Recently I read Michelle Griep's Novel Rocket post about her fairy tale publishing journey with David C. Cook's digital first line (A True Fairy Tale). A year ago I was living out a similar fairy tale. With one small press historical under my belt, I was encouraged to write a historical romance. Less than twelve months after I even had the idea for this book, Love in Three-Quarter Time released through a brand new digital first line with a very well-respected company.
But as so often happens in the publishing industry, my experience did not turn out to be a fairy tale. It turned into something more along the lines of a nightmare.
After releasing my lone little book, the new line shut down. I understood this, really I did. I took a risk along with them, and this time around, the risk didn't pay off. But the short version is that my lone little book for the most part fizzled along with the line.
At this point in my career, I turned to God with a lot of tears and anguish. What should I have done differently? Honestly, I couldn't think of a single thing. All that came to mind was an article Gina Holmes wrote in 2011 about God damming up our writing careers (Dam Isn't a Four-Letter Word). The basic idea was that sometimes, even though we are ready as writers, due to other issues in our personal or professional lives, the timing just isn't right.
Now here's the part of the story I didn't mention. Love in Three-Quarter Time was my second published novel, but it was actually the THIRD novel I'd written. In between my first historical and this one, God had laid on my heart the story of a contemporary Muslim woman living in America and her interactions with a blond ballerina wounded by church and a bi-racial hippie chick of the New Age persuasion. A story full of humor, drama, and romance, but much more issue-driven than my other novels. My husband is from the Middle East, and he works in ministry to Muslims, so this story was very special to me.
This is the book that caught my current agent's attention, even though she wasn't sure she could sell it. Evidently the publishers felt the same way, because it had a habit of sitting in committee for lengthy periods of time. Meanwhile, a part of me wasn't sure I even wanted it to sell. I didn't want to be branded as a contemporary “women's fiction” writer. Not to mention that my cross-cultural marriage seemed to be perpetually in crisis, and I wasn't sure if it would be a good career move to highlight that area of my life. Most importantly, though, I was concerned that I might draw negative attention from Muslim readers, and I just wasn't sure how safe that would be.
Around the same time that Love in Three-Quarter time released, due to my husband's involvement with Muslims, we received some threats against our family. At first we were panic-stricken, but before long we adjusted to this new reality. Consequently, my contemporary novel (which is in fact very respectful and loving towards Muslims) now seemed like the least of our problems.
Another thing changed over that year. Suddenly, “New Adult” fiction became the hot thing everyone was talking about. With my twenty something characters searching for meaning and identity, I no longer had to pigeonhole my book as women's fiction just to find a genre that fit.
So back to my publishing story. When spring of 2013 rolled around and I realized that I might not have a 2013 release, I decided to just go for it. I also work as an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing, so I asked the owners if they'd like to publish my contemporary novel, Dance from Deep Within. Since Roseanna White had been my critique partner on this project and loved it from the beginning, it was a no-brainer.
Another year has past, and Dance from Deep Within released in November. I can't help but think this must have been God's plan all along. If my historical romance had been wildly successful, it would have been a bad career move for me to switch to contemporary so soon. And now I can even announce, my new contemporary novel is going to be a trilogy. I might not make tens of thousands of dollars on this project. And I still want to write historicals too. However, this was the book of my heart.
Now, like Gina, I look back and see that God “dammed up” my career for a purpose. And is it any good? I'll leave you with Novel Rocket's own James Rubart's thoughts on the subject:
“This is not my kind of book. So when I say it went deep into my heart, you’ll know it’s a story that will impact you no matter what genre you typically read. This novel will open your eyes. You’ll start seeing the people around you in a vastly different way than you do right now. And you can’t help but be changed by the three young women who Sleiman portrays with authenticity, penetrating insight, and well crafted prose.”