This week marks a year since I accepted an offer from Simon & Schuster to publish my novel THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST. It’s been an amazing, strange, glorious, surreal, wonderful year.
This novel was first written in 2010 under a name that’s a bit of a spoiler name, so I won’t share it now. It was a difficult book to write, very different from the two novels I had written before this one, and challenged me as a writer.
It began with a simple idea: what if a person woke up on a beach and they didn’t know who they were, where they were or how they had gotten there?
Not much to go off, really. But the idea had come to me while I was walking our dog next to a lake near our home, and by the time I got back to the house, my mind was buzzing with possibilities. My husband and I sat and brainstormed for an hour…and then I started writing.
I didn’t fully understand what the story was about, however, until I wrote the last chapter. My fingers literally stopped typing and I went, “Ohhhh.” It was then that I realized this story was about fear, and that it was very personal.
To me, THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST is about the scared little kid in every one of us. The part of us that says we’re not good enough, we’re not smart enough, or strong enough, or pretty enough. The part of us that says we can’t achieve our dreams.
I’ve had that voice in my head all my life. Sometimes it whispers, sometimes it screams, but it’s always there.
When I was working on this book, long before I had signed with an agent or my editor had read it, a good friend of mine asked me how I see it getting published. I replied, “I don’t.” She was surprised, but I didn’t ever think this book would get published.
I hoped, though, and hope is a powerful thing. Hope kept me writing. Hope kept me revising. Hope kept me submitting to agents.
In a phone call in early January, 2015, Rachel Orr of Prospect Agency said she’d like to represent my books. In a phone call almost two years later, on Jan. 31, 2017, Rachel told me we had received two offers for this book. A week later, after some negotiations and plenty of Q&A with the editors, I accepted the offer from editor Sarah Jane Abbott at Paula Wiseman Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
And last week, on the anniversary of that Jan. 31 call, I visited Simon & Schuster for the first time. I walked into a building I had gazed at in awe years before. I met Sarah Jane and the amazing Paula Wiseman who heads the imprint. I was showed into a conference room with walls that are covered in framed photos of award-winning children’s books published by Simon & Schuster. There were even bowls of veggies and fruit and a poster of my bookcover on the table! (There it is in the picture of me at the top of this post.) And I sat down with a table full of people who’ve read my book, loved it, and are working so hard to make it beautiful and get it into the hands of readers around the world.
I never thought these days would happen. But they did.
Amazing. Strange. Glorious. Surreal. Wonderful.
THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST is a book that scared me to write, helped me grow in my craft, and taught me a lot about myself. It’s a book that I’m proud of for all these reasons, and I hope its readers will find themselves and their strength in the pages too.
To that voice that keeps telling the scared little kid in me that I can’t do it, I’d love to blow a raspberry and say, “Na na na na na!” 🙂
But that voice isn’t gone. It’s going to be with me forever. What I know now, though, is that as long as I keep working hard, keep pushing through, keep trying to get better, that voice can scream all it likes, because amazing, strange, glorious, surreal and wonderful things happen when you do.
What does your voice tell you?