Glynn Young is the author of a recently published novel, Dancing Priest (Dunrobin, 2011). A professional writer with a background in journalism, speechwriting, and public relations and marketing, Glynn began blogging in 2009. It was at Faith, Fiction, Friends that I first found Glynn's work, including poems he'd posted for the first time. Since then, Glynn's become a friend whose writing trajectory I've watched with interest and admiration.
Shortly after Dancing Priest was released, I talked with Glynn about his writing life generally; you may read that interview, "A Man of Many Good Words", at The High Calling.
I also discussed with Glynn specifically the writing and publishing of his debut novel. Part 1 of our conversation, "Writing the Priest", is at TweetSpeakPoetry blog. Part 2, "Publishing the Priest", appears below.
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Maureen Doallas: The first version of your novel's manuscript totaled more than 150,000 words, the equivalent of roughly two novels. When you began cutting, editing, and rewriting, how did you determine what to keep, what to gut, what to rework?
Glynn Young: It took me a while to figure it out. I eventually realized there was a natural division in the story, at roughly the 90,000-word mark; so, I divided the manuscript there and focused on those first 90,000 words.
Dividing the manuscript wasn't so easy; I had to rewrite a lot of scenes in the first part to account for some of those now "missing" 60,000 words. After that, I had to deal with creeping word count, because I again had more than 100,000 words. I ended up lopping off the original beginning and original ending and rewriting yet again to incorporate critical information.
MD: When did you seek outside readers and opinions to help guide you?
GY: About two or three years ago, I asked my wife to read the manuscript. She's a terrific editor, so I had to tell her I needed her to read not as an editor but for the story. She did that for me, although I'd guess that her editing hand twitched the entire time. Around the same time a friend, writer Mike Dellosso, volunteered to read a chunk. He read the original prologue, the story of how the birth parents of the protagonist Michael Kent met, and offered helpful criticism. Later, I removed the prologue and worked a much-shortened summary into a later scene.
MD: How did you decide when the manuscript was marketable?
GY: I was at a writers' conference, where an editor critiqued a section. She liked it and was extremely encouraging.
An agent I met there wouldn't look at the manuscript, telling me it was unmarketable without vampires and werewolves in it. I think he believed that vampires-and-werewolves line. Another agent at the conference had another writer read a chunk aloud to a group of us in a writing seminar. When the reading ended, there was a long silence during which I died three times. Then the agent said, "I don't handle romance. If I did, I would take you on as a client." That was great encouragement! That agent went beyond just saying she liked it.
After that, I sent the manuscript to various agents, and got the usual polite refusals. Across the board.
MD: You shopped your novel on your own. What resources did you use to identify prospective publishers?
GY: A lot of the usual ones: Writer's Market, Writer's Digest, other writer's magazines; word-of-mouth; and a huge amount of online research, especially on agents' blog and publishers' Websites. Also Facebook. I joined several associations, too, like the American Christian Fiction Writers, and used their member resources.
MD: Receiving a "no thanks" can be demoralizing. How did you handle what you describe as "the usual form rejections"? What kept you motivated to pursue publishing the novel?
GY: I anticipated rejection. It's standard operating procedure in book publishing. My wife was a great source of encouragement. She knew how much time I'd put in the novel, and I think she wanted to see it published more than I did. She even suggested self-publishing, knowing the commitment that would be.
MD: You rejected self-publishing. Why?
GY: It was a time issue for me. To succeed at self-publishing, you have to make a major commitment of time and energy. I have a full-time job and a family. As much as I hoped for publication, I couldn't compromise either of those commitments.
MD: How did you ultimately find your publisher, the indie Dunrobin, and how did you decide that you and that publisher would be a good fit?
GY: The publisher found me. Mark Sutherland, a good friend who happens to be Dunrobin's president (he's also a native Scot, born and raised in Edinburgh, making him a real acid test for the feel of the book), knew I had a novel in manuscript. About a year ago, he asked to read it, and I reluctantly (imagine!) let him do that. His first response was, "It made me cry." Then he asked if I intended to publish it and I told him I didn't know. That's where we left it [until] this past summer [when] he said, "Are you going to let me publish your novel or not?" I surprised him and myself and said ok.
MD: How did you celebrate news of your novel's acceptance?
GY: I didn't have time to celebrate! As soon as I made the decision, I told Mark I wanted to hire an editor. Mark hadn't published fiction before, and I needed a fiction editor. I hired Adam Blumer; I knew the kind of work he did as a manuscript editor, and he had truly valuable insights and encouragement to offer me.
MD: Who else is on your publishing team?
GY: I've actively engaged with a virtual team. In addition to Adam, who edited and proofread the manuscript twice, there's photographer Claire Burge, a contributing editor I've met at The High Calling. When I saw a coffee shop photo on Claire's blog, I knew she would have or could take the image I'd need for the book's cover. Also, Jeremiah Langer, with whom I'd work at The High Calling; he took responsibility for cover design.
To have this team is extremely important to me. Simply put, the relationships of publishing matter to me.
MD: As we know, being accepted by a publisher is only the first step in a series of steps culminating in electronic and print publication. What for you was the most difficult aspect at this stage of publishing?
GY: I kept an open mind, and I listened closely to comments and criticism. Adam suggested some chanes; the publisher wanted a few changes. I didn't fight or argue; I trusted the judgments of both and made the changes. The book is a better story for that.
The most painstaking part of the process was reviewing Adam's edits and comments. Adam had gone thoroughly through the manuscript. Some of his changes had to do with style. Since college, I've written in Associated Press style, which many journalists follow. I had to unlearn a lot.
MD: How did you handle communications with your publishing team?
GY: All communications were via e-mail (even most of those with Mark, who's in St. Louis, where I live), at all hours of the day and night.
MD: What was your editor's best advice to you?
GY: Be careful with point-of-view; when you change it, make sure that's clear to your reader.
MD: How was the cover image selected, and what did you learn from the cover designer?
GY: I wanted a black-and-white photo bleeding to the cover edges. I think that suggests "news" and "contemporary". I was keen to use Claire's photo of the coffee shop but thought it needed a bicycle parked out front. Claire came up with some additional photos. When Jeremiah got involved, he leaned hard toward one photo in particular that turned out to be Claire's favorite.
I still like the coffee shop photo but I trusted Claire and Jeremiah. Both the image and how it's used suggest "romance". Going with Claire's and Jeremiah's judgment turned out to be the right decision.
MD: How is the novel classified, as Romance or something else?
GY: We're calling it Contemporary Fiction. You've hit on a problem the book has: It doesn't fit nearly into a single category, and publishers hate that. So, it's a romance but not Romance. It's Christian Fiction but its appeal is broader. I call it a love story that even men might read.
MD: Are you involved in creating the marketing plan for your book? Will you be giving readings, have a blog tour, be on GoodReads or other social media sites?
GY: We'll be doing at least some of these things. I don't think I'll be doing readings but I will be doing discussions, Q&As, and presentations. Right now the focus is on getting the book noticed; we're relying on social media as well as friends' recommendations and comments.
MD: What were your feelings on seeing the e-version for the first time at Amazon and Barnes & Noble?
GY: The first word that comes to mind is surprise, because the Kindle version popped up at Amazon three days earlier than expected. I found out when I saw a link a friend tweeted. I nearly passed out.
MD: What did you learn about yourself in writing and publishing the novel?
GY: At some point, I found myself merged with the story, which became a part of me, a very quiet, unobserved part. It wouldn't let go and, to be truthful, I didn't want it to let go. The story of Michael Kent and Sarah Hughes is different from anything I've known in my own life, and yet my own life and understanding of life permeate the book. I did not expect to feel so connected to these two characters.
MD: What do you wish you'd known before committing so many years to the book and, considering all that's happened since 2002, when that song Luna Rossa first inspired you to write, what, if anything, would you change and why? [The inspiration for the book is discussed in Part 1 of my interview; see the link at TweetSpeakPoetry above.]
GY: I knew writing and publishing the book would be hard. I knew I would have to face rejection; I still have to face rejection. It's no less hard now that the book's published. Now I'm facing a different kind of hard, tempered by a kind of very quiet joy.
I don't think I would change anything. Writing this book has been a process, a journey. The book came to be published because of everything that happened along the way.
MD: What will be your measure(s) of the book's success?
GY: That people who read it like it.
MD: What do you most hope readers will say about Dancing Priest?
GY: That it made them laugh and cry, that it sounded like life, that the characters became people they knew and recognized.
MD: Remarkably, you began and completed a second manuscript while reworking Dancing Priest. You have six more stories in different stages of development. What did you learn from the evolution of Dancing Priest that you're applying to such rapid writing of new work?
GY: All of these stories are the story of Michael Kent. What I'm doing is telling Michael's story from his time as a young man in college to old age. The story in the second manuscript takes a decided turn away from the romance of the first. Michael will face death and one of the biggest decisions of his life, and the two experiences together will transform him.
Aside from the Michael Kent stories, I've been working on an entirely different novel. It's about surviving and overcoming a terrible miscarriage of justice.
MD: Now that you're published, what advice do you have for emerging, hope-to-be-published novelists?
GY: Don't give up. Keep writing. Keep telling the story you need to tell, the story that comes from your heart.
Thank you, Glynn, for a wonderful series of conversations about writing. I wish you much continued success as a novelist.
Glynn's novel is available for Kindle and Nook, as an iBook, and in paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million.