When Seven is Your Lucky Number...

My newest client, Samantha Vérant, will see her memoir 
published in October 2014 by Sourcebooks in North America. Last week they sold rights to Random House Australia, who have decided to include SEVEN LETTERS FROM PARIS in a new promotion called Random 10, highlighted to booksellers, media and readers.

The story? When Samantha finds seven old love letters from the man she met in Paris when she was 19, she is sorry that she never wrote back to him and decides to track him down on the Internet. An intense email exchange follows, during which they realise the passion is still there. And so, she flies to France…

If you liked Torre DeRoche’s Love with a Chance of Drowning, Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French, Samantha Brick’s Head Over Heels in France or Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris, chances are you’ll love Samantha’s book. Here’s the trailer, which you HAVE to watch!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsKriz2b-Pk

Samantha, your mantra is ‘expect the unexpected’. Why?

It became my mantra when I was staring at the email subject header “Re: Seven Letters from Paris: A Memoir” from Sourcebooks, the publisher I’d submitted my manuscript to five weeks prior. At first, I was afraid to click the email open, fearing the worst: a form rejection letter, as in: 

Dear Author: Thank you for querying your project, but it isn’t the right fit for us. Publishing is a subjective business, though. Good luck!”

Still, a tiny bit of hope fluttered in my heart.

I closed my eyes, whispered ‘expect the unexpected,’ and clicked. I found a request for the full the manuscript. I read through the email five times, stunned, before sending the manuscript off to the requesting editor.

Three days later, I received another email from Sourcebooks, same header. Again, I repeated my new mantra: Expect the unexpected. Expect the unexpected. Expect the unexpected. This was in between repeating the following: “Please, not a rejection! No, not a rejection! Their response was lightning quick! It has to be a rejection.”

When I finally gathered up the courage to read the email, the unexpected happened again. I’d received an offer of publication from Anna Klenke, my now editor at Sourcebooks. Recently, Random House Australia bought the foreign rights to Seven Letters. I wasn’t expecting this or the exciting jump-out-of-my-pants news they were including my memoir in the Random 10, part of a new marketing initiative.

Is SEVEN LETTERS your first book, and was it easy to find a publisher?

Seven Letters is my first published book for the adult market. I’ve been writing for about seven years, initially trying my hand at middle grade and young adult. (Yes, seven is my lucky number.) My first attempt, Survival of the Weirdest, a middle grade adventure, was one hot mess, but I hooked up with other writers, and was told I had something: a voice. It took me a while to learn the craft, and I’m still improving, which is why I try to write every day. (One day, I hope to get back to that book. It’s my “pet” project!) 

My second attempt, King of the Mutants, also middle grade, will be published by Month9Books in October of 2014. Writers? We have to keep writing...and develop an iron gut. Finding a publisher or an agent in this market is extremely tough.

My yellow-brick road to publication was paved with a barbed wire path, a lot of frustration, more than a few sobs, and rejection galore. In the beginning, I made every mistake in the book – sending out hair-raising queries, work that wasn’t ready, etc. Now, seven years later, I’ve learned the two most important rules: 1) Patience really is a virtue and 2) Giving up is not an option.

When it came to getting Seven Letters out into the world, I did have some luck in the beginning. I began contacting agents, sent off twenty-one queries, and received an offer of representation. Unfortunately, at this time an article bashing 'me'-moirs created some havoc, so we decided to hold off on submissions until the market for memoir heated up. Then my wonderful agent left the business. After facing a very tough decision, I decided to leave the agency and revise my manuscript. I hired freelance editor Jay Schaefer of Under the Tuscan Sun fame. Two developmental edits and six months later, Seven Letters was ready for its second chance.

Me? I believe in second chances.

Sourcebooks was the first publishing house I approached on my own. Something in my gut told me this house was 'the one'. It was.

Long story short: I believed in myself. I believed in my story. And I never gave up. I also found the right people who believed in me. Support is paramount!

Would you call SEVEN LETTERS a love story, or is it more than that?

Yes! Seven Letters is more than just a love story about rekindling a relationship with a sexy French rocket scientist who got away. It’s a story about second chances in both life and in love. It’s about loving the people who matter most in your life, like the mom who raised you on her own until you were five, or the dad who adopted you, counting you as one of his own. It’s a story about parenthood, about loving two step-kids who lost their mother to cancer, about the dad who was looking for somebody who would love them as much as he does. It’s a story about friendship and sisterhood, and how the people who care about you come running to your side, even if you’ve pushed them away. Ultimately, Seven Letters delivers a message of hope.

How has your life changed in the last few years?

Oh my god. Where do I begin? When I moved to France, I jumped into a new life, but forgot to pack a parachute. There were some major hurdles to overcome, not limited to becoming an immigrant and instant step-mom. But the major lesson I learned is that with love on my side, and with fear slowly leaving my system, I could do anything, which includes building a kitchen, a bedroom, and bathroom from scratch (nothing tests love like DIY home renovation projects), and, more recently, beheading a turkey with my husband’s electric saw for our first Thanksgiving dinner in France. In order to survive this new life, I’ve learned how to adjust and adapt, and I’ve grown. Every day is an adventure. To quote my all-time favourite old movie, Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell: 

“Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

What next?

As you know, the work never ends once a publisher purchases a book. I’ve completed all developmental edits, but production and copy edits hit next. Admittedly, it’s all been quite fun. Next up: promotion, and trying a way to do it that isn’t obtrusive, like submitting content to magazines, newspapers, and high-profile blogs. I’m also planning the next stages of my writing career.

On a personal note, last year I received my niveau 1, or open water, diving license, which is what happens when your rocket scientist husband is also a dive master and both of your kids are certified. Believe me, this wasn’t easy, but, eventually, I got over my fears of dying a slow and painful death because my tank runs out of air. This year I’m going for my PE 40, allowing me to dive forty meters. I’m a travel junkie at heart and now there’s a whole beautiful underwater world I’ll be able to explore.

What’s with the big cat? 

Ha! Yes, the big cat. I’ve always been an animal lover, especially big cats. One year, I volunteered at animal sanctuary in California. Little known fact: lions go crazy when smelling Vick’s Vapo Rub. They love it! Anyway, it was at this animal sanctuary I learned to chuff with the tigers, the breathy snort they make when they are content. On a trip to Thailand several years ago, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interact with Behem, the Bengal at the Phuket Zoo. He chuffed. I chuffed back. Then he got bored with me, hence the big yawn. 

I’ve always dreamed about running an animal sanctuary. Real life says that won’t happen (I’d probably lose a limb), but I could do the next best thing: write about protecting endangered species, which is the theme in Survival of the Weirdest. Today, I am the very proud owner of a ridiculously expensive Bengal cat. Bella may be a pint-sized panther, but when she purrs it’s huge, almost like a tiger’s chuff. Dreams, well, they have a way of metamorphosing.

Expect the unexpected!

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