Guest Post From Author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Posted 21 March 2012 by

The Writing Road

From the time I taught myself to read at age four — and I can still remember the epiphany I experienced when I realized that words spelled the same way were pronounced the same way and almost always meant the same thing; this led me to realize that reading was going to be much easier than I supposed — I was hooked on writing.  When I found that there was an actual job of being a writer, that’s what I wanted to do.  Originally, I thought that meant plays, and I had a few produced when I was quite young — 9 and 13 — and wrote for a children’s theater company while I was in college, but at twenty-three switched over to fiction, and have only rarely looked back.

My interest in theatrical writing arose from my discovery when I was about five, that although I stammered (still do occasionally, but nothing like when I was a kid) when trying to speak for myself, I could read the writings of others without such difficulty, and decided to do some acting as soon as possible:  I ended up playing one of Richard III’s unfortunate nephews when I was six, and I kept at it steadily until I was twenty-three.

Because I liked science fiction and mysteries — there was only a very small niche for horror in the mid-1960s —  those were the first kinds of stories I wrote; for thirty-five months I kept submitting short works to various magazines, at first getting nothing but form-letter rejects, but after about twenty months, I started receiving personal notes from the editors, which was most encouraging.  So during the day, I worked making maps in the family business, and nights and weekends, I sat at my typewriter and plugged away.  In October,1968, I sent out a short story, and this time it didn’t come back.

As wonderful as many sales can be, there is nothing quite like the first one, and the delicious sense that you have been vindicated, that your conviction that you can tell an interesting story that others would be willing to pay money to read has been proven to be correct.  In the next year I sold three more stories, each time for three times as much as the last — or $20, $60, $180, and $540 — but unfortunately the trend didn’t hold, and I settled in for the grind of learning how to keep working.  I got married in November,1969, and learned to adapt to the new patterns of daily living; shortly thereafter, I lost my job when our major contractor for maps dropped a year’s worth of contracts.  That was when I really learned what it meant to be a professional.

For the first seven years of my career, I sold stories — sometimes long ones, sometimes shorter — most in the science fiction market, but a few in the mystery market: the first mystery story I ever sold was nominated for an Edgar (it didn’t win), but it was most encouraging.

Late in 1975 my new agent sold my first novel from a portion and outline, a mystery novel called Ogilvie, Tallant & Moon, which meant I now had to write it.  After I hung up, I waited twenty minutes, then called the agent back, just to be sure that I hadn’t been dreaming.  Three weeks later, my agent sold a second novel, Time of the Fourth Horseman, an expansion from a novelet of the same name.  I was delighted and giddy and scared half out of my mind; this was the acid test: could I meet both deadlines and would the novels be any good.  The following spring, False Dawn and Hotel Transylvania found homes, and I no longer thought of my sales as flukes. Or not very often.

So here I am, forty-four years out from my first sale, with over 80 books and 75 short stories to my own name and a handful of pseudonyms.  I’ve settled down to an annual production of between three and four books a year, and for the most part, I’ve been able to meet deadlines that go with them, though there have been exceptions, as happens to all of us from time to time.  This isn’t to suggest it has been smooth sailing: far from it.  Most of the time it feels like a ride on a psychotic roller-coaster.  While most of this comes from the mercurial nature of the marketplace — and I have to say, the last three years are the very worst I have ever seen publishing to be in all the time I’ve been selling — but some of it arises from the ordinary exigencies of life.  I have high hopes for e-publishing and e-reprints once they get the legal kinks out of the system, but I also believe that books are not going to “softly and silently vanish away and never be met with again”; they will remain a part of the market, but not in the overwhelming way they have been until very recently.  As one who likes to underline and scribble in the margins of my research books, this pleases me very much — though it makes my collector friends cringe — since I often need to revisit my research sources while I’m working on a specific book or extended story.  With other formats and delivery systems arising almost daily, it’s going to be some time until this all settles down, and riding it out is not likely to be much fun, but it does increase the possibility of keeping a backlist alive, and that alone is cause for optimism, not just for me, but for every writer I know.

About Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is the first woman to be named a Living Legend by the International Horror Guild and is one of only two women ever to be named as Grand Master of the World Horror Convention (2003). In 1995, Yarbro was the only novelist guest of the Romanian government for the First World Dracula Congress, sponsored by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, the Romanian Bureau of Tourism and the Romanian Ministry of Culture.

Yarbro is best known as the creator of the heroic vampire, the Count Saint-Germain. With her creation of Saint-Germain in HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (St. Martin’s Press, 1978), she delved into history and vampiric literature and subverted the standard myth to invent the first vampire who was more honorable, humane, and heroic than most of the humans around him. The 25th volume of the Saint-Germain Cycle, COMMEDIA DELLA MORTE, has just been released by Tor.

A professional writer since 1968, Yarbro has worked in a wide variety of genres, from science fiction to westerns, from young adult adventure to historical horror.

For more information on Yarbro’s many books and interests, check out her website at

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  • Post Title: Guest Post From Author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
  • Date Posted: 21 March 2012
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