Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 209 - Author Tansy Rayner Roberts On The Road To Publication

There and Back Again, by A Fantasy Author

The question to spark off this guest post (hi, thanks for having me!) was “How you got where you did, and how long it took?” Which of course means I have to actually stop and think about where I am!

Where I am is pretty good right now. I have the second book of a HarperCollins trilogy about to hit the shelves, with the third due out before the end of the year (and, most importantly, I have done almost all the work needed on that book), I am starting to write a new series thanks to a couple of major Arts grants, and I appear on the shortlists of both the Aurealis Awards and the Ditmars. This is a very good year.

But the thing about being a writer is that it is by no means a linear path. I know from experience that a great sale to a big publisher does not guarantee career progression, and that troughs come after peaks.

Twelve years ago, I got the call that I had sold my first novel. I was nineteen years old, and had posted my manuscript off to a competition which was open for unpublished SF and Fantasy novels. I won! That was an amazing year, which included me learning to edit a book for publication in a fortnight, having to keep my amazing news secret for months, attending my first SF convention, meeting famous authors, and (most important of all) actually earning enough from writing to live on.

However... by the time the second book came out, a year later, things were not looking so rosy. Sales had not met expectations (and because of the prize money, the expectations had been rather higher than would be usual for a debut author). The books, which were humorous fantasy and might have been marketed as YA five years later, failed to find much of an audience. I lost my publisher, my agent, and my confidence.

I kept writing, and studying, and picked up casual work teaching creative writing (kind of ironic considering my track record, but I like to think I was quite good at it). I was mentored by some great people, got involved in indie press, and wrote short fiction. I sold a children’s novel as part of a packaged series with my writing group - mine was the first in the intended eight book series - but we only got three on the shelves before the series was pulled for - say it with me - sales not meeting expectations. That takes us up to 2007.

But a writer’s career is never linear - did I mention that? Back in 2004 I had started writing a novel I was really excited about, which was sometimes called Creature Kings, or Creature Court, and was later to be named Power and Majesty. I wrote it through most of that year, and only stopped at the three quarter mark because I was pregnant, and desperate to finish my doctoral thesis before I had the baby. I didn’t.

So the next two years were a blur of new baby and academic dramas and hunting footnotes, and getting back to writing was a lot harder than I imagined. My life had turned upside down, and none of my old methods and techniques made sense any more. I retaught myself to write creatively with a 100 word a day for 100 days challenge (you miss a day, you start back at day 1) and finally, eventually, finished that novel. I workshopped it, rewrote it, took it apart and put it back together again. All of this took time. Marianne De Pierres, one of the writers who had mentored me through the decade, posted my first chapter on her website, and it attracted interest from a Big Publisher (who eventually passed on it) and an Agent, who took the project on and sold it to HarperCollins.

That takes us up to late 2008! The book was with HC for a good 8-9 months before they decided officially to take it, and then when I signed the contract, it was for a long time in the future, because they wanted to ensure the other two books (the ones I hadn’t written yet!) were close on its heels. So I had to wait a whole year and a half after signing the contract to see my book in print.

In between signing that contract and the release of the book, all I had to do was write two more novels in about 18 months. I could manage that, easy. I was a stay-at-home mum, and my daughter was at school age. It made all kinds of sense, except for the part where I had another baby on the way. The next 18 months was a blur of deadline extensions and very understanding editors (thank goodness!) and, looking back, I’m not sure how I did that at all. The first book took, with many stops and starts, six years from beginning to end. The next two only had 9 months each, plus a little editing time where it could be squeezed (and editing time almost always squeezed the writing time, because there was no other time).

It’s been a long road to get here. I know so much more about this industry now than I did back when I got my first “break” and I have made contacts and friends along the way. Next year might not bring as many professional highs as this one, but that’s okay. I’m ready for whatever bumps and curves come my way, and in the mean time, I have books on the shelves, and there’s really no better feeling in the world!


Tansy Rayner Roberts is the author of Power and Majesty (Creature Court Book One) and The Shattered City (Creature Court Book Two, April 2011) with Reign of Beasts (Creature Court Book Three, coming in November 2011) hot on its tail. Her short story collection Love and Romanpunk will be published as part of the Twelfth Planet Press “Twelve Planets” series in May.

This post comes to you as part of Tansy’s Mighty Slapdash Blog Tour, and comes with a cookie fragment of new release The Shattered City:

It was still raining blood, and the sky was full of colours and shadows and bright, blazing moments of light. Delphine kept her head down as she hurried through the streets, ignoring it all. It was not her world. It was not her problem.

She kept thinking that right up to the point that she reached the yard behind her house, and found it full of monsters.


  1. Thanks for such a great post! I found your story really inspirational and I appreciate you sharing it with us. Overnight success looks shiny, but it takes real guts and determination to get back up after a knockdown and say "Hell no, I'm going to be a writer, dammit!"

    I look forward to reading your new book!

  2. Thanks for sharing that Tansy! I actually have both Splashdance Silver and Liquid Gold on my bookshelves and I thought they were brilliant.

    I've enjoyed reading your blog so far too, Julia :)

  3. Thanks Kaiteesuiggle! (By the way, I seriously love your name!) I've added you to my blogroll - I'm looking forward to watching your challenge!