How a Book Becomes a Book
People ask me about my journey as a writer, how I got a book contract, and what happened next. I used to be a research scientist at UCLA, writing articles for public health journals and research reports for policy makers. I did not write stories. In fact, I didn't think I could. I thought that kind of imagination wasn't my gift.
One day, there was a break between projects. I started writing, precipitously and passionately. The reason eludes me, but I had the time so I wrote all day, everyday. I wrote a screenplay because I thought it would be easier than writing a novel. I sent it to a very successful screenwriter friend, who said it was awful, but he did recommend some writing books.
I read the books, and every other writing book I could lay my hands on, treating it like graduate school. I wrote all of the time, and let my house fall into chaos. I stopped cooking. I let my children run wild. I tossed my PhD out the window and QUIT MY JOB.
I took one of my screenplays, a historical mystery, and turned it into a book, THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC. It was to be a practice book. And practice I did. I had over a hundred drafts of the book. A writer's group workshopped it. A couple friends of mine who used to be editors critiqued it for me.
I entered it into a contest, and had the good fortune of winning. The first chapter of my book was posted on a website, and Liz Bonsor at The Blair Partnership read it. Liz contacted me through Linked-In. A few months later, we got an offer from Seventh Street Books, a new publisher dedicated to mystery novels. They are definitely up and coming and got two Edgar nominations this year. The publication date was set for November 3rd, 2015, well over a year away.
My path to publication seems lucky and fast, but when my book finally comes out, I will have been writing for seven years. For much of that, I wrote full or half time. I think the average writer works at it for ten years before they get a contract, but few quit their jobs to do so.
Here is the timeline:
January, 2014 - Got an offer from Seventh Street Books.
July - Finally signed the contract. (Yes, that took seven months).
November - A graphic designer began working on my book cover. I LOVED it.
March - I got my edits. It was the first and only time I've spoken with my editor. (Over the phone. I've still never met him). He was wonderful to work with and made the book better.
June - A copy editor found little changes we need to make to the book. Things like, "The song you used here came out in 1908, but your book is set in 1907. You need to make a disclaimer." She was pretty great.
July - Advanced Reader Copies went out to reviewers. We approached successful authors for blurbs (the endorsements on the back cover) Also, I got the proofs (BEAUTIFUL), which the proofreader and I are currently scouring for typos.
The next step - The printers. The marketing team and publicist are on the job. More copies go to more reviewers. The Penguin Random House sales team is selling the book all over the world.
November 3rd - The novel will be on bookstore shelves, and I will have a PARTY!