The quest for publication
Story by Katie McDowell
In the fall of 2008, Anne Riley sat down to write her first novel.
She finished the manuscript only a few months later, but her journey to print would take a bit longer — four years, to be exact. Like most worthy journeys, this one included unforeseen obstacles, such as when Riley’s literary agent left unexpectedly in 2011; maddening delays, in the form of rejections from numerous publishing houses; and personal reflection, as found in multiple revisions and a title change.
But Riley persevered, and in December 2012, Compass Press published her first novel, “Shadows of the Hidden,” a paranormal mystery novel for young adults.
“Shadows of the Hidden” tells the story of Natalie Watson, a Georgia teen who relocated to her aunt’s boarding school in Maine after the death of her parents. She befriends a strange boy at her school, and the two are soon thrust into a “centuries-old quest for immortality,” according to Riley’s website.
Riley, a Shelby County resident, said the idea developed with a question: “What if fairy rings really did have magical powers as some people believe they do?’
“I’d seen rings of mushrooms around town, and it inspired the idea that perhaps these so-called fairy rings really did make people disappear, as some legends claim,” Riley said in an email interview. “As soon as the thought entered my head, I couldn’t resist creating a story around it and putting it on paper.”
In late summer 2008, “Shadows” was merely an idea that had been swirling around in Riley’s head.
The timing was not ideal. School was about to start, and as a Spanish teacher at a local high school, she was about to be extremely busy. (Riley asked not to reveal the high school’s name.) Also, she had started several other novels and never made it past chapter 2.
She ignored the idea for several weeks, but finally decided to begin writing in August. She wrote the first chapter that day and six more over the next few weeks. She relied on friends to review the manuscript and after numerous revisions, she finished the book, which was then known as “The Clearing,” in December 2008.
With a finished manuscript on her hands, Riley decided to reach out to literary agents. She received numerous rejections, but within a month, she had an agent — Alanna Ramirez with Trident Media Group.
Over the next year, Riley and Ramirez revised the novel and sent it to three rounds of publishers. It was rejected each time, although a major publishing house showed interest in May 2010.
With their options exhausted, Riley decided to have a few copies bound for family, as well as making it available as an e-book.
Sales of the e-book were steady, and Riley was pleased the book was reaching readers, although the rejection still stung.
After Ramirez left Trident Media Group unexpectedly in September 2011, Riley found herself without representation again.
Only a few months later, however, her luck turned.
She received an email from Compass Press inquiring about “The Clearing.” She signed with the publishing company in April and found a new agent the following month.
“I’m sort of in a fog of happiness mixed with mild panic,” she wrote on her blog the morning she signed her contract.
Riley’s own life evolved as much as her novel during the four-year journey to publication. During that time, Riley and her husband, Rob, had their first daughter in 2010 and are expecting a second in early 2013.
With the help of her husband, who watched their daughter in the afternoons, Riley found time to write several other books over the last four years.
“Winter Wonders,” an anthology containing one of her stories, was also published in December 2012.
“The anthology was actually my idea,” Riley said. “I contacted several of my writer friends to see if they would be interested in contributing to an anthology with a winter theme, with all the profits going to charity.”
One of the writers she contacted, Heather McCorkle, also works for Compass Press, which decided to publish the book with proceeds going to Literacy, Inc.
Two of her other novels are currently on submission with her agent, and both include a fantasy element.
“I typically like to weave in some sort of paranormal thread to my stories,” she said.
One of the stories is set in London and “involves the manipulation of reality plus evil zombie-demon creatures.” Another is set in Spain and “centers around a series of mysterious murders, a ghost and some very peculiar apparitions.”
Riley was always drawn to fantasies as a child: “A Wrinkle in Time,” The Chronicles of Narnia and, later, Harry Potter.
It was that love of characters and stories that drove her to seek publication of her own novel in the first place.
“I’m desperate to share my stories with as many people as possible,” she said. “I want people to fall in love with my characters like I have, and I want to be a role model for kids and teens who dream of being authors.”