Around this time last year, I woke up (having hit publish on Relentless the night before), clamored down the stairs of my sister’s house where I was staying at the time, opened up my laptop to check if I’d sold even a single copy of Relentless while I was sleeping, and nearly went into shock.
Less than two weeks later, Relentless hit the USA Today bestsellers list.
I think sometimes people hear stories like this and think, “Oh, she’s an overnight success. I can do that, too.” Overnight success does not, in any way, describe my story.
I have been a storyteller all my life. Before I could even write, I recorded my stories on cassette tapes. All I wanted to be from elementary school and all throughout college was a professional novelist. But, for twenty-five years, I told myself that my stories didn’t matter. That no one wanted to hear what I had to say.
Eight and a half years ago, at the age of twenty-eight, I decided to start writing the first novel I would ever finish. Though I’d been writing fiction and poetry my entire life, I had no idea what I was in for. I hated every draft of that book, even the final draft. I spent years honing my craft while writing that book, attending writing classes, workshops, writers’ groups, online beta groups, author forums…. I read every book on the craft of writing and getting published that I could get my hands on. I even studied screenwriting in hopes to gain a slight edge. I was obsessed with becoming the writer I knew I could become. But I still hated everything I wrote.
It took me six years to finish my first novel and it still sucked. It wasn’t until I realized a pattern in all my stories (a strong theme of romance) that I began to think I needed to switch genres in August of 2012. At the time, I was living in Portugal, in a house that was more than 100 years old. We had a leaky toilet, a leaky shower, a leaky roof, and barely enough food. We were living on anywhere from $300-800 a month in royalties from my first novel, some short stories, and freelance articles.
At that point, I knew I had studied long enough and I had worked hard enough. I was sleeping every other night for a while there just to meet my deadlines. I knew in my heart I deserved to give myself a chance.
When Luke was finished, I wanted to write another full-length novel. I had just completed two novella series. I wanted to branch out. And I had a story brewing in my mind about a girl who was running from a dark secret, until that secret quite literally came banging down her door. I knew I wanted to tell that story in a beautiful beach setting. And I knew that, if it did well, it would be the first in a series about a girl torn between running away and confronting the past she was terrified of facing. A girl who made a sacrifice that no one could imagine making for the one person who saved her and showed her love as no one had ever done before.
The night I hit publish on Relentless, I allowed myself to hope that it would be at least successful as Luke, which had been fairly successful and had earned me in one month more than I had made the entire previous year. I did not expect what would happen in the weeks that followed the publication of Relentless.
If you ask anyone who knows me well, my sisters, my daughter, Mimi Strong, they will tell you what a complete and utter wreck I was. It was as if all the twenty-five years of dreaming, the eight-years of grappling with the written word, the one and a half years of crippling self-doubt and sleepless nights, were finally worth it.
So, no, I was not in anyway an overnight success. And if you ask me now, I have no idea why Relentless became so successful. All I know is that I could not have done it without my family, my friends, and all of you. You made me who I am today by taking a chance on a fairly unknown author who felt she had a story to tell.
*** GIVEAWAY CLOSED ***
Winner: Paula Jackman
You must have read Relentless to be eligible for this giveaway. We will verify this when notifying the winner. If you haven’t read Relentless yet, there’s still plenty of time to do that before Friday, and it’s only 99¢ right now.
We will pick a winner of the $365 gift card on Friday, February 28th. Good luck!