Jenna Black's Blog Experiment

Wherein romance author Jenna Black plunges into the terrifying new territory of blogging . . .


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My Very First Book

Although Watchers in the Night is my very first commercially published book, there are lots of other books I've written that have some claim on the word "first." But none has as valid a claim as My Life in Tahiti, the "autobiography" I wrote at the age of ten. From when I was three to when I was seven, my mom and I lived in Tahiti (for reasons that will never be clear to me). In fifth grade, I decided to write the story of my life there, complete with illustrations in crayon.

More years than I'd like to admit later, I think the book is absolutely precious (if I do say so myself) and would like to share it with you. It's longer than you'd expect from a ten-year-old, so I'll probably post it in bits and pieces here and there. I've also taken some pictures of the illustrations, which I'll pepper in when appropriate. When I transcribe the text, I'll attempt to refrain from correcting my childish spelling, but I can't promise my brain won't sometimes overrule me.

So, without further ado . . .

Chapter 1: Tahiti is Beautiful

For four years of my life I lived in Tahiti. Rain comes in a flash. And rain goes in a flash. There was a gravel road in front of my house. I'd pick up shells. In that time I had many pets. I had .-: 1 rabit, 4 doves, 2 cats, (my cats had kittens) and lots of dogs. (Author's note: in the image below, the drawing is supposed to be of the gravel road with the shells in it.)

Tahiti had thousands of palm trees. (known there as coconut trees) Thow palm trees are not hard to climd, it is extremely dangerous to climd them.

Down by the sea there are coral reefs. My mother and I would walk on them and see beautifull fish. The fish are so colerful, and the coralreef is so beautiful I can not draw them. I see crabs by the doxen. There are all kinds of crabs, especialy hermit crabs.

To be continued, since I've been fighting Blogger tooth and nail for the past week trying to get any images uploaded. Now that I've got some, I want to publish this post (finally!) before something else goes wrong.


At 11:18 PM, Blogger Jenna Petersen said...

Hi Jenna!

I finished the interview you sent me, but your AOL keeps bouncing me. :( Do you have another email I can send to?

Email me at, okay?

Sorry to do this here! LOL

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Jenna Petersen said...


Tried sending the answers to both other emails. It's AOL. They're blocking me for whatever reason. So, that's not going to work. Here are the answers, anyway.

*How many books did you complete before you sold?*
11 historical romances, a couple of contemporary and a few proposals that didn't go anywhere. Also, I write erotic romance but had only published in novella format before I sold to Avon, so another four or five novellas. So close to twenty projects or so.

*Were all your books in one sub-genre, or did you try different approaches?*
Almost everything was historical (all my erotic romances are historical). Mostly Regency-set, a few Victorian (erotic). But I did try my hand at contemporary category.

*How did you stay motivated to continue writing after the 1st, 2nd and 3rd manuscript didn’t sell?*
I didn't always. I quit many times, but the love of writing kept bringing me back. Writing is like the mob like that. Every time you think you're out, it pulls you back in. I was always driven by the knowledge that I was improving, though, and that I really wanted to know what happened to the next couple, in the next story, etc.

*Do you have any advice for coping with rejections?*
I actually wrote an article about that very subject, which you're welcome to quote from if you find it helpful to the topic (with credit, of course).

My best advice though is to realize that almost all authors get rejected. It's part of the process. I was rejected nearly 100 times between agents and editors on my various and sundry books. Did it suck? Um, yeah. Did I die? No. Did I quit? Nope. Did I finally overcome it and sell to my dream house? Yup.

*Did you ever consider giving up? If so, how did you overcome the temptation?*
I did give up. Many times. None of them took for more than a week or two. I think if you CAN quit, you should. But if you're driven to write, you won't be able to.

*How much of a role, if any, do you think luck plays in the quest for publication?*
I think timing more than luck. You have to produce a quality, marketable product to sell. That takes talent and proper placement of the project with the right editor. However, timing comes in to play when she really wants a type X story today or she does like plot B. I know that I submitted my debut, SCANDALOUS, to Avon a year before they bought it on my own. They rejected it on a query. But a year later the exact same book, no changes AT ALL, sold via my agent. It was better timing, a better pitch, whatever.

*Did you set daily goals? Monthly goals?*
I set weekly page goals. 50 pages a week, minimum, so I could finish a manuscript in about 8 weeks. Then revise and stuff. That way I always had another piece to send after rejection (which also helped me cope with "the no"). I still maintain that schedule and it has really helped me when I'm setting my deadlines in my contracts. I know what I can do because I've been on a schedule for many years. So I don't over or undersell my deadlines.

*Did you reward yourself for triumphs along the way? If so, what were those triumphs? Contest finals/wins? Requests for partials/fulls? Admiration from peers?*
Sure! I always celebrated requests and finishing books. I never entered contests.

*Did you submit to agents only, editors only, or both?*
I generally started with agents (I had three, the third time was the charm). Then if I couldn't get an agent with a project or I had just parted ways with an agent I submitted on my own.

*Do you recommend having an agent prior to the sale?*
For single title romance, especially historical romance? Yes, yes, yes. I know my agent was a huge part in why my book sold and the quality of the deal I ended up with. Plus, she is a sounding board, a buffer, an advocate and a friend. I owe a huge portion of my career to her. If you have a good agent, it makes all the difference.

*If you had an agent before you sold, how did you acquire that agent?*
I submitted to the Irene Goodman Agency as a "yeah, right" submission. Cream of the crop, top of the heap agency. I figured they'd reject me. But Miriam was looking for clients. She read my partial, asked for a full and almost immediately offered representation. I was her first client. She took me essentially from the slush pile.

*Did you have a mentor who helped encourage you through your journey toward publication? Do you recommend a mentor to guide you along the way?*
I always wanted a mentor, but I never had anyone with that kind of relationship to me. I did have good advice from published authors and that sort of thing, but never had anyone tuck me under their wing and say, "Let me help guide you, I believe in you." But I had great friends.

*In what way did RWA (the organization as a whole and/or individual members) help you to achieve publication status?*
I think RWA is great because of the information they make available (that's how I found out all my info about agents and which editor to submit to. They offer a wonderful opportunity to meet other authors at National and through chapters. I definitely learned a lot about craft and industry though the doors that they provided.

*What advice would you give to authors who are continuing to write, but haven’t received that coveted call yet?*
The only way to guarantee you won't sell is to quit. I went though about five years and, like I said, about 100 rejections wishing I would just sell. But after the sale, I realized how much I'd already learned from all those experiences. Being rejected helped me deal with reviews. Knowing how fast I could write a presentable book helped me set my publication goals and overcome second book fears. I once had a longtime published friend told me you can struggle before the sale, or struggle after, but there's going to be a struggle on one end or the other. I did a lot of struggling before, and while I realize there will certainly be more struggling to come as I navigate a career, I think I already had the tools to bypass some of the pitfalls I might have stumbled into otherwise.


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