Carrot Field has its beginnings in 1994. I was working on a more traditional “epic fantasy”, as the genre existed in the 1980’s and early 1990’s; but as I laid that project out I kept having ideas for animal characters. In time, those characters separated themselves from the first project and I realized that I had a potential “children’s book” on my hands. I was only twenty-one and knew little to nothing about the publishing world. Middle Grade and Young Adult are two of the hardest genres to break into, especially in the pre-Harry Potter era.
The idea lay dormant in my mind until the spring of 1995. The young daughter of a friend asked me to write her a story “about a rabbit”. I wrote a story right away and the name “Carrot Field” jumped straight into my mind. The story was very simple; but she enjoyed it so much that I was encouraged to write more. I wrote the stories quickly.
That summer, I wrote a whole Middle Grade trilogy. As I wrote, the world expanded. I poured everything I could into the three books, then polished the first volume and sent it off. I was amazed and delighted to get an immediate and positive response from St. Martin’s. I was equally crushed and discouraged when they decided against publishing the book. But I kept on submitting it. The response I got back every time was, “Traditional fantasies like this are dead. Do something like R.L. Stine. This genre is never coming back.”
By the end of the 1990’s I was ready to hang it up for good. But Carrot Field wouldn’t leave me. In 2001 I started revising and expanding the concept. In 2002 I wrote the first sixty pages of the new version and realized that I wasn’t ready to write it yet. I needed to develop more as a writer.
In 2005 I was ready again. I completed a new version, knowing that it would have to be expanded again before it was ready for publication. Then the unexpected happened. A friend and fan of the story showed the manuscript to an editor at Harper Collins! The editor loved it and wanted to acquire it for publication. I got myself a top agent and we negotiated the deal. I couldn’t believe it! I had a contract with a major publisher and a $20,000.00 advance. Everything was going to turn out right in the end.
Years dragged by. I wrote and rewrote Carrot Field but my editor was never satisfied. What did she want? Clearly, it wasn’t Carrot Field. I was forced to make a decision: I couldn’t let Carrot Field be turned into something it wasn’t. I told my agent to terminate the contract. Two and a half years had passed.
My agent kept trying to sell the book. I wrote and rewrote it for every major publisher. Again, I was being forced to turn Carrot Field into something that it wasn’t. None of those submissions led to publication. I had spent another two years rewriting the book for nothing.
In 2010, after a break from Carrot Field, I decided to rewrite the book from scratch, just the way I wanted to, for myself. I reinvented huge sections of the story from the ground up. After almost a year of preparation, I started rewriting the book, finishing it the summer of 2012.
I let my agent see it and he responded with renewed enthusiasm for the project. Carrot Field, against all odds, went back into submissions. But now I heard a new song: this isn’t marketable. Major editors were forced to pass on the book because the marketing department gave it a bad review. One by one, our options dried up. I was at square one, again.
Then, out of the blue, my agent called me: a small publisher of Ebooks in South Carolina was interested in publishing Carrot Field! And they didn’t want to change the book. The advance would be small, would I be interested? I decided to go for it and said “Yes”. In October 2012 I signed the contract and in May 2013 Carrot Field was at last published.
At this time, it’s a very grass-roots operation. There isn’t an expensive promotional machine behind the book. Really, it’s just me and occasional help from the publisher. But I believe in Carrot Field. I wrote it to be a classic, a book that endures, the kind of book that can be read over and again, always offering a new layer of discovery for the reader. 2014 will be the 20th Anniversary of Carrot Field. I still believe that it will one day be appreciated and valued as a classic. Right now, it’s only just being discovered, one reader at a time.
And there’s the other seven volumes waiting in the wings . . .
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