“Always Be Grudging”
by Michelle Hauck
In late fall of 2013 it seemed my writer career had taken off. I’d just gotten an agent. I’d placed an earlier story, Kindar’s Cure, with a small press, but I didn’t feel complete without an agent. Now, my humorous middle grade story was being read by the important people at top publishers. It was hard to concentrate on writing, but I knew that it’s best to work on a new story. You can’t rest with the work you have when you’re a writer. You always need backup stories. So I got an idea from a song and used NaNaWriMo to launch into that new manuscript. I didn’t win in November by producing 50,000 words, but I did a record for me with 20K. It was all looking up!
So where is the part about writers gone wrong? Hold on. We’ll get there.
I decided to go back to writing what I really love, which is epic fantasy. Since the adult market is pretty cold, I wanted a nice YA to show my new agent. I had plans for a city in the desert surrounded by a big army. A young man would be among those sent on a mission to find help. Ramiro had the motivation of wanting to earn his beard and become part of the military group he’d just joined. He was tired of being called rookie. It seemed like a good YA character arc.
And since it’s epic fantasy and we can do these type of things, I had an additional point of view in a young woman. The city people would go seek help from the swamp witches. The witches were notorious for wanting to live alone. They had a bad history with men in the past and their approach is strike first, ask questions later. Claire would be a character just coming into her voice magic.
I got five chapters into the story with these two and the rot set in.
With Ramiro off on his mission, there was no one left to show the city anymore or what was happening with the army. I couldn’t escalate that part of the story. Without thinking about it, I added another point of view character, expanding on Ramiro’s father. As the alcalde (mayor) of the city, he gave me the perspective I needed to show the seriousness of the situation and expand on scenes with the antagonists in the army laying siege to the city.
A little later on, I had another problem. I’d worked the antagonist into one scene, but had no way to show him anymore. How could I show the reader the reasoning behind the enemy? He was outside the city with the army. I needed another point of view. I had a minor character in a priest who counseled the alcalde. I could use him as an envoy.
So now I had four point of view characters. It’s epic fantasy. That’s okay. Or is it?
I had the first third of my manuscript, even come up with a title in Grudging, and I wanted the opinion of my agent. I sent it over and waited while writing more. I was so nervous. What if she didn’t like it? Would she drop me? It was so different from what she signed me for. It was neither middle grade, nor humorous. And that humorous middle grade wasn’t doing so well on submission.
At last news came back. My agent liked the story, but she said it sounded adult. Huh?
How could it be adult? The two main characters were the right age, seventeen. Oh, but everyone else in the story was adult. The other two points of view were middle-age men. All the other members of Ramiro’s mission were adults. The other witches–adults, too.
I had goofed big time. And worst of all my agent only represents YA and MG. I panicked. Would I need to redo this story? Abandon it? Would she figure she could find better clients? Crap! I’d already worked on it three months. I was attached to the characters I’d created. I was attached to my agent, too.
A quick word from my agent helped calm me down. It was a good story. She repped all my work. Don’t worry. I could go ahead and finish it.
Finish it I did, but with slightly more doubt than before. It’s not easy to write while on submission. All kinds of fears pray on you. In July of 2014 we took my MG off of submission. It wasn’t going to sell because it was in that gray area between a middle grade and a chapter book. I took another few months to finish Grudging, terrified it was in that same gray area between age categories. It wasn’t a true young adult, but was it really adult either?
A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.
The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.
On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.
The Women of the Song.
But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.
A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.
My CP and my agent helped me polish. Grudging went on submission in February of this year. Since it was an inbetweener, my agent sent it to both YA and adult editors and imprints. I pretty much gave up right then. I’d made the same mistake as my last book. I didn’t expect anything.
Then three months after the first round went out, an editor asked if it was still available. The next week they wanted to talk. I had an offer for a trilogy from a Big 5, and better, it was from a straight fantasy and science fiction imprint, my true love. There wasn’t enough happy dancing to express the feeling. It was a dream come true. Grudging releases on November 17th from Harper Voyager, in less than a week from this writing! I’m halfway through the first draft of the sequel. My story doesn’t quite fit here or there, but made it everywhere!
Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with
her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by
day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. She is
a co-host of the yearly query contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street,
New Agent, PitchSlam, and Sun versus Snow. Her Birth of Saints trilogy from
Harper Voyager starts with GRUDGING
on November 17, 2015. Her epic fantasy, KINDAR’S
CURE, was published by Divertir Publishing.