Thursday, September 19, 2013

Will Write for Food




Confession time: I’ve dreamt of being an author since I was five years old, and never once did I assume it could pay me a living wage.

I treat my fiction writing as a career, and I work longer hours than most of my non-writer friends. However, I’m pretty sure I could make more money potting up plants at one of my local nurseries. Some days I even wish I could force myself to get a real job that helps pay the bills. Yes, I have made money from both my novels, but 90% of that money has gone back into the business of being an author.

I have a long history of following my heart…often with dire financial consequences. When I left college, I took a job below the minimum wage level because I wanted to be a London fashion journalist. That job was supposed to be my ticket onto a magazine, but then I fell in love with an American professor and ended up in a college town in the Midwest cornfields. Never being one to give up on dreams, I began dabbling with my first novel—set in the London fashion industry—and started up a fashion page on my local newspaper. I made $25 an article; each article took three weeks. But for the first time in my life, I had to contribute to a mortgage. So I took a reasonably well-paid marketing job that drained my writing time and my sanity for the next five years.

After seven years of marriage, I began the job of my dreams: I became a stay-at-home mother with a gifted child who, even at an early age, demanded I feed his love of words.  And as he became an award-winning young poet, I became more serious about learning the craft of fiction writing.  Fortunately, my incredible husband understood that even while I was not making money, I had a plan; I had a goal.  He funded conferences and writing organization memberships, and labeled every check an investment in my future career. (He also tolerated un-cleaned bathrooms, neglect, and chaos.)

But be warned: dreams can tip into nightmares. My pub. deal put a deep strain on my family. My son, who was then a junior in high school, also battles an invisible disability—obsessive-compulsive disorder. Junior year + debut author year + OCD = a very, very bad combination. Some days the stress levels in our house were close to toxic. As I failed to juggle everything I had previously juggled, my son’s OCD spiked—one week after my debut novel launched.  The next few months were grim.

Others have said it here, and it’s true: you don’t put yourself and your family through the hell of publication for money. You do it because you can’t walk away. Because that manuscript is your passion.

Don’t get me wrong. I would be more than happy with a multi-million dollar book deal to fund my son’s four years of college, to hire Merry Maids until I die, to replace our threadbare armchairs, and to allow me—just once—to fly home to England first class.  But really, I’m not writing novels with the expectation that I’m mining for gold. I’m doing it because writing is stitched into my DNA.

I was thinking about this while reading THE RETURNED by Jason Mott. I know, THE RETURNED happens to be a Harlequin MIRA book, and I’m a Harlequin MIRA author, but it debuted on the New York Times bestseller list for a reason. It's more than just the writing, the characters, the plot—all of which are outstanding. This is a novel with a heartbeat, a story that clearly has huge personal meaning for the author. As Gene Hackman’s character says in The Replacements, you’ve got to have heart. So: Follow your heart, write what you want to write, and maybe you’ll join Jason on the bestseller lists. And if you don’t? You can have “I lived my dream” tattooed on your arm and on your tombstone.

In honor of dreamers, I’m giving away a signed advanced reader copy of my second novel, THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR, to be published by Harlequin MIRA on December 31. It’s the story of two broken families coming together to heal, and it’s the story of Will, an internationally successful author who uses writing as his shield from life. But when he walks away from his global bestsellers to discover the story in his heart, he stumbles onto the one thing that has always eluded him: happiness.

To enter to win, post a comment below. One winner will be chosen at random on Saturday, September 21.

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Barbara Claypole White writes love stories about damaged people. THE UNFINISHED GARDEN--a love story about grief, OCD, and dirt--won the 2013 Golden Quill for Best First Book. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.


42 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your version of the real life of a published author, Barbara. I'm thrilled that you're able to live your dream because I absolutely loved The Unfinished Garden and I'm anxious to reading The In-Between Hour.

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  2. I signed up for the Girlfriends Club by email, after stumbling across the blog a month or so ago. As a soon-to-be-published (next month, in fact) author, I was eager to glean as much information as I could from my fellow authors. I wanted to know what I could expect after my book comes out (I'm in that odd limbo period - my publisher has my book but it hasn't been released yet). I have to say, each time a post from the GC shows up in my Inbox, I jump on it. The insight you all provide is a real window into your world, and I often find myself nodding and smiling as I read. Like you, writing is also hard-wired into my DNA. I have a young family myself (I'm 42) and have a very understanding husband (and full-time job, and I design jewellery with gemstones and sterling silver on the side!). Writing is what lights my fire, though - each and every day. I loved your blog post and (I know how shallow this is, but having gone through the process myself, I don't mind saying it so much!) - I love your book cover :) So beautiful, and the premise for "The In-Between Hour" is right up my alley. Good luck with it - and if I don't win a copy here, I will be putting it on my "to read" list regardless. Now, I'm off to find your Facebook page. Good luck and thank you!

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  3. Thank you, Amanda. And good luck birthing your book baby next month!

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  4. Barbara, you are such an inspiration! I loved The Unfinished Garden (although I did keep one eye closed waiting for that snake you warned me about) and can't wait for The In-Between Hour to come out. Cheers! :-)

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  5. Great post, and the new book looks fabulous!

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  6. Such an inspirational and honest post, Barbara. I'm a huge fan, and wish you much success with The In-Between Hour.

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    1. Thank you, Lori--and so fabulous to see THE LIFE LIST going from strength to strength!

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  7. Great post, Barbara! I'm still eager to read your first and now I've got a second to look forward to. Very excited!

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  8. So looking forward to your next book. I recently donated "The Unfinished Garden" to our library as they did not have it and I thought I would share your talent with Central Maine readers.

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    1. Thanks, Steph! Books are for sharing, and I take it as a huge compliment when anyone passes around a copy of TUG. :)

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  9. Barbara,
    We are all sitting on Pins and Needles awaiting the release of your seond book "The In-Between Hour" I am sure it will be just as GREAT as your first Book Baby "The Unfinished Garden"!!! My friends and family all really enjoyed "TUG" and are waiting for this next one too!! I have been "spreading the love" of "The In-Between Hour" debut as well as reminding people of TUB on FB as well as through Emails! Can't wait for December 31st!! Keep Writing!!
    Sincerly,
    Julie S.

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    1. Well Barbara,
      There is something to be said about "Proof Reading" I see in my post I wrote (at the end) TUB instead of TUG!!! Ugh!!! silly me!
      Julie
      xoxoxo

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  10. Thank you for your open and honest post. I'd love the chance to read this!

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  11. Looking forward to it's release over at Everything OCD Barbara! Wishing you the best with it and we thank you for the generosity you have already shown our members! xx

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  12. Thanks for the post! Cannot wait to read this!

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  13. I'm so looking forward to reading your next novel.

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  14. Beautiful post, Barbara. The writing life is rarely an easy one...but you've handled the challenges with grace. And I cannot wait to read THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR. It sounds wonderful!

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  15. Thank you for your honest post. I admire everyone who follows his/her heart to publish a novel, never knowing if there´s every going to come out money in the end.
    I dare say these are the best novels - the ones not written because they make money, but because they need to be written, even if they shouldn´t be able to support much.
    Looking forward to reading your new book!

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  16. Michele Davenport BurdickSeptember 20, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    Ever since author, Laura Spinella posted your novel on Facebook, I've been intrigued. If I don't win, this still remains on my 'to read' list. Many happy blessings to you, Barbara! :)

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  17. Sounds like a wonderful read and it is on my to read list. Thanks for the giveaway.

    Ann Ellison
    abilene_nana@yahoo.com

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  18. Barbara, thank you for the down-to-earth, nitty-gritty and honest window of being a writer. Not sure I could do the tattoo, but seriously thinking of painting 'I'm living my dream' on my office wall! Loved TUG and look forward to December for 'The In-Between Hour'
    Kim

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  19. Ok I thoroughly enjoyed TUG and look forward to "The In-between Hour". The title sounds so mysterious. Dear friend....congratulations!

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  20. And we have a winner! Congratulation to Connie. I'll contact you directly for your mailing address.

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