Chelsea Campbell’s FIRE & CHASM, a dark fantasy in which a teen boy with no memory of his childhood puts his murderous impulses to work assassinating wizards in the war between adherents of the church and practitioners of magic, until he discovers one of his targets holds the key to unlocking his forgotten past, pitched as Dexter meets THE AMULET OF SAMARKAND, to Miriam Juskowicz at Skyscape by Holly Root at Waxman Leavell Literary Agency (World).
A million years ago–or maybe it was more like eight–I wrote a book. I freaking loved that book and I put everything I had into it, and I really thought it was The One. (For those of you keeping track, I’ve talked about this book before.) It wasn’t my first book, or the first book I’d sent out–not by a longshot–but it was noticeably better than anything else I’d written. (Little known fact: I actually participated in Miss Snark’s first critique thingy where you sent in your first page and she told you what for. She actually liked mine. My hopes skyrocketed.) I sent it out to agents. I got my first ever request for a partial. Then another request for a partial that later turned into request for a full.
I honestly thought I’d made it, that this was it and life was going to be good from here on out because I was going to get an agent, get published, and have my dream career. (Ha! Life so isn’t like that, and publishing even less so, but it certainly felt comforting to think so at the time.)
But this book I’m talking about, this was not Renegade X. And Renegade X was my first book that got me an agent and got published, so you can probably guess where this is going.
The agents who were reading it rejected it. I never got any more requests. I tweaked my query letter endlessly and kept sending it out, even though I kind of suspected at this point that it wasn’t going to make it. And it didn’t. And I was kind of heartbroken about it for awhile. (Okay, really heartbroken.)
I was mad at myself for believing in that book, for loving those characters and that story so freaking much. I felt like the book had betrayed me by getting my hopes up and then not being good enough. I forced myself to keep writing, even though my heart kind of wasn’t in it right then, and had a couple false starts with new books that only made me more stressed and frustrated.
This period of disappointment and frustration was in the spring and summer that year. It messed me up a lot. I joined a writing group during Nano, wrote another book over fall and winter, and was starting to get some confidence back, if not enthusiasm. Then that next summer, I wrote Renegade X, which ended up being The One, though it has its own long story of how it got published, or how it almost didn’t get published, and then how it was unpublished and republished by me.
But anyway. Back to the book that broke my heart.
Cut to five years and many books later. I started up in the distance program (online) at Syracuse University, getting my master’s in library science. During the week-long residency we had to do in the beginning, I learned a lot about innovation and the importance of failure and how giving yourself room to fail is a necessary part of making or doing something great, not the end of things. (I didn’t end up getting the degree in the long run, but I learned an awful lot from my teachers and classmates, about innovation and life and bringing the hot sauce.) I started to rethink how I felt about failure that summer, and so I started to think about that old book that had failed me. I’d spent years trying to “live it down” in my mind, not wanting to talk about it, and whenever I did mention it, I had to also mention how horrible I thought it was. But now I started thinking about it again, and about how even if it had some problems, it had a lot of good things about it, too. There was a reason I’d loved it so much. There was a reason it had gotten some requests, even though the writing really wasn’t there yet. If anything, I was the one who had let it down, not the other way around.
I got an idea for the opening and started writing. I kept characters and concepts I’d loved from the first one and rethought the world and plot and how everything could go together. The first version had been my sixth book. This reboot was my twelfth. And it was so much better this time around, and I loved it again, and my beta readers loved it, too. It was finally the amazing book I’d wanted so hard for it to be in the past.
This book is Fire and Chasm. And I’m pleased to announce that it’s coming out next February from Skyscape.