I began my journey as an author in childhood, though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I’d always been an avid reader, especially of fantasy, and I wrote stories constantly, jotting them down in notebooks, journals, and even using my grandmother’s old typewriter. But I never finished anything I wrote. Looking back, I believe it’s because I lacked the confidence.
After college, I became an English and drama teacher. I’d put my own writing away on a shelf years ago, but during one Christmas break in 2008, an idea for a new story came into my head, and I scribbled out a few scenes. Later, I shared my ideas with some of my students. They immediately urged me to keep writing. And I did. A few short weeks later, I received the devastating news that I was losing my job due to budget cuts. It was rough time in my life. Finishing this story – which became the first draft of Grey – became my new focus, and it provided a creative and emotional outlet I desperately needed.
Grey came to life a culmination of a few beloved fairy tales, combined with some research I’d been doing for my family tree, and it was directly influenced by my own love of particular characters and books in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. My favorite characters have always been the sidekicks and the unlikely heroes, those that are perhaps quirky and even awkward at times but have a heart of gold. I’ve also always loved the old adage from tales such as Beauty and the Beast that remind us not to judge books by their covers.
I completed the manuscript in 2009 and set out on a new journey – the quest for publication. Countless rejections. Multiple revisions. More rejections. I managed to peak interests, only to be turned away. I acquired an agent and went through two lengthy submissions, only to wind up empty handed. An agent lost. More rejections. Several close calls with publishers. Always coming so close, only to have the door close at the last moment.
Then, the unexpected happened. In the autumn of 2012, I read that HarperCollins’ global imprint for science fiction and fantasy was opening its doors to un-agented submissions for two weeks with the intent of finding new talent. I submitted Grey and did my best to put it out of my mind while I continued to work on other projects. Months passed, and I heard nothing. But then, one day, almost eighteen months after I’d submitted, I received an email, followed by a phone call, from the editor of the UK branch of HarperVoyager. I was one of fifteen authors they’d selected from nearly five thousand manuscripts, and not only did they want Grey, they wanted to sign my series.
Being a debut author has been the most frustrating, exhilarating, heartbreaking, and amazing experience ever. Being a debut is like being a tiny pebble dropped in an enormous pond. You’ve worked so hard on your book, spent grueling months editing and revising. You’ve gone through book cover samples and copy edits, while trying to build your online platform at the same time. You sweat blood and cry tears over your characters and your story. It’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done. And then, it’s publication time, and the ripple from your tiny pebble seems so small in all that water, and it feels so discouraging at first – until you remember that you’ve been so blessed to have the opportunity to make that ripple, and whatever happens after, you’ve become a published author, and no one can take that from you. It’s a wonderful feeling.
Christi J. Whitney is a former high school theatre director with a love for the arts. She lives just outside Atlanta with her husband and two sons. When not spending time with them or taking a ridiculous number of trips to Disney World, she can be found directing plays, making costumes for sci-fi/fantasy conventions, obsessing over Doctor Who, watching superhero movies, or pretending she’s just a tad bit British.
Her latest book is the young adult urban fantasy novel, Grey (The Romany Outcasts Series, Book 1).
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