Colleen Houck

“I took hold of that scourge -filled ship and crushed it between my limbs, hurtling it into the second sun, the red one that gave me strength. But I was too late." Terraformer

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  • Modern Ink Society-April 2016

    April 9, 2016


    Melinda Salisbury

    Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before Getting Published

    Welcome to the twenty-sixth session of



    “Your value doesn’t decrease

    based on someone’s inability

    to see your worth.”

     — Unknown


    Introducing Melinda
     Her Featured Book is


    Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before Getting Published

     Growing up, I didn’t even dare to dream of being a published author. It seemed like a goal too far, like aspiring to be an archangel, or a mermaid. You see, I grew up on a housing estate, I got free school dinners. We were poor, and I thought writing novels was for rich, well-connected people who had spent long years at Oxford or Cambridge studying, or were somehow related to Dickens. People like me weren’t given that kind of opportunity. Obviously something changed, or I wouldn’t be writing this post. What changed is a story for another time, but it involved a Harry Potter conference, a cross-US trip to San Francisco, severe airplane turbulence, a magic candle, and getting fired. After all that, I had no choice but to try and become a writer. All or nothing.

    I just wish I’d know the following beforehand:

    1) Everything in the publishing industry happens waaaaaaaaaaaaay in the future. People are genuinely excited about things planned for two years from now. People are panicking about things they only have a year to work on. I saw the cover for my second book before I’d even finished writing it. I would advise all authors – budding and old timers – to get a hobby that gives you something to focus on in the here and now. Otherwise you might miss out on cool stuff happening around you while you’re looking into the distance.

    2) Everything is a secret. I am currently keeping over ten publishing secrets, some of them are mine, some of them belong to author friends. Every single stage of my career has been wrapped in secrecy for a while. So you need to make sure your poker-face game is A+, and that you have a few trustworthy friends to gush at. Or you’ll explode.

    3) Writer friends are very important. At the start, I didn’t have any writer friends and I didn’t think it mattered too much, after all, I’d known my other friends for ages; they knew me. But writing can be very lonely, and very confusing, and sometimes your non-writer friends just don’t care that you had a really tough day making stuff up in your head, when they had to deal with real people, and broken equipment, and nasty customers. That’s not to say that writing is less important, or less hard work, than any other job, but it’s all relative: a surgeon isn’t going to understand why a barista finds their job challenging, a teacher isn’t going to think a banker deserves sympathy for working long hours.

    And it’s not to say non-writers don’t get that you’re under pressure. It’s just good to have people around you who understand why you’re freaking out because your character won’t do what you want them to. And who know what you mean by it. And who have also been there too.

    4) People can be cruel. We live in an age where it’s easy to broadcast thoughts and feelings. And a lot of the time, that takes place in a medium that removes the physical interaction from an exchange. Which makes it easy for people to be nasty. I thought the hardest part of being published would be getting an agent to believe in me, but it was actually reconciling myself to the fact that people will be cruel, as though by having a book published I’m somehow fair game. They will include me in exchanges where they’re negatively critical of my books. They will message me anonymously on Tumblr. They will comment on photos I’m tagged in on Instagram. They do not seem to care that I am a human, and that their words might hurt me. And that came as a hell of a shock. I wish I’d known to brace for it.

    5) Which leads me to DO NOT LOOK AT YOUR REVIEWS. EVER. Even if you are tagged in them, it doesn’t make them “safe”. And you will gain nothing from scrolling through the creative use of GIFs chosen to express just how much someone hated your book. I’m sure there are some people who can read negative reviews and shrug them off, accepting maturely that they can’t please everyone.

    I’m sure there are some people who take valuable insight away from them. But if you are like me, you will read them and you will end up having anxiety attacks in the middle of the night, that culminate in you lying in a bath of ice-water in a bid to slow your heartrate down. You will email your agent telling her you understand if she wants to fire you, because you are worthless. You will refuse to leave the house for a week. Read a review if your agent sends it to you. Don’t read any others.

    6) That said, book fans are more incredible than I could have ever imagined. That there are people who are invested in my world is the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had. I get emails from France, the Czech Republic, Poland, the US, India, as well as the UK, from people who did like my books. Who LOVED my books! Who loved my characters and who are desperate to know what happens next!

    I’ve seen fan art of my characters, and people cosplaying them, and people making playlists for them! In the first ever panel I did, I was asked what I thought would be the best thing that could happen, and I said it would be someone telling me that my books were their favorite. And that has now happened and I was right, it is the best thing that happened.

    7) You might end up being a source of comfort, without ever setting out to. When I wrote The Sin Eater’s Daughter, I ended up writing about what it means to have very little control over your life, and what a gargantuan task it is to overcome that. I wrote about a girl discovering who she is, and what she wants, in a world that’s never considered she may be anything more than what it chooses for her. And so it hurts when I receive emails from girls who identify with Twylla. Who have very religious parents, or very strict, controlling ones. Girls who are manipulated, and threatened by the people that claim to love them. Girls who want to leave their homes but don’t have the money, or anywhere to go. I once got a Tumblr Ask from an Anon who wanted to know why Twylla ‘doesn’t do anything to help herself… it made her weak and unlikeable’, and I was astounded; she’s 17 years old, she has no money, no friends, and nowhere to go. She’s been abused by her mother, and then by her guardian – what part of any of that suggests she’s the weak one? And how does that mentality help the real-life girls and boys in Twylla’s position?

    So I’m glad I have a platform where I can say to these young people that they’re not alone, and it’s not their fault they’re in the places they are, and that it’s not their responsibility to ‘save themselves’. I think that the vast majority of fiction depicting ruthless, strong, fighting teen characters is amazing, and much-needed, but it’s not always possible for someone to wield a sword, or shout and scream, and for it to make a positive difference. I never planned to write something that would resonate in such a way, I thought I was writing a fairy story. But for some people Twylla’s life is a reality.

    8) You have responsibilities and you need to step up to them. As stated above, you have a platform where you can do good, or bad, with your work, and people are watching. So it’s your job to do good. The best thing you can and should do is show a diverse society, including people of different colours, abilities, class, gender, and sexuality, where possible in the confines of your world. My first book is very white; the series is set a pseudo-Nordic country, in the very north of their world, and Twylla only meets one new person throughout. Everyone else is native nobility or staff. Despite that, it felt wrong for me to not include more diverse characters, but I had to obey the rules of my world, and the fact is Lormere is a pretty bigoted country. Kind of a North Korea, to Tregellan’s South. But in book two, the world opens, and therefore so does the spectrum of people. That’s my job, to reflect the world I live in in my writing. To make sure anyone who reads my books would feel they had a place in that world. Not that they’d necessarily want one…

    9) From the moment you sign a contract your book is not YOUR book anymore. It’s also your agent’s book, and your editors’ book, and your publicist’s book. Your book is no longer your precious baby, but something a lot of people – including people you haven’t met, and may not meet – all feel very strongly about. All of them are as invested in your book as you are. All of them are passionate about it, and want good things for it. You are part of a big, warm, scary machine. It takes a village to raise a kid, etc.… At first, when I met publishing people, and they told me they loved my book, I’d be like “Yeah, sure, you have to, you paid for it.” This was bad of me. I didn’t get how deeply book people love books. How much they need to love your book to even want to pay for it. No one in publishing is doing charity work – they believe absolutely in you, and your project. Some days they love it even more than you do. But that means you have to let it go a little. You have to listen to them when they tell you something isn’t working. Or that you need to cut something. You’re not messing around, neither are they. Use them, and their love, and their expertise. They know what they’re doing.

    10) That it’s the best job in the world. I get to make stuff up and I get paid to do it. I wish I’d known it earlier, I might not have spent so much time messing around doing other things.

    Wow, very informative and eye opening, thanks Melinda for sharing! If you’d like to learn more about her and her books you can check her out at

    Also, don’t forget to participate in the ongoing chat  right here on this blog with Melinda and Colleen through the end of this month! Don’t forget, there will be a GIVEAWAY!

     April CHBC


    ~Till next time,

    Linda Louise Lotti

    This entry was posted in Featuring Authors, The Modern Ink Society.

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    Author Bio

    I’m Linda Louise, one of the bloggers on this website and Colleen’s little sister. I’m just a girl in her mid-thirties who feels thirteen when I play outside with my boys, fifteen when I sing my heart out listening to tunes while driving by myself, and sixty five when I go out past ten at night. I have a thing for junior mints, Mt. Dew, shrimp and kale (though not all at once) and I have a crush on Superman. I still get girlish butterflies when I read Twilight, cry when I read These is My Words, and smile from ear to ear when I read Anne of Green Gables. I have nightmares about aliens on a regular basis and I have a bad habit of midnight snacking. I love everything sports, except golf (although can that honestly be considered a sport??), and I hate anything that slithers, hisses, or stings. I have a problem with giggling at inappropriate moments and I sometimes wish life was a musical. I love science, hate math, love Dr. Seuss, and hate olives. My family is my world and my joys come from their happiness. I’ve learned I don’t know much about anything and I live for a good adventure, naps, cuddles, stories, exceptional food and The Shire.