November 15, 2012

Meet Kim Flowers!

My debut novel was published through Queerteen Press in September, so in honor of that I would like to host a giveaway for a free e-book here. I'd also like to talk about the journey I went on to write this novel ... 20 years passed from the time I wrote the first draft to the time it was put in print!

I began the first draft of No Turning Back when I was eleven. Except it was called "Marooned" and the characters were different: 3 boys and 1 girl. In this version, runaway kids build a boat and sail it off the coast of Maine until they reach an island. This was definitely inspired by some random video we watched in 6th grade and Gilligan's Island. Then I realized that eleven-year-olds building a boat to sail the ocean was ridiculous and started over with "Running Away," which had a lot more of a Punky Brewster feel and included an "orphan's truck" which chased after my characters like a dog catcher. I completed that draft at about a hundred handwritten pages, but lost it a few years ago. My favorite memory of that draft is when the kids meet a homeless person in the woods, "an old man, about 40," who hobbles around using a stick as a cane. You could see where I had previously written that the man was 30 and erased it!

At age 12 I wrote another draft with new characters and ages, including 4 of the 5 characters that exist today. Somewhere in this time period the title changed to No Turning Back. I remember the day I thought to myself that I couldn't wait to meet Ash, Dayna, and Kevin, and then realized I had made them up. In these drafts, there were also times I would write certain scenes and then feel guilty and cross them out. These scenes always involved Ash and Dayna.

In high school Jon-Allen was added to the group. There were many times I stayed after school and spent an hour in the weight room and an hour in the newspaper classroom, transferring my book from typewritten form to the computer. I also decided at this time that I should be a Christian writer, and the biggest theme in the book became Ash's conversion of Dayna and Kevin to Christianity. I still had to keep deleting scenes where Ash and Dayna got a little too touchy-feely, though.

During my brief experience in college, I did some editing and thought my story was ready for publication. At this point I had rewritten the entire book in pencil, typewriter, and computer format at least ten times. At age 21 I sent a query and sample chapters to a Christian publishing company, even though I had come out as a lesbian right after high school and didn't consider myself Christian anymore. At the time I just couldn't picture my book written any other way. My query was returned, the chapters unread, with a form letter saying I needed an agent. I had no idea how to find an agent, and was under the mistaken impression that agents require payment up front, so my writing suffered for several years after this. I didn't know who to go to for help; I didn't know how to learn what to do. Sometimes I would start a new idea, but it would fizzle out. Sometimes I would half-heartedly read over No Turning Back and then quit. Sometimes I wrote a short story in which everyone died tragically mid-plot. But I did keep reading.

At age 27, I found the Writer's Digest Writing Forums. I lost all the files to my old version of NTB, so I started over from scratch, with no preaching. I also started experimenting with writing short stories in different genres, so my first visit to the Forum was to Sci-Fi/Fantasy, even though I don't really write in those genres! (I like to read them, though.) I have learned SO MUCH through that group! But I didn't want to limit myself to only one group, so have also visited Absolute Write, and continued to read a lot, and took a course through Long Ridge Writer's Group.

At 29 my wife and I had a wedding ceremony, and I also had a baby boy. My son inspired me to stop being afraid of submitting my work. I realized that after all this time of telling myself to wait until I was "ready," the time had come and I really was ready. I got my first non-fiction pieces published just a few months after deciding to make real submissions.

In finishing the final draft of No Turning Back, I also decided to write a certain scene involving Ash and Dayna to get it out of my system. When I wrote the scene, I realized the missing piece to my story was complete: I had lesbian characters in my book who had been trying to get out since I was a kid.

After at least 40 agent rejections, I began researching small publishing companies. According to what I have read about the writing market, the book I wrote has a very small chance of being considered "marketable" by a mainstream publisher, mostly because there are young, lesbian characters. When I saw the web site for Queerteen Press, I knew I'd found a place that might give me a chance. And they did!

I've heard it said that writers must write several books before they become competent enough to get anything published. I'm hoping I beat the curve by writing the same book over and over again instead of ten different ones! The novel I began writing at age 11 was published a few months after I turned 31.

Fortunately for us all, it didn't take me nearly as long to write my second book!

Kim Flowers

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