First Book Friday: Alma Alexander
Welcome to First Book Friday, an ongoing series exploring how various authors sold their first books.
Alma Alexander is currently working on an interesting project, publicly rewriting a novel she first wrote when she was 14 years old. She’s working with a Teen Advisory Council for feedback, and sharing the experience — warts and all — at http://heritageofclan.wordpress.com/ She kindly took time from her other projects to talk about her first book. The only question being which first book…
That was back in…
No, there was the thing before that…
Wait, let’s go back to…
This is a tough one. I remember selling a short story to the venerable London Magazine (and THERE’S a tale, all by itself, buy me a drink at a con and I’ll tell you all about it) which ended up in an anniversary anthology published by LM instead of the magazine itself – which got me a chat with a London editor – which got me a referral to my first agent – who got me the sale of my first book, The Dolphin’s Daughter [Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon], and other stories, which was a collection of three Oscar Wilde-ian fables or fairy tales published not commercially but by the educational imprint of Longman UK (I thought it was going to be a collection. The agent kept on saying, “No. YOU. YOUR book.”) That little volume saw NINE impressions, and STILL brings me the occasional trickle or royalties.
Then there was my first non-fiction, the autobiographical Houses in Africa [Amazon], which came about because I got this other memoir to review and it was really boring and I thought to myself, “I can do better than that” – so I contacted the publisher of said volume, a small house back in New Zealand, and he said, send me a sample. So I did, and he said, okay, send me the rest. So I sort of had an autobiography published precociously before I was thirty five years old.
And then there was… the fantasy work. The book that eventually became the duology known in the USA as The Hidden Queen [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] and Changer of Days [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] was written on the sly, over a span of probably more than two years, starting from a scene which eventually found its way into the actual novel some two-thirds of the way in. The book was over 250,000 words long, so the publishers screamed, “Split that puppy!” which is how I ended up with two volumes. But thereby hangs a tale, too, buy me another drink at another con and I’ll make like Scheherezade and keep telling you the stories of my early atacks of chutzpah – let me just say that this one involved walking into one of the most venerable and traditional literary agencies in London, England, and basically… handing an agent… all quarter-million words of manuscript…and it (kind of) worked…[1. Jim’s note — don’t try this at home, kids!]
It was THAT agent, the one who was on the receiving end of that mammoth pile of paper, who subsequently introduced me to my current agent. Who took my then-latest offering, the book which became The Secrets of Jin Shei [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon], and ran with that – and gave me one of the most exhilarating rollercoaster rides of my life with it, with the book becoming a finalist for both mainstream and genre awards and selling 20,000 copies IN HARDCOVER in Spain in less than three months, graduating to having “bestseller” stamped on the paperback edition, which still spins my brain like a top.
But you know what…? In some ways – they are all so different – EVERY book is a “first book”.
And every time I hold a newly-published one in my hands, it’s like the first time.