Luck, timing, & fairy dust
How did author Cindy Gerard make the leap from categories to single-title? It wasn’t easy—and it wasn’t entirely planned! Gerard shares how she first began writing for Silhouette Desire and Bantam Loveswept, and how she transitioned to writing the single-title romantic suspense novels that made her a New York Times-bestselling author.
Living in a small town you work just whatever comes up. I actually at one point—I worked at a lumberyard as their bookkeeper, accountant. I worked in a men’s clothing store, sporting goods store combination. So, at one point there I was a clerk. I was a seamstress. I did the alterations. I did the books, and I sold shotguns. And I can tell you anything you want to know about a Remington 870 pump or any other gun there might be. I also got pretty good at fishing lures because they sold those, too. So, I did that and then eventually I was able to get a position with the state of Iowa.
I worked for the Department of Human Services. And I started as a caseworker. And I was responsible for administering all the categorical assistance programs like food stamps, it was called then, and ADC, Aid to Dependent Children, the Title 19 programs, nursing home support. So, I worked at that for probably about 16 years as a caseworker. And then I worked my way up into a policy specialist and then eventually was recruited to be a trainer for the state. And in the meantime, my husband and I also had a restaurant and a supper club. So, I always worked there on weekends, as well. So between the two of us we had a lot of things going. And whenever I could carve out a little niche to write, I did. And at that time, I was really hungry to make that sale. I had been bitten by that bug, and I was going to do it.
I was to the point where I was working full time, and then just carving time out of nights and weekends to write. And I was turning in an average of two books per year. So, it was a pretty tough schedule, but not as tough as some of the women who have little ones at home. So, for that I was fortunate. So when my job at DHS—everything changed, and I had an option of either taking a layoff or taking a bump down, I just decided to just take the layoff. I just figured I could always get back in with them if this writing thing full time didn’t work out. But before I did make that decision, I did contact my editor at the house I was writing for at that time to ask, “Could—would you give me more work if I could give you more work?” And they said, “Absolutely. We would take three or four books from you a year, if you could do that.” And I said, “Okay, great.” And I said, “I’ve got this great idea.” And I passed—ran it by her, and she says, “Perfect.”
And so, I submitted a proposal for four books, and the new senior editor came in, and didn’t like it one bit. And there I was without a job and without a contract.
How did you make the switch?
Well, I worked with my agent a long time on those proposals, because I was used to writing books with the emphasis on the romance and the relationship. Since I was switching gears into single-title bigger books, I had to revamp my whole way of thinking and creating the story, so that the emphasis was on the plot and the relationship was secondary. So that was new to me. I mean the plots were all there. It’s just that when I wrote my synopsis, I was still in the relationship-building mode where the plot was secondary, and I just had to switch that around. So, what I ended up doing is I wrote three very long synopses, long for what most editors want to read, but my agent was insistent that I really had to have a good grasp on the story and be able to show them what I was capable of producing.
And I think that was very wise on her part to have my do that. I could have completed a manuscript and sent it, and probably not gotten the same impact as putting the three books together. And those three books turned into three more, and then those spun off into yet another series, and then they second series, each one was a New York Times print list bestseller. So I kind of cut my teeth as I went, and ended up very fortunate, very fortunate. Luck, timing, and fairy dust plays a big, big part in all this.