It's the year 2019—the year my novel, Leo Gray and the Lunar Eclipse, is to be released. So it's a very special year (at least it is for me). But some of you may be wondering how exactly I came to having my book published. So here it is, more or less (and mostly less!).
1) I have always had a passion for the arts ever since I was child. (I was that student that every teacher—less the ones who taught something creative—worried about, because I was always daydreaming and scribbling away during their lectures.)
2) For the most part, I dabbled in the arts in some form or fashion on a daily basis throughout my youth (writing lyrics and sappy poems, drawing and painting from life or from my imagination, or pretending that I could somehow become an accomplished composer of the piano!). Drawing and painting, however, were where I tended to lend most of my attention.
3) I was fortunate enough to attend summer art programs at various universities for drawing and painting during middle school and highschool; but it was a boarding school for the arts (where I spent my junior and senior years) where my creativity and artistic skillset were finally allowed to blossom.
4) After college, however, I lost sight of my progression as an artist, being driven to find work that could provide a sustaining meal.
5) I weaved in and out of a number of highly unfulfilling jobs, which left no room for creative expression and failed to offer any sense of humanitarian accomplishment. My enthusiasm for making a living with my art was dwindling with each passing day.
6) It wasn't until I procured employment which granted me a more reliable income that my attic turned into the home of my once beloved paintbrush. Half a decade slipped passed me with no creation whatsoever. I felt plagued and haunted by artist guilt. I had failed to become the adult my younger-self had envisioned. Furthermore, I had failed to become an adult my childhood-self could have looked-up to. I tried to get back to painting, but my skillset had suffered severely from my "growing-up." Painting was no longer as fulfilling as it once was. It was then that I started to consider another sort of canvas: the blank page!
7) I started to write freely, blindly, and without the hope or expectation that my mind's meanderings would becoming anything that anyone else would see. I wrote simply as a means of artistic expression, as a feeble attempt at finding a greater meaning from my long forgotten pastime. I never studied how to write purposefully...I never aspired to become an author...I never attended writer workshops or read writerly blogs or really considered that what I was doing would lead me to such a profession...My bookshelf didn't even boast anything from my genre!
8) Characters were, like memories from a recent dream, coming into my head; and I was intrigued. So I pressed curiously into story, anxious to see how their world would unfold.
9) There were many times when I had no clue as to how to resolve plot holes or how to keep myself from falling reliant upon ridiculously common tropes...There were many times when I thought the whole thing needed to be deleted, as to free up space on my consistently-crashing-hard-drive...But every time I put the manuscript aside, Leo and Pavo and Andromeda and Grus would jump back into my head and beg me to come back to them. (And let me tell you: they are a very boisterous bunch!) But they didn't want me to simply tell their story in a way that most fictional characters are written about; they actually seemed to need me to. And as they revealed their secrets to me, it became clear that I wasn't actually writing to regain my creative sanity––I was writing for children––I was writing to bring hope, and happiness, and inspiration to the brilliant young minds of our future!
10) I continued, relentlessly, to put the puzzle pieces of Leo's story together, until, finally—after five long years—I had something solid. I knew at once that my position as a writer had shifter to that of a marketer, and that I had to do everything I could to publish Leo's adventure.
11) I started my research, attempted some editing, whipped up a query and sent it to a million agents.
12) I was greeted with rejection, kind words, no words, and a few peeps of intrigue. However, after speaking with the interested parties, I soon came to realize that I didn't actually want to lose my rights or the creative control over my work, which comes customary with traditional publishing. At the same time, I knew that I was not qualified to publish Leo's story on my own with no background in the publishing world. I was at a loss for what to do...
13) I moped about for a really long time. But every time I thought back to Leo—about how he continued on despite his difficulties—I realized I owed it to him and to all the children who could potentially find comfort from his story, to not give up. I returned my attentions to pursuing a traditional agreement, when I stumbled across an article on hybrid publishing.
14) The dark nimbi parted! I put everything on hold and sent my query to a handful of selective publishers and was quickly invited to consider publication with Greenleaf Bookgroup after their review. After heavy deliberation, I signed a contract with them and was back to work; only the work, for the first time in my life, felt like work worth doing!
15) But editing and writing are not one in the same. I did not enjoy the editing process. It's caging. It's not free or liberating like writing is, in a Picasso sort of way, but it's technically demanding and mildly maddening, like trying to perfectly replicate a Seurat. Your imagination is weirdly compared to the imaginations of others. You'll be made to adjust things that will completely twist the story you had in your head because it reminds your editor of something you've never even read. (I suppose this is why so many in the industry insist that reading everything you can in your genre is a golden rule for aspiring authors, but, at the same time, if I had, Leo's world would have likely never existed!)
16) But having a contract and a wonderful team to help polish my work was not the end of my publication storm. I was not content with having a simple "designed" cover, which had been offered with my agreement. I wanted the cover to be something that my eleven-year-old-self would have picked-up with zest! It needed to be fun and dark and intriguing! I had to find an illustrator! (And if you know any illustrators personally, you may better know that they all live in some bizarre unreachable realm of time and space!)
17) The clock ticked and I came up short. I stared at my computer screen with an unbearable sense of doom. I had never drawn on the computer before and I knew that classical oil painting would do me no good. I wasn't trained in Photoshop...I had never used a pen tablet! Yet, there I was.
18) So I battled the Can't-do-ums in my head and simply got to it. I completed the jacket art and fifteen—fifteen chapter illustrations all out of a hotel room, under so much mental strain that I'm still not sure how I didn't just blow up!
19) Then came the need for the case design, cover copy, proof alterations, a logo, a website, and some sort of social media presence...so I shouted a bit more and got to work again.
20) And now, I'm on to outreach and marketing and creating a full-blown academic site to try to help make life a little easier for teachers to get this book to the kids who need it, and am, in short, "BEZAUSTED!" (which means "beyond exhausted" for those of you who are not up to date with 2113 lingo!). But the book is done. The story that feel into my head seven years ago is out. And Leo Gray and his friends are all here for you now, whenever you wish—and that's more than I could have ever dreamed of.
To the moon,