In this guest post by Jillian, she talks about the journey to publishing your book. This is a must read for everyone who hopes to publish one day!
In addition to I COULDN’T LOVE YOU MORE, I am the author of two other books: HUNGER POINT and GOOD GIRLS GONE BAD. HUNGER POINT was published in 1997, GOOD GIRLS in 2002, and now I COULDN’T LOVE YOU MORE in 2012. The ten years between these last two books was grueling, and filled with endless rejection and setbacks. At several points along the way, I almost quit. In fact, it was such a life-changing experience I wrote an essay about it called This is a True Story, which is bound into the print copy of I COULDN’T LOVE YOU MORE (and also available in the eBook).
I COULDN’T LOVE YOU MORE has a long, twisted, heartbreaking but ultimately triumphant history. I spent four years working on the manuscript, but my former agent was unable to sell it to a publisher. Although this wasn’t the first time I had written a book that failed to sell, it was the first time I felt so strongly about the material that I disagreed with my agent. After working together for fourteen years, she was as beloved to me as a family member; but she felt the book was dead, and I didn’t, so we parted ways.
Eventually (after uncurling from my fetal position), I called my current agent Jennifer Gates for advice. Jen and I had worked together many years before (she co-edited my first novel, HUNGER POINT), and I thought she might have some ideas about what to do next—not necessarily about I COULDN’T LOVE YOU MORE because it seemed unlikely that anyone would ever buy the book, but about how I could resurrect my very dead career. (Despite HUNGER POINT’s success GOOD GIRLS had tanked and I was really at loose ends.) It never occurred to me that Jen would be interested in the manuscript, but once I explained the situation, she asked to see it. In addition to being a brilliant agent, Jen is also a gifted editor (and stunning and tall and generous and kind). She and Rachel Sussman (who’s no longer with the agency), read the book and offered their opinion. Their feeling? Nothing in the novel worked except the architecture; that is, the book’s structure. Everything else—characters, plotlines, tone, pacing, everything—had to be completely reconceived and rewritten. So I sat down at my computer, took a deep breath, and started over. With Jen and Rachel’s help, I stripped that manuscript, literally, down to its bones and rebuilt it. Two years later, I finally had a decent draft, and two weeks after that, the book sold–at auction.
The funny thing is, even if this book hadn’t sold, I never would’ve quit. I’ve been writing fiction all my life. I studied creative writing in college at Barnard and graduate school at NYU, taught writing for a brief period, and have spent the past twenty-odd years stealing time from my corporate job, my husband and kids, and my friends to work on my novels. My life is centered around my art and finding the time to write. I have a career, a job-job, in corporate communications, and I work four days a week at a very traditional, very buttoned-up firm. I also have a family—a husband and three daughters, parents and two sisters. So there’s constant drama, and I’m busy, busy, but at the center of the madness is the desire to write, the need to write. That desire, that need, is as palpable and relentless as any junkie’s craving, and will possess me all day until I can park myself in a chair and do my work. I love it, I hate it, it’s ecstasy when I’m writing well, it’s despair when I’m not. I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone, nor would I, could I, ever give it up. Still, I’m very grateful I was able to publish I COULDN’T LOVE YOU MORE, and I’m even more grateful for the people reading and (hopefully) enjoying it.