Take Three: Come Away with Me

Karma9:3:14Today is my first post as a 2015 Deb and I’m a bundle of nervous excitement. Sure, it’s also back to school for the mini (who is starting grade one and handling it much better than I am), and I have some fairly prickly deadlines looming, which explain the nerves. But I’m also psyched I’m part of this amazing group of debut writers for the next year!

I’ve talked about this before, but I never set out to be a writer. Even in journalism school, whenever someone asked, “So I guess you want to write?” I’d secretly roll my eyes and patiently explain that no, not everyone with a j-school degree wants to write. I was going into television. Writing wasn’t my thing.

But on the last day of school I got the shock of my life – a cancer diagnosis. The life I had planned evaporated, and I had to sort out what my new normal looked like. A year or so after treatment ended (I’m now 11 years cancer free), an idea just popped into my mind. An idea for a novel. So I wrote one chapter. Then another. But still, I insisted I wasn’t a writer. I was simply writing.

That book took me six years to write, during which time I got married, became a mother, and quit my day job to be a stay at home mom and part-time freelance writer (never say never…). When I wrote that book I had no idea what I was doing. Tension? Characterization? Dialogue tags? Query letters? Needless to say, that book now lives on the shelf where many first books go to retire (die). But without the experience of writing and querying that first book, my second attempt wouldn’t have been what it was: a book that got me my agent and came pretty darn close to snagging me a book deal.

While I was agent hunting for that second book, I started my third book. The idea for it came at my uncle’s funeral, where I had a conversation with my cousin about bucket lists and honoring those we love. I muddled it around for a bit, as I usually do, trying to see if it had legs. Then on date night with the husband, over grilled cheese and a flight of craft beer, we worked out story details and he came up with a twist that gave me butterflies. The next day I started writing.

My first draft of Come Away with Me took four months to write. By the time book two was on submission, I had written enough of book three for my agent to give a teaser pitch to editors. And one editor, who took book two to acquisitions but ultimately had to pass, remembered that pitch and asked to see it. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Seeing my book on a shelf is going to represent so many things for me, but mostly that a (giant) goal I set years ago has been achieved. And also, I suppose, that I really am a writer. No turning back now…

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Karma Brown is the author of COME AWAY WITH ME (MIRA/Harlequin, September 2015), an emotional story of one woman’s discovery that life is still worth living, even if it’s not the life you planned. Karma is also a National Magazine award-winning journalist, and lives outside Toronto, Canada, with her family and their mischievous labradoodle puppy, Fred.

This article has 30 Comments

  1. I thnk there’s a big difference between wanting to write and wanting to “be a writer.” Writing because you have something to write seems better to me than writing because you want to be a writer (I had a friend who always liked to chat up women at parties by saying he was a writer – – but he hadn’t really done much actual writing.

    My father was always working on a writing project, but he would never have said he was a writer (my mother was the same with painting and drawing). I always think it’s better to start with the desire to create rather than the desire for the label.

    1. I agree! I labelled myself a “writer” when I started making money doing it, and it became a career. But calling myself an “author” was much harder … for me it was only once I had a book deal that I felt confident adding that label to the mix. Different for everyone, but I suspect without true desire success will be hard to come by…

  2. I remember when you were going to be the next Katy Couric and when you had to switch your plans when you got sick. I also remember getting tears in my eyes reading the first few chapters of your ‘first’ book and why I always think of you when I see a pink breast cancer ribbon, and agree that it is a rubbish colour for it. I still have the copy of the first magazine you were published in. You are an inspiration for having a goal and keeping on trucking, and when I talk about you, you are ‘My friend Karma, writer and author whose getting her book published. ~Exciting and Congratulations x

  3. It never ceases to amaze me, Karma, how so many authors like yourself don’t set out to become writers- for whatever reason, life pushes them towards it:-)
    And I think every author on the planet has a throw away novel sitting on their shelf!
    Great post and thanks for sharing you path to publication!

  4. What an amazing story, Karma. Amazing when we finally say, I AM a writer. Took me years. I used to tell myself and everyone, I like to write. But somehow owning it with a label makes all the difference.

  5. I remember reading the first few sample chapters of your first book. I was hooked and couldn’t wait to read more!!! You’ve inspired so many writers who hope to one day become authors like you. Congrats lady.

  6. Oh, Karma. I love that you shared this story. It’s amazing what a health crisis can do for creativity. Yay for taking something so hard and doing something good for yourself. I had brain surgery a few years ago and it made me determined to make something of my writing. So happy you have been cancer free for so many years!

    1. Thanks, Susan! I am grateful for my health crisis for many reasons — one of which is that it pushed me in a different direction, and so much good has come of that. Good for you and your determination — happy to hear you’re well now, too 🙂

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