James L. Rubart, best-selling author of ROOMS.
3) Developing characters requires great skill. You did an awesome job with all of them, but especially Micah. Do you have some insights and tips for our readers on how to create realistic people?
Base 'em on real people, then amp up the distinguishing characteristics. Micah is a combination of three different people, all with strong personalities. By taking parts of each person and mixing them together it made the Micah Taylor of ROOMS come out more distinct than if it was just one person I knew. And here's the cool thing: People don't see themselves in a novel. There's a famous story about a very unsavory woman, who was a main character in a novel. She came up to the author at a book signing and said, "I can't stand that woman!" I have a sweatshirt my wife bought me that says, "Careful, or you'll end up in my novel." It's true!
4) I'm assuming your genre is Christian Speculative Fiction. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.) Did you and your agent have a difficult time convincing publishers to take on your book? Do you feel the success of The Shack made them more open-minded toward Rooms? I'd like to hear about your journey to publication.
Great question! Yes, I think The Shack definitely opened B&H's mind, and yes, we did have a rough time convincing people to take a chance on ROOMS.
When ROOMS was first shopped to publishers in the fall of 2006, it was rejected by everyone. Most publishers said, "The guy can write, but he's unknown and we're not exactly sure where the book fits." It doesn't fit neatly into a pre-defined genre. When The Shack started to get traction, the folks at B&H read it, liked it, and saw the similarities between ROOMS and The Shack. David Webb (who was the executive director of fiction at B&H in 2006) loved ROOMS but said they couldn't take it on at that time. But he said if it didn't sell in six months to bring it back to him.
A year later, I sat down with him to talk about my next novel, BOOK OF DAYS, and he asked about ROOMS. He said he'd read 200 manuscripts since he read ROOMS and couldn't get it out of his mind. So David and I took another run at it and B&H offered me a deal on June 23, 2008.
Wow! What a great story and what an encouragement to those of us whose books don't fit into "a pre-defined genre." In our final installment next week, Jim will discuss the message of his book and his future offerings.
Question for Writers: Do you write in a well-defined genre or does your manuscript defy existing labels? How are you approaching agents and editors if the latter scenario fits your book?
Question for Readers: Are you open to books that are a little out of the ordinary? Note that Jim's book includes an element of romance. Does that pique your interest?