Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pub Story: Sarah Rees Brennan

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's a Tuesday thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

About Sarah: Sarah Rees Brennan was born and raised in Ireland by the sea, where her teachers valiantly tried to make her fluent in Irish (she wants you to know it's not called Gaelic) but she chose to read books under her desk in class instead.

After college she lived briefly in New York and somehow survived in spite of her habit of hitching lifts in fire engines. She began working on The Demon’s Lexicon while doing a Creative Writing MA and library work in England. Since then she has returned to Ireland to write and use as a home base for future adventures. Her Irish is still woeful, but she feels the books under the desk were worth it. Visit her at www.sarahreesbrennan.com.

The Story

When I got my book deal, I pretty much told the world. My mother, obviously. My second cousins in Australia. The lady I was buying gum from at the newsagent's. (She gave me a kind of strange look...) And the people who didn't know me asked how old I was, and when I said 23, they said 'you're awfully young!' The people who did know me said 'At last!'

I started writing when I was five years old, and scribbled a story and spun a bunch of lies about how it was A Masterpiece that I had been slaving on for years to my grandfather, who was a huge muscular guy who was ex-army, worked down at the docks, hated books and loved sports. Because he loved his strange little bespectacled granddaughter as well, he played along. I needed no more encouragement - when I was seven, I finished my first book, which was about ponies and ninjas. They were my primary interests at the time, and I still think both are pretty cool now.

I never stopped writing books. Growing up, it was the great constant of my life: when I was nine and playing with dolls, when I was sixteen and dressing like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wrote books that started out Regency comedy of manners like Jane Austen, got bored half-way through and murdered someone spectacularly over tea and scones. I wrote a Romeo and Juliet-style love story where the villain and the comic relief wandered off from the tragic romance, had wild adventures and made out a lot. I wrote the love story of a boy and a ghoul, which was somewhat spoiled by the ghoul's irresistible impulses to eat the boy's face right off.

When I was sixteen, I got a literary agent and was offered a book deal: it fell through, partly because I realised the publisher wanted the gimmick of a sixteen year old writer more than they actually liked my book. In retrospect, I thank goodness for that: the book was pretty awful! But at the time, and when my literary agent retired when I was eighteen, it was pretty crushing. I managed to have an excellent time in college anyway, and wrote a four-book high fantasy epic in which the beautiful golden-haired princess who the hero fell for at first sight was secretly a power-mad dominatrix. Writing was just something I always did: I was unhappy and sometimes felt ill when I didn't do it. I finished more than twenty books and started about a thousand, and every time I started a new book, I thought to myself, maybe this is it. Maybe this is the one.

I moved from Ireland to New York for a publishing internship right after college, which was one of the scariest and the most fun things I've ever done, and in between catching lifts with fire engines and making snow angels in Central Park, I started reading a lot of agents' blogs. I even picked a favourite agent's blog: Kristin Nelson's at www.pubrants.blogspot.com. I was writing too, of course: co-writing with a friend, which fell through with a crash. Then I had to leave New York because, well, people get sensitive if you try outstaying your visa's welcome...

Back in Ireland, preparing for another move near to London, I hadn't written anything in a few months. Then I started thinking, among other things, about that tall dark mysterious stranger who often appears in books. You know the one. Few words. Knows everything about whatever supernatural or criminal (or supernatural AND criminal) thing that's going on. Also supernaturally and criminally good-looking. And I began to write a book from inside that guy's head, worrying about fighting demons and paying the electricity bill, fixing the sink and practising the sword in a tiny back garden in London. And just like always when I started, I thought, maybe...

I wrote while a little lonely and trying to make new friends in London. I wrote when I was making tinfoil fairy wings and trying to persuade the library where I worked to let me wear them. I wrote an email to Kristin Nelson, my dream agent, in a fit of midnight madness and daring, and I was amazed when she took me on. I was even more amazed when four publishers offered for the book.

Twenty books. Twenty years, and worth every second.

No more maybes. This was the one.

11 comments:

Amee said...

Great pub story! Sounds like a dream getting her first choice agent, etc. :)

Emily said...

Wow, that really was an amazing pub story. I'm glad she has been able to have all the opportunities she wanted, and to do something with them!

Kate said...

Lovely pub story. I enjoyed reading it :)

Kathryn said...

My favorite pub story so far... I'm envious of all the places she's lived.

Katie said...

Wow. I really enjoyed reading this!

Summer said...

Pub stories are the best. This was great. She is awfully young, lol. But I admired Sarah for writing and writing all those books when she was a kid. It paid off!

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

What a wonderful story. This should be read by aspiring writers who are about to give up.

Eli said...

Wow. That's some story there! It's so great that everything worked out for her, otherwise we wouldn't have such a great book to read now!

Sarahbear9789 said...

This is a great story.

Laina said...

I sorta wanna read some of those that didn't get published! lol

harmonybookreviews said...

Great pub story - probably my favorite yet! I just finished The Demon's Lexicon last night - AMAZING.

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