I’m not the sort who has always wanted to be a writer. But I have always had stories playing in my head, since a very early age. Elaborate stories that stretch over days and weeks, and certainly made me the bookish introvert I am today. In 1990, when I was pregnant with my son, I had the notion to put down a story on the page. Why not? I liked the stories, maybe others would too. And maybe I could sell, make the big bucks, and never have to work nine-to-five again?
No not that first time. That time would be entirely too short and not worth the ink. 🙂
This is about my first time writing a story and publishing.
So, with rummage sale typewriter before me, I began a weird story that featured a vampire as hero. The remake of Dark Shadows starring Ben Cross was playing at the time, and that’s when I learned vampires could be sexy. I tossed in rock music, pissed off ghosts, a little time travel to my favorite period, 18th C Paris, and oh yeah, there’s that wall paper scene because at the time I was currently tearing paper from the walls of my new house.
I went through three typewriters that summer, and finally got a cheap used computer one day with the little screen that must have been six inches across. Remember those? Two years later, I had a 200,000 word manuscript. My masterpiece! During that time, I’d been researching publishers using the Writer’s Market (I hadn’t heard of RWA back then), and decided Zebra was most open to new authors. So, I packaged up the tome, kissed it, and sent it off. [Note: the standard single title romance is 100K, but I didn’t know that, among other things.]
And then I started my next story. By then, I had become a writer, for real. Didn’t matter if I never sold a story, I just had to write. I wrote stories I wanted to read, and I still do.
Six months later, and another manuscript half finished, I got the call. A real live editor from the big city of New York actually wanted my book! And she wanted to pay me for it. How cool is that? I still remember the day: April 8th, 2:00 in the afternoon. My mother had stopped by, because it was her birthday. My hubby was home (for reasons I don’t recall; he always works until evening) and was taking a shower. So, I jumped into the shower, fully clothed, and told him the good news. When my mom arrived, it was interesting explaining my wet attire and the surprise book contract (I hadn’t told anyone in the family I was writing). It was a great day.
That was 1993. The book was scheduled for publication in 1995. I got to edit the book (four-page revision letter; it wasn’t bad) and I was told to cut 70K words from the mss. I said sure! Little did I realize at the time, that I’d just been asked to cut the equivalent of a Silhouette Romance from my story. I managed to get the story down to 145K; the editor seemed fine with it. At one point during this fascinating process I called up my editor to ask what, exactly, was going to be on the spine. I mean, would it be put out as ‘Horror’ a la Anne Rice, or ‘Fiction’. She was like “No, dummy” (okay, so the dummy was implied) “It’s a Romance.” That’s the first time I knew I had written a romance. Cool!
A cover arrived. It was red and black and the hero was strangely purple. I didn’t care, it was gorgeous. And the lettering was in purple foil. Neat. It was going to be a real book! I made homemade bookmarks and sent to tons of bookstores. Yeah, it cost a pretty penny, but I wanted the world to know about this book.
At the end of 1994, my editor called. “Sorry, we’re not going to publish Dark Rapture. The vampire market is dead.” Pun not intended. “But you know, I really like this book; I’ll see what I can do for it.”
I hung up, stunned. Did things like this happen in publishing? Can they buy the book from you and then not publish it? I didn’t know any other writers at the time, so had no one to ask. I could only go back to the computer and keep writing.
The following year, my editor reported they were going to try again and scheduled the book for 1997. Whew! And guess what? They made a new cover. Heck, I liked the old one, but take a gander at the new one. John DeSalvo in leather lace-up pants and looking SO sexy! The blood dripping from the rose. To this day, this is still my favorite cover. I mean, look at it! It rocks.
So I set about promoting. Again. Letting bookstores know that the story would finally be published. Back then, the vampire selection in the stores was not a dozen new titles every month, as it is now. They published less than a dozen vamp romances the entire year. So fans who read paranormal were really hungry for new stuff. To this day, I still get fan mail for that book.
So fast forward to the release! Yay! My first book! I was so proud, and even fellow authors in the local RWA chapter I’d just joined were interested (Though some stood at a distance; who is this chick? She writes about vampires? Where’s the cross and holy water?) Anyway, I did a few book signings with some awesome names in the business. And at one of my first signings, Betina Krahn presented me with a bottle of champagne. (Class act, that Krahn chick.)
Within two months, the book had sold out. Used copies appeared at Amazon. The highest priced I noticed as $80. Really? For a paperback book? And people were buying it! Myself, I have only 3 or 4 copies of that book now. Wish I had more. I have a ‘send around’ copy that’s all tattered, but which has been to a few agents and editors with the promise it is returned to me because I just don’t have any spares. That’s kind of cool in itself.
It wasn’t really like a dream come true, it was more a manifestation of something that had always been with me. My desire to tell stories. And I’m still doing it, and hope to do it for a long time.
Now, eleven years after the first publication of Dark Rapture, the publisher has rereleased it. They slapped a new cover on it (see the pic to the right above), and well, I have to be honest and say ‘Yuck’ to that cover. It’s not bad, but it ain’t pretty either. The guy on the cover is nothing like the gypsy-wild long dark-haired rocker vampire in the book, but whatever. Here’s hoping it won’t scare readers away from picking up the book. 🙂
I’m excited for the rerelease, but a little worried, as well. I wasn’t given a chance to re-edit the book, and while I think it’s an awesome story, I KNOW it needs editing. Heck, it needs major revising. I started reading it the other night, and man, did I like my adverbs back then! My writing has really improved since the early 90s. I just hope readers will understand this is ‘classic’ Michele Hauf, and enjoy the story. And I hope I didn’t reference anything from the 90s that’ll seem strange now. I did talk about a ‘car phone’; can’t imagine the size of that thing back then.
So there you have it! Though I sold the first book I ever wrote, it took four years to actually see it in print after the sale. Some published authors might sneer at my selling the first book, but trust me, I’ve received many rejections since then. But I’ll never stop. I am a writer. It’s in my blood.
So if you’re a writer, have you always been so? Or have you recently come to keyboard and screen with ideas? What about the readers? What’s your take on vampire romances? Love ’em or loath ’em, I think they’re here to stay.
I’ll give away a copy of the new DARK RAPTURE (sorry about that cover) to one commenter.