Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How I got here, Part 5: The Three Amigos

The next book I wrote after Jimmy Fincher said his goodbyes was THE MAZE RUNNER. I love this book. It might be my favorite book so far. I now know what it needs to become a really good book. And I plan on doing it. Soon.

Anyway, it was this book that brought me my first big break. Her name is Jenny Rappaport, and she's an agent in New York. I actually found her the old fashioned way: query, then 3 chapters, then the whole manuscript, then months of agonizing, then a phone call.

This is embarrassing, but I remember the exact moment she called. My family and I were eating at Pizza Hut in Park City, UT on July 24th, 2006. She called my cell phone at 12:14 pm and said she wanted to represent me and try to sell THE MAZE RUNNER. Needless to say, I was ecstatic and all goose bumply. I'm pretty sure I went back inside and ate an entire pizza to celebrate. It was a lot of fun to tell my wife.

And I remember thinking, now my career has really begun.

Hardy har har. I've heard the following many times, and now I'm yet another to testify that it's true: ofen an agent does not sell the first book of an author he or she represents. So it was with me.

But man oh man did I get some dang good rejection letters! Jenny forwarded some very encouraging, personalized emails from editors at such places like Harper Collins, Tor, Little, Brown, etc. Although I was dejected as usual, deep inside I felt a confirmation that I wasn't so bad a writer, and that if I kept at it good things were in store.

Jenny also tried to sell a proposal for a vampire novel called THE ANGEL DISEASE that she had specifically asked me to write. I love that book, too, and hope to write it in full someday soon. But again, nice rejections.

Meanwhile, I met two people who are now officially listed in the Top Twenty People Most Favored By James Dashner List. This is an exclusive list and includes such well known people as Mom, Dad, siblings, Abraham Lincoln and Jerry Seinfeld. The new inductees' names are Chris Schoebinger and Lisa Mangum.

Chris is a product director at a publisher called Shadow Mountain. Lisa is the Acquisitions Editor there. Shadow Mountain had recently delved into the national fantasy market for middle readers and young adults, finding a lot of success, including the New York Times Bestseller list, paperback sales to Simon & Schuster, movie rights, etc.

I met them both at various book events and writer's conferences. Each time, I tried my best to simultaneously brown nose, share my so-far humble success, and avoid looking like a complete idiot. Both of them kept telling me to submit something to them, but for some inexplicable reason I thought they were just being nice.

Then, the real kicker. Lisa and I both just happened to be invited to speak at a writer's conference in Arizona (ANWA). This was October of 2006. Since the conference set up and paid for our travel arrangements, Lisa and I sat next to each other on the plane and spent a lot of time together. I did my best to craftily hypnotize her into wanting a book from me.

Turns out we authors don't really need to try that hard. We just need to be ourselves. After I finally realized this, it was quite simple. I said, "Would you like to read my latest manuscript?" She said, "Yes." Wow. Should've tried that tactic earlier.

Here's how the next month went (by the way, Jenny was involved in all of this, too):

Lisa read THE MAZE RUNNER. Loved it. Gave it to Chris. He liked my writing, but didn't think that book was right for them. Meanwhile, I had finally finished another book called THE WORLD SIFTER. Lisa liked it, but not as much as MAZE. She didn't even give it to Chris.

Instead, they surprised me. Lisa asked me to come up with several proposals for other books, and they'd take me to lunch to discuss them.

And that, folks, was how a boy named Atticus Higginbottom was born.

(to be continued)


Anonymous said...

Now we're to a point where I don't know the story! Exciting!

I read what, the first 20 pages of the Maze Runner? I really liked it and am sad that I'll have to wait to read the rest. Unless you want to go ahead and send me the rest so I have something to read while I wait for my ARC *hint hint* Mwa ha ha ha...

I wanted to take a moment and tell people who DON'T know how to comment how to do it (aka our family).

At the bottom of the comments page (or side) there is this big empty box that says "Leave your comment" which is what I am currently doing.

Leave your praises and then select "Other" as an option if you don't have a blogger account. You can hit Anonymous, but I think James likes to know who's leaving comments.

Then you put in your name. You don't HAVE to put in a web page, you can simply leave your name.

That way you can comment to your heart's content and not feel like you have to be a blogger or a computer nerd. Although really, David should be the former and we know he's already the latter. Or something.

Shanna Blythe said...

The thing that I think is so intimidating is just coming up with a proposal on different books. It just sounds crazy and then writing it? That seems SOO scary to me!!

Glad you had it in you!

James Dashner said...

I actually love writing proposals. That's when your creatity can really fly, and you don't have to worry about writing a 90,000 word book only to have the publisher say, "Meh, sounds boring."

It's a lot more fun to write a book knowing you've already sold it. Hopefully I can just do that from here on. :-)

Thanks, Shanna, keep writing! (I happen to know Shanna and she is a dang good writer)

Tristi Pinkston said...

I love that character name, James!

James Dashner said...

Thanks, Tristi. In my next post I'll tell you how that name came to be. It wasn't the main character's original name.

Shaunda said...

Hi James. This is the second time I'm trying to post here....my server is not cooperating, so hopefully you won't wind up with a gadzillion messages from me ruining your space....

Anyway, your blog is great, and your stories just keep me coming back.

Call me silly, but what is the title the publisher accepted your proposal for? Is this The Thirteen Reality? I don't want to get confused with the titles you already have out there. (Love the name of the character, btw.)

And did the publisher accept multiple titles beyond the Thirteenth Reality? I guess we'll find out in the weeks to come?

And about that list of 20 favorite people, . . . is it a single revolving list? or do you have multiples of 20? ; )

James Dashner said...

Shaunda, yes, the proposal they ended up buying was my book scheduled for March 2008. I'll talk more about it in the next chapter of the story, but originally I had called it THE NINETEENTH REALITY.

As for the Top 20, it's a pretty steady list, hard to get onto. But I'm willing to make deals and stab people in the back if better candidates come along.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Did you know that www.lulu.com has a service where they convert your rejection letters into toilet paper?

James Dashner said...

Kimberly, that's either the coolest thing I've ever heard or very disturbing. I'm leaning toward coolest.

Although I think the words "unfortunately" and "regret to inform you" would not be the most cheerful way to end a pleasant trip to what my dad affectionaly called "The Office".

Luisa Perkins said...

Atticus. One of my very favorite names. This is all very promising.

Rebecca said...

Atticus Higginbpottom! What a fantastic name!
So - your book is a YA???

James Dashner said...

Officially it will be listed as "Ages 10 and up".

Julie Belnap said...



Caps lock is my friend...

you have a vampire book? I love vampire books! I must read it!!

seriously, find a way to get it published and send me a copy, I was bitten by Vampire Kisses, and now I need to read more vamp books that don't literally suck.

mensajes claro said...

It just sounds crazy and then writing it? That seems SOO scary to me!!

juegos de ben 10 said...

Atticus Higginbpottom! What a fantastic name!

mensajes claro said...

kimberly i never hear that , Is that true ?