Reflections on signing a publishing contract

The life of a writer is a life of rejection. As a writer of novels, short fiction and plays, I’ve spent years being turned down by publishers, agents, literary magazines, theatre companies, granting councils: you name it.

You need a thick skin, but really no skin is thick enough to keep out the doubt and the suspicion that, maybe, these people saying ‘No’ all the time are onto something.

A few years ago, when I was in a down phase, I read an interview with the actor Chris Pratt, who was reminiscing about the years before his breakout role in Parks and Recreation, when he couldn’t get an acting job to save his life. One phrase stuck out in that story: “It’ll break before you do.”

It broke for me this fall.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve just signed a contract with Five Star Publishing, a Maine-based publisher specializing in fiction and non-fiction about the frontier, for my novel Prodigies.

Prodigies is a crossover novel, with elements of the superhero story contained within an otherwise realistic western, set in Deadwood in the 1870s (as well as in New York’s famed Five Points and various locales in the south and midwest). It’s the story of three young people with uncanny gifts who become embroiled in a megalomaniacal Robber Baron’s dreams of national domination. It’s a story of fast guns, fast talkers, entertainers, inventors, storytellers, dreamers and those haunted by nightmares.

I began the research for Prodigies even before I knew I wanted to write a western novel (the research began with my play about the missing years in the life of Manitoba’s founder and prophet Louis Riel). Then I spent a couple of years writing and polishing the novel before I was ready to start submitting. During that time, the encouragement and input of my writing group, The Cattywampuses, was one of those things that kept me going, kept me believing that Pratt’s prediction could come true.

And now, as I prepare for the pre-publication edits for Prodigies, I’m spinning through all the possibilities for a sequel. As I write this, I’ve just returned from South America, and I can’t help but reflect on the fact that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid tried hiding out on that continent. Could that be part of the setting of Prodigies II?