The Story behind the Story — A CURSE OF ASH AND IRON

Published July 2, 2015 by christinenorris

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Okay, so now I have a chance to tell. I should have done before now, but yanno, as I explained, Murphy’s law was in full effect right around the time of the release and for the last week. It’s been so long since I released a book, since I WROTE this book, that I almost forgot what I was supposed to do after a book came out!

So here’s my story. Some of you will know some of this, those who have been following along at home.

CURSE began as an idea in Spring of 2008 (maybe? My memory is a mess as far as years go). The first chapter ended up as a writing assignment for a Creative Writing class or something that I was taking when I was getting my English degree. I continued to work on it, and the following spring, I think it was, I took the first 30 pages to a Mentoring Workshop sponsored by NJSCBWI. Which was one of the best things I ever did for myself, writing-wise. An editor at a major publisher gave me a critique, and I had a peer crit as well. I kept plugging away at it, and I think the first version was done in 2010. That was when I went to my first NJSCBWI annual conference. I made SO many new kidlit friends, and met so many industry people!

My peer crit group that year included Kit Grindstaff and (IIRC) Darlene Jacobson, who both have now published their books. We were the last group to finish and go to bed, way after midnight.

I submitted the book to many of the people I met at the conference, and was rejected by all. But I kept going, of course, because I loved this story. Eventually I would get the rejection that would change everything. I submitted the story to a really popular, really good agent. She was, at the time, my dream agent. And she was moving across country at the time, but still read my manuscript. And rejected it. BUT with a long, lovely rejection that told me exactly what she loved and what she didn’t like. And I took it all to heart, and…

I ripped the entire book apart and started again. Probably that was late 2010, early 2011. And since I wasn’t yet working full time, I could do it. I had started Grad School that January, so I was really busy. Before this, the whole Ellie-being-cursed thing didn’t exist. That’s a whole other story, but in the end I learned so much about storytelling from that re-write. The next year I went back to NJSCBWI and met another editor, who had become a friend. He read it over, and he suggested the prologue.

Anyway, after all that writing and re-writing and adding, in 2012 I got my first agent. And now I was working, and I was still working on the Library of Athena series (which WILL be finished, I promise!), and finishing Grad School. In 2013, me and my agent split. I had nearly given up on having an agent or a bigger publisher, even though I really believed the book deserved it. Then a friend told me she was interning with an agent that she thought I might want to submit to. So I checked out Jordy Albert at the Booker Albert Lit Agency. I read her profile and an interview or two with her.

She had me at Doctor Who.Seriously, we seemed to like all the same things, sounded like the perfect fit. I decided to give it one last go, and she said yes! Jordy is pretty awesome — I signed with her in August of 2013. We did revisions and she sent out the pitch. And sold it in six weeks to Strange Chemistry. I was ecstatic.

Then, as many of you know, SC closed. Three months before we were supposed to release, in June 2014. It was seriously difficult. One of those things that seems world-ending at the time. So much hard work, for nothing.

But Jordy pulled me through it. As soon as we were able, she sent to Curiosity Quills. They had actually made an offer before I signed with Jordy, but as it goes with such things, we didn’t take it the first time around. They were AWESOME and still wanted the book.

And the rest is history. So there you go. My long, LONG road to get this book published. Though the road was long and tough, and I almost gave up a couple of times, in the end it was worth it.

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