Guest blogger Michael McCarty on a writer’s journey.
My advice for beginning writers looking at getting their first novel published: hang tough, it’s one hell of a ride.
An author’s first book is like a first kiss – something you’ll never forgot as long as you live. After having nearly twenty books published, my first book still has a special place in my heart. It was Giants of the Genre published in 2003 by Wildside Press.
The story doesn’t really start here; it starts about a decade before that, in 1993. That’s the year I had my first national sale, an interview with Frederik Pohl in Starlog Magazine. Around the same time, I had started to send out query letters for a vampire novel called Liquid Diet: A Vampire Satire. Nobody seemed that interested in the novel. The suits at the publishing companies were saying, “Nobody is interested in vampires anymore.” And I would say, “Vampire fiction has been popular for over 100 years.” A decade later True Blood, Twilight and The Vampire Diaries would prove the editors wrong.
I would continue to do interviews with such genre writers as Ray Bradbury, P.D. Cacek, J.N. Williamson, and Charlee Jacob for various national and international magazines including Writer’s Block in Canada, The Zone in England and Dead of Night (where I was a contributing editor) in the United States. Strangely, I felt I was on a world conquest, but it was a humbling one to see my words spread to the different corners of the world and I hadn’t even left the United States my entire life. I interviewed Dean Koontz for a men’s magazine and received a four-figure check – I am still amazed at making that kind of money from a single article.
Near the end of the decade, Brian Keene approached me as being a contributing editor for a new internet magazine called Jobs in Hell. At the time, I was writing for another internet magazine, called Hellnotes. I kept writing Liquid Diet and finished the book in 1999. I still hadn’t found a publisher. I was so busy doing interviews I hadn’t spent much time querying the book.
The twentieth century soon became the twenty-first century and I had my first big break. There was this website called Science Fiction Weekly, which was the official website of the Sci Fi Channel. It was edited by Scott Edelman. After interviewing Neil Gaiman, I became a staff writer. For the next couple of years I interviewed more giants of the genre. Between interviewing people for Science Fiction Weekly, I continued sending my vampire novel to different publishers. I was starting to get frustrated and depressed. My goal had been to get my first book published by the time I turned 30, and I was nearing 40.
I was talking to Bentley Little one day and he gave me some excellent advice. He said it was time to put my vampire novel in the trunk and begin another one -- a lot of writers never get their first books published, including himself. I started working on another horror novel, called Monster Behind The Wheel, but figured that might take a lot of time to get published. In the meantime, I needed a new game plan. I was talking with my friend Mark McLaughlin about this and he suggested I do a “best of your genre interviews” type book.
I sent a query to a small publisher who specializes in collectible books. The editor wanted to publish the book, but in the end, I decided my book wasn’t right for this house, so onward I went. Next, I sent it to a publisher in Spain. The editor also wanted to publish the book, but ultimately, it didn’t work out there either. During the World Horror Convention in Chicago, I talked to William F. Nolan about the book project; he was enthusiastic, saying if two publishers liked it, a third was probably around the corner very soon. And he was kind of correct about that.
About ten minutes after meeting with Nolan, I talked with Neil Gaiman about the book. He suggested that publisher John Betancourt at Wildside Press might like it. So I sent a query and three chapters about my new book idea called Giants of the Genre to Mr. Betancourt. He read the three chapters and outline and politely rejected it.
A couple of weeks later, on the fourth of July weekend, 2002, I was thinking about Betancourt’s rejection. He said a lot of nice things in the rejection. So that Monday, I wrote back to the publisher saying something like, “Hey John, you’ve been in the publishing business for awhile, who would you recommend I send my book to.”
John wrote “You know, funny thing is -- I've been bugged by Giants since I turned it down. This usually means I'm convinced on some level that I've made a mistake. If you are still interested in having me publish it, I'll do it next year.” And that is how I got my first book published. Mark McLaughlin wrote the introduction. The book featured 21 interviews: Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury & Barry Hoffman, The Amazing Kreskin, Dan Simmons, Douglas Clegg, P.D. Cacek, Graham Masterton, Alan Dean Foster, Forrest J. Ackerman, J.N. Williamson, Charlee Jacob, Dan Curtis, Poppy Z. Brite, Frederik Pohl, William F. Nolan, Charles de Lint, Connie Willis and Bentley Little.
My first novel, the collaborative horror novel Monster Behind The Wheel, with Mark McLaughlin, ended up on the Bram Stoker Final Ballot for First Novel and eventually became an ebook from Medallion Press in 2011. And, in 2009 my vampire novel, Liquid Diet: A Vampire Satire was published as a trade paperback from Black Death Book (went out of print in late 2010) and is now an ebook from Whiskey Creek Press.
Since that time, I have written more interview books, which are still available in trade paperback or ebook including Modern Mythmakers, Masters of Imagination, and Esoteria-Land.