I am very pleased to welcome Sydney Jane Baily to my blog today.
Thanks for having me on your blog, Anna. We both write historical, though you are much, much further along in experience and in book count. (For that, you are an inspiration!)
Thanks,Sydney. I find that many writers are an inspiration to others because of their willingness to share their experience.
Tell me, are you a full time writer or do you have a “day job”?
I am trying to be a full-time writer now, and am much more successful at staying on that track than I have been over the past few decades. I’ve been in publishing ever since I graduated from college and even in college, I was the fiction editor of one of our William and Mary college magazines. From there, I went straight to Time-Life Books in Alexandria, VA, as a researcher, which entailed some copy editing. From there to non-fiction editor for Weiser Books and then freelanced as a production editor and copy editor for too many book publishers to list here.
Now, I have my own company, Cat Whisker Studios, through which I still edit but also create websites. I learned website development about six years ago and love it. Still, I try to do less and less outside work and focus on fiction for the majority of my day, but I manage to really do that only about two days a week. Plus, I have two teenagers, a husband, a dog, and three cats. Since my office is at home, I’m at the beck and call of the entire household. Not saying, Poor me, just that it’s hard to stay focused much of the time.
I can empathize with that! How did you get started writing?
I finished my first novel when I was 17 years old, after spending way too much time as a teenager holed up in my room. I was shy and much happier in my own dream world than out with people. That novel was deservedly rejected by everyone I sent it too, though it was, perhaps, a bit cruel to receive the first rejection letter on my eighteenth birthday.
That’s harsh! Tell us about your current series.
I have one novel published, titled An Improper Situation, set in the 1880s. It’s a bit of a blend, beginning in fictional Spring City, CO, so considered perhaps a Western, but halfway through the book, the setting changes to urban Boston, MA, the hero’s home town. I loved doing the research for this book and still am researching for the sequel and the sequel to that. The time period is rich, full of inventions and firsts. These people were modern and we would find them easy to talk to and to identify with. They just dressed better than us. Main characters: Reed Malloy and Charlotte Sanborn.
This could also be titled, “What Not to Do if You Want to Become a Successful, Prolific Writer”
Up at 6:30 a.m., make tea (number one important thing to do), then get the kids off to school, walk the dog (I promise you, Perry, I will walk you today), procrastinate by reading emails, get sidetracked by emails that lead me to websites or blogs that I open to skim now, read later, begin work either for paying customers (editing or website development) or for non-paying customers (my own website or my husband’s or various family members’ websites), and make more tea, try to do promo for published novel, then maybe, just maybe, get some writing done, lunchtime, make a fuss of the three cats if they’ve put in an appearance downstairs, throw tennis ball for dog, get my butt back in my chair, more work for various clients, lose focus, more tea, kids home or call me between 2:30 and 3, day grinds to halt, kids demand attention (even teens, especially teens), then idly think about dinner, sit at desk aimlessly, distracted by Facebook and more emails and by son who shares my office to do his homework or Skype with friends while he plays computer video games, make dinner in earnest (if I went to the market and can think of something quick), husband home, take daughter to dance studio every evening, then sit down and get some serious work done at desk (finally!), get daughter hours later from dance studio, wonder if I fed dog and cats, remember that I put laundry in at 8 a.m. and forgot to put it in dryer, stay at my desk until about 9:30, shower, read in bed, lights out by 10:23.
Some days have more horrible chores or errands: bill paying, laundry, grocery-shopping, vacuuming, dusting (ha ha, no really sometimes), litter box scooping. Days and weeks can go by with little writing getting done even though I have the best intentions every morning.
Husband: Please just make some g_dd____ned money!!
Kids: What do you do again? Oh. Why?
Mom: Proud, though I’m not sure she’s read my first book.
Dad: Busy playing tennis in Heaven at the moment but he said I was a good writer and I think he knew I’d succeed some day.
Was your road to publication difficult or a walk in the park?
As I said earlier, I started early and was rejected, but I have always been my own worst enemy in terms of sending my work out. Really hard to get published if you leave your manuscript in a drawer or a box or in a doc file on your pc for years and years. An Improper Situation has been waiting for readers for about sixteen years. I finished it just before my first child, my daughter, was born and then put it aside. Last year, I rewrote it, had it edited, and published it in early October. It’s in some local book stores and, of course, all over the web at the usual ebook stores and in paperback on Amazon. But when I did send out a manuscript, I often received praise or interest. I have a contemporary women’s novel that I’m going to rewrite eventually, of which I was nearly always asked for a partial or full when I sent out a sample and query to agents or editors. Unfortunately, it has some flaws (obviously) that kept it from being snapped up, so it needs rewriting.
Anyway, the norm, for romance manuscripts at least, is to send one out and not hear anything for three to six months and then find the editor has changed jobs or sends you back a form letter with no helpful info. In my humble opinion, if you’re willing to put in the time to learn the industry, self-publishing is definitely the way to go to break in to the field nowadays. And I say that as an editor for traditional publishers. My caveat to self-pubbing authors is that they simply must hire a copyeditor and be as professional as a trad-pubbed author. Asking your Aunt Myrtle or your friend to read it over is not the same as hiring a copyeditor. And for me, a professional cover is a must. After all, that’s your first impression to a reader, so I hired a cover artist, too.
I agree. A professional cover artist can make a tremendous difference. Where can readers find your books? Print/Ebook?
I am terribly wordy (I guess I need a good editor!) so I’m going to stop and give you links to where you can find my first novel, and I hope to have the sequel out within a month. Fingers crossed.
Charlotte should be the catch of Spring City, CO. But she cloaks her identity behind her male pen name. This reclusive writer won’t risk heartbreak, until a stranger arrives. Boston lawyer Reed Malloy has a mission—deliver two orphaned children to their cousin. He’s not prepared for Charlotte’s irresistibility, or her flat-out refusal to raise her kin. When she forsakes everything familiar—and two thousand miles of America’s heartland no longer separate her from Reed—sinister forces and scorned women conspire to keep them apart.