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Interview with Historical Fiction Author Catherine Delors

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Catherine Delors was born and raised in France. She received her law degree from the Sorbonne and became an attorney in Paris at the age of twenty-one.

She moved to the United States and became a member of the California Bar. She worked at a few large law firms, then, after the birth of her son, set up her own practice. She now splits her time between Los Angeles and Paris.

She is also author of the historical fiction novel, Mistress of the Revolution (Dutton/Penguin, Mar. ’08). You can visit her website at www.catherinedelors.com.

Welcome to Beyond the Books, Catherine. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published? Can you give us the title(s) of your book(s)?

Mistress of the Revolution is my first book. I just completed my second novel, also a historical set in France. It is scheduled for publication in March 2009, one year after Mistress of the Revolution. This second novel is still untitled. Or rather it has several working titles, none quite satisfactory yet. I am terrible at finding titles for my books.

What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

Mistress of the Revolution is indeed my very first book, and it is coming out!

For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

My agent, Stephanie Cabot, of The Gernert Company, sent it to ten publishers. Of those, three expressed strong interest in Mistress of the Revolution and made offers right away. This went much faster than I had anticipated. I was too thrilled to worry about the remaining publishing houses that had expressed little or no interest.

How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

In my case, the rejection stage happened while I was querying agents. And did those rejection letters pour in! How did that make me feel? Let’s be honest: not great. It hurt. It was an ego-crushing experience. Sometimes I despaired of ever getting published. But I kept reminding myself that everyone was entitled to his or her opinion, even if that opinion was to dislike my book, or the concept behind my book. So I got over it and kept querying until I found an agent (actually I found two at the same time.). It feels all the more wonderful now to have positive feedback on Mistress of the Revolution.

When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

Dutton, a division of Penguin, is publishing Mistress of the Revolution. I picked Dutton because they offered a two-book deal. Also I had a long, insightful conversation with Julie Doughty, who has become my editor at Dutton. My most important question to Julie was: “What changes do you suggest I make?” and I liked her response, which was: “Not much, but…”

How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It felt great, wonderful, the vindication of those long nights spent writing in bed on my laptop. My revenge over that agent who had written in response to my query that my novel was “unpublishable.” When Stephanie, my agent, called me to give me the great news, I was living with my son at my Mom’s, and both of them were as excited as I. We spent the evening talking about the future, all three of us. No champagne, no fireworks, but a sense of hope and new beginnings.

What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I flew to New York City to meet with Julie, my editor, and the other people at Dutton who would be instrumental in the success of my book. I knew that it was crucial to establish a personal connection with them. And I did! I had a great time too.

If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

No, absolutely not. I was blessed to meet the right people at the right time.

Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

My second book won’t come out until March 2009. It would be pretentious of me to say that I have grown as a writer, don’t you think? This second novel is also set in Paris, only a few years after the end of Mistress of the Revolution, but I did not want to write the same book twice. I write to challenge myself, not to boil the pot or to get stuck in a rut. So the tone of Book 2 is very different, somewhat darker, and it contains a lot of forensic detail, all based on the true investigation of a terrorist attack on Bonaparte. Like CSI set in 1800 Paris. My early readers tell me that they like my characters still better in the second novel. So I hope they are right in their judgment and I have grown as an author, but it is too early to tell…

Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

Actually, those “early days” are barely over a year away, so they don’t feel like ancient history. Everything happens at a slow pace in publishing, and I am not sure that I, or any other writer, can do much to speed things up. I had to learn to go with the flow, to be patient, which is not at all in my nature.

What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

Coming to grips with the sense of loss that accompanied my divorce. It became final around the time I found a publisher. Also, helping my son cope with many tough changes, and adapt to our new life.

If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

Actually, like many other writers, published or unpublished, I do have a day job (you know, that pesky little detail about making a living.) I am an attorney, specializing in international law and immigration.

Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

I have combined the best (and worst) of both worlds. Sometimes it feels like twenty-four hours is not quite enough to be a mother, an attorney and a writer, and manage to get some sleep as well, all in the course of one day. So I cheat on the sleep side of the equation. That’s life.

How do you see yourself in ten years?

Ten years! I can’t plan that long ahead, so I will just share a fantasy with you. I see myself, ten years from now, sitting on a tropical beach, maybe in Tahiti, watching the sunset, sipping a Mai Tai. I am a full time writer now. My son has completed college, and he just sent me this wonderful, warm, insightful email telling me how great his life is. Then whenever I get island fever and long for smog and other perks of city life, I just hop onto the next plane to Los Angeles or Paris. Again, this is a fantasy, not a plan, but dreaming is cheap.

Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

An entire section of my website www.catherinedelors.com  is dedicated to sharing my experience with other writers on their way to finding a publisher.

In a nutshell, my fellow writers, never give up your dream. Don’t get discouraged or bitter. Don’t blame others if you are not published yet. Instead channel all of your energy in striving to write better. Be nice to people. They can, and will help you in more ways than you can imagine.


4 Comments

  1. Another great interview. I love these ones. Hey Catherine, if you make it to Tahiti, can I come?

    Best of luck with the tour!

    Cheryl

  2. Great interview Catherine. I checked out your website also, well done. Your comments regarding your journey to publication were insightful and gives hope to all of us out here pursuing publication.

    Keep up the good work.

    Luree

  3. Linda Kay says:

    What an inspiration! I am published by a small press, so I am green you landed such a fish like Dutton! I received more rejections from agents than publishers, so can you tell us what you did to secure an agent? I know you need an agent to play in the bigger ponds, and I seem to have hit a brick wall where that’s concerned.

    Tips, Tricks, and advice would be great!
    By the way, I love historical fiction…it’s the reason I decided to do a time travel series so I ca dabble in as many historical playgrounds as I want!
    Congrats on your first novel.

  4. Thank you to all for your kind wishes. My pub date is only a week away now…
    Yes, it does feel great to have been picked by Dutton. If Mistress is a huge success, let’s all go to Tahiti!

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