Thursday, July 7, 2011

Debut Author Spotlight ... Roger Bruner

by Roger E. Bruner

When I wrote my first novel manuscript in 2004, I knew getting it published would be a lengthy and tedious procedure. So my wife and I decided to use Print on Demand (POD) and do it ourselves. It was a fun procedure, and I even designed the cover myself, using a picture of my cat appearing to read a book.

The published book looked great. I bought maybe 130 copies in all and sold them to everyone I knew. Turns out I didn’t know as many people as I thought I did, though, and those review copies I gave away were eating up what little profit I was making. I don’t know what happened to the consignment copies that went to bookstores that have since gone out of business. (Not due to my book, I hope.)

The worst problem was I couldn’t spend all of my free time writing and still do the marketing that any writer—but especially a self-publisher—must do. What writer wouldn’t prefer the writing without the marketing?

Then I went to my first Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and started learning what good writing really was. My first book not only didn’t qualify, I came to view it as an embarrassment—something I didn’t want people to associate with me. I pulled it from availability and advised people who had a copy to hold on to it; if I ever became well known, it might qualify as a collector’s item. As Al Gansky, one of my favorite suspense writers says, “An autograph will get you twenty-five cents extra at a yard sale.”

I kept on writing. And writing some more. I kept on going to writers conferences. Bought and digested enough writing books to have made me super-fat if they’d been food.

My third manuscript, Found in the Translation, won first place in the novel competition at the Blue Ridge Conference in 2006. “Ah!” I thought. “Now I’m getting somewhere.”

Wrong again. While that honor looked good on my proposal, nobody was beating down my door, and I was getting frustrated about my inability to hook an agent.

A publisher at a writer's conference invited me to submit sample pages—I’m not even sure which manuscript. Several months later, I received email from a different editor at that publishing house. She explained that they didn’t publish that genre of novel, but she loved my writing and felt confident my time would come.

We continued to correspond off and on, and she read samples and continued to encourage me. I still consider her one of my biggest fans.

Then I asked James Scott Bell to read the first page of Found in the Translation at a conference appointment. “Roger, you’re not even starting with a scene.”

Whoops! At first I balked (I didn’t tell him that, though), but finally saw the light. He was the expert. A multi-published expert. So I lopped off the first fifty pages—sob—and wrote a new beginning. Much better.

I asked my editor friend if she’d look at it. She asked for fifteen pages on Monday, the whole thing on Wednesday, and on Friday told me it was so good she’d lined up Terry Burns at Hartline Literary as my agent. She didn’t just tell me; she sent me the back-and-forth email leading up to that.

And to think Terry was one of the agents I’d requested an appointment with at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference I was getting ready to attend! If God wasn’t in charge of all that had happened so far. . .

Although Found in the Translation didn’t sell for a year, Barbour was wonderfully receptive when it landed at their doorstep. Even if they did ask to take “the” out of the title.

by Roger Bruner

Barbour Publishing, May 2011
368 pages

When Kim Hartlinger—eighteen and spoiled—arrives on a mission trip to Mexico and discovers, to her chagrin, that she’ll be doing construction in a remote village without plumbing and electricity, rather than evangelism in a medium-sized town with a fast food joint . . she has only two choices. “Rough it” (which isn’t exactly what Kim had in mind when she signed up for this trip) or turn around and head home.

Will Kim be able to touch the villagers’ hearts with the Gospel? Or will her time in Mexico be up before she gets the chance?

Roger Bruner worked as a teacher, job counselor, and programmer analyst before retiring to pursue his dream of writing Christian fiction full-time. A guitarist and songwriter, he is active in his church's choir, praise team, and nursing home ministry. Roger also enjoys reading, web design, mission trips, photography, and spending time with his wonderful wife, Kathleen.


  1. Roger, I had the same experience at my first conference. I learned I had so far to go to create a quality novel. Conference education is invaluable, isn't it?

    Thank you for sharing your publication journey. I pray God will richly bless this new road He's taking you on.

  2. Good story. Good for Roger.

  3. Brenda, it was my pleasure to be here. Thanks for inviting me. *big smile* There's nothing like writing conferences--especially Christian ones, where everyone wants everyone else to succeed. None of the dog-eat-dog attitude that I've heard prevails at secular conferences.