Sacrament was the first book I ever wrote. But you would not have recognized it back then. It started out as a crazy patchwork of space opera and vampires, some kinky sex and intense emotions. I had read a book (thankfully I've forgotten the name) that I felt had a great idea carried out in an unexciting way. I tossed it in the wastebasket and challenged myself to do better than that. All I wanted to do was finish a novel. I didn't have very high expectations of myself.

Which was good, because that book, written on a typewriter before we had a computer, in elite type (remember that?) after work beginning at 8 pm every night was 576 pages of…drek. I let my husband read it. He writes too, if you've looked at the website. And he kindly said it was good and had possibilities. But I realized how hard writing was. I put it away. For years.

But my husband kept after me. I was having a mid-life crisis about my dayjob being unsatisfying, and he suggested I re-write that book in my favorite period: Regency. I'm a big Georgette Heyer fan, thanks to him. He read me These Old Shades aloud when we were first married. Initially I protested. I wasn't sure I had it in me.

So, in 1992, he called my bluff. We were going to China for Christmas. We had a wonderful opportunity to go with a group of travel agents really cheaply. We agreed that we would not get Christmas presents for each other that year. Three days before we were to leave, he said he'd gotten me a little something. Frankly, I was a little put out. I had no time to get him something in return. He hastily said it was worth less than five dollars and I was mollified. What was it? Two computer discs with my novel on it. He had painstakingly typed an hour every day until he got the whole big, mess onto our new computer. He challenged me to go to his writing group, and rewrite the novel. I cried all the way to China. His gift touched me that much.

I was a contract negotiator for an insurance company. I thought I had ice in my veins. But I threw up in the bathroom before my first writing group. This was personal. The group was led by a woman who taught writing at UCLA extension. I rewrote the book into roughly the story you see today. Harry thought up the title. But it was still 275,000 words. That was so long it was totally un-saleable, but I didn't know that. And nobody was very excited about the fact that the vampire was the hero, not the villain. I actually sent it out to agents. An agent was actually interested. She asked me to cut it. And I didn't know how to do that. So I put it in a drawer. For years.

In the meantime I took about four years to write a book called Danegeld. I took Master's Classes at UCLA in writing and learned my craft. I tried cutting Sacrament, and got it down to about 180,000 words as I learned more about writing. I started a book called Body Electric. Danegeld was bought off a contest I entered in a local chapter of RWA by Dorchester Publishing. They liked it, and they liked Body Electric even more. They asked what else I had in the drawer. I sent Sacrament. My editor liked it, but wanted it much shorter. Sacrament was actually published as my second book, at 134,000 words, much less than half of its original length in October 2001, more than ten years after that first, tentative incarnation. Having it in the box, needing only revision, I had time to write my fourth book, Danelaw, on contract and on deadline.

I'm glad Sacrament is being reissued in April 2007 with a beautiful new cover. It was the book of my heart, the book that taught me to write. I still love Sarah and Julian. And when I turned to a new publishing house, I went back to the world of vampires I created in Sacrament and found new depths and possibilities in that original idea.

So for those of you struggling to write your first book, take heart. Sometimes they take a circuitous route to publication. My one regret? That I sometimes let years go by while I committed to taking the next step on my journey of learning how to write, and how to sell my work. For readers who have no intention of writing their own novel, I hope you enjoy living with Sarah and Julian for a while. They were my companions for many years.

SACRAMENT by Susan Squires

St. Martin's Paperbacks
April 2007
ISBN: 0312941021

Buy at

Barnes & Noble