Good morning, folks. Today’s blog is a continuation of Edie’s and my Monday interviews of the writer’s journey of our MM ladies. Today I’m presenting Karin Tabke (Harlow’s) story. A tad long, but well worth reading. Karin’s story truly is an inspiration to newbie writers everywhere and certainly a lesson in perseverance that anyone can appreciate and learn from.
It seems like just yesterday I sold my first book. I could say it was a dream I had finally realized but for me, it was never a dream. To me, dreams are things you close your eyes and imagine. For me, publishing was a goal. A goal I systematically strategized and worked my ass off for.
Back when I was writing toward publication there was only one venue: New York print. That was what I wanted, and that is what I worked toward. I got it too. After hundreds of rejection letters, I finally sold to Hilary Sares at Kensington. I had met her at a local conference a couple years prior to selling to her (a conference where I knew no one but didn’t let that stop me from going.). For the record, Hilary rejected me countless times before she bought me. But like the energizer bunny, I kept submitting. It never occurred to me to take each one of her no thank yous as the door permanently closing. I kept knocking, she kept answering and finally, one day she invited me in.
But let me back up. My first writing love was romantic suspense. It’s what I read and what I loved to write. It was getting me nowhere with agents. But even though I wrote RS, the romance part was always emotional, and I never backed out of the bedroom. I naturally wrote steamy. So when Ellora’s Cave came along and ripped the door off the bedroom, it was a game changer for a lot of authors. However, I didn’t submit to EC. Two reasons, the main one being, my goal was New York and that was where I would continue to focus, and secondly, while I naturally wrote steamy, at the time, I didn’t write that explicit. Hah, boy have things changed!
So, Karin took a step back and realized that while the RS market was glutted, the erotic market was just opening up. So, I took an RS idea I had, heated it up and voila, I had a smoker. Naturally I submitted to Hilary thinking it was perfect for the then very smexy Brava imprint. She rejected it, calling it ‘too raunchy’. Hrmph! But, she emailed me nine months after she rejected it and asked if it was still available (at the time Kensington was working on launching the smokin’ hot erotica line Aphrodisia). While my novella was under consideration at Red Sage, the editor who I was corresponding with had not made me an offer although I knew one was eminent. So, I told Hilary the truth. She made an offer the following week. I immediately contacted the agent I had wanted all along and who had rejected my RS all along. She read the novella and a proposal I had been working on (which turned into GOOD GIRL GONE BAD) over the weekend, called me Monday and said, “Let’s do this!”
My novella, Stakeout was part of THE HARD STUFF anthology, the first antho released in the new Aphrodisia line. It was a big deal then. Lots of excitement surrounding the imprint. Not much of an advance, but that antho earned out quick and continues seven years later to still earn royalties.
So, you’d have thought I would be jumping up and down ecstatic. I sold! I sold!
It was kind of anticlimactic in a way. My goal had been to sell to New York. I sold a novella and two single titles all in the same week. As I sat in my hot tub sipping Dom in celebration, I said to my husband, “Ok, so now what?”
“You write more books.”
I shrugged and said, “I don’t know if I want to. I mean, my goal all along was to sell to New York, I’ve done that.”
He went on to encourage me to stick it out for a while and see how I liked it. Needless to say, I love it! But let me back up again. I think because I had worked so insanely hard for so long, by the time I achieved my goal, I was exhausted.
When I started writing I didn’t know any other writers. I wasn’t a member of RWA. I finally joined, but didn’t go to a local chapter meeting for almost a year after I joined National. When I finally did go to a chapter meeting, it was amazing. I was like a starry-eyed kid in a candy store. I was in the wonderful world of romance writers. Micki Nuding from Pocket was the guest that day and she did a presentation on query letters. So many aha moments. But mostly, I just stared at her in awe. She was the epitome of what I imagined a real live New York editor to be. She wore a most excellent dark blue chic suit, stylish hairdo, ridiculously kewl black alligator skin slingback stilettoes and she had a deep raspy voice that to this day I can still hear. (of course little did I know that Micki would become one of my most favorite people on the planet!)
I learned a lot that day. Most from Micki but a bigger lesson from the 50 + writers in that room: segregation in the writer world was alive and well. Published authors sat over there and unpubs sat anywhere else as long as it wasn’t at the published authors’ table. It pissed me off. But I digress.
I worked hard, alone. The internet wasn’t what it is today. There were a few writer focused yahoo loops. I joined Charlotte Dillon’s group and Jess Peterson’s. There was chatter on them about CPs. I was arrogant enough at the time to believe I didn’t need a CP. Wrong! I finally sucked it up and responded to a casual email sent out on Charlotte’s loop by either Amy Knupp or Maya Banks. We were all at the same level and we immediately got along and began to furiously write, submit and shred the crap out of each others’ stories. It was an eye opener for me, and I loved it. We’re still dear friends all of these years later.
I think for me, having two CP’s that I trusted and who got romance was invaluable to me as a writer. I met Edie, Liz and Michelle as CP’s. We’re still good friends. Those relationships seem to defy time and miles. I contribute much of my success to them.
I still have a CP (wouldn’t be caught dead without her), and she has a lot more patience for my work than I would. Virna rocks it, and she always brings issues to light I didn’t see. Thank you, Virna!
I never doubted I would sell to New York, I think that played heavily in my selling, but my arrogance hindered me. I thought I was good enough from the get-go. I wasn’t. Not even close. And it wasn’t until I accepted that I wasn’t as awesome as I thought I was that I began to dig deeper, work harder and grow in leaps and bounds as a storyteller and writer.
If I had it to do all over again there are a few things I’d tweak, but for me, it’s the journey and those who took it with me that I think about most. I don’t think about lists or numbers or advances when I think of my career, I think of the people I’ve met and the ones I have yet to meet that make me smile. Because like the stories I write, this business is about relationships. And I’m a relationship kind of gal!
But after all is said and done, my journey is not much different than most success stories, because the equation for success is always the same: hard work + determination + more hard work + confidence + some talent + never taking no for an answer + more hard work + not giving up = success.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!