FINDING MY FIRST STEP
by Kat Heckenbach
A journey starts with a beginning, a first step, but I honestly don’t know where mine fell. I grew up with dreams of being an artist, and thought drawing was the only place I had creative talent. And even that dream dissolved after I got to college, where the art classes were cheap copies of the advanced classes I’d had in high school. I switched my major to science, and ended up teaching math at a tutoring center. You see, everything except writing.
Then one day in August of 2007, I was talking to my husband about feeling like there was something I needed to do, but I had no idea what. He looked me in the eye and said, “If you want to write a book, I’ll be supportive.” The words hit me hard, and I left to clear my head with a trip to Barnes & Noble (which shoulda been my first clue that writing was hovering there). As I strolled around, memories surfaced that had been buried for years—me, as a teen, scribbling on a legal pad, wishing desperately to see my name on the spine of a book someday.
And so I sat down and wrote. I gave myself one chance. Either words would flow, or they would not. If they did, I’d put 100% into getting the book published. If they did not, that day would be my one and only attempt at writing.
The words flowed, and by the end of five single-spaced pages I was shaking. I shook with excitement, and a little fear, but mostly surprise. I truly had not expected it.
After that, my journey becomes like many others. Finding critique partners and writers groups, researching agents and sending queries…getting rejections…editing and rewriting again and again.
In between, I wrote short stories. An odd mix of them, but they got published. My inspirational personal experience stories appeared in Sunday School magazines. Other personal experiences ended up in Chicken Soup for the Soul. My fiction—primarily fantasy, sci-fi, and horror—has appeared in a variety of speculative fiction magazines and anthologies, both online and in print.
Despite everything I’d read about short story sales helping you to land a book deal, I made no progress toward selling my novel. I believe it is mostly because I write in what I call “the void.” That place that’s not mainstream Christian, but not quite secular either. It’s an area of risk, and these days publishers are shying away from risk.
And then one day my art came into play again. Grace Bridges from Splashdown Books posted a callout for an artist to do a drawing for a book cover. I took the challenge, and my rendering of a key now sits prominently on the cover of The Duke’s Handmaid by Caprice Hokstad. Grace asked me to do two more jobs after that. Our online chats proved we worked very well together, and eventually she asked if she could read my manuscript.
Well, let’s see—what did I say?
Oh, right. That would be, “YES!”
Grace, fortunately, is all about risk. Risk on types of fiction other presses are afraid of. But she had a full catalog, so she encouraged me to try elsewhere. I did, but to no avail. I made the top five in a contest of sorts with Port Yonder Press, but they wanted to focus on adult fantasy, so I didn’t make the final cut. Still, it was encouraging. And after the contest was over, Grace was looking farther along in her schedule than she had been before. This time, she saw room for me.
So, while, I can’t pinpoint my first step, I know I chose the right path.
by Kat Heckenbach
Splashdown Books 2011
Middle Grade fantasy, 294 pgs
Angel doesn't remember her magical heritage...but it remembers her.
Magic and science collide when she embarks on a journey to her true home, and to herself.
Angel lives with a loving foster family, but dreams of a land that exists only in the pages of a fantasy novel. Until she meets Gregor, whose magic Talent saves her life and revives lost memories.
She follows Gregor to her homeland...a world unlike any she has imagined, where she travels a path of self-discovery that leads directly to her role in an ancient Prophecy...and to the madman who set her fate in motion.
Kat Heckenbach is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom–everything from Art to Algebra II—and now homeschools her two children. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over forty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name. Her debut novel, MG fantasy Finding Angel, is available in print and ebook.