This is The Behind-The-Scenes Story of ‘Flirting With Pete’
If you think you’ve read every story I’ve written, you’re wrong. Well, partly wrong.
A while back, I wrote a novella, roughly 175 pages, that was deeper, darker, and more daring than anything I’d ever written. At the time, I had a slew of romances under my belt, and had moved into mainstream women’s fiction with titles like For My Daughters, which deals with a dying mother’s last wish; Shades of Grace, which focuses on Alzheimer’s disease; and Three Wishes, in which the protagonist has a near-death experience that entirely changes her life.
So I had already been toying with serious topics.
Then came Flirting With Pete, in which a young woman is stuck in a life so terrifying that she dreams up the perfect escape. Jenny Clyde is definitely the stuff for which therapist’s couches are made, and while we hear stories like hers today, not so twenty-five years ago. I believed I had written something totally real, totally vivid, totally heart-rending. I felt that Flirting With Pete had taken me to the next level as a writer.
My editor did not agree.
He felt that this story, while indeed real, vivid, and heart-rending, was not what my readers would want. “Put it away,” he advised, albeit gently. “The time will come when it’s right.”
So that’s what I did, just put it away. But I didn’t forget. For seven years, I continued to believe that Flirting With Pete was my very strongest piece. The challenge, I realized, was to take this novella and build a whole other story around it, while keeping the basics intact.
That’s what I did. I created another main character, Casey Ellis, who finds Jenny Clyde’s story in journal form in the desk of her father, a renowned psychologist, whom she has never actually met but who, on his sudden death, leaves her his Boston townhouse, with its desk, its Maine Coon cat, and it’s gorgeous hidden garden. Casey, too, is a psychologist, drawn to that field in part by her dream of being seen by this man, who sired her during a one-night stand. While her life situation is far safer than Jenny Clyde’s, her need for love and family is every bit as dire.
It took me a while to get it right – to weave the novella into the larger novel – and I had to change a few elements at the novella’s end to give my readers what I knew they would want. And you know, it worked! I just reread this book and was drawn to tears at the end.
The full novel, Flirting With Pete, was published in 2003. Its gorgeous jacket and I promoted it on The Today Show, resulting in solid New York Times Bestseller-dom status.
Now, this month, it is being published for the very first time in trade paperback, which I love.
The price is lower than the hardcover, but the print is every bit as readable – and the story? Well, you tell me. Do you see the story within the story? Does it work for you?
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Love the story about this novella becoming a book. Have moved it up on my TBR, although since I love all of them tough choice :-).
It may not be the same, but I have saved every single one of your books that you have signed for me (at least 10). As we prepare to begin downsizing, these are cherished possessions that I will not get rid of.
This sounds fantastic, I am so intrigued! I’m heading to Amazon to get it now!
It is a fascinating story. I read it years ago and loved it. Thank you for sharing how the book came to be.
I have been introduced to your books for the first time with Before And Again, which was a heartbreaking and thought provoking story of finally facing a past mistake with courage and finding the redemption with a second chance at love. This sounds like an equally endearing story. Thanks for sharing some background on it. I will definitely add this to my TBR list.
Love your stories. Are any electronic books formatted for Kindle?
All of them are available on Kindle! And thank you for your kind words.
Flirting With Pete is my absolute favorite ……..have read all of your books……but just LOVE Flirting With Pete…..love the story…..I am an avid gardener and the description of Casey’s backyard sounds a lot like my own.
Thank you for sharing how this book came to be!!
I read this book when it was first released. To this day, it is still my favorite book you have written.
For me, I know I really love a book when years later, I can still picture the garden, the house and characters very vividly.
I always recommend Flirting With Pete every chance I get!!
Thank you, Keri. I’m honored by your comments. FLIRTING WITH PETE holds a special place in my heart as well.