Monday, January 02, 2012

The Realities of Writing

“You have a dream job, you know.”

A friend told me that the other day, and it made me smile, partly because she’s right, and partly because, five years into this crazy ride, it’s an easy thing to forget.  I never thought that my job would have anything in common with my husband’s…he was a fighter pilot for the first ten years of our marriage.  But as it turns out, being a writer and being a fighter pilot do share something: they are both jobs that are very cool and also not as cool as they look.  After all, an awesome job is still, at its heart, a job.

That’s one thing I didn’t know back when I began.  As it turns out, I could title a book “Stuff I Didn’t Know About Being A Professional Writer” and probably spin it into an encyclopedic set based entirely on my personal experiences.  It would also be an unfinished work, since I’m still learning.  But since people are often curious about how this job looks from the inside, and because I’m feeling nostalgic on the five year anniversary of being picked up by my lovely agent (aka She Who Frequently Pulls Me Off the Ceiling), I thought I’d share the top three Big Revelations I’ve had along the winding path of my writing career thus far.

It’s a job:
Like I said, I may have kinda sorta underestimated the sheer, um, jobbiness (I know that isn’t a word, but it should be) of all this.  Back in ’07, with my shining masterpiece of a manuscript out on submission and stars in my eyes, I was absolutely positive that published writer-dom would be continuously full of sparkly wonder.  And possibly unicorns.  Sometimes, when my butt is parked on the couch at 1 am, my word count refusing to inch past five hundred for the day and my coffee cooling beside me, I miss those days of ignorant bliss.  I did realize, vaguely, that there was “business stuff” I would need to learn.  I knew that signing a contract would change everything.  Now, with deadlines, edits, promo, proposals, and more edits, I am awash in both the business stuff and the changed everything.  I still write for myself, of course.  Storytelling is something I’m compelled to do.  But I no longer write only for myself.  And whether the spirit is moving me or not (as a mother of three, the spirit often seems to be out partying, leaving me half-awake on the couch), I have a daily word count to meet.
It’s hard:
I know.  Duh, right?  Except I thought I’d gotten past the really hard stuff once I’d run the gauntlet and sold that first book.  No more rejections to cry over!  The gates had opened!  I was golden!  *sigh*  Well, getting published is very hard, yes.  Staying published is also hard.  It requires a degree of pigheaded stubbornness that is sort of shocking in its breadth and depth.  Rejection?  Still happens.  Reviews?  You will get ugly ones for every book, no matter how many people love them.  And the business itself is a roller coaster.  Back in ’07, I would never have imagined all the experience I’ve gotten in five years.  I…may not have wanted toJ  I have written for three different publishers, all quite different.  I have worked with three different editors, all quite different.  I’ve developed a thicker skin than I ever thought I’d manage to, because it’s that or run off screaming/dig a hole and pull it in after yourself/curl up in a corner rocking and drooling at some point.  Back when I started, I remember the seasoned authors on loops or at conference talking about their “rough patches”.  I, of course, was going to be sort of an authorial version of She-Ra and skip right to the super powerful awesome part.  Um…no.  I will not detail the many things that have kicked my butt on the road thus far, but suffice it to say that writing is a job you have to really, really want.  And at some point, probably more than one point, you will discover whether and how much you really want it.       

It’s amazing:
No, really.  There is nothing like this career.  It’s different than I’d imagined (isn’t everything?), but in some ways, even better than the, er, sparkly unicorn fantasy.  My friends and colleagues are clever, articulate, imaginative people, some of whom I am still a total fangirl about.  I get to work with and for people who love romance, who excel at making each book the very best it can be.  I meet the most amazing readers, who both keep me humble and keep me going.  Hey, I even get to work in my pajamas!  This is a job of “moments”, and I’ve learned to tuck away and treasure them for the times when things are flat-out hard.  Getting my agent.  Making a sale.  Holding each book for the first time.  Getting the call to tell me I’d finaled for the RITA last year.  Starting the Dark Dynasties series, which I am incredibly proud of and which marks the fulfillment of a lot of the dreams I had as an aspiring author.  Even just getting my very first royalty checks this past year, and feeling like I’m really “on my way”.  And I treasure every email I get from readers who’ve had one of my stories resonate with them.  For every difficult thing, there is a wonderful thing that far outweighs it.  As Jimmy says in A League of Their Own (one of my favorites), “It’s the hard that makes it great.”  So it is with writing.  And five years in, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Thanks very much to Lee for having me here today.  I’d love to take any questions you might have about writing as a career, whether it’s business or process or just how messy my desk is (you may not want to know the answer to that one).  And if you’re a writer…what’s been the biggest thing that’s surprised you about the job so far?  Say hello!  I’m chatty!  I’m also giving away a signed copy of my new book, Midnight Reckoning, which is the second in my Dark Dynasties series and came out yesterday.  If you enjoy paranormal romance, and are interested in what happens when a cat-shifting vampire and a strong-willed she-wolf get together (much against their better judgment, I might add), comment for a chance to win, and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Kendra Leigh Castle writes paranormal romance and is the author of the Dark Dynasties series (Forever).  She lives in Southern Maryland with her husband, three children, and menagerie of pets.  She loves to hear from readers, and can be found on facebook (, twitter (@KendraLCastle), and at

***Helyce is the winner of MIDNIGHT RECKONING! Congratulations! Please send an email with your full name and mailing address to!***


Marie Force said...

Congrats on hitting the five-year mark and the new book! Here's to many, many sales!

Kendra Leigh Castle said...

Thanks Marie! What a long strange trip it's been so far, huh? Here's to a most excellent 2012! *clinks glass*

Lisa D said...

All I can say is congrats on the 5 year mark and thank you very much for sharing your talent with us.

Misty Berry said...

a great article, Kendra. It seems you've grown a lot from all of your experience in the last 5 years.

Kendra Leigh Castle said...

Thanks, Lisa! Sometimes it's hard to believe it's been five's gone by VERY fast!

Misty, I'm glad you liked it. I've definitely learned a lot, and even the tougher experiences have been valuable. What's really interesting is going back to the first book and seeing how much my writing has changed! My editors have taught me a great deal, and I'm still working on it:)

scarlet wilson said...

Hi Kendra
Congrats on your five years! I'm always curious as to what draws an author to their genre. So what drew you to the Paranormal stories that you're currently writing? And have you tried writing in other genres?

Kendra Leigh Castle said...

Hi Scarlet! Thanks! No, I've never tried writing in other genres, really. My very first manuscript was more of a fantasy romance (and also, um, bad, which is why it's in a box in my closet), but generally, if there isn't someone with fangs or fur or wings or shooting fire out of their fingertips or something, I lose interest. I'm the same way with movies:) I do enjoy reading other subgenres of romance sometimes, but I can't seem to write them!

diva donna said...

Congrats on hitting that 5 year milestone. I'm so glad you didn't quit. You're so snarky and quirky and I love that you know how to fly by the seat of your pants. And write awesome books. I'm ready to read this new book.

Helyce said...

Congratulations Kendra! Five years, wow! I'm thrilled to have been with you through this exciting journey-even if only through the virtual world. You've worked hard and you deserve this! The Dark Dynasties are awesome! :)

Kendra Leigh Castle said...

Aww, thanks you guys!! Donna and Lisa, having you two along for this crazy ride has been awesome. I'm so glad to have met the both of you! Oh, and Donna, the new book has LOTS of're going to like Lyra:)

Kristina said...

Is there anything weird that you do to help you out of a block?

Na said...

Congratulations on being able to live your dream job. I would imagine some of the best part of this job is not only being able to introduce your characters and their worlds to everyone but to have people love it :) Wishing you a productive and great writing year in 2012!


Barbara E. said...

I do think being an author is a dream job, but I know it takes a lot of hard work as well. I wish I had the talent and the perseverance to be a writer, but I know my limitations, so I'll leave it to the ones who can and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Congrats on your new book, I'm looking forward to checking out your Dark Dynasties series.

Barbed1951 at aol dot com

Kendra Leigh Castle said...

Hi Kristina! If the block is really bad, staring at the page I can't seem to write anything on is the most frustrating thing to do. I walk away, play video games, mess with the dogs, anything completely unrelated to the book. And a night of sleep often helps! So nothing weird, I guess:)

Na, thank you! Oh, having people love the work is the BEST create something and have it resonate with someone feels like an incredible gift. I have literary worlds on my shelf that I still love to get lost in. Hearing I've given the same to someone else makes my day every time.

Wishing you a wonderful 2012 as well!

Kendra Leigh Castle said...

Barbara E, thank you! Yes, it's an interesting job...I tell people I love HAVING written, but the "in progress" part can be a bear sometimes. I have a very patient family:) I hope you enjoy the series!

Lil said...

Hi Kendra! I admit that I love paranormal stories and love being introduced to new series. Please, tell me a bit about the series itself and if you have a set limit of how many stories will be in it.

little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

Kendra Leigh Castle said...

Hi Lil! Sure:)

The Dark Dynasties series is about our world after dark, and the vampire bloodlines that both rule and serve in it. These vampires have a saying: "Blood is destiny." In their world, it's true. At the moment of siring, each fledgling vampire manifests a tattoo-like mark high up on the collarbone to match that of his or her sire. The ruling highblood dynasties have been careful to keep their mark pure, never allowing their blood to intermingle with other lines. The vast lowblood underclass exists at their whim, destined because of their mixed marks to serve. It's been this way from the beginning of the vampires' existence...until the slave of an ancient highblood queen is sent on a mission to find a rare type of mortal who can break a curse, and finds a woman whose very existence will change the world of night forever.

That's the run up to the first book, Dark Awakening, in a nutshell:) You'll learn more of each dynasty as the books continue, and as the archaic world of the dynasties begins to change, sometimes violently.

I'm currently contracted through book 4, and as long as there's interest and my publisher stays happy with the way things are going, I'll continue to write the series. I'm having a lot of fun with it, and there are some many interesting things to play with!

Thanks for the question!:)

Kendra Leigh Castle said...

I meant "so many". Obviously, I did not have enough coffee today.

chey said...

Great blog Kendra! Congrats on the new book and hitting the 5 year mark!

Di said...

I'm very interested in exploring paranormal romances. I've read several vampire stories but not much in the way of shifters so I'd love to try this series.

sallans d at yahoo dot com

Michele L. said...

Wow, congrats Kendra! 5 years, woohoo! That is amazing!

I love, love, love paranormal books. I just started reading them about 2 years ago. I have been voraciously snapping them up!

Have a happy, healthy and wealthy New Year!

marybelle said...

Congratulations!! Reading the post your joy & enthusiasm just leap from the page. I have not read any of your work, but I will now. I have enjoyed 'meeting' you.

Eli Yanti said...

Hi Kendra,

Congrast for your five years and new book release

i think writing as a write is a wonderful job and i wish i can do it ;)

gigi said...

Congratulations on the release of
Midnight Reckoning.
I love to read a good paranormal that can whisk me away.
I admire the full time author you have to be very disciplined. i understand that writing for a living is just that a hard job. Albeit a job that you love but still a job with a deadline.