Writer’s Showcase: Leslea Wahl

Author Leslea Wahl on Genre
For as long as I can remember I’ve been creating characters and stories in my mind but I never really pursued that interest. I wrote some articles when I worked, contributed to newsletters for groups I belonged to and told stories to my children but I never considered writing a novel, especially one for teens. However, when my oldest child began to read Young Adult novels I found it difficult to find ones that I felt were appropriate. Some of the messages in them didn’t really match up with the values we were trying to instill in our children. I was constantly searching for fun, exciting novels that contained good role models and messages. Then one day I woke up and this story literally popped into my head. Characters and situations just kept coming to me until I finally had to start writing them down.

Since I had never written a book it was extremely rough and I knew I needed help. I found a writing organization which offered a mentorship program that paired new writers with an experienced author for six months to prepare a manuscript to send out. This was invaluable.

Struggles In Gaining Interest

Through that program and on my own I spent a long time rewriting and editing the story but eventually felt it was ready and began sending it out to publishers. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive much interest. Sometimes I’d get a little bit of feedback along with a rejection letter. Then one day I had a Eureka moment. I was at a local bookstore and picked up a YA book that changed everything for me. It was about a teenager who helps the police find a serial killer. It combined all the elements I loved in a book – humor, action, mystery, a little romance and interestingly it had a Christian message.

Finding the Right Genre

I had not read a lot of Christian fiction but the books I had read had been a little preachy or had characters that were sometimes too good to be true. This book showed me there was a different kind of Christian fiction. And I realized this was exactly what I wanted to write. I could create characters that kids could really relate to – ones that had faith in their lives but struggled with everyday problems. I could show how these characters prayed and relied on their beliefs.

The Perfect BlindsideWhen I changed the book to a Christian genre I suddenly had more interest. The novel, The Perfect Blindside, was finally picked up by a publisher. I was so excited that someone finally wanted to publish my book but then came the painful year and a half of editing and revising until it became an actual book.

The Journey to Publication

For me, this was a long process. The original idea came to me in the spring of 2009 and it took until August 2015 until it was published – six and a half years. These years included:

    97 query letters to publishers and agents
    35 rejection letters
    5 requests to see the whole manuscript
    2 letters of feedback even though their answer was “no”
    but finally
    1 contract.

The Second Book

While I was pursuing a publisher, I was finishing up a second novel. After the first book was published, I sent the publisher the manuscript for the second novel. We had worked so well together, and they had been very encouraging of my writing, so I was a bit surprised when they said they were not interested. This second book did not quite fit in with what they were looking for. And here I thought I’d finally made it. Which meant I was back to square one – searching for a publisher again, and collecting a new round of rejection letters.

Luckily, the process was not quite as long for a few reasons. First, I knew now which genre to start with which narrowed down the possible publishers. Secondly, I think the fact that I had one published work helped open a few doors; however, they did wonder why I wasn’t using the first publishing company so I had to try to explain that situation.

For my second book, An Unexpected Role, I went with a very small Christian publishing company. Working with this company was a completely different experience than the first. The editing process was much faster which meant the book would come out sooner, but it also made me nervous that mistakes wouldn’t be caught and concepts might not be explored. So, I sent the book to a few colleagues to review as well as to a professional editor.

I wanted as many people checking on this story as possible. In all, this book took 5 ½ years to write and get published but, this time, I only sent it to 17 publishers until it found a home. I have a third novel finished that took a much shorter time to write and am once again trying to find a home for it. I’m sure the experience with this work will be unique as well.

Traditional Publishing and Marketing

An Unexpected RoleEven though I knew through conferences I had attended that marketing usually fell on the shoulders of the author I was a still surprised by how much time it actually takes. I had set up social media accounts and created a website before my first book came out but it took a long time to realize marketing was never going away. Once I understood this and began doing just a little bit every day it became manageable and I didn’t dread it as much. Having all this set up made life much easier when the second book came out.

What Every Aspiring Author Should Know

Becoming a published author can be a long, time-consuming process, but if you really have a vision and have a story to share keep persevering. Be willing to listen to feedback and possibly make changes to improve the novel, sometimes a change in genre or point of view can make a difference. Sometimes the second book you write is the one that opens doors. Don’t pursue a career in writing to become rich or famous. Pursue it because it is your passion.

Want to Be the Next Featured Writer?

Send an email to brandy at 40daywriter dot com with the title of your published book and Writer’s Showcase in the heading. I’ll be happy to speak to you about that possibility.

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