I was cleaning the kitchen counter one afternoon in January 2011, when my dogs started barking. It was the FedEx truck. The cheerful driver handed me a flat document package. I wondered if it was a belated Christmas present. When I pulled out the packet of papers inside my heart did a strange gallop in my chest and I thought I might actually faint. It was a publishing contract at long last for my book, From a Distance.
The idea for the book first came to me in a creative writing course I was taking at Southern Illinois University way back in 1992. The assignment only required a short piece, but my story had a mind of its own and went way beyond the minimum word count. But it wasn't complete and there was no time to finish it, because life got hectic after graduation when I became a teacher. My time was spent grading other people's writing with no time to practice my own. My secret dream of being a published writer was put on hold so that I could make a living.
But I continued to work on my book when I could eke out a few hours here and there. And the story evolved and improved with each revision until I had the courage to submit it for publication. I studied the proper way to approach an editor and how to write the cover letter and the query letter and the proper format for the manuscript to be in. (Whatever you do, don't staple it!) And I did it all.
No one was interested. I thought it would help if I got an agent, so I read up on that and approached approximately one million. I eventually badgered an agent until he agreed to accept me as a client. But he couldn't get anyone to look at From a Distance either. He explained how difficult it is for a new writer to break into the field. It's like any new job. They want you to have experience, but no one wants to be the one to give it to you.
The years passed and I stayed busy, but it wasn't writing that filled my days. I didn't even think about it anymore. Then one day I stumbled across a publisher's website. They said they specialized in new and unpublished authors. They said they would read any manuscripts sent to them and respond quickly. That's nice, I thought. So I emailed my manuscript to them.
And then I forgot about it. All I was thinking about was getting the house cleaned and the Christmas decorations put up and the food cooked for all the family that would be converging at my house. When the contract for From a Distance (now known as Time and Again) arrived in January, I was totally surprised.
Then began the revision process, and I was surprised all over again. When I reread my story, I saw that the challenges and struggles of my life were woven all through it. The very lesson my characters learn—that God is good whether we understand our lives or not—is the one I needed to be reminded of. Ironically, re-reading my own book ministered to my wounded heart. I still don't understand why it had to take eighteen years to become an author. Maybe if I could see my life from a distance as Abby and Merrideth see Charlotte’s it would be clearer to me. But that's okay. Now is the right time for me to write.
Today, I am an official, actual author! (I still can’t believe it.) The very week I got the contract, I pulled out the sequel and began where I had left off. And now, Unclaimed Legacy continues the story of Abby, John, and Merri, and I’m hard at work on the third book of the trilogy.
About the Author
Where to buy the books
About the author: Deborah Heal is the author of the young adult novels Time and Again and Unclaimed Legacy. She lives in Waterloo, Illinois, where she enjoys reading, gardening, and learning about southern Illinois history. She is married and has three grown children, three grandchildren, and a canine buddy named Scout (a.k.a. Dr. Bob). Currently, she is working on book three in the Time and Again trilogy. You may learn more about the author by visiting her website: www.deborahheal.com, her Facebook Fan Page, and Goodreads. Her books may be purchased on Amazon.com.