Monday, January 16, 2012

VBT Pit Stop Giveaway & Guest Post with Kat Jorgensen - Your Eight O'Clock is Dead

Today we welcome guest author Kat Jorgensen. She will be discussing the road to publishing. Welcome Kat!

A notorious daydreamer, Kat knew it was only a matter of time before she became a writer. She learned to read by age four and had her first library card before her fifth birthday. To this day, she can lose herself for hours among the books at her local library or neighborhood bookstore. Ebooks and online ordering have made it really easy for her to keep her To Be Read pile from ever going down. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Kat is married with children and has a cranky tuxedo cat named Ben.

The Road to Publishing

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Essays were my favorite part of school. Only a page! You’ve got to be kidding. While classmates breathed a sigh of relief, I was thinking of ways to write smaller so I could crowd more words on that one page. My world history report in high school was a meaty 100 pages. Others turned in a wimpy 25, the required minimum. I had an absolute blast researching and then compiling my notes into a cohesive document. And the A+ wasn’t too bad for my GPA either.

Over the years, I wrote for school newspapers and company magazines, and I enjoyed every minute of it. But somehow I was hesitant to commit to a full-length novel while working full-time and raising a family. Instead, I entertained friends and family with satires on various subjects, short stories and just plain old story ideas. When my audience would laugh, cry or applaud, it was just the best feeling.

My mother always encouraged me to pursue my writing. She always nurtured and supported me in whatever I undertook. Her belief in me was astounding.

So when she passed away in 2000 and I found myself with an empty nest, I decided to write that novel. I figured if she believed in me so wholeheartedly, I should believe in myself.

But where to start? The blank screen stared at me. I switched to paper. The yellow legal sheet mocked me. I read books on writing. I took online classes. I joined online groups. I took writing classes at one of our local universities. I joined local writers’ groups. I wrote a novel. It was the greatest feeling. It ended up being 991 pages!

I was so proud when I went into my monthly writers’ meeting and announced it was done. Much applause. I gave the page count. Total silence. Then someone spoke up and asked if I knew it was too long to be marketable. Yes, I was aware of that. It needed editing. So I went home and thought that one over. The next month I came back and let them know that I knew what my book needed. My college writing teacher wanted to know if it was an eleven page prologue. I had to smile. By now they all realized I like to write and write long. But no, it wasn’t a prologue this book needed. It was severe editing.

I proceeded to phase two - learning how to edit what is written. I trimmed the book by more than half. And in the process learned a great deal about the whole writing process and added even more tools to my novelist toolkit.

Then came phase three - sending it out. More research followed on how to do that. And then the rejections poured in. I was not happy. How could they not love my plot or my characters? How could they reject ME? Yes, I was that new.

I went to writers’ conferences, seminars, took more classes, networked with more writers. Joined a critique group. Went on writing retreats. Volunteered for positions within my local group. Sought out mentors. Gave back where I could as I learned. Immersed myself in my craft. And learned so much.

I continued to write novels. Continued to pitch. Continued to get rejections. But the rejections were better, the feedback more positive. My writing tighter.

As co-program chair for the local writers’ group, I worked on programs with an amazing New York Times best-selling author, Cathy Maxwell. We brought in top writers from all over the country for programs. And we brought in agents and editors. I got to meet with them and I learned from all of them. It was a fabulous experience. And I continued to write and take classes and attend writing events.

In 2008, I had a non-fiction story about how our cat responded to my husband’s 2006 cancer surgeries and recovery published in A Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers. Man’s Best Friend was my first paying writing experience. I got to do local book-signings and met with readers.

Surely, my next novel would sell. Success was right around the corner for my fiction, right? Well, not exactly.
I did continue to write. But I also wasn’t feeling so great. I grew more and more fatigued, but I chalked it all up to the horrors of what my husband and I had been through in the past couple of years.

Cancer hit me, too. Twice. In 2008 and again in 2009. I went through surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. My brain was fogged and my body was weak. My characters and stories were silent. It was a dark time. One where I didn’t write. I wasn’t physically able. I was fighting for my life and I was determined to win.

As I regained my strength, the notion came to me that I should write something funny. Laugh out loud funny. My previous books had been dark and serious. After so many serious issues in my personal life, I didn’t want to go back to that in my writing life. I wanted to kick back and kick up my heels and play. The River City Mystery Series was born. I wrote Your Eight O’Clock Is Dead and amused myself. I amused the people that read it and knew that I’d finally hit my niche.

And I sent it out to the traditional publishers and to New York agents that I had met previously. Which one was going to pick it up? The rejections started. Very positive, almost apologetic rejections. They loved it. YAY, me! They couldn’t represent or buy it due to the fact that I was an unknown quantity and the economic times were so tight in publishing that they were unwilling to take a chance on me. OUCH.

At that point, I had two choices. Write another book and try submitting to traditional publishers or go the indie route. I believed in myself, this book, these characters and this series. So I took the plunge. And I haven’t regretted it for one minute.

People are buying the book, they’re writing to me to tell me how much they enjoy it. I love these letters and emails. To know that my writing is helping people take their minds off of their problems and allowing them to laugh is everything I dreamed it would be. My sole goal in writing is to entertain people. To give them a diversion. To amuse them. If I can do this, then I consider myself successful.

It’s been a long and winding road toward publication for me with plenty of straight stretches, some hills and valleys and lots of curves. But I’m here now at my chosen destination and having a grand time.

Becca Reynolds is having a bad day. Her grandfather’s lecture (#405: Eat a Healthy Diet or Die Not Trying) makes her late for her job at Daley and Palmer, the psychiatrists' office where she works as the office manager—her title, not theirs. Then her sausage and egg breakfast biscuit creates an oil slick that takes out half her desk, along with that day’s patient files. But she knows the day has taken a really bad turn when she discovers the firm’s eight o’clock patient dead with Dr. Dick Daley’s letter opener opening the patient instead of the mail.

With the fledgling firm in danger of an early demise, Becca appoints herself the unofficial investigator since the police seem to be looking in all the wrong places and doing a half-assed job of solving the crime. She begins a journey to find the killer, keep the practice afloat and with it, her job. In the course of her interfere—er, investigation—she finds a virtual cast of characters who could have done it, including the fancy side piece of the murder victim, his wife, his business partner, and even his psychiatrist.

The case takes Becca from the sordid depths of the Russian mob, to the upscale West End of Richmond, Virginia (known locally as River City), and even to her own backyard. In the course of the story she finds herself in hot water, hot danger, and with dreams of hot men.

Thank you for stopping in Kat. It's been a pleasure having you. Kat is also offering one lucky commenter a chance to win an e-copy of Your Eight O'Clock is Dead. Just leave Kat a comment with your email address for a chance to win. Winner will be drawn using and announced next Monday.

You can get even more chances to win a copy of this title by following Kat's tour, which you can view HERE.


BK said...

Thank you so much for being with us today Kat. So glad you got past your cancer too. Looking forward to learning more during your tour.