Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lucky Story #3: Author Julie Cross

This month, teamTEENauthor is blogging on this topic: do you believe in luck? 

Today, I'm going to explain how luck played a HUGE role in my path to publication.

My writing path began in May of 2009...with a story about Jackson and Holly....sort of.

Holly the I like to call her, was an aspiring Olympic Gymnast and Jackson the first, was an Alien.
Before the book opened, Jackson time traveled once. Using his otherwordly mind.

Two months later, my first book was finished and it was looong. Really long. And I decided since I finished it, it should be published. Because that’s what you do with a finished publish it, right? That’s what Stephenie Meyer did and who knows? I probably had the next big hit series in my computer.

So, then I sent query letters to literary agents for my very first book titled ENEMIES OF TIME. The query letter started like this:
Dear Mr. Deneen,
I am currently seeking representation for my completed 120,000 word
young adult novel, ENEMIES OF TIME. Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer has only two goals in life, make Holly Flynn fall in love with him- again, and keep her from dying two years from now.
The letter was catchy. It had a great hook and a high concept premise. And it got me somewhere in the vicinity of 20 partial requests and 8 full manuscript requests. Those stats are actually really good.

While I waited for replies from the 200 or so agents I queried...

I wrote another book about a girl who’s dreaded Algebra teacher keels over and dies during a solo-detention. He comes back to haunt her and together they have to solve the mystery behind his death, which turns out to be....MURDER...via poisoned insulin injection. At the end of the book, the teacher goes to heaven and the girl goes prom.

Then there was the third book about Eleanor, the shy Catholic school girl who dealt with cyber-bullying...

I followed this up with a neurotic 17 year old girl who creates her own, much more scientific version of with the hopes of winning the national Science fair only to realize *gasp* she’s fallen in love with one of her incompatibles therefore proving the inaccuracy of her project...

after that, I went back to Jackson and Holly but ditched the gymnastics and the high school...and sent Jackson to a CIA camp in Area 51 to learn about his Alien Heritage. 

He still wasn’t time traveling except just before the book starts but he did learn to read minds.
I set that aside for a while because the plot was getting a little weird.

Then I started a new book about a girl who joins a teen support group after her alcoholic mother goes to rehab and she decides she too, wants to change her party girl ways to support her mom. She makes a few unlikely friends and writes an anonymous blog about her wild days titled Diary of a Hot Pink Party Girl.

All of these stories have one thing in common.

None of them are as good as Tempest. Some of them are very bad. Two are so bad I didn’t even mention them here.

In January of 2010, an agent who had my very first book in his cue and wanted to read it...the one with Holly and her Olympic gymnastics dream and Jackson the Alien...this agent said he’d been looking for a teen time travel story for a while now. This is the exact email he sent me:

Hi Julie, I haven’t had a chance to read your material yet but I wanted to let you know that I’m now an editor and hope to take a look soon.


Brendan Deneen
Thomas Dunne Books
A Division of St. Martin's Press

And I wanted to tell him...No! please don’t read that book and if you could possibly burn it...

But instead, I said, “Sure...go ahead and read my time travel book.”

So he did.
about six weeks later, I got this email:

Hi Julie.  While I really LOVE the premise of your book, it’s unfortunately not really working for me in its current form.  There’s just not enough action and/or time travel stuff in there for me, and too much extraneous stuff, like descriptions of gymnastics.

If you ever do a major rewrite, I’d be open to taking another look (though I’d want to see a revamped synopsis first).

Best of luck with it in the meantime.  It really is a fantastic premise.

And I was like...well, good thing I have that version where I got rid of the gymnastics and sent Jackson to Roswell, New Mexico in search of his alien relatives.

So, I sent the synopsis for THAT version...   

and 4 days later, I got this email:

Hi Julie.  This is unfortunately still a pass for me but I do wish you the very best of luck with it!

And I can clearly remember thinking, wow...that was kind of nice getting a personal rejection...usually it’s a form letter politely saying thanks but no thanks. And I can also remember laughing to myself about it,’s not like I actually thought I’d ever publish a book. It’s fun to send query letters and all that but nothing’s actually going happen. I can honestly say I was okay with just writing for fun. I’d gotten to a place where I had friends and family that would read chapters and pages for me. And I figured, I’ll just keep doing that.

Or so I thought...

About a month later, Mr. Brendan Deneen sent me another email:

Julie, I find myself thinking about your book now and then.  I really want to find a YA time travel book.  But the alien stuff in yours is a show-stopper for me.  Are you open to tweaking your novel?  If not, that’s cool but I wanted to reach out once again.

and I said...


Yes, I'm up for tweaking. The alien thing stemmed from needing to justify why my main character can time travel. Nobody goes to outer space or another planet so it could easily be changed.

and then he said...

Can’t he just be a mutant?  Or the victim of some kind of government experiment?

and I said..

The government experiment would work perfect because he already is part of a government experiment to mix the alien species (which could be the mutant) with a normal person to create a half breed which gives him slightly cooler abilities than the full blood mutants.

I don’t know whether I should be more shocked about the fact that he contacted me after rejecting me twice or that he actually understood that last email.

Then he sent me a looong reply listing everything I needed to change and some places where we needed to figure out the direction of the plot. I won’t include all that here because there’s spoilers for those who haven’t read the book, but the email ended like this:

If you’re open to these changes, I’m wondering if you’d be open to putting together a chapter-by-chapter summary.  Each chapter doesn’t need to be super long……just a sentence or two each.

I really want to make this book work but I also think it needs shaping/editing.

Let me know what you think, and either way, thanks!

So, I started on a whole new journey...I had my character names...Jackson and Holly...and I had my setting...New York and New Jersey...but everything else got scrapped and I started over from page one.

about three and a half weeks later, I had a finished manuscript and a Title my editor came up with...Tempest.

And by June of 2010, I had an offer for a three book deal with Thomas Dunne Books and a pre-empt for a film option with Summit Entertainment. I also had a literary agent.

And now, upon hearing this entire story, you should be able to understand why I might scratch my head and look confused and possibly do the deer in the headlights thing when asked, “What is the inspiration behind Tempest?”

Unfortunately, I didn’t fall and hit my head and suddenly have the formula for Flux Capacitors. I didn’t go to sleep and have a dream about a vampire who sparkled and the girl who dared to go near him...

I don’t have a great idea story to tell, but I think it’s because I wasn’t born to write Tempest, I was born to write stories and one of them happens to be Tempest and Vortex and whatever book 3 will be called. But there will be more to follow those.

So when I look back on this entire story and how I went from very normal non-writer to International Bestselling Author, I do still believe that luck played a big part but really it was more like the train ride that took me to the big audition. I wouldn't be there without it, but I still had to sing the song on my own. Or write the book...

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that was quite a journey. Luck got you an opportunity with a cool editor and a lot of very hard work on your part made it happen...very inspiring!

    I like the idea of a teacher haunting one his students and avenging his murder! Maybe you could write a collection of short stories with the material you have from scrapped novel ideas- I LOVE SHORT STORIES!