StarMark is so much a part of my life now, I tend to forget that some folk don't know anything about it. So, forgive this little indulgence of mine, but I'm going to tell you about it.
The book is a middle-grade fantasy (for the Brits, that means it probably sits in the 9-12 age bracket) about a girl called Irvana. The story is built around the fact that Irvana has a secret...but is completely unaware of it. The problems start when someone else discovers this secret before she does - and as a result, Irvana's life is threatened. When she does realise the secret she holds, she has to fight - with the help of friends - to regain what should have been her birthright. The StarMark of the title is a birthmark - black on the skin at birth, but turning to gold when the StarChain is worn at the point of succession by the new overlord of Koltarn.
The story began life way back, around 2008, I think. I sent it off (as you do, when you're an inexperienced newbie writer) to agents and publishing houses galore, only to have it firmly rejected by every single one.
And there, the real story of StarMark's writing begins...
October 2009 - first critique by Writer's Workshop. StarMark is roundly slammed for being inappropriate for children (too many adult themes).
October 2010 - a new version of StarMark is produced, taking into account everything that was wrong in the first critique. Second WW critique with the lovely Debi Alper - who said it had potential.
February 2011 - 3rd WW critique, also with Debi. Finally feeling like it's polished enough to send to agents. Make tentative enquiries with a local agent who asked to see the first few chapters. By the end of the month, I had an agent.
October 2011 - after a bit more tweaking, StarMark is sent out to publishers. All say no. Begin writing another novel - 'Rurik'. StarMark is shelved.
May 2013 - after not managing to tweak 'Rurik' to meet the agent's requirements, part from said agent.
September 2014 - can't let go of StarMark. More work, more editing, with the view of self-pubbing after the success of Granny Rainbow. Took it to York for agent's comments. Was asked by one agent whether I really believed enough in this story to rework it again and make it good? I decided I did.
late 2014 - submitted to Bedazzled Ink firmly believing that they'd say 'no', which would justify me self-pubbing as I'd planned.
January 2, 2015 - hear back from Bink - who offered me a contract!
September 2015 - StarMark gets a cover.
From September 2015 until whenever - editing!
April 2016 - fingers crossed: publication.
If you take into account the time I took prior to that first critique to actually write the story, I reckon it'll have taken StarMark around eight years to go from conception to publication. There is no overnight success...
What have I learned from the process so far?
Well, I suppose the main thing is don't give up on a story if you believe in it; if it's the one that fires you up, that's a story you simply HAVE to tell, do it!
The second is never stop trying to improve your writing skills. Learn all you can - from courses, from fellow writers, from readers... listen to advice and make it work for you. I certainly wouldn't be in the position I'm in if I'd stuck with the dreadful (I can admit it now) version of the first critique.
So there you go - all you ever wanted to know about StarMark - so far!