WG: This month I’m doing something a bit different. I’m delighted to be able to spotlight my very good friend Connie Cox who recently sold her first book.
First off, Connie, tell us a little about yourself.
CC: I’m a Southern gal, born and raised. Y’all and Bless Your Heart are part of my everyday vocabulary. In the Southern tradition, I married young to a great man (twenty –seven years so far), and have a brilliant daughter who graced me with a fantastic son-in-law.
Like most writers, I’m a voracious reader. One day, Betty of Betty’s Books mentioned that as much as I read, why didn’t I give writing a try? But I was in college working on my engineering degree, raising a family and working part time. Reading was blissful escapism. Writing couldn’t be wedged into the schedule.
Many, many years later, I still thought about Betty’s suggestion. Finally, everything fell into place. I found writing groups online and finally found a local writing group, NOLA STARs who are a chapter of the national writers association, Romance Writers of America®. The writers at NOLA STARs were so welcoming, I felt as if I’d finally found a haven that would nurture my writer’s spirit. I was right. This charming group has coached, inspired and cheered me through every comma clause and passive verb.
WG: Now tell us about that first call. How did you get it, where were you and how did you react?
CC: Wow! Was that ever a day! I was at lunch with my critique group. My cell phone must have rung while we were in the midst of great discussion, because I never heard it. I checked for missed calls as I headed back to my day job and saw a New York area code. Thinking the call must be from a friend in the Bronx, I hit redial. Faith Black of AVALON BOOKS answered. At first, I didn’t understand. I thought she wanted to send the book back. Finally she made it clear. “I want to buy your book.”
Oh! I was ecstatic. In fact, all these weeks later, I’m still ecstatic. AVALON BOOKS bought my book!
To add joy on top of bliss, I am also a Golden Heart finalist.
WG: Has anything about your life/lifestyle changed so far since you’ve received “the call”?
CC: Yes! I quit my day job.
Before any of you start wondering if it was a knee-jerk reaction to selling my first novel, yes and no. In addition to the day job, I have been designing websites for several years as a sideline called Websites for the Arts. Finally, the workload grew too large and squeezed out all my writing time. So I had to make the tough choice of giving something up. The website design business got the boot.
It was the wrong choice. It should have been the day job. But now, with the publication of my first novel, I’m making new choices. So Websites for the Arts is now accepting new clients again.
What a grand life! I will be doing the things I love the most, writing and website designing. Getting that phone call from Faith changed my life in such a wonderful way.
WG: Will this affect the way you approach your writing? If so, in what way?
CC: It’s strange. I’m the same person today as I was when before Faith’s call. But today, I am taking my writing more seriously. I desperately needed the validation. I now feel like a professional writer. Funny how perspective works, isn’t it?
WG: Tell us a bit about the book itself.
CC: Not only did I sell, but I sold the Book of My Heart—the book that reached down, unleashed emotions I didn’t know were there, and not-so-discreetly, displayed them to the world though Hank and Lacey.
Hank is a bad boy-turned respectable citizen. He is raising his son alone and making a living from cropdusting which turns his passion for flying into a nice living for his little family of two. His life is wonderful as he flies among the clouds leaving his troubled past behind.
Then Lacey Sievers comes home from Chicago for their high school reunion. Lacey is not the geeky childhood friend he remembers. Instead, she is a successful lawyer on the brink of partnership. She has flown closer to the sun than she ever imagined she could. And she wants to negotiate a friendship like the one they used to have.
However, boys and girls grow up to be men and women, and childhood friendship matures into something much more intense than sharing an ice cream cone after the big game.
But there’s not a lot of need for corporate lawyers in little West Monroe, Louisiana or for cropdusters in Chicago, Illinois. When the mother of Hank’s child returns to town seeking custody of the son that she abandoned all those years ago, they all must come to terms with their pasts to save their futures.
WG: What has surprised you the most so far about the publication process?
CC: I have been surprised at how fun it’s been. Friends, writers and non-writers, from everywhere have emailed or called to congratulate me. My dad went door-to-door telling his neighbors that I had sold a book. The goodwill has been outstanding. My thanks to everyone for all the exuberant congratulations and good wishes you have sent my way!
WG: How important do you feel that networking with other authors and with industry professionals has been in getting you to this point.
CC: In my opinion, networking is the key. There are lots of good writers out there. Getting noticed is the trick. I’ve been writing for almost a decade. I’ve entered writing contests, shared on writers’ email loops, and attended writing conferences. I met the editor who originally requested this manuscript, Susan McCarty at NOLA STARs’ local writers’ conference. I won the three-chapter critique that Susan had generously donated. She read my chapters, then sent me an email wanting to see the full manuscript,. Then magic happened.
WG: I notice you already had a website set up before the call. Do you think this helped you in any way? At what point in a writers career do you feel it is important to establish a web presence?
CC: When I give speeches for Websites for the Arts, I’m often asked why an unpublished person needs a website. My quick answer is—You Google prospective agents and editors, right? They Google you back. Your website is your resume. It shows your accomplishments, your goals, and, if it’s built right, your unique style and voice that makes your work special. As soon as you start writing, get your website up. Add to it regularly. You never know when the right person will come across it.
If I didn’t already have a website up, I would be panicking right now. While my book’s release date is almost a year away, there’s so much to do. Editor’s notes on publicity, and getting my current work-in-progress finished fill up the boxes on my calendar. A website is your face to the universe. Making a decision on how I want to present myself would be overwhelming right now along with all the other decisions I am trying to juggle—and I design websites for a living. For someone who hasn’t given their professional image much thought, the project could be overwhelming.
Plan early and be able to enjoy your new success!
WG: Any advice you’d like to give writers who are still striving for publication?
CC: If you don’t write it, they can’t buy it.
Look for untraditional paths for getting your work noticed by editors. (DO NOT slide your manuscript under the lavatory stall door. That’s not the kind of notice you want to get.)
Be nice to everyone. Our world is small. Kind gestures are noticed and remembered. Unkind ones are, too.
Make friends for the sake of friendship, not because it will get you somewhere. You’ll be delighted at what fabulous and fascinating people you meet.
Most of all, have fun. The journey is long and hard and uncertain. Enjoy all the little things. Celebrate each and every accomplishment.
WG: And how can readers contact you to learn more about your works and your writer’s journey.
CC: Check out my websites. My personal website is www.ConnieCox.net. My writing community websites are www.magespages.com and www.diyauthorpromo.com and I’m building a new website to celebrate my sale, www.ConnieCox.com.