Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, once again writing about the story behind a story. Brace yourselves—this is a long and winding tale.
When I was a senior in high school, way back in 1965, I had a wicked crush on a boy in my class. Unfortunately, he thought of me only as a fellow member of the stage crew for our school-wide production of The Music Man. Since I was an extremely shy kid, at least around boys, I should have been happy with “one of the guys” status. Instead, I worked up all my courage and suggested that we join his best friend and the friend’s girl and another couple we’d been close to during the production to celebrate high school graduation. He let me down easy, but it was still a rejection. Worst of all, he told me that “someday,” if I “stayed as sweet and innocent” as I was then, I’d “make some lucky man a great wife.”
At seventeen, the last thing I wanted to be was “sweet.”
Some things stick with you. I started thinking about using that memory in a story in 1982, but it wasn’t until 1987, after I’d sold a young adult romance to Silhouette’s Crosswinds/Keepsake line and was encouraged to submit something else, that I actually sat down and wrote the first version of Someday.
It was the twentieth book I’d completed since I started writing seriously in 1976 and came in at 40,000 words, It was written in first person. I named my protagonist Kristy Russell and gave her love interest the nickname Sonny. Who was Sonny? Sonny was not my high school crush. He was a childhood friend who actually asked me out once in seventh grade. Unfortunately, he came down with a bad cold and had to cancel and that was the end of that budding romance.
I shamelessly milked my diaries from 1964 and 1965 for details of high school, especially those related to working on The Music Man. I also cannibalized two unsold short stories. “The Tallest Girl” was based on my experience of being the tallest girl in my ballet class and the only one who didn’t take toe lessons. As a result I starred in our recitals for two years running—as the prince. The other story was titled “The Pink Earmuffs.”
Someday sold to Crosswinds, my fifth book sale, and was scheduled to be published in December 1988. It had gone through copyedits and had a cover when Silhouette decided to stop publishing young adult romances.
That was a blow. By then I’d sold a third book to the line and now none of them were going to be published. On the bright side, I kept my advances and all rights were returned to me, but at that point I’d much rather have had books in hand. Never one to give up, I started submitting the manuscripts elsewhere. In 1992, a book packager took an interest in Someday and asked it I’d be willing to revise the book.
Of course I would. At that point my total number of published books was up to seven. I wasn’t about to say no to any possibility. Working with a developmental editor, my plot expanded to include a number of elements not in the original, including a rival for Sonny and a subplot concerning Project Graduation. I ended up with a better book, but not, unfortunately, one that the packager decided to buy.
This new and improved version racked up twenty-one rejections before I had my agent stop submitting it in 1998. In the meantime, I “borrowed” a few details to use as backstory in the category romances I was writing for Silhouette and Bantam’s Loveswept line.
Then the first e-books started to appear. In September of 2000, I did some minor revisions, ended up with a word count of 40,831, and began to query e-book publishers. Star Writer Publications requested the manuscript in November 2000 and less than a month later I received word that an offer would be made after the holidays. I duly signed a contract, although it did not provide an advance against royalties, and the book was scheduled for February of the following year. I was assigned a copy editor. Unfortunately, what she saw as grammar and usage absolutes conflicted with what I regarded as Kristy’s voice. Then, in May, Star Writer Publications sold out to RFI-West. In August, RFI-West informed me that my contract was invalid and sent me a new one, which I declined to sign because it was a really bad deal. I was notified that the original version rights had reverted to me but I could not use their edits. As if I’d want to!
That was the end of Someday‘s second sale to a publisher.
Too stubborn (or too stupid) to give up, I did some minor revisions of my own, including setting the story in 1992, and sent the book to a writer friend who was starting a new venture called NovelsNow. She produced a pdf edition and we created a cover using a photo of my niece seated at a computer, since Kristy tells her story by typing it into a pc. Sales were . . . less than stellar. Later, after NovelsNow was discontinued, Someday went to Belgrave House and became available in all e-book formats. It still is.
But I was still hoping for a print sale. I sent the file to my agent in 2008 (a different agent from the one who’d tried to sell it before), but her opinion was that it didn’t have much chance. She thought it was too slow paced “given the High School Musical phenom.” Although she liked the story very much on a second read a dozen years later, she hadn’t changed her opinion.
And there things might have stayed had it not been for the Covid lockdown. After I launched print editions of six other books for young readers (four previously published and two not), I did a bit more revising and came up with an 145 page book of 39,445 words to sell for $9.99 in trade paperback print-on-demand format. I also updated the cover, although it still features that photo of my niece. The text is the same as the e-book, although I did fix a few minor typos when I sent in the file for the POD, and the formatting is prettier. It is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other outlets. Will people want to buy it? I have no idea. But I feel really good about the fact that it’s available if they do.
Interested? Do I have a deal for you! I you would like to order an autographed copy at the special price of $10 (postage included), just shoot me an e-mail at KaitlynDunnett@gmail.com and I’ll tell you how to go about purchasing one.
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-three books traditionally published and has self published several children’s books and three works of nonfiction. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Her next publication (as Kaitlyn) is the fourth book in the contemporary “Deadly Edits” series (Murder, She Edited), in stores in August 2021. As Kathy, her most recent novel is a standalone historical mystery, The Finder of Lost Things. She maintains websites at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com. A third, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, is the gateway to over 2300 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century Englishwomen, now available in e-book format.