This story was pure serendipity. After Samhain Publishing closed, I thought it would be good to work with an additional publisher, so I began occasionally looking at Dreamspinner Press’s submission calls. Then a year ago, I noticed that Minnesota was one of the last two unclaimed states waiting for writers in The States of Love series. That felt like fate. I love writing about my adoptive home state.
The submission call sounded doable. Not too many requirements.
* 15,000 – 50,000 words.
Um. My eventual submission of Fair Isn’t Life (through careful trimming) was 49,993… if you don’t count the words in the title. And that was my second shot at staying under 50K – my first try grew so far out of bounds that I just released it as a 71,000 word novel. I’ve never met a word limit I couldn’t leave behind in the dust.
But okay— under 50K. Accomplished.
* Genre should be contemporary —no paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery/suspense, or historical. These should be feel-good stories with HEA or HFN endings. No heavy angst, please.
I like writing contemporaries. (Well, also mysteries, and fantasies, and historical, and SciFi, and paranormal, but contemporary is cool.) My happy endings sometimes are HFN, but I don’t leave readers dangling, so that worked. And I can do emotion without heavy angst. Right up my alley.
* Setting and plot must contain unique elements relating to the specific state claimed—the story should not be one that could take place anywhere.
This led me to think about Minnesota as a state – what’s unique to us, what gives this great state its characteristics. There’s no one single stand-out feature that I came up with. Instead, it’s a collection of things together.
It’s the Great Minnesota Get-Together of our State Fair. It’s the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, with their universities, their small music venues, their liberal culture, and their housing issues. It’s the Mississippi river running through the Cities (and the bridges that tie up traffic.) And it’s the relative good nature of the drivers that mean you can actually merge on freeways without playing chicken.
It’s the gorgeous, cold winters that freeze your fingers, and hot summers with mosquitoes, and baseball. And it’s outstate Minnesota, the farms and forests, parks and mining towns to the north, and corn and soybeans to the south. In some of those areas, you become aware that Minnesota is a state in flux, like so many others, as old ways of life die out, as new people move in, as technology booms even in farming.
I couldn’t fit all that in 50,000 words. But I chose to make one of my main characters, Luke, a farm boy whose father’s way of life was what he loved, but which he’d have to fight and adapt to keep. I tried to use the good and the bad of Minnesota as a frame in which Luke finds Mason, and a shot at the life he wants to live. It was fun to write, and hopefully will be fun to read. With luck, I’ll leave readers feeling like they went to the unique state of Minnesota to spend time with two young men falling in love.
I was delighted when Dreamspinner accepted my story.
It’s been fun working on this book, meeting new editors and seeing how the press works. Every publisher is different and I’ve been lucky to have stories with several good ones. Dreamspinner’s help in setting up blog post opportunities for me was a new stretch (since I always dodged blog tours before) but a great exercise in thinking about what might interest readers about my story. I appreciated the push to try new things, and I also love the various promo artwork they gave me. If you were at GRL, you may have picked up one of the bookmarks with Luke on them. And cows 🙂
Although I expect I’ll continue to do some self-pub, and to work with my other main publisher, I hope this story will be the start of an ongoing relationship with Dreamspinner as well. If there’s one thing that the industry has already taught me, it’s that it pays to keep my story eggs in more than one basket, and Dreamspinner Press has given me one very welcoming basket.
– Kaje Harper
Check out Fair Isn’t Life today!
Luke Lafontaine survived the past year by not thinking about the father he lost, the dairy farm he couldn’t save from bankruptcy, or his way of life that vanished with the rap of an auctioneer’s hammer. Cleaning up city folks’ trash at the Minnesota State Fair is just another dead-end job. But at the Fair, surrounded by a celebration of farm life, ambitions he’d given up on and buried deep start to revive. And seeing Mason Bell in the parade—gorgeous, gay, out-of-his-league Mason—stirs other buried dreams.
Mason left his hometown for college in Minneapolis without looking back. Student life is fun, classes are great, gay guys are easy to find, but it’s all a bit superficial. He’s at the State Fair parade route with his band when he realizes a scruffy maintenance worker is Luke, his secret high school crush. Luke should be safely home working on his dad’s farm, not picking up litter. Mason wishes he hadn’t fallen out of touch. He’s an optimist, though, and it’s never too late for second chances. Now he just has to convince Luke.
I get asked about my name a lot. It’s not something exotic, though. “Kaje” is pronounced just like “cage” – it’s an old nickname. I’ve been writing far longer than I care to admit (*whispers – forty years*), mostly for my own entertainment, usually M/M romance (with added mystery, fantasy, historical, SciFi…) I also have Young Adult short stories (some released under the pen name Kira Harp.)
It was my husband who finally convinced me that after all the years of writing just for fun, I really should submit something, somewhere. My first professionally published book, Life Lessons, came out from MLR Press in May 2011. I now have a good-sized backlist in ebooks and print, both free and professionally published, including Amazon bestseller The Rebuilding Year and Rainbow Award Best Mystery-Thriller Tracefinder: Contact. A complete list with links can be found on my website “Books” page at https://kajeharper.wordpress.com/books/.
I’m always pleased to have readers find me online at:
Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4769304.Kaje_Harper