BIO

Hi, and welcome to my webpage. I won’t bore you with a lot of details about my life, but I will give you a little synopsis of where I’ve been and how I got here, focusing on the writing angle.  

  Sometimes readers like to know a little something about an author to better identify with his, or her, work, but in most cases I’ve found that the curiosity stems from trying to find the writers inside  themselves. And to this I say, “Have at it”.

  When I first seriously started prodding around the edges of writing, I read a lot of book flaps. Now, you’ve got all the information you’d ever want (and sometimes more) right at your fingertips. I will caution, though, that the real marker of how you’d fare as a writer is much more accessible than you think.

  When I was in my thirties, I slowly started to revive a dream that had almost gotten lost over the years amid all the things that can fill up a life. On a lark one day, maybe pushed over the edge by career discontent, I signed up for a beginning fiction class. I actually felt a little nervous knowing that part of admission was bringing work to share. That quickly evaporated, and I found myself typing away into the night and counting the days down until class. I was inspired. At one point, I decided to leave my work and try writing, and parenting, fulltime.

  What I loved about writing that first year was…that I could. The words flowed out as if they were fleeing over a breached mental levee. Not all of it was good, but not all of it was shabby, either. I had no outside influences, no deadlines and no one looking over my shoulder. It was an experience I’d wish on any aspiring writer.

  At the end of that at first year, I had an 800-page manuscript that covered just about everything including the damned kitchen sink. It probably would have made Stephen King cringe.

  This might be the time to tell you the things I missed most that first year.

  Grownup, human contact. Feedback. A little camaraderie and, okay, maybe a little direction. A vague deadline might have been helpful, and a second pair of eyes isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  I made contact. Resumed classes. Snuck in a weekend seminar or book signing by a traveling author whenever I could. Not only was writing marketable fiction a mysterious animal to me, the whole “marketing” thing seemed overwhelming. Sure, I had my query letter tips, and my “Writer’s Market” 1998 edition, but it seemed like a literary crapshoot to me. On any given weekend, I’d be one in a throng of hopefuls trying to lean in close enough to absorb the “secret” of getting published.

  At one such seminar, my best friend (who’d also jumped into the dainty paper boat of aspiring authorship) suggested we hijack the head speaker and pick his brain over the lunch break. This had all the ear-markings of the time I got talked into sneaking backstage at a Journey concert, and I tried to dissuade her but, and this is why I love her, she said, “We paid good money to find out how to sell our damned books, so we’ve got nothing to lose.”

  It was a good call.

  The headliner was amiable to our cause, and my friend wasted no time in telling him how great my book was, describing the massive mess in just under five minutes. He thoughtfully chewed over her info and delivered his prognosis.

  It was way too long. Anything over 400-pages, he said, for an unknown was going right into the “dump” pile at any respectable publishing house. I also had too many subplots, characters and had crossed into too many genres.

  “Have you ever thought about writing romance?” he asked me.

“It sounds like you’ve covered that in this book, more than once, but I’m thinking that if you pulled out that piece, focused on it, you might have something.”

  I had something, all right. A little knot in the pit in my stomach.

  I’d read romance. Actually, I’d once loved it so much that I’d sneak in ten-minute reads between the demands of restless kids I was nanny-ing. Lofty, seductive titles scripted over hard, bare torsos came immediately to mind. But, that had been years ago.

  “I-I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe.”

  In the weeks to come, I studied the romance genre. And, it was huge.

  Okay, I didn’t need to write anything about an twelfth century maiden being swept away by the lusty, amorous attentions of a knight, that was already being covered by authors who’d done their research.

  What I could offer was a present day story of two people who met under odd circumstances, had nothing in common and fell madly, deeply in love despite it all. I could write it because…it hit a little close to home.

  I sold this book, Sand Pirates, pretty much right out of the gate. I sent the manuscript out to about a dozen publishers. A small house in Winnipeg got back to me right away. This was one of those dream scenarios you hear about.

  The editors were “word-on-word” picky, and so am I, so we waded through the novel together. I have never met two cooler chicks than Pam and Mary from Ponder Publishing. On the promotional end, not only did they bring me out the Romantic Times Convention in Toronto, all expenses paid, they got me radio, TV and newspaper pub. One of my fondest memories of the seven-city book tour I took with my family is of the line in front of the Grand Forks, ND bookstore. Weeks before, P&M informed me that the weekend reviewer there would be calling, but that she wasn’t a fan of “romance” novels.

  During my phone interview with Doris, I got so nervous that I knocked a glass of soda over into my keyboard. She seemed to pick my book apart, and I didn’t, couldn’t, counter.

  She gave SP a glowing review. I found this out when the first woman in line told me, “Doris hates romance, but she liked this, so it must be good.”

  I took a break from writing fiction when Ponder closed its doors.

It was such an amazing experience, and I owe those two editors a lot.

  I did, however, discover that I tend to — given the option ­— lean toward something a little darker. “Sins” has a love story, but it’s embedded in something dangerous and deadly. Some of its characters keep me up at night.

  I was thrilled that Novel Concept Publishing editor, JE

Taylor, renowned thriller author, chose my title “Sins of the Mother” to publish. It’s a compliment I heartily accept.

  I recently published a column in my local paper about e-books. It contains some insights you may, as reader or writer, want to consider.

© Jim Herkenhoff 2013    Ellis Hoff email: ellis@ellishoff.com