5 Years in Publishing: A Reflection

being-a-good-writerYesterday was my 5 Year Publishing Anniversary (or “Pubiversary” as some of us call it. Authors are allowed to make up words, right?). The day was a busy one for unrelated reasons, so I didn’t get to celebrate as I should have. But five years is a long time, and my celebration will come in the form of reflection.

The last five years might as well have been fifty for how much has changed for me as a direct result of publishing my work.

Let’s back up further, to 2000. I was watching TV with my husband (we weren’t married yet, though; not until the following year). A single line popped into my head: “It was raining the day I buried my wife.” Depressing, right? But if you’re a creative type, like me, depressing ideas often become opportunities. I was struck with the overwhelming certainty I was meant to write this line down, and more, that this line would become the beginning of a novel. Now, I had been writing since I was in the second grade. I’d won awards for my stories, and was known for being the girl who’s “imagination would get her in trouble one day.” (For the record, it got me in trouble more than a few times). But I was notorious for never finishing anything I wrote, except short pieces. No matter how much world building or planning I’d do, I was great at starting, okay at the middle, but a complete failure at tying it together into an ending. Endings were scary. Endings required commitment in a very final way.

Worse, like most writers, I was a perfectionist. Nothing was ever good enough. And I had no one to tell me nothing ever would be. I had to learn that on my own.

I’ve written before about how St. Charles at Dusk, which started with the line above, took me over a decade to write. If you’ve read the book, you’re probably asking:  How?? The answer requires an essay of its own, but the short explanation is perfectionism and crippling self-doubt. Two things authors are intimately familiar with.

Then one day my husband came across some articles on Amanda Hockett and her success in self-publishing and encouraged me to give it a shot. Up to that point, when I thought of self-publishing I envisioned the middle aged man with boxes of his magnum opus sitting in the garage, waiting for him to drive around and peddle them to random strangers. Obviously, things had changed if a young girl could sell over a million books without anyone in the industry guiding her. This was a chance to get my work out there, without the stress of finding an agent or a publisher. A toe in the water. What did I have to lose?

Nothing, as it turned out. Instead, I had everything to gain.

10608594_10204384390957197_7459378025498670569_o (1)Outside of a few Google searches, I knew absolutely nothing about self-publishing. I had no idea where to even start, and, at the time, I didn’t know any other authors (nor did I have a clue where to find them). I met a designer (referred to me by a friend) for coffee and tried to articulate the book and my vision for it, and failed miserably. He ended up designing a stunning cover, but it wasn’t what I was looking for, and I blame myself. Learning to articulate my work clearly and concisely was a skill that would come later. But it was a professional cover, and I published St. Charles at Dusk with it.

Formatting took me weeks to get right. I must have ordered ten proof copies before getting it passably correct. Figuring out where my books should be published (outside of the obvious choice of Amazon) was another mountain. My sanity was tested.

305064_249627531745014_118012210_n.jpgAnd then, on September 26th, 2011, I released St. Charles at Dusk to the wide world. No fanfare beyond a few excited friends and family members (I remember who supported me in those early days, and I love you all so much for it). Holding my own book in my hands for the first time is a feeling I cannot begin to describe, so won’t even try. If I got tagged in a “5 Best Moments of Your Life” post, that would be on there for sure.

Then… nothing. I had no clue how to market my work to anyone beyond my contacts, and my built-in humility made it hard to do even that. In 2011, I made exactly $53.24 (while I couldn’t sell books, I’m an ace at financial tracking). I’m fairly certain I could attach names to every one of those sales, too.

The first half of 2012 was no different. In fact, I made less. $49.50. I marketed the book exactly zero times, and the excitement I had in late 2011 from this accomplishment died from “I’m an author,” to “I published a book once.” I would daydream about the next book, but the ideas never made it to the page. I was The Queen of Concepts.

Then, as always, I participated in National Novel Writing Month. I had a trip to Turkey and Morocco planned for late November, so I knocked out the entire required 50,000 words in twenty days. And I loved the story! It wasn’t exactly a sequel to St. Charles at Dusk (which was meant to be a standalone, but I found I couldn’t bear to leave that world). In fact, it felt like a beginning to something more. The Storm and the Darkness was, in my own way, a love letter to introverts. Ana Deschanel and Jonathan St. Andrews were my best attempt to show the world what it is to feel isolated and awkward, and to search for your place in the world. It was also the true start to what became The House of Crimson & Clover Series.

I didn’t touch the manuscript again until early 2013. I’d been laid off at work, and I needed something to keep me busy. I started blogging, mostly about travel and Tolkien topics, and met some amazing people, many of whom I’ve continued friendships with into today. I met other writers. I started to get a broader view of the industry beyond the small piece I occupied by myself. Inspired by being around other artists and rediscovering a sense of purpose, I dusted off The Storm and the Darkness and published it in June of 2013, a month after starting my new job.

Before, I’d told myself it was too difficult to balance a full time career in the outside world with a career in the writing world. Now, I was determined to ride this newfound excitement and momentum and prove myself wrong.

Flourish came in August of 2013. The Illusions of Eventide followed in December. Shattered in February of 2014, and then another four titles that same year. In 2013 I made hundreds of dollars. In 2014, thousands. Somewhere between Darkness and Flourish, I started learning Photoshop and began to design my own covers, which was an evolution in itself. Inspired by my good friend Becket, who had learned to design his own as well, I decided I could do anything I put my mind to, and if I practiced enough, I could do it well.

11215768_10207522698732930_466527202291173829_nIn 2014 I was invited to be a featured author at Anne Rice’s Undead Con in New Orleans. I was invited back in 2015. I had a chance to speak with Anne personally and tell her what her work had meant to me, and how she had inspired my work almost more than any other author.

Somewhere between those two events, Christopher Rice (another one of my favorite authors) picked up The Storm and the Darkness and declared it one of his favorite books, much to my incredible shock. He featured it as a Favorite Read on his Dinner Party Show.  I still don’t know how this happened. It still takes my breath away.

I busted my ass and by the start of 2015 I had nine titles.  But what I did not have was a solid marketing strategy.

JPG (3)Around this time, I finally envisioned the design that would define my brand. I spent endless hours redesigning my series, my website, my marketing materials. I began to understand that the reason I struggled to market before was that I was inconsistent in how I saw my work, and that included picking a genre and sticking with it. By focusing my brand into something others could see and recognize as mine, I was able to target the readers who should be reading my work.

In 2015, I published seven more titles. I became an Amazon Bestselling Author for the first time on my own (several times), and hit the USA Today list twice in anthologies. My sales went from four to five figures. I started to get emails daily from readers instead of monthly. I began to see the impact my work could have on others. My income moved from the four digits into the five. I was able to re-invest back in my business and grow it further.

Now, in 2016, five years after I hit publish with shaking hands, I have 22 titles under my name. I’m beginning to branch outside of The House of Crimson & Clover, and I now have a system that works- for writing, getting a book to market, and getting it before readers. And despite all that, I know I still have so much more to learn.

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The accomplishments I’m most proud of in 5 years:

  • Hitting publish for the first time. This required more bravery than anything I’ve ever done.
  • Learning to design my own graphics work and creating a brand design that I’m absolutely in love with, still, almost two years later.
  • Being a featured author at the Anne Rice Undead Con in New Orleans twice.
  • Hitting #18 in the overall Amazon store on my own. Also hitting the Top 100 four times on my own.
  • Hitting #3 in the Barnes & Noble store on my own.
  • Hitting the USA Today Bestseller’s list three times in anthologies.
  • Having Christopher Rice feature my work and continue to call me one of his favorite authors.
  • Charles at Dusk made it to the quarter-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest.
  • I both met and exceeded the business goals I set for myself in 2014 and 2015 (and the goals were aggressive). I’m on track for the same in 2016.
  • 22 titles. Twenty-two. How are there even that many words in my head?

If some of this feels less than modest, that’s because there’s something else I’ve learned to do in five years: Not be afraid of success. In any other career, we are encouraged to go after promotions and opportunities, and we are equally encouraged to find pride when we get them. There’s a certain level of shame in admitting when you’ve done well as an author, as if the career choice is not viable in comparison to others. So this is me saying, I am thrilled with where my career as an author has taken me. And I’ve even more excited to see where it goes.

Most of all, though, I want to say thank you. To my readers who keep reading. To my author friends who keep me going. To my family and friends who believe in me. Writing is a very solitary profession, but having a support system makes it just a little bit less lonely.

Onward to the next 5 years.

Dear Louisiana…

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Elizabeth Burgess


Dear Louisiana,

I know you are hurting. We are hurting too. From Bossier Parish all the way down to Vermilion Bay, and in the places in between. From Slidell to Natchitoches, Ruston to Houma. Every one of us who loves this great state sees your plight, and we’re here to shoulder the burden. Side by side. Arm in arm.

You’ve been knocked down and you might think no one cares. You’re on your back scared, afraid… drowning. You may believe all hope is lost and the sun will never shine again. Reach inward, Louisiana, dig deep and you will find the light inside of you.

You were born with an indomitable spirit, and though there are parts of you that sit below sea level, you rise. You are a mix of faiths and races and you march to the beat of your own drum. You draw…

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The Voice Of An Angel

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Eric Shaw Quinn

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Over the years I’ve gotten the feeling that The Prince’s Psalmwas a novel that was meant to be somehow. Along the road to publication, people told me the book was too old fashioned, too modern, too long and too short. There are more than a dozen drafts and scores of rewrites.

And every time I have thought to put the book aside, it has come up again, on its own.

There are plenty of books I want to write. Ideas that have been orbiting around up there, waiting on their chance, for years. I’ve written books that are moldering away on old, actually-floppy discs and some that are big-banded and stuffed into long forgotten stationery boxes.

I published Write Murderlast fall, the first in a murder mystery series I’ve always wanted to write.

There is a folder in my files entitled “I Think Maybe” that has little scraps…

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The Prince’s Psalm Blog Tour Sarah M. Cradit Trilogy

The Eric Shaw Quinn trilogy for #ThePrincesPsalm, all in one place. Check it out!

Eric Shaw Quinn

PrincesPsalm[The]_headerbannerPublishing a new book is a great way to find out who your friends really are! And I don’t mean that snarky. A novel is a big ask of anyone, even a close friend. And a big fat, historical, biblical, gay romance, well that really gives your bestest, besties the chance to rise to the occasion. I apparently have a lot of really wonderful friends! So many people have taken time to help me promote my latest in a busy and indifferent marketplace. From astonishing posts to head spinning reviews to standing up for me against the online homophobes to showing up and getting a book signed or buying a copy and reading it, I feel very lucky so far. I can only hope that the enthusiasm of so many dear friends will translate into success for my dream project. Case in point: I have no idea what I have done…

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What I’m Working On

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From time to time, I like to check in and let readers know what I’m working on.

In somewhat random, somewhat relevant order:

  1. The Secrets Amongst the Cypress (House of Crimson & Clover Volume 8)– The first draft is complete, and I’m preparing to jump in for the next phase, which includes a lot of edits and rewrites. The cover reveal for the book is coming on July 31 (as well as the pre-order links), and it releases October 25th. The story involves Jacob and Amelia’s travel back to nineteenth century Louisiana.
  2. Text Message Serials– My co-writing murder mystery series/serial with Becket has one book complete (The Bee in the Golden Spiral) and a second in development. We will be announcing our publishing plans for this in the not-too-distant future, so stay tuned!
  3. The Last Dryad (The Complex)– A novella part of the broader multi-author sci-fi project set in a shared universe, The Complex. More details to come soon!
  4. Lagniappes Volume II– The second collection of Crimson & Clover short stories, to include Pandora’s Box, The Menagerie, and A Band of Heather. Also will include Banshee and The Ephemeral, which have not previously been published as individual titles.
  5. Untitled Series– I’m also working on a sort-of-top-secret brand new series that combines historical fiction and vampires.
  6. Within the Garden of Twilight (House of Crimson & Clover Volume 9)– Planning is underway for the 9th volume in the series, which is tentatively scheduled to release in March of 2017.

The Eric Shaw Quinn Series | Part 3 of 3: An Exclusive Excerpt from The Prince’s Psalm

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The three-part Eric Shaw Quinn series, as part of The Prince’s Psalm Blog Tour, concludes with Part 3 of 3: An Exclusive Excerpt on … And Then There was Sarah.

This is the post you’ve been waiting for. Eric Shaw Quinn, New York Times bestselling author and co-host of The Dinner Party Show, released on June 7th his most exciting and ambitious work yet: a biographical narrative of the powerful love between biblical heroes David and Jonathan. Now, you can read an EXCLUSIVE excerpt from the novel, right here.

The series began with an “in his own words” guest post from Eric, continued with an interview, and, finally, the best for last: an exclusive excerpt from The Prince’s Psalm!

Schedule:

Part One: Guest Post Written by Eric Shaw Quinn (July 5th)
Part Two: An Interview with Eric Shaw Quinn (July 12th)
Part Three: An Exclusive Excerpt from The Prince’s Psalm. (July 19th)

To learn more about this story (including links to where to purchase), click here.

Note: The below excerpt is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without permission of the author.

 

An Exclusive Excerpt from The Prince’s Psalm by Eric Shaw Quinn

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Their small party sat on cushions on the cool tiles of the floor in Nitzevet’s sewing room. David played as the women spun wool and flax into thread for the winter weaving. The sun drooped lazily under the eyebrow of the thickly overgrown arbors that shielded the rooms of the large house. A breeze blew in from the central courtyard.

David’s voice and music were like pale wine. Sharp at first and then soothing. The pure sweet notes took away the late summer heat of the month of Elul and eased the drudgery of the mundane tasks the karmel demanded.

Oh God, do you believe in me?” David sighed as he plucked absently at the strings of his lyre.

His mother looked up at him from under a disapprovingly arched eyebrow and then back down at her work.

I know I believe in you, Lord,” he went on. “One has only to behold the night sky or feel the heat of the Hamsin winds or witness a streak of light fall from heaven and split an oak to feel your presence. But what would you have of me?

“David,” his mother scolded gently without looking up. She sighed wistfully but remained intent on her task, twisting wool onto her distaff. “You mustn’t say such things.”

Does the Lord know of me or care about me?” David continued as though his mother hadn’t spoken, making a song of it as he accompanied himself on his lyre. “Though I have many blessings from him, he’s never answered a single one of my prayers. Can he not hear me? Or does he just not care? How do I find comfort in either answer?

“David, you are such a terrible boy,” his sister Abigail giggled, more amused than disturbed by her younger brother’s regular proclamations on such grand topics.

“Yes, it is most fortunate that he can play the harp and sing so well. God would surely frown on such presumption otherwise if he didn’t make it sound so pretty,” his eldest sister, Zeruiah, confided loudly to Abigail.

“The Lord could not frown on such a gamila,” cackled Maha, the serving woman attending the three ladies.

“Little girl?” David translated Maha’s Arabic slang indignantly.

Pretty little girl,” Abigail corrected with a prim smirk.

“I may be the eighth of eight brothers,” David threatened, striking an ominous cord on the lyre strings. “But I am still a man in this house.”

“And you look better in a silk tunic than any of the women who live on your father’s karmel,” Maha sniffed as she refilled the water cups.

“Maha,” David said sternly, plucking two dissonant notes to echo his tone. “You forget yourself.”

“Indeed,” Nitzevet said sternly, still not looking up. “My son has the best legs in all of Bethlehem, not just the karmel.”

Even David had to smile as the roomful of women dissolved into a musical chorus of chirping laughter.

“Is it not bad enough that I must be treated this way by my father and all my brothers?” David moaned, resuming his playing with a doleful tune. “Sisters, even your sons regard me more as their aunt than their uncle. I was doomed by the Lord’s malice to be a servant of my brothers before I even learned my prayers.”

“David, practice your music,” Nitzevet said sharply, looking up. She tired of her son’s all-too-familiar verses. “It’s too hot for all this again just now. Play something soothing if you’re going to stay in here.”

With a respectful nod to his mother, the only person from Dan to Beersheba and all of Israel in between who could command from him more than a haughty head toss, David resumed his playing. He began an amusing song of a shy young shepherd extolling the virtues of his great love, who turned out in the final verse to be his finest sheep. Nitzevet only rolled her eyes at the clever lyrics and their implications. It was a little coarse for the company but easier to hear than David’s endless poetic writhing against his fate.

Though she knew there would be little for David at the time of inheritance, she took some measure of comfort in the certain knowledge that there would always be a place for David at Eliab’s table. Nitzevet gave thanks that her most precious one would always have a fine home and a comfortable future in his brother’s house. If only David could be more at ease with his place in the world, she thought in her own silent psalm.

As if in answer, David took up a bittersweet love song. His voice drifted out with the light breeze that cooled the fine limestone house. Set high in the hills above the city, Jesse’s imposing home commanded a fine view of the sprawling farm. The large open rooms inhaled the steady sea breezes that coursed in a heartbeat the three-day journey across the plains of Philistia. Ruffling the sycamores and scrub in the rugged shephelah and climbing into the hills of Judah, they arrived cool and calm in Nitzevet’s sewing room.

The music, the summer day, and the hard work lulled everyone into a drowsy repose. Nitzevet alone saw Eliab. She smiled in response to Eliab’s pleading sign behind David’s back. He stole in through the courtyard garden.

The house was at peace and in order. Then, David’s legs were flying through the air as his benevolent but unseen assailant tossed him over his shoulder kicking and screaming. The disturbance spread as Eliab ran away with his little brother.

David wasn’t startled for long. He knew his brother’s playful grasp all too well.

David had passed the days of his youth stuffed into oil jars, stranded on tree limbs, and tossed into every body of water large enough to get him wet and muddy. He had also had the best seat at every festival, sacrifice, and trip into town: his brother’s broad and sturdy shoulders.

Though three summers had passed since David had stood up as a man to read from the scroll, they had neither of them outgrown this, their traditional greeting. Eliab was of age to marry. Only his desire to go adventuring in the king’s army kept him single. His stay in town was filled with as many women as there were nights in his visit.

Still each year it was the same. Eliab abducted David; David screamed and struggled like a virgin being captured by Amalekites to be sold into slavery.

The custom was well kept that evening. David shouted the house down as Eliab bore him on a wild and circuitous ride to the mule trough. There, as always, he dangled David above the murky water until the pleading and threatening brought the intervention of ultimate authority—Nitzevet.

“Eliab, you put me down this instant or I will poison your wine at table,” David howled, swinging wildly and without much malice toward his brother, his arms too short to afford his fists any serious purchase.

“Ah, little brother,” Eliab teased, splashing water onto David with one hand and dipping him dangerously close to the water’s surface with the other. “Is that any way to welcome your loving older brother home? Besides, you look as though you could use a little mikveh, and the mule trough is so refreshing.”

“Eliab.” Nitzevet’s voice rumbled from the distance like thunder coming over the hills before a summer storm. Her determined stride drew her quickly nearer to play her part in the ceremony. She tried not to smile as she approached, happy and relieved at replaying the old fun and not the old fight.

“What about my welcome home?” David demanded. Still upside down, he folded his arms and looked up into his tormentor’s face. “Why not come home with a casket of jewels to show your affection for your favorite brother rather than this primitive rite to prove your manhood? I’m hardly challenge enough to be much of a trophy.”

“I think you’d make an admirable trophy,” Eliab said, holding his brother up for inspection. “In fact, I think I’ll have you dipped in bronze and mounted on marble like a little Canaanite god. We could keep you in the kitchen to scare away evil spirits, or at least vermin.”

Eliab laughed loudly and alone at his own joke, though it was an effort for David not to join in.

“Put your brother down at once,” Nitzevet shouted as she arrived, breathless. The contest always and inevitably ended at the stables. There were only fields, orchards, and hills beyond.

“Now you’ve done it,” David said, checking his nails for dirt and evenness as casually as if he was standing upright.

“Where is your father?” Nitzevet demanded, smacking Eliab on the back of the head as she caught up to them. “You two will turn me into stone one of these days, carrying on like a Philistine invasion.”

“I rode ahead so I could surprise my brother,” Eliab said, upending David and crushing him to his chest like he was hugging a Canaan shepherd pup. “And why scold me? You might have warned him when you saw me coming, if you’re so concerned about the state of your delicate nature and our refined household.”

“Mother!” David accused, joining his brother in shifting the focus of torment to her. “How could you?”

“Oh, throw him in, then,” Nitzevet called over her shoulder. Turning her palms heavenward, she raised her hands above her head as she stalked back toward the house. “Your father will be home soon. I need to speak with him about disinheriting you both.”

“Well, there goes nothing for me, though a sad loss for you.” David sighed. Eliab stood him upright before again crushing him in an overzealous embrace. “Let go of me, you big oaf.”

“Oh, little brother,” Eliab said, putting an arm around David’s shoulder and dragging him back up the hill toward the house. “You’re too pretty to worry about such practical matters as inheritance.”

“That’s easy to say when you’re the eldest and the ugliest,” David groused as he feigned a struggle against his brother’s iron grip.

“Perhaps you’ll marry a rich husband?” Eliab said, pinching David’s cheek. “Your sisters haven’t done so badly.”

“Neither have their husbands,” David said, managing to tuck the back of his brother’s robe into his sash unnoticed.

“Speaking of which,” Eliab said, freeing David enough to allow him to walk alongside. “I ran into your betrothed, Micah, after Rosh Chodesh at temple last new moon.” They paused as they came into the small, fragrant kitchen garden fringing the side of the house.

“You are such a simple beast.” David groaned, trying to hide his excitement about news of Micah. “Just because you were born in the country is no reason to act quite such the son of Belail.”

“Oh, so sorry to waste your time with my like,” Eliab said with a humble bow. Picking up his stride, he easily left David behind. “I guess you don’t care to hear any message Micah sent for you by such as me,” he called back over his shoulder.

“No, Eliab,” David said, doubling his shorter stride to catch up and trying not to plead. He pursued Eliab into the thicket of fig trees that sheltered Nitzevet’s kitchen garden from the wind. “Micah’s a good friend, and I have hardly seen him since we were in town for Passover worship.”

“Well, which is it, little brother?” Eliab demanded with a devilish gleam in his mahogany eyes. He wheeled so suddenly that David collided with him and was once again in the vise grip of his brother’s arms. “Do you want to hear the message from your sweetheart or don’t you?”

“Eliab,” David wailed.

“Which is it?”

“Micah’s off to join King Saul’s army for the spring campaign,” Abinadab said, emerging suddenly from behind the fig trees and smacking Eliab’s bare backside. His delight in spoiling Eliab’s torment of their younger brother was unconcealed.

“You jackal,” Eliab said, dropping David into a bed of coriander in the confusion. He struggled to untangle his robe from his sash and cover his naked ass as he attempted to capture Abinadab.

Eliab found this brother’s capture and punishment a more formidable task than the previous round. Abinadab, only a year Eliab’s junior, was almost as tall and more stalwart. They were as much in league as men as they had been as children. Nitzevet called them the twins, as one was always to be found about the same designs and mischief as the other. They were as evenly matched. Their battles grew titanic as they grew into men, splintering furniture and shattering crockery with their struggles to resolve whatever argument brought them to blows. The best anyone could do or hope for was to stay out of their way until they’d reached some truce or agreement or were just too tired to battle on. Most simply fled their clashes. Their father Jesse laughed helplessly. Only one possessed the bronze to still their storms like rain on a brush fire.

“Abinadab, David, Eliab bin Jesse,” Nitzevet bellowed, emerging from her kitchen like a she-bear from her lair. “Get out of my garden and stop that at once.”

The men scrambled like boys as they scattered and made to deflect the wrath of their beloved mother.

“Go and get yourselves cleaned up for supper, and don’t let me hear any more of this nonsense until after the harvest is in,” she said, striking Abinadab with the wooden spoon in her hand, simply because he was the nearest.

Eliab snatched David out of the coriander before his mother could see the damage. They all filed past under her withering glare. Each son kissed her check as they went inside. They left her to find water, oil, and linens and make ready for the homecoming feast they’d smelled all the way up the hill from Bethlehem.

To learn more about this story (including links to where to purchase), click here.

The Eric Shaw Quinn Series | Part 2 of 3: A Conversation with Eric

PrincesPsalm[The]FSFontThe three-part Eric Shaw Quinn series, as part of The Prince’s Psalm Blog Tour, continues with Part 2 of 3 on … And Then There was Sarah.

Join me below as I interviewed the diversely talented Eric Shaw Quinn, New York Times bestselling author and co-host of The Dinner Party Show. On June 7th, he released his most exciting and ambitious work yet: a biographical narrative of the powerful love between biblical heroes David and Jonathan. Widely lauded as a beautiful retelling of 1 Samuel 18:1 & 3, Quinn sat down to chat with me about the book and his experiences in sharing it with the world.

The series began with an “in his own words” guest post from Eric, continues now with an interview, and, finally, the best for past: an exclusive excerpt from The Prince’s Psalm!

Schedule:

Part One: Guest Post Written by Eric Shaw Quinn (July 5th)
Part Two: An Interview with Eric Shaw Quinn (July 12th)
Part Three: An Exclusive Excerpt from The Prince’s Psalm. (July 19th)

To learn more about this story (including links to where to purchase), click here.

An Author-to-Author Conversaion with Eric Shaw Quinn

RT2_MSTR-ESQ-IMG_0800-SoftFilter-croppedSarah: Hi Eric! Thank you so much for your time to sit down and chat.  

Eric: Delighted!

Sarah: This has been an exciting month for you. The Prince’s Psalm released June 7th, which tells the powerful tale of the love between David and Jonathan, heir to Israel. You’ve said this is a story you’ve wanted to tell for a long time. What prompted you to do it now?

Eric: Well, Sarah, to be honest, I was ready to go 10 years ago when I first wrote it. I think maybe the world is ready now.

Sarah: I agree. And those who aren’t ready never will be, but this train has left the station.

Eric: God, I hope so!

Sarah: “The greatest gay love story ever told is in The Bible.” You mentioned your father came upon the scripture that first brought this story to your attention. What brought it from interest to a need to tell the story?

Eric: When I first realized I was gay all the information I had was that it was the worst thing I could be. Fortunately for me, my titanium ego allowed me to arrive rather swiftly at a place where I realized that if the world thought gay people were terrible there was a mistake, because I wasn’t terrible. I knew at once that I had to do what I could to let people know they were wrong about me and other gay people. A lot of the choices I’ve made since, both personally and professionally, have been based on that moment of truth. When I first read those first few verses of 1 Samuel 18 the “scales fell from my eyes.” I had just assumed that the big mistake about me was being caused in large part by The Bible and that my relationship to that institution was irreconcilable, so the thought that there were gay people in the Bible took my breath away and once again, I knew I had to let people know.

Sarah: While being a woman comes with its own share of unfair and incorrect prejudices, I can’t imagine what it must be like to be told, from the time you were old enough to know who you were, that who you were was wrong. Worse, an abomination. It’s fair to say that many use the Bible as a weapon to preach intolerance, but there are others who see the scripture as you and I do, with open eyes. Have you had readers come to you and say this story has helped to open their eyes?

Eric: Some of the most moving responses I’ve had have been from those people for whom The Prince’s Psalm made them feel “seen.” I think it’s akin to what I felt when I first discovered the story of Jonathan and David and their love. Growing up gay has meant growing up very much alone, isolated, invisible. I was not even sure if there were other gay people and who they were or how to know. I hope it doesn’t mean that as much or at all any more, but I think it’s still very important for gay people to be visible and for us to own our gay history and our gay heritage.

Sarah: I hope it doesn’t as well, but thankfully we have those, like you, who stand bravely to tell a better story. On The Prince’s Psalm, many have sought to tell their own stories from biblical passages, though, undoubtedly, the choice in highlighting a romantic relationship between two men is a controversial one, even if it shouldn’t be. How did you prepare yourself for the (putting it kindly) backlash?

Eric: Oh, honey, I grew up a little gay boy in small towns in the south in the 60s and 70s. I was 5’ 6 ¾” 108 pounds soaking wet when I graduated from college. I’ve heard way worse and taken far more brutal beatings than the internet cowards sniping at The Prince’s Psalm. I guess I’ve been preparing for it all my life. It’ll be a bigger adjustment for me when the reflexive bigotry toward gay people finally goes away.

Sarah: That last statement is incredibly sad to me, because it is all too real for many. To change our world, we must change ourselves, when self-reflection is deceptive by definition. Your reaction, to fight with knowledge, is so very inspiring. And now, you have so many allies willing to fight alongside you, rather than turning away because it isn’t their fight.

Eric: I hope that’s true more and more. It took me as long to get The Prince’s Psalm published as it did Say Uncle and that’s a thirty year time span. The media including and especially most publishing is still very conservative about gay people. We are all too often “disappeared” from the story. I’ll be interested to see in the Rio Summer Olympics if any gay partners get the kind of coverage that their non-gay counterparts do. NBC wouldn’t even show Matthew Mitcham receiving his gold medal, let alone his partner in the stands cheering for him and his win was not only an upset but record setting. The discrimination can seem very subtle when what you’re seeing is nothing.    

Sarah: That’s very true. You sure brought all the bigots out of the woodwork with this one! We should all thank you for this surfacing act. What advice would you give an author who is struggling to tell their own controversial story? And how have you handled the ensuing vitriol?

Eric: I’m a big believer in being the change I want to see in the world. I try to remember that the gay rights movement is where it is because free speech includes offensive thoughts and ideas. For most of my life mine were the offensive thoughts and ideas. I’m amazed that things have changed so much. The bullies and bigots are the minority, maybe the Internet is proving that they always were! But I wouldn’t have know it if I hadn’t risked telling Jonathan and David’s story. I discovered when my first novel Say Uncle came out that if I want people to support me I have to give them the opportunity to do it. And so far so good!

Sarah: That’s a great point, about giving people the opportunity to support you. Along those lines, what has been your biggest surprise in this process?

PrincesPsalm[The]_FBprofile_OptizimedForFeed (1)Eric: When Say Uncle, my first novel, first came out, the idea of gay people raising children was VERY controversial. The courts were still taking gay people’s own children away from them. So when I had my first signing and launch at a bookstore in Columbia, South Carolina, I was uncertain how it would be received. My family is there and the novel is set there, but I was far from certain of my reception returning there. I warned my family and apologized in advance. And people stood for over an hour in the rain for the chance to get their book signed and say congratulations. It still moves me to think of it. My secret hope is that most people are a lot better than we think they are, it’s just that a few shitheads get all the press!

Sarah: The Prince’s Psalm is getting rave reviews! One of my favorite review quotes is this one, from an Amazon consumer: “This telling of the great Biblical love story between David and Jonathan was a masterfully wrought pairing of old testament scripture and sensitive exegesis. The author has reclaimed the grand romance between these two great men and placed into its proper, well-researched, historical and cultural context.”

Eric: I’m not a big review guy, but the response to The Prince’s Psalm has been so overwhelming. I got actual edits from actual editors like, “Oh, for crying out loud, this is so amazing!” And several reviewers and a number of readers have taken the time to write to me and tell me their personal experiences of how deeply the story moved them. One woman told me she gave it to her 80-something ultra-conservative mom who read it, wept, and said it was the best love story she’d ever read. That’s how I’ve felt about this story since I first discovered it. It’s the reason why I always felt like it was important that I tell it. I’m gratified if I’ve done it justice.

Sarah: Beyond The Prince’s Psalm, you have a diverse writing resume, including comedy satire with your recent Write Murder, an uplifting tale of gay adoption in Say Uncle, screenplay novelization for the fantastic Queer as Folk, and, of course, ghostwriting for an infamous blonde bombshell. With each of your projects being so distinct, you undoubtedly have taken learnings from each. What has been your most important lesson?

Eric: Write the story you want to read even if it’s not a story you would read! Writing is an accidental career for me. Aside from on-the-job, I don’t have any training as a writer. I took a part time job running errands and writing copy for an ad agency when I was in college and here we are. I was planning to be an actor and have done plenty of that as well. I bring that actor’s sensibility with me. When I can I choose projects that interest me, but sometimes I just need a J-O-B. I take the assignment I’m given and make the most of it. I’ve gotten some of my biggest applause for playing parts I didn’t want and I landed on the New York Times Bestsellers’ List for one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had. Bloom where you’re planted, right?

Sarah: I’ve found that to be true, too. My readers, for example, will love the most the characters I least enjoy writing. With acting, that must be even more challenging at times, because you’re on visible display. On the flip side, what was your favorite acting job?

Eric: Golly! What a hard question!! I really love acting so I tend to love every chance I get. Since I haven’t pursued acting as a career, those opportunities have been fewer than I’d like and sweeter as a result. Of course, TheDinnerPartyShow.com has been a huge amount of fun and given me lots of little chances for voice acting and I’m looking forward to bringing the show out as a YouTube channel soon. I did a production of Noises Off once that was sublime. And roles in Robber Bridegroom, Wild Oates, Zoo Story, Arsenic and Old Lace, Dames at Sea, The Country Wife, and I Rise in Flame Cried the Phoenix are stand outs. But a recent role in a little training film called Love Your Customer I did for a director friend was huge fun. I just love doing it. Honestly, I think for me writing is just my chance to play all the parts!

Sarah: From one author to another, let’s talk process. You decide to sit down and write. Describe your process, from how/if you plot your stories, to what your writing setting needs to be for maximum creativity.

Eric: I am so lucky. I learned to write while sitting at the front desk and answering the phone at a busy ad agency. I wrote my first novel in longhand on yellow legal pads. I graduated from college with a major in theatre and a minor in philosophy so no employable skills. Not even typing. Learning to compose on a keyboard was the most remarkable addition to my repertoire. As a result of my eclectic learning curve I have a sort of journeyman’s approach to the task. Every novel is different so I write them all differently. And I can write anywhere, though I try to be comfortable, if that’s not on offer, even that won’t stop me.

Sarah: As a writer, you do have to learn to be versatile, and tune out the noise. And, let’s face it, there’s always noise! Let’s branch beyond the arts, though. If you hadn’t been a writer, what road do you think you’d have taken (not including any creative profession).

Eric: Wow, that’s a stumper. I’d have said actor, obviously, and even my “corporate” life was creative work at ad agencies. I worked at Target when I was in college (they called it Richway back then). And I was really good at that. I sold paint and hardware and took my department from dead last to number one in the chain in 60 days or something. I still have my paint mixology diploma from Glidden somewhere. So I guess I could have done that. But I’d have just become a decorator and made it creative. I actually thought I would be an architect – still creative – when I was a kid but then I took drafting and that was that. I think the answer is whatever I did, I’d have turned it into a creative job. I’m just an artist in my soul.

Sarah: The moral of a creative’s story is that they cannot and should not escape the art.

Eric: Art, there’s no escape.

Sarah: What advice would the Eric of today give the Eric just starting his writing career?

Eric: Don’t wait. Don’t defer your dreams or your happiness. The worst choices I’ve ever made were the ones where I convinced myself I was playing it safe. 

Sarah: Finally, the table is yours. What would you like your readers to know most about The Prince’s Psalm?

Eric: Where The Prince’s Psalm is concerned I’m far more interested in what my readers think—how this story affects them. I still cry every time I read it. Every. Time. It’s such a powerful story. Besides The Prince’s Psalm, only It’s a Wonderful Life makes me cry every time. High cotton for me. Now, I’m a crier. I cry during the Making a Difference minute at the end of the news. I’m a big crier. But every time? That’s more than just me being leaky. The Prince’s Psalm is a powerful story on so many levels and the love story between David and Jonathan is the heart and soul of it. But around them there are sweeping epic battles, searing personal conflicts, intense human feelings – comic and tragic – not to mention supernatural elements from prophets and seers to witches, spirits and god himself. My Hollywood pitch is: It’s Gone with the Wind meets Game of Thrones. Something for the whole family!

Sarah: If that’s not a winning combination, I don’t know what is! Eric, I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you. I appreciate you taking the time to sit down and talk about this journey!

Eric: Thanks for this Sarah! And thanks to everyone who gets a copy of The Prince’s Psalm. I hope you love it as much as I do.    

 

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