Happy Release Day to Kathleen D. Bailey & her debut novel Westward Hope! I met Kathy online at Seekerville where she’s a faithful commenter & got to meet her in person at ACFW last year. She’s a joy to be around, and I’m so excited for the release of her first full-length novel!
SERIES: Western Dreams #1
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Romance
PUBLISHER: White Rose Publishing
RELEASE DATE: September 20, 2019
Why him? Why here? Why now?
Caroline Pierce O’Leary expects to work hard to earn her passage to the Oregon Country. She doesn’t expect to find that the wagon train scout is a man with whom she shares a troubled past. Though Caroline is a Christian now, thanks to her late husband, she finds forgiving Michael to be the hardest part of her journey, harder even than the Trail.
Michael Moriarty thought he’d left his past behind in “green and hurting Ireland.” Seeing Caroline on his wagon train, brings his past to the forefront. With a price on his head, he doesn’t want her to get hurt, but he can’t deny what they were…and could still be.
Michael once betrayed Caroline in the worst possible way. Can she trust him to get her across the Oregon Trail? Can he trust himself to accept her forgiveness and God’s?
what i got right – and wrong
by Kathleen D. Bailey
When I was six years old I fell in love. Not with a freckle-faced first-grader who carried my books, but with a particular series of books: Maud Hart Lovelace’s “Betsy, Tacy and Tib” series. The stories described the adventures of three young girls in Deep Valley, Minnesota, in that blissful sun-kissed time before the First World War. Betsy, Tacy and Tib built forts, put on plays and spied on their older sisters. Intrepid Tib was the first child in town to ride in a motorcar. On one memorable afternoon, they mixed together everything in the pantry for something called “Everything Pudding” and subsequent stomach aches. I confess I even tried some of their shenanigans. The stories grew with the reader, taking the three girls through high school, young adult life and Betsy’s romance with the Amazing Joe Willard.
The books left a lasting impact on me because Betsy Ray, the heroine, wanted to be a writer. Betsy wrote, first in a tree fort with a cigar box for her pencils and tablets, then at her grandfather’s old trunk. She wrote her way through school and college and continued to write, and publish, after she married the Amazing Joe.
I wanted to do that, wanted to tell stories, and because of Betsy, I believed that I could.
It took 62 years, several false starts, and some adjusting of expectations. Sixty-two years later, I’m the author of a book. My Oregon Trail inspirational romance, “Westward Hope,” was published today, Sept. 20, 2019, by Pelican Book Group’s White Rose division.
What I got wrong
There were missteps along the way. What did I do wrong? How much time do you have?
One of my biggest mistakes was not studying craft enough, which led to not accepting constructive criticism. I knew what was best for my story, didn’t I? Except that agents, editors and publishers were lukewarm, at best, about what I was putting out. I probably delayed publication at least five years through my own stubbornness. Sometimes it was a major rule I was breaking, sometimes just a small slant of words or a punctuation tip that made all the difference in the world.
I learned to learn, reading craft blogs on Seekerville and other Web sites, taking that fateful step back and looking at my stuff with another set of eyes. I worked with criticism, first in a multi-author critique group and later with two successive single crit partners. I sifted through their responses and looked for the wheat among the chaff. Usually there was more wheat than chaff.
I also began to look differently at contest feedback, learning when a judge was snarky, when a judge was trying to make me over in his/her mold, and when a judge had valid and sometimes crucial input. I learned to follow the two-out-of-three rule, and if two out of three judges brought up the same point, it got dealt with.
There are specific craft rules such as punctuation, head-hopping (just don’t) and structure. There are acronyms such as SDT and Deep POV. But the rule overarching all of this is that what’s in your head doesn’t necessarily transmit to the page. You have to see what they’re seeing, or it doesn’t work. This is the single biggest lesson I learned on craft: get it out of your head and on to the page.
There were “soft” skills I had to learn, such as not nagging editors and agents at conferences and not bugging my friends to introduce me. There is a place in all of this for connections, and using them, but trust me: when you’re good enough, they will come to you.
And never go over an acquisitions editor’s head to scream at their boss because you think they’re taking too long on your story. Trust me, it will end badly. And it will definitely end.
What I could have done better
And I should have trusted the Lord more. In the early years I was guilty of trying to use connections, to take shortcuts, to make this happen. I blame part of it on my secular job, which is in print journalism. If I don’t hustle, it doesn’t happen. And if I do hustle, it does. Well, Christian fiction isn’t like that, especially in today’s market.
I wish I’d developed a better business plan, which isn’t really contradictory to the above. We have to plan, and then leave the results up to Him. I didn’t spend enough time learning about contracts and rights, so I had to play catch-up.
But I didn’t learn about contracts etc. because I was busy writing, so there’s that.
I also wish I’d done a better job of supporting other writers early on. I used to operate from a position of scarcity, and whenever someone I knew got published, it seemed to shorten the list of opportunities for me. But with publishing houses merging, lines closing, and the market turning back flips, I’ve learned that when one of us makes it, it opens the door for more to succeed. Because if someone publishes in THIS market, it means books are still being published. The metaphorical rising tide lifts all Christian fiction boats.
What I got right
I believed in my story and didn’t give up on it. But I was flexible enough so that when the acquisitions editor suggested I cut 20,000 words, including all but two points of view, I did it. Maybe one day I’ll write a huge, sprawling multiple POV saga, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker here. When she suggested I not kill off two secondary characters because she’d fallen in love with them, I again did what she wanted. One of them didn’t drown in the river crossing, as I’d planned, but got swept away and rescued by an Indian tribe. He rejoined the wagon train later. The other one didn’t die of the cholera, but went blind. The bones of the story, the rigors of the Oregon Trail, stayed the same, and the central love story, Michael’s and Caroline’s, remained intact. I was flexible on the peripheral issues, and I got a contract.
I also set up strategies to work, discipline, schedules and deadlines before I ever saw a contract. My sister writers warned us that life doesn’t slow down after publication, and that you now have someone else’s deadlines to deal with. I run a complicated household, my husband works nights and sleeps days, so I have to do most of our business dealings. And our main computer is in the living room, I don’t have a dedicated space, so I have to work around that. So I knew early on that if I sold, I’d have to make this fit. I wouldn’t say I’m the most disciplined person in the world, but this winter when our washing machine died, I printed stuff out and line-edited at the Laundromat.
I took the advice of Mary Connealy, a friend from the Seekerville blog, and learned to be ready. When I finished the Oregon Trail story, I immediately began working on the first sequel. When I finished my 1920s New York settlement house story, I drafted the sequel to that. And when I finished a contemporary Christmas romance earlier this year, I drafted the sequel to that. Some writers advised me not to, in case the first books didn’t sell, but I had confidence in my work and knew they’d sell in some form, some day, even if I had to cut some of the POVs or keep people from dying. The bones were good. So when the first piece in a series sells, I’ve got at least a draft of the second. Which will buy me time to work on the third.
And I let God set me in the place He wanted me to be. Sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes just numbly acquiescent. I had to get the right perspective, and it wasn’t the secular one (work, work, work and you’ll succeed, succeed, succeed). God brought me face to face with needs, sometimes in my own family, far greater than me getting a byline and an ISBN number. He specifically told me He didn’t want me praying for my writing in church, Bible study or other public prayer times. So I didn’t. And He brought me to the brink several times, asking me if my writing was more important than my nuclear, extended and church family. (Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.) He positioned me in a place where I don’t need money, which is good ‘cause there isn’t any, and I’m doing this for craft and for Christ. He also positioned me in a place where I’m semi-retired, so I have the time to do this right.
The dream that began with a six-year-old and a classic book will finally bear fruit, on the down side of her 60s.
To God be the glory.
congratulations on this dream coming true, dear Kathleen ♥ What a thoughtful and honest reflection on your journey! i know it will encourage someone today!
Kathleen Bailey is a journalist and novelist with 40 years’ experience in the nonfiction, newspaper and inspirational fields. Born in 1951, she was a child in the 50s, a teen in the 60s, a young adult in the 70s and a young mom in the 80s. It’s been a turbulent, colorful time to grow up, and she’s enjoyed every minute of it and written about most of it.
She attended a mixture of public and parochial schools, graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She married the Rev. David W. Bailey in 1977, and they lived in Colorado, Wisconsin and Michigan before returning to their home state of New Hampshire. They are the parents of two adult daughters.
She has worked as both a staff and freelance journalist. She semi-retired in 2017, in order to devote herself to a growing interest in Christian fiction. She has won or finaled in several contests, including the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest. Her debut novel, “Westward Hope,” was published Sept. 20, 2019 by Pelican/White Rose Publishers.
She blogs on other writers’ sites and on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. She is involved in an active critiquing relationship with another author. A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, she participates in continuing education, judges writing contests, and continues to enjoy the world of words.
Bailey’s work includes both historical and contemporary fiction, with an underlying thread of men and women finding their way home, to Christ and each other.
Kathleen D. Bailey is offering an ebook copy of Westward Hope & a basket of New England goodies to one of my readers! (gift basket is US only; ebook is open internationally except where prohibited by law or logistics) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What interests you most about this post and/or Westward Hope?