The Best Advice by author A.C. Gaughen

Katherine Longshore 10 Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A.C. Gaughen is the author of SCARLET, a surprising retelling of the Robin Hood legend, published by Bloomsbury Walker this year.  She is also a Class of 2k12 sibling, an incisive blogger, an advocate for girls everywhere and a good friend.

So maybe I should set the scene.  This was in November of 2009—November 18th, actually, though to be honest I just looked that up—and I was halfway in the middle of this weird novel with this really bizarre voice that I was just writing because it was fun, and I liked it, and I didn’t have it in me to be so lofty or literary or something.  I just wanted to write something fun.

This novel was the next next next thing—the fourth novel I was working on after writing, polishing, editing and submitting three others, including my novel that resulted from my master’s thesis.

I had just turned 25 days before.  This was after coming home from Scotland, where I’d moved on little more than a whim, a savings account and a determination to make it work.  I had two years of visa work clearance I wanted to put it to good use.  But the economy was awful and I was living in a small town; no job, no money, no way to stay.  I moved home after less than a year.

I was working in a retail store where my 19 year old manager had recently had a fit because apparently I wasn’t spacing hangars correctly (I tried to tell her there have been two significant gaps in my education: American History after WWII and the politics of clothes-hanging).  I was barely above minimum wage and covering the rest with freelance writing, which was awful and actually very hard and draining.

I was still writing.  That’s important.  Even after all the awful rejections (one agent who had sent my full manuscript to an agency-wide meeting called me on Christmas Eve to reject me—that sucked) I was still writing.  I still believed.  Honestly, it was probably because if I didn’t believe, I’d have to accept the reality that I was wildly overeducated and underemployed and eons away from the life path.

And then I got an email from my library.  They were hosting an event at the local middle school, in my tiny town south of Boston, near no major public transportation or attractions.  And here, at this tiny little place, was Anthony Horowitz.

Anthony Horowitz!  Alex Rider Anthony Horowitz!  I was obsessed with his books while I lived in Britain; I devoured every one obsessively.  I watched something on him once about how he has a hidden passage in his house that leads to his office.  Where he writes.  In the secret passage.  Why was he here, in my little town, so far away from England?  What were the odds?

Obviously I went.  The event was clearly geared toward students so I tried to awkwardly sit near one and look like a parent.  He spoke, and was awesome.  I took notes, that I have somewhere still.  I bought two books, one for my friend from my masters program who obsessed over Alex Rider with me, and waited for all the kids with totally legit reasons to be there to clear out.  I hopped on the last spot in line and strode forward.

I gushed a little.  I told him how much I loved his books, and he asked if I wanted to be a writer.  I said yes, and we chatted a little bit about it, and I expressed that I wasn’t feeling like I had very much luck with it.  I don’t think I had to say how often I wondered how long I could keep doing this, keep working, keep getting rejected.

He looked at me and said, “It’ll happen.  It’ll happen because it has to happen.  Because you’re not just going to stop, are you?” and I dutifully shook my head no.  He nodded and handed me my book and said, “Alright then.”

That was November 18th, 2009.  By Christmas, I had finished SCARLET.  By January, I had signed with an agent.  By July, I had an offer.

So if you want this, if this is your dream, if everything is terrible right now and everything seems so incredibly stacked against you, if you’ve received rejection after rejection after rejection, keep going.

It’ll happen.  Because it has to happen.  Because you’re not going to stop, are you?

The people of Nottinghamshire know Will Scarlet as Robin Hood’s shadow, a slip of a boy who throws daggers with deadly accuracy and an accomplished thief with an unerring eye for treasure. A select few know that Will is actually Scarlet, a young woman “recruited” by Robin two years earlier as he wandered the alleys of London. But no one knows who the real Scarlet is, what she was doing in London, and how she got that scar on her cheek. That is, no one but Gisbourne, the ruthless thief-taker just hired by the sheriff to capture Robin and his band.

You can find A.C. Gaughen on the web and on Twitter, and you can find Scarlet here.


Great story. Horowitz sounds blimmin' awesome. Thanks!

It's often not the lofty bits of advice filled with grand words. Just a simple truth.

That's the best kind of advice :-)

LOVE this story! And the not stopping thing? That's what you've gotta do after your debut, too :)

I received similar advice from Kim Harrison in a live chat long had the same impact. It's good to hear it again, and so cool you got to meet a hero in person.

What a great story! And your book sounds fabulous. So glad you didn't give up!

Great advice, and I agree: useful for every stage of writing!

Nope. Not going to give up. None of us are. Right, guys?

And THANK YOU for this post. FANTASTIC!

Absolutely FANTASTIC post! THank you so, so much for sharing this story!!!!



Thanks for sharing this. A writing-shot-in-the-arm. OR elsewhere.

I love the Alex Rider series and I'm much older than you so nothing wrong with that! I love you're advice! I'll keep it in mind!


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