When a book sings
Don’t quit your day job, people tell new writers. Bestselling author Nalini Singh did right after selling her first book. She tells about teaching in Japan while establishing herself as a full-time writer.
How did you react to your first sale?
Well, you know what they say, don’t quit your day job. So I sold my first book and I quit my day job because as I said, it’s my passion. And I thought, if I’m going to do this, if I’m going to pursue this, I need to give it a real shot. I need to take this chance. So in New Zealand and in Australia, quite often, we do our OE. We go overseas for a couple of years in our early 20s and I hadn’t done that. I’d gone straight from university to work and so I thought, well, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll combine the two and I will have this period where I’m giving myself a real shot at pursuing what I love. And I had studied Japanese in high school and actually a year at university as well and one of the other lawyers at the firm had been on the JET program and so he told me about it and I thought, that’s really cool. I had been thinking about that anyway, and so I applied and yeah, I got in.
So yeah, I did end up around a relatively small town and there were like rice fields and tea plantations and I had my bicycle to go around the city and it was great. I had really good hours compared to working in a law firm and I had a lot of writing time and on the weekends and stuff because there was not a lot of distraction. It wasn’t like being in Tokyo, there’s stuff happening all the time. It was lovely. It was just peaceful and just a really lovely environment and nice people and I just went there determined to write, so I wasn’t wasting my time that I had and I really utilized that time and I—yeah, just went for it.
What did you write while you were there?
I was under contract with Silhouette when I went, so I was fulfilling my contract and I think I got another contract while there and did that. But then actually the guidelines changed for Silhouette and I had trouble selling to them. But I had always also worked on the paranormal stuff because as I said, I love fantasy and science fiction as well and with paranormal romance, it’s like the perfect amalgamation. So I had time because I wasn’t under contract or I had something but it wasn’t due, and so I just sat down and wrote this book. I had this idea and I just ran with it. Honestly, I wrote the first draft in three weeks around my job and it was a good draft. And I mean, usually my first drafts are very rough. I call them like my version of an outline, but this book, because I think I had been thinking about the ideas for so long that when Slave to Sensation, it just wanted to come out and it was just like this intense—literally, that’s all I did. I would go to work. I would come home, put my bag down, open the laptop, write until—I would eat something, like peanut butter toast. It’s true. I ate peanut butter toast for like three weeks, and then I would stop and then I would just go back to work and work until I couldn’t stay awake any longer and then just do that again. And in the weekends, I would write like 10-15,000 words, but it was—I don’t know how to explain it. It’s that intensity of feeling that it’s time for this book to be written and I had that same feeling with my very first sale. It’s that point where you know a book sings. This book has something special. Yeah, so it was amazing. It really was.
How did you find a home for it?
And so I researched agents first and it was quite close to when I finished the book, when I was editing it, because I knew I would need an agent when I had the editing done, and yeah, started sending out queries and I actually signed with my agent relatively fast. And one of the things that was important to me was that the agency could work with me online, like through email, that they’d be comfortable because obviously I was in Japan and then I’d be in New Zealand, so we couldn’t be calling each other all the time or I couldn’t be sending them hard copy all the time.
All I wanted, my goal was to make a living at writing. That has been my goal, to make enough money that I can do this for a living. And so when we sold that series, I just thought, oh. I just couldn’t believe it. It was unbelievable. I actually remember calling—when I found out, I was actually teaching in Japan and I was in the school staff room and they knew that I was a writer, but when I found out, it came through on my cell phone, the message from my agent and so I sort of snuck outside and called my mom from my cell phone, international cell phone call, and back then it was just like really expensive, but I couldn’t wait and I had to tell her that we had sold at auction. I was so happy and because she has been so supportive of my work, I wanted her to be the first person to know.