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First Book Friday: Karin Lowachee

Welcome back to First Book Friday, where product freshness is guaranteed! Previous entries in the series are indexed here, and the submission guidelines are there.

Karin Lowachee has been creating stories since kindergarten. Maybe earlier. Her most recent book is The Gaslight Dogs [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], inspired in part by her time working with and living among the Inuit in northern Canada. You can find her on Twitter and Goodreads.

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My first novel, Warchild [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], was published in an unorthodox way. I workshopped about two-thirds of it on the then-Del Rey Online Writing Workshop (which has since become the Online Writing Workshop), first as an experiment to see if anyone actually took to it, and then as a motivational tool to make me complete it. I received very helpful critiques, as well as a lot of interest, so that was an indication to me that perhaps this book might appeal to a general SF readership (and hopefully some editors).

Towards the end of my writing the novel, my friend CC Finlay forwarded me the information about a contest run by Warner Books for first novelists — the grand prize was a full-fledged publishing contract, and even more cool, it was being judged by Tim Powers (and Betsy Mitchell was the editor-in-chief at the time). I made a goal to finish Warchild for this contest and send it off — first a cover letter and the first 50 pages, just as you would to any agent or publisher. Weeks later they asked for the full novel, so I sent that off too. I’d made the first cut.

Over the course of a few months I heard through the grapevine that it was ‘moving up the ranks.’ Then when I was working up in the Arctic, my sister called to tell me that I had received a letter from Warner Books — I had won. It was a surreal moment, I remember exactly standing in front of the couch and she was ecstatic on the other end of the line. My reactions to things tend to be more internal; I was jumping around on the inside, but outside I was just smiling like an idiot. Then I sat down on the couch. I probably said “YEAH!” once or twice, but that was it. I was just internalizing it all, letting the reality sink in … it took awhile. I don’t think I quite believed it until I actually talked to Betsy Mitchell on the phone, and then when I had a contract in hand. I kept assuming someone was going to say they’d reconsidered and it was going to someone else. But luckily I was wrong. (I still feel this way every time a book of mine is published; the disbelief doesn’t go away, frankly.) Warner Aspect was going to publish Warchild and Tim Powers was going to blurb it. I received all of my editorial comments and contacts while living up North, and it remains one of the best, most stressful, and interesting periods of my life. I will forever associate Warchild with the Arctic.

The real work began long after the book contract, and it hasn’t stopped. The contest afforded me an opportunity to get my foot in the door, but as any writer will tell you, it’s a fight to produce work that will keep you in the room. Still, I’ll ever be grateful to Betsy Mitchell and Tim Powers for seeing something in my book, and for all the readers who responded to it in such a positive way.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
sylvanstargazer
Aug. 5th, 2011 02:20 pm (UTC)
Man, I loved Warchild! And at the time (age 16 or so) I thought it was awesome that it came out of a contest like that, because it's one of those "if I ever finished a book that was as good as this, that *could* totally happen to me" things. Aspirational, that's it, plus really tight and sharp military science fiction :)
jimhines
Aug. 5th, 2011 02:32 pm (UTC)
I'd have to double-check the details and the notes, but I *think* I submitted one of my books to the same contest that year. Meaning I lost to Karin Lowachee.

I can live with that :-)
kiviuq
Aug. 5th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
Aha! You're kind. I had a lady approach me at a con once to tell me face to face that I'd beat her out, and then she seemed to wait for me to apologise. Needless to say, I didn't apologise. I don't know what she expected me to say!
jimhines
Aug. 5th, 2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
Heh. If I remember right, the book I submitted in no way deserved to win. Some decent ideas, but the plot was a mess, and I didn't have worldbuilding sorted out yet. Problems all over the place.

You know, if that's how this woman handles rejection, maybe she'd be better off pursuing a different career than writing...
kiviuq
Aug. 12th, 2011 12:55 am (UTC)
She ended up being a cool lady but I just remember that moment of thinking, "I can either lie and say I'm sorry I won, or just smile and say something else." I did the latter. LOL
kiviuq
Aug. 5th, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Do you still write, then? Because honestly if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody who has the same drive to get better and put their stuff out there.
sylvanstargazer
Aug. 5th, 2011 09:11 pm (UTC)
I never buckled down on it and now I write webpages for a living instead of novels. I still produce the occasional short story, but I've been putting more of my free time into roleplaying and interactive world-building and I've never tried to get any of them published.

I did do the writing workshop at WorldCon that year and got positive, constructive feedback (and got to watch the arrogent egotistical guy in my section get ripped to shreds), so it definitely had an effect. Eventually I discovered that I'm better at character and atmosphere than I am at plot and ultimately decided I needed to live some more before I focused on my prose.
kiviuq
Aug. 12th, 2011 12:54 am (UTC)
Sorry this comment's coming so late, but the fact you're so self-aware of what you need to do before you feel you can write the way you want is impressive. But don't wait too long. ;) I've been on both ends of the table in workshops like that and I know the writers aren't positive for no reason. If you love writing, you should definitely pursue it. :)
paragraphs
Aug. 5th, 2011 02:24 pm (UTC)
What a great story, Karin! Real people really do win these things! (I am curious why you were in the Arctic...and if that will inspire another book).

I love these First Book Friday's that Jim does, and will definitely add this one to the list. It sounds fabulous, and I love coming-of-age type stories. Looking forward to meeting Jos!
kiviuq
Aug. 5th, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC)
I was working up there as a teacher. :) It was basically the best time of my life, along with being published. Let me know what you think of Jos when you meet him. :)
calico_reaction
Aug. 5th, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
Lowachee does have a book that's inspired by such a setting: have you heard of her The Gaslight Dogs?
rikibeth
Aug. 5th, 2011 03:08 pm (UTC)
I adore this book. The characters have found a permanent place in my heart. It's nice to hear the story of its big break.
kiviuq
Aug. 5th, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks, lady! It's amazing to me that readers like you still follow after all this time.
rikibeth
Aug. 5th, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC)
*grin* I'm still hoping that there will be more, someday.
(Deleted comment)
kiviuq
Aug. 5th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Your shout-out of the other 2 is much appreciated as well. :)
calico_reaction
Aug. 5th, 2011 10:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this! Warchild is by far one of my most favorite SF novels EVER, and it's pretty much the top of the favorite NOVELS ever. It's a gorgeous book, and the rest of the books in the series (there's only three total), are also very good.

Yay for promoting such a deserving author!
kiviuq
Aug. 12th, 2011 12:55 am (UTC)
I appreciate your tireless support of my writing like you don't know. <3
klingonguy
Aug. 6th, 2011 01:02 am (UTC)
Jim,

My apologies for posting this off-topic note in your LJ thread, but I've sent you several emails at the last address I have for you and haven't heard anything back. Would you kindly give me a reply at: lawrence AT papergolem DOT com? Thanks.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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