Karin Lowachee has been creating stories since kindergarten. Maybe earlier. Her most recent book is The Gaslight Dogs [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], inspired in part by her time working with and living among the Inuit in northern Canada. You can find her on Twitter and Goodreads.
My first novel, Warchild [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], was published in an unorthodox way. I workshopped about two-thirds of it on the then-Del Rey Online Writing Workshop (which has since become the Online Writing Workshop), first as an experiment to see if anyone actually took to it, and then as a motivational tool to make me complete it. I received very helpful critiques, as well as a lot of interest, so that was an indication to me that perhaps this book might appeal to a general SF readership (and hopefully some editors).
Towards the end of my writing the novel, my friend CC Finlay forwarded me the information about a contest run by Warner Books for first novelists — the grand prize was a full-fledged publishing contract, and even more cool, it was being judged by Tim Powers (and Betsy Mitchell was the editor-in-chief at the time). I made a goal to finish Warchild for this contest and send it off — first a cover letter and the first 50 pages, just as you would to any agent or publisher. Weeks later they asked for the full novel, so I sent that off too. I’d made the first cut.
Over the course of a few months I heard through the grapevine that it was ‘moving up the ranks.’ Then when I was working up in the Arctic, my sister called to tell me that I had received a letter from Warner Books — I had won. It was a surreal moment, I remember exactly standing in front of the couch and she was ecstatic on the other end of the line. My reactions to things tend to be more internal; I was jumping around on the inside, but outside I was just smiling like an idiot. Then I sat down on the couch. I probably said “YEAH!” once or twice, but that was it. I was just internalizing it all, letting the reality sink in … it took awhile. I don’t think I quite believed it until I actually talked to Betsy Mitchell on the phone, and then when I had a contract in hand. I kept assuming someone was going to say they’d reconsidered and it was going to someone else. But luckily I was wrong. (I still feel this way every time a book of mine is published; the disbelief doesn’t go away, frankly.) Warner Aspect was going to publish Warchild and Tim Powers was going to blurb it. I received all of my editorial comments and contacts while living up North, and it remains one of the best, most stressful, and interesting periods of my life. I will forever associate Warchild with the Arctic.
The real work began long after the book contract, and it hasn’t stopped. The contest afforded me an opportunity to get my foot in the door, but as any writer will tell you, it’s a fight to produce work that will keep you in the room. Still, I’ll ever be grateful to Betsy Mitchell and Tim Powers for seeing something in my book, and for all the readers who responded to it in such a positive way.