries in order to delete the stuff I didn’t like. I could make myself braver, funnier, stronger. Eventually I weaved in a plot to tie it all together, focusing on university and reality TV because that’s what I knew- and that’s how I accidentally started writing my first novel.
Once the idea that maybe, just maybe, I could work this into something publishable took hold, I couldn’t shake it. It took me a couple years to finish the first draft, and then came revisions and research. Once I was ready, I queried a couple dozen agents, all of whom rejected me. At this point I still hadn’t told anyone that I was writing. Part of me was embarrassed that I’d fail, and the other part stubbornly wanted to do it on my own. I thought about giving up, of course. Instead, I posted the first chapter on an online writing forum called AbsoluteWrite. Shortly after, I got a message from someone named Becky Albertalli, asking if she could read the full manuscript. This was around the time Becky was querying her own debut novel, SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. She sent back the manuscript full of constructive feedback and encouraging comments. Honestly, that changed everything for me. All of a sudden I had one person in the world who not only knew that I was writing but totally got it. Becky suggested that I query her agent, Brooks Sherman, who then requested the full manuscript. I sent it off, and then I waited. And queried more agents. And waited. And got more rejections. And waited. Six months later, I sent Brooks a message asking if he read the manuscript, but I didn’t hear back. A year after I queried Brooks, I was almost ready to let the whole “author” thing go.
My last attempt at getting an agent was a Twitter pitch competition called PitMad, which led to a request from an editor at a smaller publishing house. The editor wanted to increase the romance in the book to make it more New Adult. Because the manuscript was set in Jane’s first year of university, it was technically too old for YA, but it wasn’t romantic enough for NA. I was incredibly excited about a potential offer of publication, but I didn’t know if I wanted to do it without an agent. I called Becky, and she understood my dilemma. She also told Brooks about my situation, who then gave me a call. The first thing he did was apologize for holding on to my manuscript for so long. He said he loved the voice and story, but didn’t know how to sell it. Then he gave me the idea of having Jane complete her high school diploma at community college, pushing the story more firmly into the YA category, which was brilliant. He then offered representation, which I gladly accepted. I was a little concerned that he would take years to respond to my emails, but that hasn’t been the case at all. He’s been the best agent I could have asked for. I learned that patience is necessary in the publishing world, and that agents are only human.
After revisions, we sent out the manuscript on submission. We got an offer in a couple weeks- it was the only quick part of the publishing process! Since then it’s been over two years of edits, copy edits, a title change, and of course, more waiting (but hey, I’m already good at that). And though I never grew up wanting to become an author, I have to say, it feels pretty good to say that I am one now.
Lianne lives in Vancouver, BC. A mere three years of working in the film industry has left her far more jaded, bitter, and misanthropic than she could have dreamed possible. Having worked on one too many made-for-TV movies featuring the mild romantic antics of generically attractive white people, she’s taken it upon herself to push back with some pretty substandard stories of her own. Besides books, her three great passions in life are cats, craft beer, and camping. When she’s not working, Lianne likes to take off, eh in her ‘83 camper van. She maintains a steady hate/ love relationship with hiking, but is always up for exploring British Columbia- whatever it takes to find a nice spot to set up her hammock. Her hammock is her favourite place in the world.