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How I got a publisher - An interview with author, Lynette Mather

firstwriter.com – Friday October 26, 2007

Lynette Mather (pen-name "L.A.Thunder") recently acquired a publisher using firstwriter.com's database of publishers. We asked her about her writing, and how she found success.

fw: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Lynette. Tell us a little about your book, and its storyline.

LM: My Book is titled Deadly Steam, and it is about when seven-year-old Jacob Wester’s brother, Billy, disappears. He knows the haunted train in Plymouth, Michigan where they grew up, has something to do with it, but doesn’t tell anyone for fear no one will believe him. As the town searches for Billy, they find no leads, no crime scene, and after months of trying to solve the case, they finally give up, and realise Billy’s case is a dead end, and is put to rest in the cold case files.

Eventually, Jacob moves away from Plymouth, only to return years later to find out what happened to his brother. Finally, he confides in his high school sweetheart, Rose Shirley, what he suspected about the haunted train, and she is shocked, wondering if the disappearance of Jacob’s brother Billy drove Jacob to concoct this strange story about the haunted train as a way to gain closure over his missing brother.

As Jacob talks to the police about his brother’s case their response is vague, and when Rose Shirley’s fiancé Buck McKinley disappears, as well as others in the town, every clue found leads the police and detectives back to Jacob and Rose. As the investigation heats up, Jacob and Rose realise they’re facing charges in the disappearances of several people. Suddenly, Jacob and Rose are in a fight against time, as they realise they need to convince the town of Plymouth who is responsible for the residents disappearing, before the two of them end up in prison, and the entire town of Plymouth disappear because of the haunted train, and its deadly steam.

fw: Where did you get your idea from?

LM: I live in Plymouth, Michigan where trains continually run through the town. As I was sitting at the bus stop one day waiting for my children to return from school, I heard the train, and watched it through my rear-view mirror from the parking lot. All of a sudden, I knew I was going to write a book about trains, and suddenly the idea emerged, and Deadly Steam was created. 

fw: Did the whole story come to you at that moment, or did it develop as you wrote the book?

LM: As with all the books I write, I usually start with a prologue, and by doing so, the prologue helps guide and lead me in the direction the book wants to take. Once the prologue is written, I read it at least ten times throughout a few days to get a real feel for the story, and after that, I write the synopsis. My advice to writers who struggle with writing a synopsis is to visit their local bookstores and read the inserts on various books relating to the genre they write. Personally, I think the word synopsis is intimidating to most authors when they are first introduced to it. I know it was to me, but here’s how I write my synopsis: I pretend I’m explaining my book aloud to a group of people in the simplest words I can find. If author’s stick to this method, they can’t go wrong. 

fw: So you've done some writing before?

LM: This is my first attempt at writing books, but I’ve written poetry for years, and I’ve always loved to write. I believe I’m meant to be a writer because everyone in my life always asks me to tell them a story. I’ve won the following certificates for my writing: The Editor’s Choice Award, Poet of Merit Award, Vietnam Veterans of America awarded me the Certification of Appreciation Award, and I’ve won the International Poet of Merit Award. I’ve had my poetry published in Treasured Poems of America.

fw: How important do you think that track record was when you were approaching publishers?

LM: I think it’s extremely important to be previously published only because most publishers and agents rely on an author’s history of publishing credits. However, if you’ve never been published, never stop trying to get there because you’ll never be published if you give up.

fw: What were the first steps you took towards getting your work published?

LM: I went about being published by first securing an agent, and then I went a step further and started to query publishing houses, which eventually landed me right where I wanted to be. I found a great publishing house, through RS Publishing and I feel lucky.

fw: And what methods did you use to find appropriate publishers to submit to?

LM: The methods that I used were many. First, I read everything I could and bought books on the subject of how to write a query letter to both an agent and a publisher. Then I found firstwriter.com and their site helped me immensely. Not only for finding my publisher, but also for guiding me down every avenue I had questions about. I love the site because it lets you read each profile in the database. Then authors can decide who is the best match for their manuscript. firstwriter.com is reliable in their research, and I love the comments posted about agents and publishers alike because it gives an author personal information from other authors who have queried them, and what their feedback was.

fw: What tactics did you use when approaching the agencies and publishers you found?

LM: When I finally approached agents and publishers I did my homework and researched every agent and publisher before I submitted anything. I personalise every query letter to the company I was approaching. I’ve never used just one standard query because I spent too much time researching the company, and I let them know in my query that I’ve done my homework. After the query is written, I’ll wait a day before I send it. This gives me a chance to reread it, and catch any typos, and to make sure my query is compelling. I’ve never sent out many manuscripts at once, but I did send two at a time.

fw: How long did it take to successfully place your work?

LM: I spent a good two years honing my skills, and then it was about six months trying to place my work with both an agent and a publisher. I roughly approached about fifteen agents, and five publishers, before I received offers of representations.

fw: Were the rejections disheartening?

LM: At first, I took it to heart, and yes, my feelings were crushed. Some of the rejections were the standard postcard, and some were more personal, a polite note that they currently weren’t taking on new clients at this time. Then the people in my life, my husband Jimmy, my children, my dad, step mom and brother, along with Phil, Christine, and my best friend, Terese, my sister in laws, and my other close friends who kept encouraging me, and pushing me to continue, and not give up on my dream. They all told me that I’m doing what I love, and someday the rest will follow. My husband and I built my website: www.lathundernovels.com and printed business cards with the title of my books on them, and we passed them out everywhere we went. I’m blessed to have such huge support from the people in my life.

fw: And when the success came, which publisher was it that took you on?

LM: I’m being published through RS Publishing and Lutz Barz has been wonderful, helpful, and truly amazing to work with.

fw: What do you think made you successful in your search for a publisher?

LM: I think I succeeded in my search for both an agent and a publisher because I didn’t give up. I did my homework, and found suitable matches for the books I write, and that is how I found both my agent and publisher. I read about them, and did my research about the books they represent.

fw: How is the publishing process going?

LM: Things are developing now that I’ve placed my book, and it has been hard work, but I love it. Writing is what I do, and if an author wants to succeed they must rise to the challenges that are out there, and learn from them, and if an author puts everything they have into what their doing, it’s eventually going to happen. My advice is being open to suggestions, be able to take criticism, and learn everything you can, from both agents and publishers. Work hard, and you’ll get there. The publishing process seems like it takes forever, but it really doesn’t. The hardest part is getting to that point of having your work published. I don’t mind RS Publishing tampering with my manuscript. I value everything my publisher tells me, and I make good use of it. I follow my publisher’s guidance, and take what is said seriously, and we have a good, solid working relationship, built around mutual respect.

fw: What tips would you give other writers trying to get published?

LM: If I could tell authors anything, I would tell them to keep writing and chase their dream until they catch it. It’s up to them to make it happen. If you believe in yourself, and writing is something you’re driven by, then do it. When faced with challenges and rejections, take what agents and publishers tell you, and apply it to your finished product. Learn everything you can, read everything available, and you will catch that dream. Listen to your inner voice, and let it guide you to where you want to be.

fw: Do you have any further writing projects in the pipeline?

LM: I’m very busy right now with having Deadly Steam published. However, I’m hard at work finishing Trickery Treat. I also have other manuscripts under consideration with RS Publishing, which are: Dying SecretsCulver's Treasure, and Don't Blink. The publishing schedule can be hectic at times, but I welcome it. I’ve been asked to speak at different schools in my area about writing, and that is exciting. I can’t wait to share my experiences with others, about what it takes to become published. One more thing I’d like to add is I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it weren’t for all the special people in my life, cheering me on and supporting me. On a final note, I would like to say thank you to my children, Jessie, Kevin and Deven for always inspiring me. To my husband Jimmy who works all day, and edits for me all night, and to my best friend, Terese, who pushes me, when I feel like I can’t be pushed anymore, thank you. My advice to other authors out there is to remember to write everyday, even if you don’t know what to write. Surround yourself with supportive people. Join writing groups in your area, hone your skills, be persistent, and your dreams will follow.

fw: Thanks very much for your time, Lynette, and best of luck with your book! 

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