Here are the eight steps involved, as outlined by Phil Cousineau in his book, The Hero’s Journey. I’m probably going to skip a few steps, just so you know.
• The Call to Adventure
• The Road of Trials
• The Vision Quest
• The Meeting with the Goddess
• The Boon
• The Magic Flight
• The Return Threshold
• The Master of Two Worlds
My Call to Adventure began in 2008 while sitting in a hot tub. Yep, I was in a hot tub with six of my closest friends and a margarita in hand. (Seriously. This isn’t the inciting incident of an erotica novel or anything.) We went around the circle answering the question: if you could do anything when you grow up (I was the youngest of the group at age 35), what would it be? And I said I would write fiction for a living. My answer surprised everyone, including me. I loved to read; I’d never really written anything creatively before; I just thought I would like to write a novel “someday.” It occurred to me in that moment that someday might never get here if I didn’t towel off, sit my butt in a chair, and put my hands on a keyboard. So a few weeks later I did just that.
And my Road of Trials began. I spent about a year and a half writing Untimely, a YA paranormal romance about a girl who is given a photograph of herself kissing a boy she’s never met. Before long she’s mixed up with two time-traveling boys from the past: one who’s determined to seriously mess with the future, the other who has sworn to protect it.
Does that sound like something you might like to read? Yeah, well, you’re the only one. I queried a slew of agents and got one request for a partial, which led to a polite no-way-in-hell. Okay, I thought to myself, I’d certainly been warned repeatedly that rejection was part of the deal. I’ll just shelve it and write something new.
I began to brainstorm, and while traveling in Louisiana I had the idea to write the story of a blind girl who must face swarms of terrible, flesh-eating creatures in order to gather water for her people to survive. The girl is mysteriously protected by her Sightlessness, but she hasn’t been tested . . . until now. The Scourge was born over the next year and a half. I applied all the lessons I’d learned from writing Untimely and then failing to find an agent, and I confidently set out to approach agents again. I was so sure this time would be different.
And . . . nothin’. Zippo. Nada. Not even a request for a partial. I won’t lie, folks; I was crushed. I considered giving up on writing. It was a highly chlorinated, margarita-fueled pipe dream anyway, wasn’t it? That was the dark night of this hero’s soul.
But then I Met the Goddess. Her name was Amazon. Something had changed in the year and a half since I queried Untimely: the rise of self-publishing. I have to admit that I resisted the Goddess for a while. I already had a job as a practicing clinical psychologist, and I didn’t really want another job as an entrepreneurial author. But my husband kept urging me to figure it out. “Just try it,” he said. “What do you have to lose?” Well—sleep, hours and hours of free time, and fingernails being bitten down to the nubs, as it turns out. But that’s beside the point. I published The Scourge in January 2012 with no fanfare, no website, no Facebook page, and no Twitter account. No platform whatsoever. Predictably, I sold about three and a half copies to my long-suffering friends and family the first few weeks. Maybe about ten copies in the first month, which I was over-the-moon happy about.
But. By April 2012 when The Hunger Games film released, scores of readers were looking for other dystopian novels to read, and The Scourge was gathering steam. By July 2012 it was selling better than I could have imagined in my wildest hot tub dreams. I was astonished to find that in the span of about six months, I’d become a paid, published author. That was the beginning of The Boon.
I decided to query agents again, but only one this time—one of my dream agents. She said yes. (She might be the Goddess, come to think of it.) My agent began working on finding a traditional publisher for the series, and I continued to write The Defiance, which is the sequel to The Scourge, and The Keeper, a companion story set in the same universe. Meanwhile The Scourge was chosen as a finalist for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award. Wow. Talk about a boon.
Still, it hasn’t all been elf-darts and princes since then. You might notice that I’m self-publishing The Defiance. We didn’t have luck finding a traditional publisher, thanks to the passing tides of dystopian novels and zombie-ish creatures. No matter. Self-publishing has quickly become an efficient way to find an amazing readership for a debut author. Now that I’ve published my second novel, I’m crossing The Return Threshold to tell you that it is possible to learn, even at my (ahem) advanced age, how to craft novels, self-publish and publicize them, and earn a decent living doing so.
My adventure isn’t complete just yet. I still have aspirations of becoming The Master of Two Worlds by finding a traditional publisher for my work-in-progress, a novel unrelated to the Brilliant Darkness series. It would also be nice to hit the NYT bestsellers list with any titles, right? But whether or not that happens, I’m grateful for every lesson I’ve learned—triumphant and painful—along my bumpy publishing journey. I’m humbled by the enthusiasm of my readers, the help I’ve received from other authors and publishing support professionals, and the solid support of my family and friends. I’m thrilled to be able to do what I love—write.
My publishing quest has been an adventure, to be sure. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what will happen next.
The Scourge by A.G. Henley
(Brilliant Darkness #1)
Publication date: January 31st 2012
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult
Seventeen-year-old Groundling, Fennel, is Sightless. She's never been able to see her lush forest home, but she knows its secrets. She knows how the shadows shift when she passes under a canopy of trees. She knows how to hide in the cool, damp caves when the Scourge comes. She knows how devious and arrogant the Groundlings' tree-dwelling neighbors, the Lofties, can be.
And she's always known this day would come—the day she faces the Scourge alone.
The Sightless, like Fenn, are mysteriously protected from the Scourge, the gruesome creatures roaming the forests, reeking of festering flesh and consuming anything—and anyone—living. A Sightless Groundling must brave the Scourge and bring fresh water to the people of the forest. Today, that task becomes Fenn's.
Fenn will have a Lofty Keeper, Peree, as her companion. Everyone knows the Lofties wouldn’t hesitate to shoot an arrow through the back of an unsuspecting Groundling like Fenn, but Peree seems different. A boy with warm, rough hands who smells like summer, he is surprisingly kind and thoughtful. Although Fenn knows his people are treacherous, she finds herself wanting to trust him.
As their forest community teeters on the brink of war, Fenn and Peree must learn to work together to survive the Scourge and ensure their people’s survival. But when Fenn uncovers a secret that shatters her truths, she’s forced to decide who and what to protect—her people, her growing love for Peree, or the elusive dream of lasting peace in the forest.
Praise for The Scourge:
“Lovable and relatable heroine? Check. Swoon-worthy, kick-butt hero? Check. Compelling romance that makes your heart melt and toes curl? Check. Captivating story and fascinating world? Check. Eagerly anticipating the next book? Check, check, check.”
-- Refracted Light Reviews, blog review