You know how you hear stories about authors who struggled for years to get published, and when it finally happened, they hit it big? Theresa Ragan is one of those authors. After years of rejection despite success in prestigious contests, Theresa thought she had nothing to lose and threw her writing hat into the self-pubbed ring. Turns out, she had lots to gain. In 10 months, she’s sold more than 160,000 books. I’ll wait while you do the math … pretty impressive, huh? Theresa joins HEA to talk about her success, why she loves stories about time travel and what readers can expect to see from her and alter ego T.R. Ragan next.
Joyce: Welcome to HEA, Theresa! And congratulations on your self-pubbing success. Can you tell us what led you to self-publish Return of the Rose?
Theresa: After writing my first book, Return of the Rose, I began sending queries to editors and agents and I joined Romance Writers of America. Over the next 19 years, I worked with two agents and a few editors. I joined critique groups and brainstorming groups. I attended writer conferences all over the U.S. I judged contests, volunteered at conferences, and became newsletter editor of the Sacramento Chapter of RWA. I garnered six finals in RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart contest. I wrote every day and I wrote in many genres in hopes of catching an editor’s attention.
Having read many how-to books, I knew rejection was part of the deal … I just didn’t think it would be this difficult. As I waited for Abducted to be read by my agent, I reread Return of the Rose and decided I was tired of waiting. It was time to give self-publishing a shot. My fourth and youngest child was leaving for college and the pressure was on to get back to work full time. I needed a “real” job that pays. With nothing to lose, I self-published Return of the Rose and A Knight in Central Park. Instead of selling 10 books, I sold thousands! After nearly two decades of working hard to get published, I felt like an overnight success. As of today, I have published six e-books. Because it’s so easy to create print books using templates through CreateSpace, five of my books are also available in print. In 10 months I have sold over 160,000 books.
Joyce: Wow, that’s amazing! And so encouraging for frustrated writers everywhere. Some of my favorite books involve time travel — for example, Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series and Dean Koontz’s Lightning. Were there any books or movies in particular that inspired your time travel story?
Theresa: A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux was the book that inspired me to become a writer. After reading the last page, I knew instantly what I wanted to do with my life. For a few hours I had been taken away to another world and I loved every minute of the ride. I wanted to provide that same escapism to busy moms everywhere. I began researching medieval times and reading lots of romance novels. I spent many hours at the library. I was raising four kids, but I stayed up late and woke up early to write. It’s amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it. That’s when I knew I was a writer. I had found my passion. I love time travels because I want to see how a character handles being thrown into another time. Will they return to their own time? How will they leave all of these people they have come to care about?
Joyce: All five of your novels are on the Amazon Top 100 Best Seller list in their category and two have hit the Top 100 in the overall Kindle Store. I know rejections are kind of a touchy subject with some authors, but considering your resounding success, maybe you’d like to share one of your harshest rejections? (You’re also welcome to do the Neener-Neener Dance.)
Theresa: Rejection is part of the journey and because of the abundance of rejections I have received over the years, I have no fear when it comes to putting my work out there and trying everything. But, that doesn’t mean that some of my rejections didn’t hurt. The harshest rejection I received was one of the most recent ones from a nice editor who supposedly loved my story. We talked at a conference and two or three times on the telephone. At the editor’s request, I added 20,000 words to my novel. My agent approved the changes and sent the book onward. And we never heard from that editor again. Not one peep. And that’s not to say we didn’t try to get in touch with her. We tried. But I guess she wasn’t interested … you think? An e-mail would have been nice or at least a rejection letter to add to my file.