Here’s the February post for the Author Dream Series where guest authors talk about their writing dreams. Please welcome author Christina Hoag!
When I was about six years old, I won a prize for “writing interesting stories” so I think writing was a gift I was born with. As a kid, I loved books – I devoured them. My mother would buy me a book on a shopping trip and by the time we got home, I had finished it, then I felt sad that I no longer had anything new to read! Loving books so much made me want to write them when I grew up. That was my dream from a very early age.
In high school, I discovered journalism – a career that would pay me to write! So although I wrote short stories on and off and took a couple creative writing courses over the next twenty years, my journalism career was really my focus. Fiction took a definite backseat, although it was always there in the background, waiting to get out. I just didn’t really know how to go about it. Anytime I launched a writing effort, I got discouraged early on.
It wasn’t until I became a single mother with a young son that I decided to fulfill my girlhood dream in earnest. I don’t know what triggered it exactly. Maybe it was that I no longer found journalism as fulfilling as I had, or maybe because having a child made my life that much more structured so I could develop a real writing routine and discipline.
I would get up at five in the morning to write in predawn hours, stopping at seven to wake my son and get him ready for school and me ready for work at my newspaper, the Miami Herald, where I was a business reporter. Waking up so early, however, made me flag by midafternoon. I usually took a ten-minute nap on the sofa in the ladies room around three p.m., which prompted many questions: “Are you all right?” I’d say I was fine, then get up, file my story and head home.
I finished that novel. It was no good, of course, but I’d finished. I knew it needed rewriting but I didn’t know what to do with it so I started another, which eventually became Skin of Tattoos. Now I knew I could finish a novel, my dream became getting one published!
I finished it and now I needed an agent, part A of the publication dream. After some 90 queries, I got an agent, who wasn’t very good and coming to that realization was painful. I moved on, rewrote my novel and started querying agents again, this time signing with a good one.
Now on to Part B of the dream-being published. Again, it was not to be. After two years of countless rejections, my agent and I parted ways. But I knew I had a good manuscript. I revised again, cutting over 10,000 words, and sent it out on my own. Six months later, I had a publishing contract.
While that book was on submission, I wrote a third book, a YA called Girl on the Brink, which both agents had scorned because I had made the mistake of showed them early drafts, naively thinking they would help me refine it. I tried to get a YA agent but there was no interest. I revised and revised and sent it out on my own, and finally got a deal. As with Skin of Tattoos, it was with a small, unknown publisher, but I didn’t care. I was going to be published.
Funnily enough, both books were released in August. I was elated. I’d done it! I’d accomplished my dream and I’d published not one, but two novels, after many years and untold disappointment and rejection. I learned there were alternate routes to accomplish my dream and all it took was perseverance and initiative.
My dream doesn’t end there, however. I want to move my literary career to the next step and expand my readership, but for that I need a major publisher to get the editing help and exposure that I need to do that. So my dream is still much the same as at the beginning except now I know that if it doesn’t work out one way, it will work out another.
About the Author
Christina Hoag is a former journalist who’s been threatened by a death-row murderer, had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and phone tapped in Venezuela, suspected of drug trafficking in Guyana, hidden under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail, interviewed gang members, bank robbers, gunmen, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Kirkus Reviews praised Christina as a “talented writer” in her debut novel Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown Publishing, 2016), a gangland thriller. Her YA thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice, 2016) was named Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 YA.
She also writes nonfiction, co-authoring Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence (Turner Publishing, 2014), a groundbreaking book on violence intervention used in several universities. She currently makes her home in Los Angeles and lives on the web at www.christinahoag.com.
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