Monday, July 22, 2013

Guest Post: Travis Erwin

Long before I was a writer, I was an avid reader. And even before I knew anything about character arcs or plot structures I would read trying to figure out what was going to happen next. Of course the best stories always took that unforeseen turn. They surprised me.

My name is Travis Erwin and my road to publication is kind of like those stories. It didn't happen to way I thought and planned, but the ride has been sweeter for all the unexpected twists.

I spent nearly a decade years writing five novels and going the traditional -- querying literary agents mode of pursuing publication. I  had some very nearly misses and even signed with an agent for a creative nonfiction project. Of course the book business changed drastically in that decade with the explosion of e-readers and other technology.

I should back up and tell y'all what I normally write. My first four novels were all Women's Fiction and though I have wandered off that path from time to time I still consider Women's Fiction to be my natural genre. Natural might seems an odd choice of words given the fact I am a 6'5 nearly 300 pound bearded Texan, but I enjoy writing character driven stories of emotional impact. I never set out to be a Women's Fiction author. Heck, I didn't even know what Women's Fiction was when I wrote that first novel. I was simply telling the story that spoke to me late at night in moments of quiet reflection.

That first story was about a set of characters living in small town Texas. A place I called Grand where reputation means more than the truth, and some sins are never forgotten much less forgiven.

I came close to both signing with an agent and placing it with a New York publisher after meeting an acquisition editor at a writer's conference. Close, very close. But things didn't work out. That was back in 2001.

I kept writing. Two more Women's Fiction Novels. Then in 2007 I started a blog which I'm proud to say developed a nice following back in the hey days of that social media. As part of that blog, I began writing a comedic series of posts chronicling my days of working at a dusty Texas feed store as a teenage boy. I also wrote a fourth novel. Then a fifth. The fifth departed from the Women's fiction. It was a purely comedic novel inspired by the success of my Feedstore Chronicle posts. I thought maybe humor would be easier to sell. As seemed the story of my writing life. I had lots of near misses but not success finding that story a home.

That's when an old friend who'd just started a small Indie press asked if I was interested in turning my feedstore posts into a full-fledged memoir and publishing it through them. I appreciated the offer but I didn't want to be that kind of writer. I wanted to create tales. Write fiction. So I said, “No, thank you.”

A few more years slipped by. The rejection slips began to take their toll. In what was almost desperation I created a book proposal for a creative nonfiction book. I landed an agent almost immediately, but soon thereafter I realized the agent and myself had vastly different vision for both the book and my career. We amicably parted ways over the phone but as I hung up I couldn't help but ask myself if I was doing the right thing. If maybe I shouldn't have just gone along with whatever the agent wanted to do. After all, he was already successful in this business I was trying desperately to break into.

I sat staring at that phone for all of five minutes when it rang again. This time it was that old friend with the small but ever growing Indie press.

She said, “I still don't see that feed store book or anything else of yours on the shelf. When are you going to let me change that?”

I smiled. “Right now.”

TAG publishing released my first book an humorous and debaucherous coming-of-age tale called THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES in November of 2011. The book sold okay and got great reviews but despite those facts I didn't feel the sense of accomplishment I thought it would. It wasn't the same as seeing a novel published because in my mind I was simply retelling a warped version of the truth rather than creating something new.

One of the great advantages of publishing with a smaller Indie press is the personal one-on-one contact. So I shared my thoughts and the ladies who own TAG were very understanding. They said, “Okay, send us what you have both already completed and ideas for the future.”

They looked through it all and said, “We love this story.” The story about the Grand, Texas. The first novel I ever wrote.

They being editors of course had a few ideas to improve the novel so rewrites were in order. They also suggested a new title and while I did have some hesitation letting go of the name I'd been using for the manuscript for nearly thirteen years I couldn't help but appreciate their chosen title – TWISTED ROADS, for that is exactly what my path had traveled.

Yes, it took me man years to fulfill the dream of seeing my name on the spine of a novel. The path was windy twisted and full of potholes but as my character in the books says, Sometimes twisted roads are  the only ones worth traveling.

Travis Erwin is a big hairy Texan, unafraid to read or write a good love story. Or a rum swilling carnivore with a story to tell. You choose.

Twitter -  @traviserwin


  1. Thanks for sharing your journey, Travis. It sounds like you were fated to end up with that indie press. How cool that she followed up with you when she did!

  2. I do believe things happen for a reason, but we have to keep trudging along to get there.

  3. More to the story than I would have thought. I'd envisioned an agent approaching you and publishing it with nary a fix this. Few authors I'm told ever see their first creation reach the shelves, as one who has read Twisted Roads, I'm glad it did.

  4. twisted roads was a good read, glad you found someone to publish it.


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