Guest Post: Barbara Conrey on Highs and Lows of the Debut Year

It’s my pleasure to introduce guest blogger Barbara Conrey today. Barbara is a top-notch writer and an A+ literary citizen. She goes out of her way to serve the greater good and has become a friend to many debuting authors during this unpredictable year. I’m thrilled that you’ll get to hear her voice, too. Read on to learn more about Barbara’s debut (at age 70!) and how she’s navigated the virtual book launch. 

Debut Highs and Lows

First, I’m seventy, and this is my debut year. That’s either an oxymoron or incredibly poor timing on my part, but, like the rest of the world, I had no clue 2020 was going to be the year of the global pandemic.

So maybe I’ll start with the lows of reaching my dream at a time when people are dying, and the economy is struggling. Maybe you weren’t expecting me to dig that deep, dear reader, but it’s true. I fought to bring my book into this world, and now I feel incredibly selfish to worry about its success.

So. I won’t be experiencing a book launch in the traditional sense of book launches. And this could mean that I never experience a traditional book launch. Do the math. At best, it could be three years until I publish another book. Will I still be in good health and able to sit on a stool in my favorite book shop and look out into a sea of smiling faces while I read an excerpt from my latest book? Or will we all still be wearing masks, and I’ll do my next launch just like this one – sitting in front of my laptop staring at little rectangles of friends that I so much want to hug?

I will especially miss the hugging; I’m a hugger.

I won’t be signing books while a smiling fan stands nearby and tells me how much his Aunt Edna loved my book and could I please sign my name in a way that makes it seem like Aunt Edna and I went to high school together.

So there’s that.

But there are highs in this debut year! Writers and supporters of writers, online book clubs and reading groups have come together in extraordinary ways to support those of us who have spent the last few years praying for a publishing date and then getting one, and then wondering what just happened.

In my experience, writers and social media groups that support writers are notoriously generous people. And this year, with book stores and publishing companies financially struggling and debut authors wondering how they are going to spotlight their book, this generosity seems to have no limits. And it is so, so appreciated.

And there is Zoom. An online audio and web conferencing platform, which I will admit, I’m still making friends with. Zoom has allowed me to reach readers that, in all honesty, I would never have made contact with before this year. I mean, am I going to drive cross country to meet with a book club in San Diego? Not bloody likely. But I will set up a Zoom meeting and answer questions and talk about all the reasons I wrote Nowhere Near Goodbye: the friends who’ve suffered unimaginable loss, my need to create a hypothetical situation where the outcome is different and the tumor, not the patient, dies.

The thing I’ve learned this year is this: no matter who you are and what you do, it is absolutely necessary to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and keep your eye on the bright side.


Barbara Conrey worked in the health care industry for many years before opting for an early retirement, which lasted all of three months. She then accepted a position in finance, for which she had absolutely no background, and four years later, she decided to write a book. But not about finance.

Travel is her passion, along with reading, writing, hiking, and exploring antique shops. Her greatest love is Miss Molly, her rescue beagle. There are stories to be told about beagles, and Barbara hopes to incorporate some of them into her books.

Barbara lives in Pennsylvania, close to family and friends.

ABOUT Nowhere Near Goodbye

A mother’s love vs. a doctor’s oath.

Oncologist Emma Blake has dedicated her life to finding a cure for a rare brain cancer. Twenty-five years ago, Emma’s childhood friend Kate died of glioblastoma, and Emma vowed to annihilate the deadly disease. Now, Kate’s father, Ned, is pushing her to work harder to fulfill that promise.

When Emma discovers she’s pregnant, she’s torn between the needs of her family and the demands of her work. While Ned pressures her to do the unthinkable, her husband, Tim, decorates the nursery. Unwilling to abandon her research, Emma attempts to keep both sides of her life in balance.

Emma knows she needs to reconcile her past with her present and walk the fine line between mother and physician. But Ned has a secret, and when Emma discovers what he’s been hiding, the foundation of her world cracks.

Nowhere Near Goodbye is a story of family, failure, and second chances.

Author: Kathleen West

Kathleen West is the author of the forthcoming novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, out 2/4/20 from Berkley. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.

2 Replies to “Guest Post: Barbara Conrey on Highs and Lows of the Debut Year”

  1. Barbara, your novel has me intrigued and your path to publication is one I can relate to. I am also a “later in life” debut novelist. Good luck with your book!

  2. Me, too. I’m 68 and wrapping up (I hope!) my first polished draft of my family saga/historical fiction. I wonder how things are similar/different for
    “later-in-life” aspiring and published debut novelists? In any case, it’s nice to know others north of 50 are out there scribbling away. Best wishes to Lisa and Barbara as they debut their novels during this bizarre year!

Comments are closed.