Recently in print - Genevieve Graham

2 August 2012 / 1 comment


Genevieve Graham’s first book Under the Same Sky was finally picked up by Penguin US. But they didn’t want just that book – they wanted her to write another novel as well! Find out more about how an unknown writer landed a double book deal with one of the world’s leading publishers.


You have a background in classical music and worked in marketing and advertising. What made you switch to writing a historical romance novel?
It's not like I actually chose to switch over ... to be fair, I hadn't been doing either one of those things for a long time. I grew up with a passion for classical music and graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Performance (on oboe) in 1986. At the time I thought there was nothing on earth quite as enthralling as sitting in the middle of an orchestra while we stormed through Mahler or tiptoed through Prokofiev. Unfortunately I was forced to quit because of a medical condition, though I ended up channelling my musical energy into teaching piano for local kids - I still teach three nights a week even now, 14 years later! Yes, I worked in marketing and advertising both in the profit and non-profit sectors but left the workforce when I became pregnant with our first daughter. My husband was a very successful radio advertising salesman, so I was fortunate to be able to stay home and raise both daughters. When our oldest was about eight, my mother handed me a copy of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. While the girls were little, I literally put all books aside because life was just too busy for me to indulge in reading. Outlander completely transported me to another world. It really did change my life. After reading it four times and listening to the audio book three times, I decided to try and write my own adventures. It was the Outlander series that made me into such a fanatic for Historical Adventure.


How long did it take you to write your debut novel Under the Same Sky? And how did you manage your writing with your other work/life commitments?
Under the Same Sky was the first novel I'd ever written. The writing and research took me about eight months - again, I was fortunate to still be a stay-at-home mom, and now that the kids were off at school I was able to indulge more in my writing time. I could type for eight hours non-stop sometimes. At others I grabbed five minutes here, five minutes there. I was relentless. The original manuscript came out to about 150,000 words, and I proudly handed it out to all my friends and family members. I also sent about 100 agent query letters. I received great reviews from my readers and 100 rejections from agents. That was when I learned I'd only just begun. I was living in Calgary at the time, and the Calgary Public Library was holding a Writer-In-Residence programme. Our fearless mentor was Rona Altrows, and she was absolutely instrumental in teaching me the value of editing. Through her guidance and through learning through various blogs and writer sites online, I cut over 50,000 words and ended up with a neat, polished novel. Then I started up with the querying again. Trust me, writing is the easy part. Querying for agents is awful. I received about 70 rejections before a friend finally referred me to her agent, the great Jacques de Spoelberch.


What did your family and friends think of your newly-found passion for writing? And how did you find the confidence and belief in yourself to write a novel and the perseverance to find an agent?
My family and friends were incredibly supportive of this new passion. Especially my husband. From the start he encouraged me to keep going. When I hit a roadblock he'd let me vent and throw in suggestions whenever possible. He was amazing - and still is. My daughters took a little longer to realize that Mommy was ‘working’ on the computer, not ‘playing’. A lot of my friends said they admired the fact that I could actually write a complete novel, but most strangers seemed to lose interest when they heard I wasn't yet published. It was a very frustrating exercise, sitting at that computer, receiving rejections, but I shared the book on a couple of author sites (Scribophile.com and Authonomy.com) and the support there was incredible. And it wasn't just outside sources that compelled me to keep going - the characters in the story had worked their way into my heart and mind. They were emphatic that their stories needed to be told. I never even toyed with the idea of giving up.


How many publishers/agents had you sent your book to before agent Jacques de Spoelberch took you on? And how did Jacques eventually place the book with Penguin US?
The trick to getting published - okay … ONE of the tricks - is to place a really good agent. Not just any agent. Jacques is a real pro, and he knew exactly where to go with my book. Jacques approached one editor at Berkley (Penguin US), but something about the submission caught the eye of Executive Editor, Wendy McCurdy. She picked the manuscript up off the other editor's desk, and two days later she made an offer on Under the Same Sky - on the grounds that I write a second novel! He and I were both thrilled - and we were just as happy about a month ago when Penguin offered to publish the third book in the series, Out of the Shadows. That book will be out in Aug/Sept 2013.


You have said that you enjoy the editing process with your novels. You now work as an editor and work with other writers’ books. How do you go about editing and rewriting your books and what advice would you offer for less experienced writers about how to manage this process?
I do love to edit. It's like sharpening a knife until there's not a dull spot left. It's a great feeling of accomplishment. So yes, I started my own editing business (www.WritingWildly.com) and now I edit two novels per month for writers around the world. Editing is partially learned, partially instinctive. There are a lot of ‘rules’, but there are also times when the story requires that you break those rules. Honing a story properly requires in-depth study of every word and phrase. When I edit, I read out loud and examine not only the flow of the story, but the feel of the words. Are there blank spots? Can I sense the surroundings? Can I feel the emotions? Is every character shaped to some degree? Is the dialogue natural? There are many, many aspects of editing. If you look on the blog on my editing site I offer some suggestions, and people say my lessons are user-friendly.


How has becoming an 'in print' writer changed you?
Now that I'm published by Penguin, I find my life has sped up. In addition to my editing business, I'm constantly writing at least one book, plus I spend a huge amount of time promoting the books that have already been released. People take my writing seriously now that my books are in bookstores, which is wonderful. The best part is that I no longer feel guilty for spending hours typing out my fantasies. The worst is that I am pressuring myself constantly to out-do the last book. But that's not such a bad thing. Worth every rejection letter.


My advice? Just write whenever you can. There's no way I could have done it when I had little kids, but now that they're teenagers my life is pretty much my own again. Believe in what you're creating, and don't even think about publishing until you are sure your book is the best it can be - which includes hiring an editor. Writing is the most important thing. Publishing comes later.




The blurb - Under the Same Sky
Maggie Johnson has been gifted with ‘the Sight’ ever since she was a child. Her dreams bring her visions of the future and of a presence she knows is not a figment of her imagination. She calls him Wolf, having watched him grow from a careless young boy into a fearsome warrior, and she trusts him with her life and her heart.

Andrew MacDonnell is fascinated by the woman who has visited him in his dreams for as long as he can remember, entranced by her beauty, knowing deep in his soul that she is as real as he. Although he doesn’t know who she is, Andrew believes that destiny will bring them together.

When tragedy and war strike their homelands, both Maggie and Andrew suffer indescribable losses. Separated across an ocean, the bond they share nevertheless grows as they sense each other’s pain, lend each other strength, and embark on a journey of the spirit to find and love one another at long last…

View Under the Same Sky on Amazon
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