Inside view of a brief moment of purgatory

This week, I found myself in author purgatory. I’d finished my manuscript and submitted it to my editor along with a synopsis and a pitch.  The manuscript I’d labored over for a year, put my heart and soul into, was out of my hands. It’s a feeling nearly as confusing as empty nest. 

This book, Snakes in the Class, meant a lot to me. I previously published a satirical dystopian series set in what was once Iowa, thanks in part to the governor of Iowa’s shady ways. It sells steadily but not smashingly.  For this next novel series, I moved to comic Dark Academia… similar to Wednesday, but for adults. Since I’d been a professor for most of my life, this book was 100% my mind looking for a meld. How did I get here?

A year ago, my publisher put out a call for their authors to consider writing a monster book set at a college–a mature contrast to the old familiar monsters in high school. I was happy to oblige. Except, this one is told from the professor’s point of view, not students. Is it too dowdy? Not “college” enough when told from a more mature point of view? I worried.

I’d taken other risks including having the leading man be half snake (the bottom half). Thanks to my spring 2022 Short Story Writing class for that inspiration! Is it too weird?

The waiting was torture. You’d think after five novels, I’d be used to it. I’m not.

I don’t have an agent to reassure me or to negotiate my contracts. How did this happen? I was looking for one rather half-heartedly (because I liked my day job and it’s difficult to get an agent) when I saw an advertisement on looking for novels. I sent my first one, Natural Attraction (now out of print) to Penner Publishing and it was purchased in a “nice deal.” Nice deal means an advance of less than 50K.  You need to get an agent for a bigger deal. Here are some truths about getting an agent.

My next novel, Mixed In, was accepted by City Owl Press, sent to them after they opened a one-month window for un-agented novels. How did I find them? On Twitter. They were seeking a dystopia without vampires or zombies. I had one ready—a dystopian satire that’s a cross between Idiocracy and Handmaid’s Tale set in the near future in what was once Iowa. There’s the rub with writing a novel—you write it without any assurance someone will want to publish it. Writing what publishers are looking for is a big advantage but the landscape can shift. Dystopian novels got less popular once Trump was elected. He brought the dystopia. And some of my dystopian novel nightmares are inching towards reality. Despite this, I finished a trilogy, trying for an upbeat ending. Dictators fall after all.

My worry was unfounded! I just signed a contract! Now my editor and I can go through it together as the first step in its journey to publication.  And of course, I need to start on the sequel.

Snakes in the Class is a Dark Academia. Think Lessons in Chemistry plus The Addams Family set at a college for monsters in a small, midwestern town. Out this August—in time for back to school!

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