By Tricia Skinner, author of Angel Bait
My debut novel, Angel Bait, owns a special place in my heart. Sure, authors say that about their first book. It’s the manuscript that first grabbed a publishing deal. Or it’s the novel that connected with their first literary agent. For me, my first novel (ever) had to overcome a whole army of resistance to get this far.
Take the title. Angel Bait. Not exactly two words you expect together. “Angels” trigger happy thoughts. White wings. Singing. Guardians. Harps. “Bait” produces a few images of fishing lures, or maybe hunting. Something is meant to attract or trap something else.
My novel is about a half-angel assassin for Heaven who unintentionally falls in love with the woman he’s using as bait to catch the villain. When I came up with that premise, I thought it would strike a chord with those wanting something different from the angel/demon books already out.
Yeah. Not so much, at least according to the early reactions I received. I shared my idea in a couple of writing workshops. A lot of people just didn’t get it. Classmates sort of scratched their heads at the premise.
My next test of faith (in myself) came after I joined an online critique group. Those folks read and wrote fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal romance. They were my people. At the very least I expected to improve the manuscript and get closer to sending it out on submission.
After months polishing the story, I entered it in a few contests. The usual comment I received was, “Angels aren’t like that.” The phrasing was different with all the feedback, but you get the idea. I’d written a story that twisted the benevolent idea of angels, making them brush roughly against what the judges believed.
My angels are tougher, meaner, and more deceptive than most readers have encountered. Come on, they trained four nephilim (half-angel/half-human) children and raised them to be assassins. That’s not warm and cuddly, folks.
The resistance to Angel Bait continued. The action scenes were violent. The villains did despicable things. The sexuality is 100 shades of crimson. Literary agents ran screaming from the manuscript. Publishers didn’t save it from the slush pile. Contest losses flooded my inbox.
In late October 2012, I seriously considered shelving the manuscript and doing something else. The market didn’t want angel stories, and it certainly didn’t want mine. In my head, I created a dystopian world where authors were punished for creativity just to feel better.
Then things changed.
Crimson Romance, a young e-publisher, fell in love with my manuscript and offered to publish it. I couldn’t believe my luck, and I signed my contract with CR in November.
That was the beginning. Suddenly, angels were sexy again. Gena Showalter’s new series was about angels. The Mortal Instruments, which has nephilim (aka Shadow Hunters) as main characters, hits the big screen in August 2013.
The final proof my version of angels had wings? I signed with my dream agent, Laurie McLean of Larsen Pomada Literary Agents, in January.
Do I have a moral to this story? Other writers know the message I’ve tapped out. Write those impossible, larger than life characters. Blow up convention. Strip away some of those rules. And never, ever lose faith in what you’re doing.
The angels are watching.
What’s your favorite unconventional angel story? Share in the comments!