Please help us welcome guest author Maryann McFadden, whose path to publication is an inspiration for anyone who dreams of becoming an author. Here’s her incredible story!
As Thanksgiving approaches, despite the fallen leaves, the colder weather, and the sudden short days, it isn’t hard for me to feel thankful. Being thankful has been a constant for me for the past two years because I finally have the job I’ve always dreamed of. I’m a PUBLISHED AUTHOR!
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl, and that dream followed me into middle age, a long and winding journey that took me away from writing for a decade, and then back to it again. I entered a Master’s program and wrote my first novel, THE RICHEST SEASON, the story of a corporate wife from NJ who runs away to Pawleys Island SC, with high hopes of being published. But then the dream began to fade, as the rejections trickled in, and in. Over 5 years, I received dozens of rejections, and shelved the book three times. Until I took matters into my own hands and self-published it.
Guess what? I got the deal I’d always dreamed of and became a full-fledged author with a major publisher, with a two book hardcover contract. Suddenly writing wasn’t just a dream anymore. It was my job.
The biggest difference in writing the second book as opposed to the first, is having a deadline. You are no longer simply accountable to yourself, and no longer working on the muse’s schedule. As an author under contract, you are working for your publisher, in my case Hyperion Books (owned by Disney, you know “when you wish upon a star…” which a friend used to sing to me as I dreamed of my book getting taken.
Having a one year deadline was a bit terrifying, to say the least. My first novel took me 3 years, but I was also selling real estate full-time. Now I was going to write full-time. But as often happens to me, my life got in the way. My daughter needed me to help each week to care for my granddaughters while she taught online. My mother-in-law’s Parkinson’s worsened, and my husband and I pitched in a bit more. And my own mother was still suffering from an autoimmune illness, so I was spending time with her at various doctors. Needless to say, fitting writing into that schedule wasn’t easy.
I realized, as all this was unfolding around me, that an opportunity was presenting itself. I was now officially part of the “sandwich generation,” women, and men, caught between the needs of their children and grandchildren, while also helping with their aging parents. In other words, my mother and daughter were the bread and I was the bologna! What a great topic for women’s fiction. And so my plot was born, a fictional “sandwich generation” story, with 3 generations of women. Not us, believe me.
As I began to make progress, I would find days where I got nothing done, too exhausted from babysitting, or distracted at my mother-in-law’s to concentrate. And for me that was the hardest thing, having to get the momentum of the story going again. Sometimes I simply had to read through the entire manuscript from the beginning all over again, just to get the thread of the story going in my head again.
While I wrote this new novel, creating a fresh cast of characters, I was constantly revisiting my first novel, THE RICHEST SEASON, to proof catalog copy, jacket copy, and all the little, exciting details I’d waited my whole life for. I wanted it all to be perfect, so it wasn’t unusual for me to halt the new book in its tracks, to spend a few days honing these tiny pieces of text that would hopefully convince booksellers, and then readers, to pick up my book.
After those few days, content that the jacket copy was the best it could be, tantalizing without giving too much away, I went back to the new book. Switching gears became second nature, after a while, and after six months I had half the novel finished. I submitted it to my editor, terrified.
After all, it had taken me 3 years to write my first novel. Two long days passed and then I heard from my editor. She loved it! I now had another six months to write the rest.
I kept writing, breaking again to agonize over covers, write copy for my new website, get business cards and book marks made up (again, agonizing over every line of text). Soon, it was time for THE RICHEST SEASON to debut nationwide in hardcover. And I was still writing the second book.
The book launch party kicked off about a month of events in the northeast and the south, with me traveling to signings, stopping at stores along the way to sign stock, fielding e-mails from book clubs (yeah!) and interviews with newspapers and radio stations, as well as some local TV. During this wonderful, crazy, busy time I was still…writing the second book. It was due 6 weeks after the launch, and it didn’t seem possible I could get it all done.
But I did. When I finished my book tour, I went to Cape Cod, where my second novel, SO HAPPY TOGETHER, is set. I spent nearly 2 weeks at my sister’s house, writing 10 hours a day, until the book was finished. I submitted it to my editor and…she loved it! So did my publisher! So do I!
Having a deadline, I’ve decided, is not such a bad thing. If not under pressure, I know I would have taken longer to write the new book. Writing with a contract simply means managing your time a bit better, learning how to switch gears, juggling family demands, and deciding that, ultimately, you want to keep living this dream.
I continue to be thankful each day, even when my eyes are crossing and I’m exhausted because although this is the hardest job I’ve ever had, I love it. I’m writing my third novel. And as I write this new cast of characters, I’m still living with the previous two, as I meet with book clubs for THE RICHEST SEASON, handle interviews and publicity for SO HAPPY TOGETHER, and wonder just how many people can possibly talk in my head at the same time!
Maryann is giving away a copy of The Richest Season to one lucky commenter!