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Saturday, December 07, 2013

Michelle's Fairy Tale ~ My Nightmare. . . . Or Not

Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. In addition to being an award-winning novelist, she serves as an acquisitions and content editor for WhiteFire Publishing. Join her as she explores the unforced rhythms of grace.

Recently I read Michelle Griep's Novel Rocket post about her fairy tale publishing journey with David C. Cook's digital first line (A True Fairy Tale). A year ago I was living out a similar fairy tale. With one small press historical under my belt, I was encouraged to write a historical romance. Less than twelve months after I even had the idea for this book, Love in Three-Quarter Time released through a brand new digital first line with a very well-respected company. 

But as so often happens in the publishing industry, my experience did not turn out to be a fairy tale. It turned into something more along the lines of a nightmare.

After releasing my lone little book, the new line shut down. I understood this, really I did. I took a risk along with them, and this time around, the risk didn't pay off. But the short version is that my lone little book for the most part fizzled along with the line.

At this point in my career, I turned to God with a lot of tears and anguish. What should I have done differently? Honestly, I couldn't think of a single thing. All that came to mind was an article Gina Holmes wrote in 2011 about God damming up our writing careers (Dam Isn't a Four-Letter Word). The basic idea was that sometimes, even though we are ready as writers, due to other issues in our personal or professional lives, the timing just isn't right.

Now here's the part of the story I didn't mention. Love in Three-Quarter Time was my second published novel, but it was actually the THIRD novel I'd written. In between my first historical and this one, God had laid on my heart the story of a contemporary Muslim woman living in America and her interactions with a blond ballerina wounded by church and a bi-racial hippie chick of the New Age persuasion. A story full of humor, drama, and romance, but much more issue-driven than my other novels. My husband is from the Middle East, and he works in ministry to Muslims, so this story was very special to me.

This is the book that caught my current agent's attention, even though she wasn't sure she could sell it. Evidently the publishers felt the same way, because it had a habit of sitting in committee for lengthy periods of time. Meanwhile, a part of me wasn't sure I even wanted it to sell. I didn't want to be branded as a contemporary “women's fiction” writer. Not to mention that my cross-cultural marriage seemed to be perpetually in crisis, and I wasn't sure if it would be a good career move to highlight that area of my life. Most importantly, though, I was concerned that I might draw negative attention from Muslim readers, and I just wasn't sure how safe that would be.

Around the same time that Love in Three-Quarter time released, due to my husband's involvement with Muslims, we received some threats against our family. At first we were panic-stricken, but before long we adjusted to this new reality. Consequently, my contemporary novel (which is in fact very respectful and loving towards Muslims) now seemed like the least of our problems.

Another thing changed over that year. Suddenly, “New Adult” fiction became the hot thing everyone was talking about. With my twenty something characters searching for meaning and identity, I no longer had to pigeonhole my book as women's fiction just to find a genre that fit.

So back to my publishing story. When spring of 2013 rolled around and I realized that I might not have a 2013 release, I decided to just go for it. I also work as an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing, so I asked the owners if they'd like to publish my contemporary novel, Dance from Deep Within. Since Roseanna White had been my critique partner on this project and loved it from the beginning, it was a no-brainer.

Another year has past, and Dance from Deep Within released in November. I can't help but think this must have been God's plan all along. If my historical romance had been wildly successful, it would have been a bad career move for me to switch to contemporary so soon. And now I can even announce, my new contemporary novel is going to be a trilogy. I might not make tens of thousands of dollars on this project. And I still want to write historicals too. However, this was the book of my heart. 

Now, like Gina, I look back and see that God “dammed up” my career for a purpose. And is it any good? I'll leave you with Novel Rocket's own James Rubart's thoughts on the subject:

“This is not my kind of book. So when I say it went deep into my heart, you’ll know it’s a story that will impact you no matter what genre you typically read. This novel will open your eyes. You’ll start seeing the people around you in a vastly different way than you do right now. And you can’t help but be changed by the three young women who Sleiman portrays with authenticity, penetrating insight, and well crafted prose.” 
~James L. Rubart Bestselling author of Soul’s Gate, and Memory’s Door.

Dance From Deep Within
Despite her conservative Muslim heritage, Layla Al-Rai longs for a chance to earn her degree in engineering and perhaps even...dare she dream...to choose her own husband. But young women from her background rarely enjoy such freedoms. When she finally talks her parents into letting her attend college, she is drawn to fellow twenty-something students, Allie and Rain, over a class project. Allie, the blonde ballerina, faces her own struggles as she deals with an ex-fiancé and a church she had hoped to leave behind. Rain, the bi-racial hippie chick, longs for something to believe in, but her questioning could cost her the love of her life. When Layla s childhood sweetheart reenters her world, it seems her dreams might become real. Until everything falls apart. When she meets truth face to face, will she find the courage to accept it even if it requires the ultimate sacrifice? 

12 comments:

Suzie Johnson said...

Dina, as I read this, this scripure, came to mind:
Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not grow faint.
Isaiah 40:31
Dina, it fits your journey. I'm praying God's blessing on you with this book, and your future and past books.

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks so much, Suzie :)

scatterwisdom said...

I always will remember my grammar school nun repeating her practical words of wisdom and spiritual inspiration whenever anyone was discouraged about their schoolwork.

"If at first you don't succeed, try,try again."'

You may have received a numinous touch from both her wise words and advise and her prayers.

Regards and good will blogging.

Ane Mulligan said...

How well I understand your journey, Dina. And I love the scripture Suzie mentioned. I'm more than thrilled that your found an article our founder, Gina Holmes (and my critique partner along with Michelle) wrote here on Novel Rocket. I'll be watching how these books to and congratulations!

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Thank you for sharing, Dina, and all the best with your new book! Sharing this on twitter now.

Dina Sleiman said...

Classic advice. Thanks :)

Dina Sleiman said...

We've both been on this journey for a while, Ane. I'm glad to hear things are looking up for you too!

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks, Heather. Please do!!!

Richard Mabry said...

Dina, thrilled that things seem to have taken a turn for the better. God's timing is perfect, isn't it? Congratulations on what sounds like a great book.

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks so much. And yes, God's timing is indeed perfect!

Normandie Ward Fischer said...

Love the story of your journey, Dina. I know the Lord has great things in store for you as you follow your heart. And, yay, WhiteFire for believing in these stories of ours that others thought a little too...something.

Dina Sleiman said...

Yes, I'm so thankful for them. This book doesn't fit easily into any of the typical novel categories, and it is a blessing to find a small company that thinks outside of the box and is willing to take a chance.