First Book Friday: Alyx Dellamonica

Welcome to First Book Friday, an ongoing series exploring how various authors sold their first books.

Alyx Dellamonica‘s debut novel came out just about one year ago, but that’s not the cool part.

Alyx’s book just won the Sunburst award!  Her first novel beat out books by Charles de Lint, Cory Doctorow, Karl Schroeder, and Robert Charles Wilson.  How freaking cool is that?!?!

So here’s Alyx, to tell you how she wrote and sold her award-winning first novel.


I finished writing Indigo Springs [B&N |  Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] in 2003, in the summertime, and my wonderful agent, Linn Prentis, went to Tor Books with it right away.

This happened at practically the same nanosecond that marriage equality was breaking out across Canada. My partner and I had an August weekend picked out, but legalizing our marriage on the chosen day hinged on the law changing by July. If not, we’d need a Plan B… and, all along, we knew there were no guarantees. It would be wrong to say I never gave my novel any thought during that period, but it turns out that waiting to find out if your civil rights situation is going to change for the better can be somewhat all-consuming.

Then, when gay marriage did become legal in British Columbia in July of 2003, I went straight from second-guessing the Supreme Court into wedding plans.

Meanwhile, Jim Frenkel at Tor had accepted my book, pending some changes. A long back and forth began. It took awhile to finalize everything–I had 15,000 words to cut, for one thing, and there were elements of my bizarre magical world that needed more explanation. And again, life intruded–some major life challenges cropped up on my end in 2006… and 2007… and 2008. At times, the novel deal seemed unreal and far away. But contracts got signed, and money came, and my father e-mailed me every other week to ask when he could buy INDIGO SPRINGS in a Chapters. These signs of steady progress toward officially Being a Novelist gave me something to hold onto. (Now my father is in China, demanding to know when the book will be out in Mandarin.)

One of the coolest things about my first-novel journey was that Irene Gallo had spotted this amazing Julie Bell painting and liked it so much she went looking to see if any of their editors might want it for a particular project. Jim pounced on it immediately. He sent an electronic copy to me the week we finalized the deal, with a note that said something like, “If you don’t like it, we’ll get something else.” But I loved it! It is not only a beautiful painting, it’s very appropriate.

So, unlike most writers, I knew coming out of the gate that I was going to have amazing cover art. What’s more, because I did still have to tweak the novel, I had time to sync some of the details in the art with my narrative. Tiny things: my heroine, Astrid, is dolled up in the final third of the book, so it was easy to match the dress she wears with the one on the cover. There’s also a golden bowl in the painting, and by chance INDIGO SPRINGS has a ritual that features a bowl… voilà, suddenly that bowl was golden.

Writers hear cover art horror stories all the time: “They took my protagonist and made her Swedish, and also gave her an extra head!” Knowing all along that I had a stunner of an image was reassuring in its own right.  Then the design team got in on the process, and Oh My! Seeing what the painting became later, when cover proofs started reaching me, was like a huge, beautiful gift from the universe.

People talk about how slow publishing is, and it’s not unusual to finish a book and then wait years to see it in bookstores. The waiting can try your patience, there’s no doubt about it. But as it happened INDIGO SPRINGS came out at a time when I was entirely ready to enjoy the launch party, the good reviews, and the book’s overall success. Prior to that time, there’d been a lot going on in my life–tough, distracting, challenging stuff!–and in retrospect it feels as though everything has unfolded at just the right pace.