Kate Douglas has written professionally, in one venue or another, since her first job in 1971 writing commercials for country-western radio, but erotic romance has become her one true love—besides her husband, kids, and grandkids, of course! She is currently working on the eleventh Wolf Tale for Kensington.
Awards: Three Eppies for contemporary romance and romantic suspense, one Quasar for cover art.
Author Web site: www.katedouglas.com
BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Kate: Chanku are an ancient race of shapeshifters, existing in a society ruled by passion and lust. Tinker claims his mate to protect her from those who would do her harm, but, in this society, the female calls the shots, and Lisa has a few surprises for her sexy alpha male.
BookEnds: Tell us a little about your road to publication and don’t forget to share all the bumps.
Kate: If I shared all the bumps I’d be writing for the next year, and I’m not exaggerating. It took me over twenty years to get published. What I’m going to do is post part of an article I wrote for Romantic Times last year that really sums up a long, convoluted road to publication. I learned an awful lot along my road to publication and I would love the opportunity to share what I can with other aspiring authors.
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Way back in 1976 I read my first Harlequin Romance. It was Leopard in the Snow by Anne Mather. I still remember that book, not so much for the content but for the lightbulb flash of inspiration that I, too, could write a romance.
Someday, when the kids were older.
By 1985 my babies were rotten little kids with lives of their own and I was free to indulge myself in that secret dream I’d carried for almost ten years.
I started my first book.
I still have it—Rite of Passage. It’s horrible. It’s filled with every conceivable romance cliché, but it’s category length and has a beginning, a middle, and an end. What it doesn’t have is a cohesive plot, decent dialogue, or anything remotely resembling proper point of view, but it’s still a book and it’s all mine. I entered the first three chapters—all I had completed at the time—in a contest in 1987 and won first place. Obviously I was on my way to a fulfilling career as a rich and famous romance author.
Right. The first-place plaque is practically an antique. Twenty years later, I’m beginning to see the glimmer of success, but the rich and famous part is still around that ever-evolving corner.
I was a newspaper reporter during the ’80s, and my creative juices went into stories about drug busts, forest fires, and high school football games. Still, the dream persisted and I finally finished writing my book and started submitting it to New York publishing houses in 1992. When I say I could wallpaper my office with the rejections I received, I’m not exaggerating. My files are a “who’s who” of the romance publishing industry in the mid-1990s, and not a single one of those wonderful editors wanted my story. The advice was always the same—write the best story you can write. Write your own story, the story of your heart.
I thought that’s what I was doing.
Obviously, I needed help if I was ever going to reach my Holy Grail—that elusive New York publishing contract. I joined Romance Writers of America, entered more contests, read everything I could on writing novels, took creative writing classes, and continued collecting rejections. I put the first book away and wrote a second, then a third. My writing grew stronger with each attempt, as did my ability to handle rejection from every editor on the face of the planet.
The reasons they gave for rejecting my stories were varied, but most of them could be listed under the “not what we’re looking for at this time” category. A few editors asked me to revise and resubmit, but that’s as far as I got. I told myself they weren’t rejecting me, merely this or that particular story, but that didn’t make it any easier to file the letters in my fat little folder. One thing I didn’t do, however, was quit. I kept writing. I kept submitting and I kept improving my craft. I found critique partners who had strengths where I was weak. I trusted their skills. I listened and learned.
I continued to write. I continued submitting my stories.
I continued filing the rejections, one after the other.
Then I discovered epublishing and suddenly I had a book coming out. Of course, the problem then was answering the “So, when are you going to write a real book?” question, but I didn’t really care. I was published, I was getting terrific reviews, and suddenly, much to my surprise, I got an agent. (Thank you, Jessica!)
Obviously, success was right around the corner—New York, mass-market publication, here I come!
I began to stretch, writing stories that were more involved, a little bit hotter, a whole lot edgier. Late in the year 2000 I discovered Ellora’s Cave and realized I’d found my match—a publisher who wanted the edgy, sexy stories I’d been writing. The company might be located in Ohio, not New York, but I finally felt as if I’d found my spot in the writing world. A couple years later I added Changeling Press and Loose Id to my résumé, both small presses publishing stories for the growing online erotic romance audience. To my surprise, at some point during the year I realized that New York contract had ceased being my Holy Grail. I loved what I was doing and felt comfortable in my niche, writing very successful paranormal and SF series for both Ellora’s Cave and Changeling Press. New York was perfectly welcome to reject someone else.
What’s that saying? Ah, yes . . . don’t get too comfortable. I sent my epublished serial, Wolf Tales (which had its origins as a “freebie” for readers on a chat list) to Jessica. In spite of my overwhelming lack of success, she hadn’t dumped me by the side of the road, and I thought the kinky, sexy, romantic series I was currently writing for Changeling Press would, if it didn’t frighten Jessica away altogether, possibly shock some unsuspecting editor into an acceptance.
Hopefully, Kensington editor Audrey LaFehr has fully recovered from that first read. Imagine my surprise when the series I wrote for myself, the stories I had never expected to see in print, found a home with Kensington Books. Though the entire process still has a surrealistic feel to it, I am absolutely thrilled to say that twenty years of writing, of critique groups, writers’ conferences, seminars and classes have finally resolved themselves into my own personal success story. Not overnight or even close, but I wouldn’t trade the journey for anything.
When you love writing, when you love the words—the process as much as the finished product—it comes down to a very simple truth. The New York contract isn’t the Holy Grail. The Grail is not the advance or even the royalty checks. Writing—the process, the personal growth, the overall mind-blowing experience of writing—is what makes it all worthwhile. When I allowed the quest for a NY contract to become more important than the process of creation, I failed.
When I wrote the stories I wanted to write, the way I wanted to write them, when I finally stayed on a path that led to my own satisfaction, the Grail fell softly into my lap. And, rocky road or not, it’s my road and I feel privileged to have traveled it.
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Feel free to ask Kate questions in the comments section. She’ll pop in during the day to answer them.
To learn more about Kate Douglas, see Our Books at www.BookEnds-Inc.com.