Today, it is my honor to welcome my long-time writing friend, Rachelle Harp, to this blog. Ours is a relationship where iron has definitely sharpened iron, especially in the writing craft.
We’re celebrating the release of her debut novel, The Breakout, a fascinating story that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and highly recommend. Rachelle will be with us three times over the next few weeks sharing her writing journey and path to publication. I think she will be an encouragement to all writers.
In this first installment, I’ve asked her to tell us about her book from the first inspiration to publication, including learning the craft, handling rejection, developing a writing community. Without further ado, here is Rachelle Harp.
The inspiration for Trina’s world started back in 1995, though I didn’t know it at the time. I went on a mission trip to Romania, where I was fortunate to serve several communities, as well as many local orphanages.
This was a few years after the curtain of communism lifted from that part of the world. We all were shocked to learn that hundreds of thousands of children were in state-run orphanages, most of which were neglected and rampant with abuse. I met many children who were not “perfect” in the eyes of their former oppressive government. Their experiences touched me to my core.
Fast forward to 2012. I went out on a walk one day, contemplating what my next novel should be. I saw one of those diamond-shaped school zone signs, warning people to proceed with caution. It made me wonder what a future society would be like that used zones to separate people and keep many people out. What if they were outcasts? What if they weren’t perfect? Who were these rejected people living in these forbidden zones? And Jarek was born.
Then I wondered who the people were that created these zones and why they did it? What was their society like in their “perfect” zones? Were children taken at an early age through some detection method to live there and be raised there? Thus the inspiration for the Genetic Census. And Trina and Kalen were born.
I spent the next year writing the first draft and running it by my critique partners. Henry gave terrific advice and feedback. I’d been involved with various writing groups before this and spent many years of self-study as well. Honing your craft of writing is essential. And it’s crucial to have a group of writers you can grow with as well. Without them or those groups, I probably would have given up long ago.
Eventually, I thought the book was ready to send out. I heard about a contest at the former Novel Rocket website. I decided to enter it, mostly hoping for the feedback from the judges that would be helpful since they were professionals. I was so surprised to get the email a few weeks later that I’d won the spec fiction category and would be eligible for the grand prize. A few weeks later, I got the fantastic news that I’d won the overall award as well. I was elated. I had also entered the book in another contest for the San Francisco Writers Conference and found out shortly after that I’d won the YA category as well.
With all of this good news, I thought it surely won’t be long now. I started submitting to agents. I received many requests for more material, but received pretty much the same response from everybody—dystopian novels flooded the market, many trying to capture the magic of the recently released Hunger Games.
I received dozens of rejections, which was pretty discouraging. I decided to start a new project, so set this book aside for a while. After I finished my next book and received lots of rejections on it, I thought, I’ll give The Breakout another shot because I really love the story. I sent it to a few small presses and waited and waited and waited. Then in April of this year, I received an offer from my publisher, 48fourteen, which I gladly accepted. We spent the next few months editing, proofing, formatting, cover designing, and preparing to launch the book. My experience with them has been nothing but positive. The team there is so knowledgeable and professional—I’m so grateful they fell in love with my book — finally, the book released at the beginning of this past November.
Henry again. I urge you to check out this outstanding novel. If you like it, please take a few moments to post a review on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.