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?
Connect with me on social media: Twitter, Facebook, my new Street Team (click to join for fun, exclusive things I’m dreaming up), Pinterest, Instagram, and that’s it for now. I need time to write my books!
Before and Again is now available everywhere. Click here to purchase!