Turning Points: Guest Post by Andrea Cremer (+Giveaway)

This guest post is part of the Turning Points blog series here on distraction no. 99—in which I asked authors the question: What was your turning point as a writer? I’m honored and excited to host their stories. Read on as Andrea Cremer reveals the accident that led her to writing her first novel, and the choice she had to make to keep writing more…

My turning point has been both sudden and slow. It began with a horse and ended by turning everything in my life upside down.

I’ve always been a writer. Since I first could hold a crayon I’ve drawn pictures and created stories about those pictures. The picture to written story ratio reversed as the years went by, but the creation of worlds and characters never ceased.

Despite my love of writing, I didn’t see a career as an author as a viable option. To strive to be a writer was akin to hitchhiking to New York in the hopes of making it on Broadway. Sticking with the sensible road, I pursued graduate education until there was none left to pursue and set out into the working world with a Ph.D. in early modern history. I landed a dream job at Macalester College, a wonderful liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minnesota. Work was both close to my family and introduced me to an abundance of smart colleagues and incredible students.

Though I was thrilled at the job and enjoying the start of my ‘real’ adult life following so many years of studenthood, the summer after I finished my first year of teaching I felt that something had been missed. Having given over so much time to study, I decided that some time off was in order and went in search of the those things that I’d left behind when I dedicated my life to the study of history almost exclusively.

Like many girls (and boys) I was obsessed with any and all things horse, and benefited from summers working on a local horse ranch. Once I went to college both time and money kept me from riding. With a job secured and the summer free I thought it no better time than to return to my love of horseback riding.

In June 2008 I had my horse all tacked up and ready to go on our first trail ride. As I led him from the stable, he was startled by another horse, jumped, and came down on top of my right foot. With two broken bones in my foot, the summer of riding came to an end before it began.

Not only would I not be riding, I had doctor’s orders to stay off my foot for the entire summer. My days would be spent on the couch, rather than on the trail.

I consoled myself for a time with my go-to comfort activity—watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But even Buffy couldn’t offer a full reprieve from my sense of a summer lost. In Minnesota, where winter goes on forever, a lost summer is something to truly grieve.

Wanting to salvage my days before school began again I wracked my brain for something that would give me a sense of accomplishment. Something couch friendly. As I mulled over the possibilities, a long-time dream came to mind. I’d always wanted to write a novel. My journals, notebooks, and computer hard drive were already filled with scenes, thoughts, and scribbles accumulated over the course of my life, but I’d never given myself the space or time to write a book from start to finish.

Still on the couch, but armed with my laptop, I began to write.

That was the beginning of my turning point.

My love of writing was not only confirmed, it was transformed: into an obsession. I had never felt so alive, or complete, as when I put words to the page. The experience was thrilling and terrifying. It reminded me of falling in love—I was afraid to let go of the experience, thinking I might never capture the magic again and at the same time the thought of trying to make writing more than a sideshow in the carnival that was my working and personal life seemed an impossible task.

But I couldn’t stop writing.

And I began to live a double life. Professor by day, writer by night (and morning, and any time I could snatch for myself). In addition to writing, I did research. I  consumed every piece of information I could about the publishing industry. I taught myself about literary agents and query letters. And after writing two “practice” novels, I wrote Nightshade. And I knew I’d reached the point where I wanted to take my work into the world.

I began to query.

There were rejections.

I continued to query.

My (would soon be) agent requested the manuscript.

I waited.

My (almost) agent offered to represent me.

I signed with the agency.

We revised the manuscript.

Nightshade went on submission.

Nightshade

Michael Green purchased Nightshade in August 2009, a little more than a year from the accident that started it all.

This is halfway through my turning point.

By phone and email I met my editor, Jill Santopolo, who turned out to be (and still is) one of the most talented and amazing people I’ve ever met. Not only did Jill understand my writing, she understood how to make it better.

I learned much more about writing and revising through working with Jill. Nightshade went into copyedits. I wrote Wolfsbane and began Bloodrose while Nightshade was in the run-up to release.

Nightshade was published in October 2010 and hit the NYT bestseller list. I cried and danced. I kept writing. I kept teaching.

Wolfsbane

Writing and teaching managed to be both complementary to and at odds with one another. My students always inspired and energized me, but the time of preparation, instruction, office hours, recommendations, and meetings sapped the time I needed to write. When I’m drafting a novel, I want to immerse myself in it—an aspect of my process that required compromise in the face of my “real” job obligations.

Wolfsbane debuted on the NYT list. I finished writing Bloodrose and embarked on multiple new projects. I requested and received a reduction in my teaching load to part-time. For a year I thought I could do it all.

I discovered I could not.

The time and energy required not only by writing, but also in promotion, answering email, touring, was draining my enthusiasm for teaching. Not because I didn’t love being in the classroom, but simply because I was exhausted. I’d been stretched thin by my schedule and while those sacrifices were reasonable when I was trying to get my foot in the publishing door, I seemed to have landed in a room of my own and I wanted to live in it instead of feeling like a sub-letter.

I had a choice to make. To maintain my academic career and continue to write would mean I’d have to scale back my life as an author by a long-shot. I’d have to travel less and write fewer books. I would have to take time off from writing to focus on my academic work.

Bloodrose

I could have made that choice, but my turning point had set me on another path. What I wanted was to be a full-time writer. A writer who could lose herself in her books without apology. Admitting that the writing life was the one I wanted was as frightening as beginning to write my first novel. It meant leaving a life of comfort and security, for one that is more unpredictable. It meant that my Ph.D. would still be put to use, but in an unconventional way that might draw questioning gazes from more than a few people.

But my life had turned, opening a new road that I wanted to walk. Turning back would only feel like defeat.

I write this piece amid the last semester I’ll teach at Macalester. When classes end, I’ll pack my bags and head to New York to chase a dream. And life will begin again, until the next turning point.

—Andrea Cremer


Andrea Cremer

Andrea Cremer lives in Minnesota and teaches history at Macalester College in St. Paul. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling Nightshade series. She wants you to know that history is not boring and dreams are best lived.

Visit Andrea at www.andreacremer.com.

Follow @andreacremer on Twitter.


EDITED MARCH 17: WINNER OF A SIGNED COPY OF BLOODROSE ANNOUNCED…

Bloodrose

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway via the entry form—and thank you to the author for donating the prize! I’m happy to announce the winner:

Kel Vorhis won a signed copy of Bloodrose! Congrats! I’ll email the winner to ask for a mailing address. Thank you again to everyone who entered!


Want more in this blog series?

The Turning Points series will continue with new guest posts three times a week. Subscribe to distraction no. 99 to keep up with the series, or read all the posts with this tag.

Here are the posts in the series so far:

Series images by Robert Roxby.
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34 thoughts on “Turning Points: Guest Post by Andrea Cremer (+Giveaway)

  1. tashaseegmiller March 9, 2012 / 9:53 am

    This may be one of my favorites of the series. I have been debating all sorts of things in my life, which in many aspects is similar to Andrea’s. Thank you so much for this series and thank you so much for the work you do in acquiring amazing and inspiring authors. Great way to start a Friday.

  2. Ewa March 9, 2012 / 10:04 am

    this is one of my favorite series and to read how it happened was amazing.

  3. Natalie Blitt March 9, 2012 / 10:13 am

    What a lovely and honest piece. I’ve really enjoyed all three of Andrea Cremer’s books and I’m especially impressed by the way she doesn’t walk away from difficult plot points but faces them head-on. It’s hard to leave behind security when you want something different, I can’t imagine having made it as a professor and having the courage to walk away in order to pursue what your heart truly longs for. As a reader though, I’m so glad you are doing it!

  4. Kat March 9, 2012 / 10:19 am

    I love Andrea cramer books, I just wish I’d pick it up sooner

  5. Steph March 9, 2012 / 10:50 am

    Amazing! I want the book AND the inspiration!

  6. Ali Trotta March 9, 2012 / 11:17 am

    This is a gorgeous, encouraging post. For one thing, you had me at Buffy and horses. For another, it is great to see a passion, found and realized. This was so well-written.

    *raises coffee mug* Here’s to turning points and adventures.

  7. Katherine Skye March 9, 2012 / 11:27 am

    Wow! I love Andrea’s post! Thank you for sharing.

  8. Christina Kit. March 9, 2012 / 11:42 am

    I too am a horse-loving girl and I love how one horse truly recreated your life – like it was fated:)

    I love how your love of writing comes through, and I hope all your dreams come true in New York!

    (You should dedicate one of your books to your horse;) Or name a main character after him or her!)

    I haven’t read the series, but I’ve been hearing so many awesome things about it I have to!

    I tweeted: https://twitter.com/#!/christinafiorio/status/178157853457121280

    And I posted on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=127033540758977&id=1824430649

    I shared on Googleplus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109200730601263396879/posts/fKdZJLkBqd2

    Thanks so much! Both you and Nova for this awesome post!

  9. creativityorcrazy March 9, 2012 / 12:00 pm

    Loved your post. I think it is absolutely amazing you are following your dreams and pursuing your passion to write. Sometimes I think we all get too caught up in the what should be of life and other people’s judgements of our career choices.

  10. Melodie March 9, 2012 / 12:45 pm

    Hey! My brother graduated from Macalester! Great school – I can imagine your regrets at leaving it.
    I teach as well and lead the same double life this year. Just re-entered the fiction world after switching careers from journalism. Finished grad school and had a summer off before starting to teach…which is when I started writing fiction again. Now I have an agent and we’re going on sub. While part of me hopes never to have to make the choice you did, I must admit being on the NYT list would be pretty awesome. Good luck in your new full-time career – tho it sounds like you don’t need it. 😉

  11. Carl March 9, 2012 / 3:11 pm

    Thank you for the interview. It is important to tell people to live their dreams. I hope they listen.

  12. Kel Vorhis March 9, 2012 / 5:10 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Andrea! To be honest, I’m a bit jealous because I dream of being a full-time writer, yet I love teaching high school English. Teaching, writing, and family stretch me to the limit. Thanks for showing that there is a way to write full-time. Right now my personal copies of your trilogy of books is being passed around my high school since the media center isn’t able to order copies right now. I’d love to receive a signed book(s) from you!

  13. Hannah March 9, 2012 / 9:08 pm

    This is an amazing story – I feel like I’m on all of these steps, in relation to academics and wantint to write (except I don’t think I’ll make it all the way to a Ph.D.) – so it’s greatly inspirational. I can only hope that one day I’ll be where she is. I’m so glad Andrea chose to pursue writing because I’d be devastated if she quit or even scaled back! Thanks for this post. And Andrea – good luck in New York, but Minnesota will miss you.

  14. Steve Brezenoff March 9, 2012 / 9:08 pm

    Minnesota KidLit’s gonna miss you!

  15. Linda C. March 9, 2012 / 9:51 pm

    Great story, Andrea! You’re so brave to go after your dream of writing full-time.

  16. Aneeqah March 9, 2012 / 10:08 pm

    This was such an amazing post, it was so inspiring. Simply awesome!

  17. Miranda M. March 9, 2012 / 10:14 pm

    This was an awesome post. I finished Blood Rose today. I put off reading it because I didn’t want the series to end, yet I finally let myself finish it and it was beautiful. I really loved this whole series and will always remember it as one of my favorites.

    • Miranda M. March 11, 2012 / 6:44 pm

      I reread my comment today and I definitely meant to put BloodRose. I didn’t even notice when I posted 2 days ago!

  18. Katie March 9, 2012 / 10:48 pm

    What an inspirational post. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Kissed by Ink March 10, 2012 / 2:00 pm

    Andrea,
    You are an inspiration! I also teach and find it extremely difficult to write and maintain a full-time position. Right now I struggle with how to be a mom, a teacher, and a writer. It helps to know that I am not alone in my feelings.
    Thanks!

  20. Renee M March 10, 2012 / 2:03 pm

    The shift to full-time writing is a huge risk that most writers rarely talk about, in terms of security and financial stability. Best of luck to you, Andrea, and I can’t wait to read BLOODROSE.

  21. meg March 10, 2012 / 6:26 pm

    So inspiring! I left sciences for art so it’s great to read a success story 🙂 Thank you so much for bringing Calla and the Pack *coughRencough* into being.

  22. ferretvamp14 March 12, 2012 / 10:50 pm

    I can’t believe Buffy couldn’t console you! Not even season 2?! Loved the post. Can’t wait to get my hands on Bloodrose. Team Ren!!! Thanks for the giveaway!

  23. Arla March 15, 2012 / 10:41 am

    I think horses are beautiful creatures, but I’m scared to death of them. So glad that Andrea turned a misfortune into something spectacular that we can all benefit from. I have loved this series since page one.

  24. Doodle March 15, 2012 / 12:57 pm

    I love horses! Great interview! Thanks for sharing.

  25. Jen @ Midnight Book Thief March 16, 2012 / 3:05 am

    I loved the way how you started to write! 😀 But yeah, horses scare me… 😛

  26. Becky March 16, 2012 / 9:15 am

    Wonderful post! I adore this series, Andrea. Congrats to you and full time writing!

  27. zaraalexis March 16, 2012 / 10:33 am

    I admire your courage in making a choice between your work and full-time writing. Writing is a passion for most, but to do it full-time takes risk and commitment. I applaud you! I loved it when you wrote:

    “I could have made that choice, but my turning point had set me on another path. What I wanted was to be a full-time writer. A writer who could lose herself in her books without apology.”

    And now you don’t have to apologize. Congratulations of the success of your book and thanks for sharing your writing turning point with us. These posts are always encouraging.

    Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

  28. jovialvampyre March 16, 2012 / 11:14 am

    This is a fantastic series. Very different take on the wolf shifter. I really enjoy reading Andrea’s books.

  29. Crystal F March 16, 2012 / 11:34 am

    I love this series. I also love this guest blog. I love that Andrea has chosen to follow her dream and completely understand how hard it is to make those decisions. Good luck living your dream Andrea! You can make it work and I can’t wait to read more of your books.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  30. Carrie March 16, 2012 / 12:15 pm

    I’m so excited to read this series!

  31. Valia March 16, 2012 / 12:28 pm

    I adore Andrea’s writing!!! Thanks so much for the post! 😀

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