Monday, January 26, 2009

The Tenacity Interviews - Sharon Dunn

Sharon’s Bargain Hunters mysteries, combine the two things Sharon loves: a solid mystery and the hunt for a good deal. The first Bargain Hunters mystery Death of a Garage Sale Newbie recently won second place in the ACFW Book of the Year competition. Book two Death of a Six-foot Teddy Bear was released in January 2008. Death at a Discount comes out January 2009.
Her books have been praised for their humor and characters people can relate to, transparent portrayal of the Christian journey. Sharon is also the author of the Ruby Taylor mysteries. The second book in that series, Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante, won the ACFW Book of the Year Award in 2004.

1) How long have you been writing? By this, I mean seriously writing with intention for publication – include the years of struggle before publication.
I have always written, but I count the day I forked out the twenty five or so bucks for my first Writers Market as the day I decided to take myself seriously as a writer. That would have been about twenty years ago.

2) Tell us about your first sale.
My first book sold in 2002 and came out in 2003. That was about ten years into my writing career, up until then I had sold only shorter pieces. It took about three years to write that book and another two years after I completed Romance Rustlers, I sold it to Kregel publications.

3) How difficult was it to find an agent? Did things go smoothly once you had an agent?
I got an agent when I went to my first writer’s conference. He worked hard to try and sell my first book but then decided not to agent anymore. I sold my first book without an agent and could only find a few Christian publishers who took unagented submissions. Then got a different agent for my second book. Having sold the first book on my own helped me get the agent.

4) How many rejections did you receive before the “yes” came? Do you still receive rejections sometimes?
If you are just counting rejections on the first book, Romance Rustlers, I think it was 13 or 14 publishers. The heartbreaking part was when publishers showed an interest and it looked like it was going to sell and then didn’t.
Yes, I still get rejections. I have published six books I still have publishers say sorry, we’re not interested.

5) Is tenacity something you learned along the way? Or does it come naturally to you?
Both. I different points in my career when I am faced with rejections, when I am without a contract, I have to ask myself if this is really what I want to do. The answer has always been yes, but I have to work and pray through lots of doubt. Sometimes, I have to step back from pushing so hard to sell another book and work on shorter projects or just read a book about writing craft.

6) What has being tenacious taught you about yourself?
The big thing that I have had to do is separate my identity from my success and failure as a writer, other wise I feel like I am being knocked around like a ping pong ball. My identity comes from being loved by the Savior of the world. If I never sell another book, my husband and kids will still love me.

7) What encouragement do you have for a writer who just received a “no” from a publisher?
After you allow yourself to be angry, sad whatever, assess why you got the rejection. If it is a personalized rejection, read the letter looking for positives comments and for things you can work on to improve your craft. Early on, I had a historical I had written turned down but the editor said he felt like the manuscript had potential. That comment kept me going.

If the rejection says that the book isn’t what they publish, start working on learning what it means to match a manuscript to a market. Editors have prejudices and pet peeves. By reading books and summaries of books from that publisher, you start to get a feel for what they want.
Finally, if it was a generic rejection, resolve to work on your craft. When it looked like my first novel wasn’t going to sell and I would have to retire it, I resolved to become a student of the novel. I bought books on story structure and started reading.

One of the things that helped me the most was I collected other writers’ war stories. I loved reading articles that talked about how now successful books got rejected over and over and I was in touch with published writers who told me how many times they were rejected before they succeeded and how many books they had to write before one got picked up. It made me feel less alone in the struggle.
Great advice for those facing a "no" from a publisher - that's what tenacity is all about, getting up again (after you take a moment to say, "Hey! That hurt!")
I bid you good writing.

1 comment:

Beth Fehlbaum, Author said...

Great interview! Thanks!
Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Ch. 1 is online!