This a ‘Tag Post’ so if you are another author you can join in the fun! Check the bottom of this post to see how you can get involved. One more thing before we get into it. I want to give a giant thank you and h/t to Niamh Murphy, the author from whom I got this idea.
What is the title and genre of your debut novel, and when does it come out?
My debut novel is called Secrets My Mothers Kept. It’s contemporary fiction in a similar vein to authors such as Marybeth Mayhew Whalen, S.D. Robertson, and Jodi Picoult. The story follows 21-year-old engineering student in the ten tumultuous weeks following her discovery of being adopted. In addition to dealing with the sense of betrayal and loss of trust with her parents, Austin also struggles with the impact this revelation has on her status within the Reform Jewish community, which has always been a source of strength for her. With the support of a new friend and romantic interest, Claire, and her rabbi and old family friend, Rivka, Austin searches for answers about her biological parents and her own origins.
The book will be available for pre-order on October 15th, and on sale, exclusive to Amazon Kindle, on November 27th. I will send a reminder to those who sign up for my mailing list.
Download a FREE Three-chapter preview of Secrets My Mothers Kept here.
What gave you the idea to start writing it?
I’m an adoptee and had been searching for my birthparents on and off for 20 years to no avail. There was a scant paper trail and it only led to dead ends. About six years ago, I had decided to take DNA tests to try and find my biological family. Many searchers recommend writing a letter to your birthmother so that your first contact is thoughtful and separate from the high emotions of the search and reunion. It’s also less intimidating for the person who has been found. I wrote a number of different drafts of this letter and, in doing so, spent a lot of time considering who my birth mother might have been and might be. I found myself wondering what kind of conversation we might have. I wrote out a scene, which eventually became the scene in the book with Austin and Elise speaking for the first time. The novel was still in editing when I found my birthmother’s family and discovered she had passed away. That scene became even more important to me, as it represented something that was no longer possible for me to have in my life, but that I would always have in the book.
How long did it take you to finish?
The book took a lot longer to write than I had anticipated. I’d say it took around four years to write, then another year to edit. However, I will say in my defense that, not only was I working full-time as a marketing director, I was also pursuing a Meteorology degree program online while running for a local public office, so I had a lot going on!
What was the biggest challenge you had writing it?
Honestly, the biggest challenge I have with writing arises from some medical conditions I have. I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in my mid-thirties, which primarily impacts my feet and hands, especially my fingers. It can be difficult and painful to hold pens or to type, and that has often slowed me down. I would also get cluster headaches, every four weeks or so for four days at a time, which really interrupted my writing groove, so to speak. They’ve improved to occurring every two to three months, which is wonderful. I also have a fair amount of permanent nerve damage in both arms and my left leg. These issues have, at times, really brought me low until I realized I needed to change my attitude about it. Since then, I’ve opened myself up to learning from these conditions. They’ve taught me patience and to approach things with a steadiness. Now, I don’t get too bent out of shape if I can’t write for a few days. I give my body what it needs and the writing moves along fairly steadily.
Did you go the Traditional or Indie route in publishing it?
There’s nothing wrong with the traditional publishing route and I think it serves a valuable role in the publishing and distribution of books across global audiences. However, I opted for the Indie route in publishing this novel for several reasons. I recognized the topics of the book—a queer protagonist, adoption, and Judaism—may seem a bit niche and I’d likely have a hard time getting literary agents or publishers to take a chance on it.
Despite the specificity of topics, my goal was to write a story that anyone could understand. This story takes the audience on an emotional journey that embraces the commonalities these topics engender in us all, such as feelings of abandonment, the struggle for strength and resilience, and the discovery of hope. At the end of the day, I thought self-publishing would put me in the best position to share this message and promote my book. My other reason for self-publishing is that it relieves a lot of deadline pressure. As mentioned, I have some conditions that can cause fatigue. Self-publishing allows for plenty of advanced planning and structuring of marketing work that can be adjusted to meet my needs.
What was your most important take-away from the process?
I’ll put this in terms of advice for others. You have to find a way to motivate yourself. That could mean telling your friends or family what you’re doing and when you hope to have it done by so that you’ll have someone to hold you accountable. Or you could simply have a calendar with daily word counts and deadlines. No matter what method you choose, the only way you will succeed is if you keep yourself motivated to start, finish, and publish!
One other thing I would add is a reminder to take yourself seriously. Take your thoughts, your efforts, and your writing seriously. Don’t let anyone try to diminish what you do.
What are you working on right now?
I’m really excited about my current WIP! It’s about a homeless teen who livestreams her life living on the streets to raise money to go to college. It’s a difficult story, a bit grittier than Secrets My Mothers Kept, a bit darker, but not grim. I really believe in infusing my work with hope even when, maybe especially when, the stories are gritty and tough.
I hope you enjoyed this short Q & A interview. Drop me a line in the comments if you have questions or just want to chat! And remember, you can download a free 3-chapter preview by signing up for my mailing list. No spam, I promise!
If you are another author, join me in playing ‘tag’!
Copy and paste these questions into your own blog, with a link back to me. If you link to your tag blog post in the comments below, I’ll come check it out! You can check out Niamh Murphy’s original Debut Novel Q & A tag post here.