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by Kara Isaac
Hi Seekerville, my name is Kara Isaac and I’ve basically had the writer’s equivalent of stage fright for six months - ever since my editor told me they’d managed to hoodwink the Seekerville ladies into giving me a guest blog post here. I’m a longtime fan (usually lurking, sorry ladies, but the time difference with New Zealand means that I inevitably find my way here when the comments have gone into the triple digits and I get comment performance anxiety and just freeze up under the pressure!). All of which is a very longwinded way of saying that the first time I met the lovely Julie Lessman at ACFW Conference 2009 where I regaled her with a crazy story about how I met my husband. SO after much angsting about my Seekerville debut I decided I had might as well continue on with the theme and tell you the story about my crazy book that releases next week.
So, with no further ado, I present Write the Crazy Book (subtitle: When An Editor Hands You An Awesome Book Idea on a Plate and You Think She’s The Crazy One)
“Have you ever thought about writing a book set in New Zealand about the Lord of the Rings movies?” It was the 2013 ACFW conference in Indiana and the question had just been posed to me by an editor who was considering two of my manuscripts. Who I’d pitched to before and gotten along well with. Who had said very complimentary things about my writing to my agent. A meeting I’d had very high hopes for. Needless to say, neither of the manuscripts she was looking at had anything to do with hobbits.
“Um, no,” was my ineloquent reply, and I hoped my face didn’t show exactly what I thought of the idea. In my head I was thinking: New Zealand? Lord of the Rings? Are you serious? In the seven or so years I’d been serious about writing, there was one piece of advice I’d been given repeatedly. American audiences aren’t interested in international locations. If you want to break into the American Christian market, your stories need to set in America about American characters. That’s what sells. I’d completely rewritten my first manuscript, originally set in New Zealand, on that basis. And now one of my dream editors, who had said nice things about my two contest finaling, commercially appealing manuscripts was suggesting I not only take my writing back home but add in orcs and elves? It was one of the craziest things I’d ever heard.
The next thought that flashed into my head was as unexpected as her question. A disillusioned tour guide and a failed entrepreneur. Since I had nothing to lose, I threw it at her, and we spent the final five minutes of my pitch appointment bouncing a few ideas around for the crazy story that I was never going to write.
A week later, I flew home, where I fully intended to let the crazy idea die and start working on something that might actually sell. But it wouldn’t. The characters named themselves Jackson and Allie. An American and a New Zealander. Their unwanted backstory started finding crevices in my mind to fill. And so, after a few weeks, I emailed my agent, Chip. An email that basically said, So Editor A had this crazy idea at ACFW that I should write a book set in New Zealand about Lord of the Rings. It’s crazy right? And even if it wasn’t, the timing is like five years too late. The movies are almost finished. No one is going to care about Tolkien a year from now. So if you could just confirm that it’s totally bonkers, I’ll start thinking of a new idea that might actually have a chance at making you some money.
Much to my complete shock, he came back having drunk the same Kool-Aid as the editor. He thought it was a great idea with lots of potential if I did it right. The whole world had officially gone crazy, and because I was five months pregnant and had no other sparkling ideas for a new story, I decided to join them.
Four months later, I’m in the labor and delivery unit of my local hospital where my 12 days overdue daughter is about to be evicted into the world. I’d spent the last few months anxiously awaiting news on the manuscripts that were out with various editors, and the running joke had become I bet I hear back when I’m in labor.
Sure enough, in that enjoyable hour between being admitted and scrolling through everything I could find on my phone to keep my mind off what was about to come, in dropped an email from my agent. Editor A loves your stuff but her house has put a hold on acquiring any more contemporary romances while they assess their existing line up. Of course they had. I was 30,000 words into Allie and Jackson’s story, I could no more abandon it now than I could abandon giving birth to the reluctant child inside of me. I was committed. Even if the one person I was writing it for wasn’t going to be able to do anything with it.
Six months later, I finished the manuscript. A fun, quirky romantic comedy about second chances that was mostly written in a haze of sleep deprivation and general “Oh well. No other publisher’s going to be interested, so I had might as well go nuts,” c’est la vie kind of approach because the only other one was inconsolable crying that I was writing 90,000 words that were predestined to gather dust in my agent’s collection of unsold manuscripts before he’d even read it.
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In July, I packaged it up and sent it off to my agent. I asked him no questions about what happened to it from there because I didn’t want him to have to tell me, “I’m really sorry, Kara. I pitched it to fourteen editors, and they all turned me down somewhere between New Zealand and Gandalf.” To this day, apart from the original catalyst editor and my editor from Howard Books who bought it, I have no idea who else saw it!
Three months later, I got an unexpected email from Chip. Beth Adams from Howard Books is interested and has a few questions. My immediate reaction was Ah, bless. Beth is taking pity on me and pretending to think about it to let me down gently. I’d known Beth for a number of years, having met her at my first ever ACFW conference, and she was a pro at rejecting my manuscripts in a way that made me feel good until I worked out I had actually just been turned down (again). Besides, Beth worked for Howard Books, which is part of Simon & Schuster. They published authors like Karen Kingsbury and Tosca Lee. Even if, in some weird alternate universe, they liked the story, me with my whole fifty-something Facebook followers and hundred-and-something Twitter connections had about as much a chance at a contract as I did at fitting back into my pre-pregnancy jeans.
The first set of questions turned into more questions, then a request from Beth to Skype and talk. And somewhere along the line, it dawned on me: I don’t think she’s just being nice. She may actually really want this crazy book. But I didn’t let myself dare to really hope. I had been to so many editorial committees and publishing boards—including getting an offer from a publisher only for it to get pulled when they decided to review their entire fiction line—that allowing real hope to take hold felt foolish.
In December, Chip emailed to let me know an offer was coming (right as I was about to walk into a big “real job” meeting, but that’s another story!) and it finally sank in. Where Chip had pitched two commercially appealing manuscripts that fit within all the boundaries for what we knew publishers were looking for, God had chosen the crazy book that I had predetermined was never going to fly to be the one that opened the publishing door.
So in this Seekerville year of no fear, from one debut (scared out of her mind) author to you, I say go write that crazy book that breaks all the rules you’ve been told for success but has lodged its way into your heart and won’t let go. You never know where it might take you J
This is the part where the blog posting gurus say you should ask a stimulating and engaging question to get the ball rolling and people falling over themselves to hit the comments button. However, the blog posting gurus don’t have a toddler who is in the throes of a long-running sleep strike so I have no engaging question beyond why won’t she just sleeeeeeeeeep?! but I do have a pot of full
cafffeinated New Zealand Free
Trade Belle Blend Coffee and a paperback copy of Close To You for a lucky
commenter so please accept that as the blatant bribe that it is to say hi (and
ask questions – I’m good with questions!)!
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Close To You
A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand.
Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in “happily ever after” ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree by guiding tours through the famous sites featured in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. By living life on the road and traveling New Zealand as a luxury tour guide, Allison manages to outrun the pain of her past she can’t face.
Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him—for his biggest business competitor—and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories. The one thing that stands between him and his goal is a know-it-all tour guide who can’t stand him and pegged him as a fake the moment he walked off the plane.
When Allison leads the group through the famous sites of the Tolkien movies, she and Jackson start to see each other differently, and as they keep getting thrown together on the tour, they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither expected to fall in love again, but can they find a way beyond their regrets to take a chance on the one thing they’re not looking for?
Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. 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 Stuff Oreos in New Zealand. Her sophomore romantic comedy, Can’t Help Falling, is another crazy book about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England. It will be an October 2016 release from Howard Books and (shameless self promotion!) if you purchase Close To You by April 26 you can go in the draw to win 1 of 15 advance copies of Can’t Help Falling (see http://www.karaisaac.com/news/ for entry details). She loves to connect on her website, on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Writer and Twitter @KaraIsaac