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Archive for June 8th, 2009

The Accidental Bestseller

Who knew the truth would make such great fiction?

Once upon a time four aspiring authors met at a writers’ conference. Ten years later they’re still friends, veterans of the dog-eat-dog New York publishing world.

Mallory St. James is a workaholic whose novels support her and her husband’s lavish lifestyle. Tanya Mason juggles two jobs, two kids, and a difficult mother. Faye Truett is the wife of a famous televangelist and the author of bestselling inspirational romances; no one would ever guess her explosive secret. Kendall Aims’s once-promising career is on the skids—as is her marriage. Her sales have fallen, her new editor can barely feign interest in her work—and her husband is cheating.

Under pressure to meet her next deadline, Kendall holes up in a mountain cabin to confront a blank page and a blanker future. But her friends won’t let her face this struggle alone. They collaborate on a novel none of them could write by herself, using their own lives as fodder, assuming no one will discover the truth behind their words.

No one is more surprised than they are when the book becomes a runaway bestseller. But with success comes scrutiny and scandal. Now all bets are off….as these four best friends suddenly realize how little they’ve truly known each other.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you’ve got something to say.”

I’ve finally come to the conclusion that F. Scott had a point.

In the first books I wrote, I wasn’t thinking ‘message.’ I think I was so focused on telling a story, learning how to develop my characters and figuring out how to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B,’ that a ‘message’ was the last thing on my mind.

I was lucky enough to sell the first book I wrote and the books after that. The downside to  this good fortune was that I didn’t have a stack of earlier manuscripts that I had learned on. I was, and still am, a very instinctual writer. I don’t always understand what I’m doing, I just do it. And I always feel like I’m still figuring things out.

At some point I noticed that I did, in fact, have a theme though I think it chose me rather than the other way around. I was writing about women discovering who they were and what they were made of. My books began to evolve into what I think of as stories about women’s personal growth. I put my characters in difficult situations to see what they did and who they would become. (Playing God is one of the best perks of being a writer!)

I was rough on these women. I gave them relationships and marriages that didn’t work. Husbands who dressed up in ladies’ lingerie and disappeared with the lingerie company coffers—that was Leave It to Cleavage, my favorite title so far! I wrote husbands who ran off with younger women named Tiffany and then brought them to Little League games. Sisters who didn’t understand each other and mothers who manipulated. But I always gave them a lifeline; really good friends who would be there for them when things got really bad.

The Accidental Bestseller, which just came out, is different from the six novels that came before it. It’s still very much a story of a woman’s growth, actually multiple women’s growth, but it was the first time that I had something to say and then set out to say it. I had gone through some career experiences and decisions that made me take a long hard look at publishing and what it really is to be a writer. I wanted to write about the publishing business and what it can take to survive.

An author named Tapani Bagge said, “Everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And later you can use it in some story.”

So that’s what I did. In The Accidental Bestseller, I used not only those things that didn’t kill me, but bits and pieces of things that didn’t kill other writers I know. I’ve joked that ‘the names have been changed to protect the innocent,’ but I suspect there will be some who will think they recognize themselves. That’s OK with me. The characters in The Accidental Bestseller are pure fiction and what happens to them is pure invention, but what drives them, and the arena in which they exist, is very real. It’s as true a representation of what it is to be a working writer today as I could write without straying into nonfiction.

The writers I know are among the strongest, most resilient and supportive people in the world. Being a writer can be lonely—after all, it’s a pretty solitary pursuit. It can also be stressful. And while family and friends do their best, often other writers are the only ones who understand the unique highs and lows and incredible insecurities that are a part of not only writing but getting and staying published.

I’d wanted to write about this unique relationship and support system among writers for a long time. It felt great to put it down on paper and see it into print.

The Accidental Bestseller is dedicated to ‘every writer—aspiring and otherwise—who has a story to tell, a love of the written word, and a burning desire to see the fruit of their labor on a bookstore shelf. In a prime position. Cover out. With full publisher support behind it.

You don’t have to be a writer to read it, I promise. But it should allow you to at least walk a mile in a writer’s shoes.

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You can learn more about Ms Wax’s books by visiting her website.

Leave a comment here to enter a drawing for a signed copy of The Accidental Bestseller.

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