I am lucky enough to have a family member in the writing business! Here, my cousin Lia Mack shares a little about how she became a writer and what it meant to her to write her first novel.
When did you take up writing as a hobby?
Hobby? Them’s fightin’ words, ya know! Joking aside, I don’t look at writing as a hobby but instead as a study of the craft that I intend to turn into a career. And yes, even though I write for fun and, at times, for free, I do it all for the career I am building toward, as there’s more to it than just learning how to write a book. There’s also marketing. Brand building. Author platforms. And all that jazz…
That said, I don’t know a time when I wasn’t writing. I know, that’s the typical response for most writers. But it’s true. I’ve always been making things up and writing them down in one form or another. My first screenplay was written in third grade. And my first real attempt at novel writing that turned people’s heads was in an 11th grade literature class. I intend to be writing until the day I turn in my final words. So, as much as it might be a hobby, it also feels like a calling that will turn into a career. Only, this isn’t a sprint. It’s a triathlon.
How long did it take to write the original draft your novel?
10 long years. They say it takes five to ten years to write your first novel. Also known as, it takes five to ten years to learn the craft of writing enough that you can a) write your manuscript, and b) find someone who wants to publish it. And true to the saying, it took me ten years from start of draft to publication. Of course the five years I was sick with Lyme Disease didn’t help, but it gave me the push to finish and publish my manuscript as most near-death experiences do.
Your novel has autobiographical elements. What made you decide to share parts of your story with your readers?
When something traumatic happens to us, there are ways to heal. And writing for me was one of them. I didn’t intend on writing a novel when I started writing about healing from PTSD due to rape. Only, after journaling enough that I was starting to feel a story develop did I decide to turn my healing journaling exercise into a fictional novel, heavy on the fiction. I could have easily written a memoir, and I love the genre and have found many memoirs to be helpful in healing as well as entertaining. But I didn’t want to write one as I didn’t want to be a memoirist. I wanted to be a novelist. So, in looking at my journal entries, I added in a great deal of research and fantasy to come up with a fictional story that would reach a much wider audience than if I had just written my own story, word for word. WAITING FOR PAINT TO DRY is a roman à clef, a story with a hidden key. Only the reader can decide what’s real and what’s fiction. And what made me decide to share my story was that I wanted to help others heal. And I have. To this day I am still contacted by readers who were moved to start their own healing journey after reading my book. That’s the best motivation. To help others.
How did your vision for the novel compare with the way some other’s wanted it to be? Do you feel you were able to retain ownership of your ideas as an author?
There is definitely a huge difference between the final product and what almost was the published novel. When I was at the tail-end of the query process – looking for a literary agent who will then sell the manuscript to a publisher – I was contacted by two of the major publishers for a full manuscript. One wrote back that they wanted WAITING FOR PAINT TO DRY. Needless to say, I was over the moon! My career only took one book! I was about to be a published author, and with one of the major players in the game! Only, there was a catch. They didn’t feel the book was commercial enough. So they suggested some edits which, to their credit, smoothed out the story to a point that it resembled other books on the shelf. Except by doing so, the book had lost its heart. It was no longer a healing journey that would go on to empower and inspire others to heal. It was just another book.
So, after a long month of deliberation, I decided to go a different route. A small publisher contacted me, asking to publish the book as is. They loved it as it had heart. And thankfully I published with them as, true to form, WAITING FOR PAINT TO DRY has and continues to help other survivors heal.
Because of my choice to go with the small publisher rather than the big house publisher, I feel I was able to retain a great deal of ownership over the finished product. There were still some lost battles over back copy and internal formatting. But those are small things to hand over in comparison to removing the heart of the story.
What surprised you about the publishing process?
Good question. I guess the most surprising thing was the amount – or lack – of marketing that the publisher versus the author does. I knew going small publisher meant I would have to do a great deal of marketing. However I had no idea what that meant. Or that even authors of the big house publishers have to do their own marketing too, to the point that sometimes it can get in the way of writing if you don’t choose carefully which aspects of marketing to undertake.
What role has community with other writers played in your journey?
At first I was a lone wolf. Scared of my own shadow, I didn’t tell anyone I was a writer. I wrote and wrote and kept it all a secret. Until, that is, I was outted at my 30th birthday by a friend who gifted me with a book on writing. At that point, I had no idea how she knew! But she did, and thankfully she pushed me out of my shell as, today, I am surrounded by other writers. And happy for it. Along with a friend of mine, we host an annual Writer’s Retreat in Annapolis, MD, called The Genuine Writer’s Retreat (www.TheGenuineWriter.com). And, after three years, has connected us with a great deal of up-and-coming writers from around the world! So you could say that my journey started as a closet-writer and has blossomed into being a published novelist who helps other writers succeed.
Can you share a little about your sequel?
Yes! An imperfect mother, a perfect bottle of wine, what could possibly go wrong? PAINT BY NUMBERS is the sequel to WAITING FOR PAINT TO DRY and has been a wild ride to write. I didn’t want to write a sequel but, as my publisher put it, “If the readers want it, you write it!” So, after two years of obstinacy, I finally sat down to write, and I’m thankful I did. The story is one for the books for sure. And if you’re interested, there’s a chance for you to read it while it’s in its final stages at http://www.VirtualLittleLibrary.com, for free! We’re all stuck at home and doing the same ol’ same ol’, so why not share a little fun in the hopes it brightens someone’s day.