First Book Friday: Seanan McGuire

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

Seanan McGuire, a.k.a. Mira Grant, is this year’s winner of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  She’s also a skilled musician.  Plus she draws awesome comics 🙂  Basically, Seanan is who you’d get if SF/F were a superpower.

Read on to learn how she sold the first of her many books, and the whirlwind that began with that first sale…


In digging through my (relatively epic) email archives, the earliest fragments I can find involving a character named Toby Daye are dated early 1998.  Twelve, going on thirteen, years ago.  I was twenty years old.  The rules of urban fantasy as we currently know it were still sort of sticky and half-baked, and no one really knew what they could or couldn’t get away with.  I thought my decision to write in the first person was unique and would really stand out.  You know.  Crazy things like that.

After a few years of figuring out what the hell I was doing, I had a finished novel: Rosemary and Rue [B&N |  Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon], which, in its original form, didn’t look very much like it did when it finally got published.  I wrote a sequel.  I learned a lot from writing the sequel.  I re-wrote the first book.  I wrote a third book.  I learned a lot from writing the third book.  I re-wrote the first book.  I wrote…you get the picture.  By 2007, I had what I considered to be an awesome book, and absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do with it.  I was like the underwear gnomes.  “Step one, write; step three, PROFIT.”  Only I had no idea how to proceed.

I had started talking to the woman who would eventually become my agent, Diana Fox, in early 2007.  We’d been discussing the possibility of her representing me, and the fact that clearly, I still needed to do some work on Rosemary and Rue.  In December of that same year, I had one of those Legally Blonde “whoa” moments, and suddenly realized that I needed to completely re-write the book.  Diana asked to see the first sixty pages.  Then she asked for the whole book.  Then we spent about eight hours on the phone, ending with a formal offer of representation.  Whee!

I asked a friend of mine who was also an author if she would be willing to read Rosemary and Rue and give us a “shop quote” — something that we could use to pique the interest of editors.  She agreed, with that sort of cautious “um, maybe…” that is really the best defense of the published author being approached by their unpublished friend.  She wound up enjoying the book enough that she strongly recommended we try approaching DAW, as they would be the best fit for my work.  We approached DAW.  Thirteen days later (not that I was counting or anything), Diana called me at my day job and asked whether I had a minute.  I always have a minute for Diana.  I said sure.

She said “We got DAW.”

…the screaming eventually stopped.  And the real work began.

Everything about actually publishing a book was strange and new to me.  I had to meet my editor, learn how she worked, learn how to work with her, and learn the names of everyone’s cats (not entirely joking).  I had to come to terms, fast, with the fact that a) there were now a lot of things I didn’t control, and b) everyone in the world assumed that I did control them, resulting in my spending a lot of time explaining publishing cycles to my friends.  And most of all, c) the whole world was about to have the chance to meet my imaginary friend, and not everyone was going to like her.

A year ago, I had no books in bookstores.  As I write this, I have four, with at least four more coming.  It’s incredibly weird.  Sometimes, I still expect to wake up back in December of 2007.  But weird as it all is…wow, has it been worth it.