I think most authors have heard the horror stories about the Second Book. The often-dreaded Book #2 in a two-book contract. The book that you're contractually obligated to produce for the publisher whether you feel like writing it or not. The book that has a deadline attached and may or may not be approved by your editor once it's finished. The book that tries to kill you.
THE GIRL YOU THOUGHT I WAS was that book for me. When I signed that two-book deal, it wasn't even an idea in my head yet. I had other ideas, one of which I tried to make work and failed. Nothing was clicking. I was getting desperate.
Then, with my deadline a scary five months away, I came across this article about teenage shoplifters. An outline took form, and I spent weeks researching shoplifting, how it's done, and the psychology behind it (I'm surprised the police didn't show up at my door). I read people's stories about being caught, sought out articles by mental health professionals about the personality traits of shoplifters and the reasons why they do it, and I paid attention to things like security cameras and blind spots whenever I was in stores (again, it's amazing that I didn't get arrested). By the end of it, I knew way more about shoplifting than I probably should have, and my narrator Morgan--and her story--emerged and took shape.
Luckily, my editor was into the idea. I spent the next four months drafting, and to be completely honest and transparent here, it was awful. Still burned out from my last book and stressed from other things going on in my life, I had little motivation. I doubted the story at every turn. I doubted myself. I had to force myself to write almost every day. Usually, once I got into it, I was fine, but sometimes I wasn't, and no words came. I longed to finish it and be done with it forever. I told my husband, numerous times, that this would probably be the last book I ever wrote.
That's right. This book almost made me quit writing.
But I got through it. I finished the draft two weeks before my deadline and a huge weight lifted off me. When I sent it to my agent, I was so physically and mentally drained, I wasn't sure if I was sending him a document full of garbage, or if I actually had something workable. A few days later, I woke up to a glowing email from him, gushing about how good it was and how much he loved it. I remember lying in bed with my phone, reading and re-reading his email and crying. Just thinking about that now made me tear up again. I don't think he has any idea how much his words meant to me at that moment. Authors reading this--find yourself an agent who makes you believe in yourself again.
When the manuscript was accepted by HarperTeen, I cried again. When revision time came around, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The Second Book Curse lifted and, finally, I began to fall in love with the story. With each read (and there were a lot), I connected more and more, and the stress of the past few months faded away.
After revisions, I didn't feel like writing anything new for a long time. I still wasn't sure I ever would again. I was completely past the point of burned out. But gradually, it got better. I knew I was healed when in the shower one day, I got an idea for a book about a boy and a girl who meet during a car accident and eventually fall in love. So, free from deadlines and contracts, and armed with the unwavering support of my amazing family and agent, I wrote another book and enjoyed every minute of it. I'd found the joy again.
As much as it tried to, THE GIRL YOU THOUGHT I WAS didn't kill me. In fact, it made me a stronger writer. I'm proud of it, and proud of myself for not giving up, even when it felt impossible. Today, I can honestly say I love this book, and I hope you all love it too.
THE GIRL YOU THOUGHT I WAS is now available wherever books are sold!
Barnes and Noble