I’ve been shocked by how many people have said to me, when they hear I have a novel coming out, that they’ve always wanted to write a book. It’s not something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always been a reader, and for 15 years I’ve been a professional writer. But I used to joke that I was “the only journalist I know with no desire to write the Great American Novel.”
I really meant that — it wasn’t something I said to cover up a secret ambition.
So what changed? Well, it all started about five years ago. At the time I was working as an interior designer, my only professional job that hasn’t involved writing or editing. I guess I missed it, because one day as I was driving in to work, an idea for a book hit me like an epiphany. I hid out in my office that morning, typing away. Less than a year later I’d finished a novel.
That book wasn’t 30 First Dates.
After typing The End on my first literary effort, I did the really hard part of fiction writing — I started researching how to get a book published. I’m glad I finished the manuscript first, because otherwise I’d have been too discouraged, intimidated and otherwise freaked out to continue. It turns out fiction is a tough, tough business. (If you want to know why, read the first sentence in this post. There’s a lot of competition out there.)
I started reading the reams of advice out there for fiction writers, connecting online with other writers and editing my first book. I started a blog that now lives right here. I sent out a few queries, only to be met with a few rejections. I learned that I was writing in a “dead genre” (chick lit, which was as overplayed at the time as vampire/zombie/soon-to-be dystopian books are right now). I got discouraged. And then I got over it.
In 2013 I started a new book. Its working title was “Erin’s Story” because its main character, Erin Crawford, was a secondary character in that initial book I wrote (called Now a Major Motion Picture). I really liked Erin while I was writing NAMMP (which will hopefully live on a shelf one day alongside 30 First Dates) and I decided she deserved a starring role of her own. Erin’s general zaniness, smart mouth and spontaneity gave rise to 30 First Dates, and I got started simply by asking myself the question, “What will Erin do next?”
I was on-again, off-again with my writing throughout 2013. I’d write a few chapters, set it aside, get busy with my day job, write a few more chapters. Then late last year, I decided to make a New Year’s resolution for 2014: I’d finish 30 First Dates by the end of April and, unlike my first effort, I’d resist all discouragement and query it out until I got a bite.
This time luck and knowledge were on my side. I made a LOT of trips to Starbucks to finish the manuscript. I edited the draft. I stopped calling my work “chick lit” and re-dubbed it “romantic comedy,” which is just as apt a description and, more importantly, NOT a dead genre. I created a spreadsheet (those who know me best might collapse in shock from reading that statement, but it’s true) and kept track of agents and publishers I’d queried and their responses. Shockingly I got a few nibbles and several bites. At least half of the agents I queried requested partials (meaning sample chapters) of the book, and four or five requested fulls (meaning the whole book).
I had three requests still pending when Gemma Halliday Publishing made an offer for 30 First Dates. I was thrilled to say yes, and the rest is (almost) history. I’ve spent the last several months learning the ropes and going through the process of working with a publishing house to create a book. I signed a contract, submitted the manuscript, approved a cover design and worked with an editor to produce a final draft. The book is now in the final stages of copy editing and formatting, and in exactly two weeks it’ll be out there in the world.
My head is still spinning.
The hard work isn’t over. In this day and age authors play a huge role in marketing their books, and so along with my day job I’m working to help my publisher get the word out about 30 First Dates. I’m also working on books three AND four, and my New Year’s resolution for 2015 is to finish book 3 by the end of April and book 4 by the end of September.
So, that girl who didn’t dream about writing the Great American Novel — she’s gone. Seeing my characters spring to life in a couple weeks on the pages of a real, live book is definitely a dream come true.