We’re now just a week away from the release of Enchanted Ever After. I’ll make the paperback version live this Thursday so there will be time to order them and get them shipped around release day. It looks like there may be a delay for the Audible version, since they’re taking a very long time with that contract. I set the release date to give them plenty of time to have it ready, but I didn’t find out that it wouldn’t be happening then until I already had the pre-order up. It will be coming, but I don’t know when.
Last week, I talked about some of the very beginnings of the idea that eventually became Enchanted, Inc. When I first had that idea, though, it was more about the kind of thing I wanted to read. There was a part of me that thought it would be fun to write, but I went looking to read it, first. The problem was, I couldn’t find anything like that. I’d have thought that, given the huge success of the Harry Potter series and its popularity among adults, someone would have capitalized on that and done something like that for adults, substituting the workplace for the school environment. But I didn’t find it. There were only a few urban fantasy books out at that time. I read Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which came close to what I wanted, and there was Emma Bull’s The War for the Oaks and Charles de Lint’s books, but not much else.
At that time, though, I was desperately trying to write a chick lit book. The American publishers had started looking for them, and new imprints were opening up to focus on that kind of book. I have to admit that I was a little dissatisfied by the American offerings, since they seemed to miss a lot of the point of what made the British books fun. They seemed to be trying to skew younger, aimed at the twentysomethings, when Bridget Jones’s Diary had been about a woman in her thirties. There was the emphasis on shopping that hadn’t been in the British books I’d liked. I was trying to write something that captured what I liked about the British books but that was distinctly American.
Unfortunately, it was without much success. When I sent a manuscript to my agent, I didn’t hear anything at all for about four months, then found a package on my front porch that was my manuscript with a note scrawled on my own cover letter saying, “I can’t sell this.” I sent that agent a certified letter severing the relationship — not because she didn’t like my book, but because of the lack of communication. I expected some kind of response within four months, and if there was a problem with the book, I’d have hoped she’d talk to me. I got the impression she was essentially breaking up with me, or at least being distant and unresponsive enough that I’d break up with her, an impression that was strengthened by the fact that she didn’t respond at all to the certified letter other than signing the postcard that came with it to verify receipt.
I was a bit worried about being unagented, like I was starting my career over again. I think I had at least fifteen submissions that year, all rejected. Then that summer, I went to a conference in New York. Harlequin was launching two new lines, a fantasy imprint and a romantic comedy category line. Most of my friends were writing for the romantic comedy line, and I had hopes of selling something there, so I went with them to the launch party. Their introductory titles for the fantasy imprint were fairly traditional fantasy, set in quasi-medieval worlds, so I figured they wouldn’t be interested in that crazy idea I’d had. I’d been thinking about it off and on over the year and a half or so since I came up with the idea, and I’d developed it enough to know that instead of getting magical powers, my heroine would be immune to magic and be the extremely normal one in the middle of wacky magical people. The problem was, I was afraid it was too girly for a fantasy imprint and too weird for chick lit.
At the party, one of the editors approached my little group and asked if we had any questions. I asked if they’d ever consider any contemporary fantasy. She said they might after the launch and asked if I had an idea. I told her the bare bones of my idea. My friends who were with me said her nostrils flared and she was visibly salivating. She handed me her card and told me to send it. I said it wasn’t written. She said, “Then what are you doing standing here? Go write it!”
And that was why I decided to write that book. She ended up rejecting it, but I didn’t get that rejection until after I already had an agent (a new one) and the book was on submission everywhere else. Still, it gave me the confidence to give it a shot, and it’s probably been the easiest book I’ve ever written. It just came pouring out of me, and I didn’t do massive revisions on it. There was some tightening and tweaking once I got an agent who wanted to represent it, and she suggested the frog-kissing sequence (which had just been a conversation with an offhand reference to kissing frogs as a way of meeting men in the initial draft), but the structure of the plot was more or less the same.
It was still a fairly hard sell. Since chick lit was the hottest thing going at the time and they were looking for something different, that was where we focused, though there was also a fantasy publisher in the mix that made it as far as the auction (before dropping out). I’ve had a lot of second thoughts about that, given that the chick lit market imploded soon after the first couple of books were published, and it took the series with it. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if we’d targeted the fantasy publishers instead, but urban fantasy was just starting to take off, and it went in a darker, more horror-oriented direction, so maybe they wouldn’t have been interested. And I don’t have time travel abilities, so it’s not as though I can change things now.
I never imagined when I first had that idea, when I wrote the first book, that there would end up being nine books and that I’d still be writing that series a decade and a half later. Though, I will confess, I did imagine that it would be more successful than it was. They didn’t really go after the adult fans of Harry Potter market, and no one else did, either. I still can’t believe no publishers really got on that bandwagon. I’d have thought the market would have been flooded with books about magical workplaces. I guess publishers are bad about thinking in categories. The Harry Potter books were for kids, so they focused on finding the next big thing for kids and didn’t consider how many adults were reading those books. Even my publisher balked at making that connection because the Harry Potter books were for kids (when I did my own PR using that angle, it was successful, so I wish we could have done that on a broader basis).
So far, this has been my most successful series. I haven’t really been able to get anything else to click like that, and I keep hearing from publishers that they want something else like that. But I’ve written that. I don’t really know how to write something that’s like that but that isn’t that. Maybe something else will click for me the way that one did.