For author Sarah Gerdes, who lives near Maple Valley, the path to publication has been nontraditional.
Her novel “Chambers,” now available on electronic format, was written in April, a month before it was published. As soon as she completed the manuscript, Warp Entertainment optioned the rights to the film, as well as the sequels — books she has yet to write.
Published through Bookbyte Digital for download through Kindle, Nook and Apple, “Chambers” is also the first e-book to be carried on Fry’s Electronics online catalog. Fry’s in Renton and the Microsoft Store in Bellevue Square celebrated the book’s release with an event July 23 and July 24.
“It’s really exciting,” Gerdes said.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
The road of nontraditional publishing fits well with Gerdes’ life as a whole. Though she hails from Swedish ancestry, she was born in Costa Rica, grew up speaking Spanish as a first language and did not come to the United States until she was in the first grade.
According to Gerdes, her main inspiration for writing came from her childhood.
“I was always daydreaming,” she said. “My mother was a big reader. She was always telling me fairy tales, Russian tales.”
When it came to her career and education, she took a very different route and went into business. During her 20s, she said, she worked “like mad.”
It wasn’t until 1997 that she started to take her writing seriously. By then, she had founded Business Marketing Group, Inc, a consulting service.
She was asked to write a book for publisher McGraw-Hill on partnerships. The resulting work, “Navigating the Partnership Maze,” was published in 2002.
“It was great for what it was,” she said. “It wasn’t fulfilling. What that taught me was that I could write a book.”
After completing another business-oriented book, “The Overlooked Expert,” Gerdes found herself on bed rest during the complicated pregnancy of her second child. During this time, she began to write a biography of “The Kim Sisters,” three sisters who began singing to American troops in Korea in 1954 They eventually emmigrated to the U.S. and became an international singing sensation, performing on the Ed Sullivan show more than 10 times.
For most authors, the next step after writing a book is to find a literary agent, who will then attempt to get them a deal with a publishing company. Now, with the introduction of e-books and self-publishing, Gerdes chose to take the alternative route.
“It’s easier to get published than to get an agent,” she said.
It’s also easier if you happen to know a film producer such as Lucas Foster who is with Warp Entertainment. Gerdes and Foster first became acquainted through a mutual friend while she was working as a strategic advisor.
After she showed him the manuscript, he optioned the rights to the film. Encouraged, Gerdes then showed him a novel she had been working on for several years called “Chambers,” which she wrote for her son. She had first started writing “Chambers” in September 2009. By December she had completed her first draft.
In January 2011 she showed it to Foster who, according to Gerdes, loved the story but felt it needed some revision work. He also saw great potential for a movie.
Gerdes explained that Foster gave her very precise changes to make to the novel. First, he recommended she change the narration to first-person. The second was to alter the writing style to appeal to an older audience, as “Chambers” deals with the death of a parent, choices and their repercussions and single-parenthood, themes deemed too mature for younger children the book was originally intended for.
However, Gerdes explained what constitutes as “mature” for a novel is much different from what considered “mature” for television or film.
“What you see on TV is so graphic,” Gerdes said.
Another change was giving historical figures, such as famous Chinese explorer Zheng He, a much more prominent role in the story.
Gerdes described the rewriting process as difficult, as she had to write whole new chapters to accommodate the changes.
“You’re changing lens and character, a very big task,” she said.
Nevertheless, she said it helped make the novel better.
“The feedback was really good from the studio,” she said.
She wrote the first 50 pages and sent them to Foster who was pleased with the editing. She then wrote another 50 pages. By then, she was given the go-ahead to finish the rest of it.
By April, she had completed the novel. Normally, it takes a year after a book deal is signed between an author and a publisher before the book is finally published. But, with the invention of ebooks, authors like Gerdes are able to get their books published without the worries of overhead costs. Since it is purely electronic, the costs of production are much lower.
At the same time, Foster optioned it and the sequels. While the ebook is available for purchase online the first film is scheduled to be released in 2013.
Gerdes stated she plans to have each of the books take place at a different location around the world.
“Chambers” revolves around twins, a brother and sister, who attempt to rescue their father after he’s kidnapped. They inadvertently get sent back in time to medieval China. There they learn they share an ancient lineage. Before the last page is turned, they must ward off invaders, summon the dead and bring statues to life.
Fascinated with volcanoes, Gerdes made them an integral part of the story and conducted research on notable volcanoes around the world. She decided to set the first novel in China, after reading about a 14-year-old emperor during the Ming Dynasty, whose death is still somewhat of a mystery today as his body was never found.
“China I felt was so interesting,” Gerdes said.
Borrowing from her own life, Gerdes incorporated various traits to the character inspired by her family. The father is a workaholic, which Gerdes’ father was, whom she explained was often away on business. Gerdes used her own extensive knowledge of martial arts for the boy, who is a protege. Gerdes’ brother served as the inspiration for the girl’s soccer abilities.
“A lot of these things are personal,” she said.
THE JOURNEY CONTINUES
In spite of all of her recent successes, Gerdes said, her journey as a writer is still ongoing.
“An agent gave me some advice,” she said. “He said to be an expert you have to put 10,000 hours into whatever you’re doing. I realized after I had written my book, I counted my hours and found it to be around 3,700. So it shows how far I have to go.”
Gerdes explained that a successful writer has to have what she called “the stick-to-itness,” a determination to “never let anything take away that dream.”
“A dream is a vision with a deadline,” she said.