Joy McCullough talks about the her long journey toward publication and how a change in direction changed it all!
Write a book. Query. Get an agent. Get a publisher. It all seems so simple, right? Except for most writers, it’s not. Books don’t get picked up, business relationships don’t work out, and the road to publication is twisty. Joy McCullough is celebrating the release of Blood Water Paint, her gorgeous YA novel in verse, this month, but in an exclusive guest post on The Fandom, she reveals all the hard work it took to get to this point:
I took the extremely long route to publication.
I wrote five middle grade novels before I finally landed an agent. We put a book on submission and I kept writing. Then we put another, and another on submission, and I kept writing.
When my next book was ready for submission, I made the difficult decision to part ways with my first agent and query again. Thankfully I didn’t have to write five more books before I found my amazing agent, Jim McCarthy. He signed me with a middle grade novel that we put on submission and…I kept writing. (Do you sense a theme?)
That book didn’t sell either. I was pretty frustrated. I knew I was a good writer, but I couldn’t seem to write something that would fit in the market. I gave my agent a list of possible next projects. There were around a dozen things on that list, including one sentence about adapting the play I had already written about Artemisia Gentileschi into a YA novel-in-verse. I almost didn’t even include that pitch on the list, because it just seemed wildly unmarketable to me. But his immediate response was that he wanted me to write that verse novel.
The more I worked on the adaptation into a YA novel, the less likely it seemed to me, but I didn’t even care. I was enjoying the process so much and learning so much, and I was writing for myself. I had zero idea what my agent would think of it, but he loved it, and after we did some revisions, we put it on submission.
In less than a week, Andrew Karre at Dutton wanted to arrange a phone call. It wasn’t an offer, but Jim said things seemed promising.
I wasn’t getting my hopes up, though. This was the tenth book I had written, my fifth book to go on submission. My very first book that ever went on submission also had interest in the first week, but it didn’t work out. So I was skeptical.
It was extremely difficult not to get my hopes up after my phone call with Andrew, though. He was so incredibly smart, and he understood my weird, difficult book on a deep level. I really wanted to work with him. But there are all kinds of hoops in publishing, and I think it was about another month before an official offer was made.
Since we accepted Andrew’s offer, I’ve had an amazing ride through debut publication. It can be a rough road, but after my very long journey, I was so lucky to land where I did. Working with Andrew has been a dream. I can honestly say it was worth all the work and rejection and heartache to debut now, with this book, and this team behind me.
Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint.
She chose paint.
By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.
He will not consume
my every thought.
I am a painter.
I will paint.
I will show you
what a woman can do.