Then and Now: Becoming Josephine, by Heather Webb

Becoming Josephine cover

I can’t believe a year has passed since I started ‘Then and Now’. What began as a very simple idea to look at writer success stories has proved to be so inspiring.

To round off a wonderful year of positive tales of getting there, I’m so thrilled to invite Heather Webb to the blog. Heather’s debut novel BECOMING JOSEPHINE is published at the end of this month and I just know it will go on to do great things in 2014.

Heather has worked extremely hard at her craft and is proof that doing your homework and learning about the publishing industry is as important as writing the book. She told me all about her very interesting path to publication.

What stage were you at with your writing this time last year?

Last October, I was eagerly awaiting my agent’s final comments on my manuscript. By the final week of October, we went out on submission, and the week after Thanksgiving, I got THE CALL! We had a very interested editor at Plume who wanted to buy my debut.

What important decisions did you make in the last twelve months?
Many! I was teaching geography at a local college this past spring and the preparation and paper grading was killing me. It gobbled up all of my writing time, which stressed me out and made me miserable. I made the decision to resign from formal classes and to stick with the publishing courses I teach in continuing education instead.

Can you tell us how you found your agent.
It wasn’t an easy process! I suspect it never is, though I feel incredibly fortunate with how my situation worked out. I spent about two years writing and revising, then I began to attend conferences–both to learn about the business and to connect with agents. After going to a few and pitching to agents, I gathered my nerve and sent out all requested material and a round of queries. I had two rejections right off the bat and the rest were “rewrite & resubmit”, a pretty good success rate. But at that point I realized the book wasn’t ready. So I sat on my manuscript the following six months and revised the heck out of it.

I found new critique partners and really pored over my edits. At the end of that six month period, I attended another conference, armed with the best query I could write and the most polished novel I could conceive of. I was READY. I could feel it in my bones. And you know what? My instinct was right. I met my agent at that conference and she signed me a month later. The moral of the story is write, revise, revise, revise. And revise some more. Find strong critique partners who are willing to point out the brutal truth. Go to conferences if you can swing it. It’s VERY valuable to meet with agents in person to get a feel for your chemistry with them and also how they work. Ask lots of questions. Be prepared to be flexible about your vision, and above all, keep moving forward with courage and confidence. It’s a tough business, but confidence and hard work will carry you toward your dreams.

What was the pivotal moment for you in the last twelve months? 
I’ve had several pivotal moments this year in my publishing career. The day my book cover released was huge! At last the dream had a face! It seemed so unreal to me still until that moment. Another turning point was my first review when my book became someone else’s! I knew it would happen eventually, but what an exciting and terrifying thing it was to see it actually happen. In October, I reached another turning point–I began to receive interview requests from bloggers and media outlets. And now, I anxiously await my release date!

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt about your writing during the last twelve months?
The most important thing I’ve learned about writing this year is that we can always keep learning and growing. Each book, each set of characters, present their own set of challenges, which is both an exhausting thought and a very exciting one. Without the challenge, I’m not sure writing a book would be any fun.

What are your hopes for the next twelve months?
I’m currently working on a novel set during the Belle Époque, 1880s Paris, in which art, obsession, and madness collide. What are my hopes? That it sells!

Any final thoughts?!
I’m positively thrilled to go on tour! I can’t wait to meet readers and share my love for Josephine with others!
Heather Webb Smiling

About the author
Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around as a contributor to the Editor’s Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular site, Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website or Facebook, or at Goodreads,

Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century- Napoleon Bonaparte.BECOMING JOSEPHINE is a novel of one woman’s journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.
Thank you to Heather for sharing this insight into her path to publication. I wish her every success with BECOMING JOSEPHINE.