I’m preparing for the release of my new novel, The Summer of Second Chances. Cover reveal is just to your left. It’s the third book in my Women of Willow Bay series and I confess, I’m a tiny bit more excited about this book than any of the others. It’s a fun, plot-driven story with older characters who are both looking for a new start when they get pulled into a shipwreck mystery. But that’s not why I love it.
I love it because it’s some of the best writing I’ve ever done. There, I said it. Looking at that sentence makes me feel very self-conscious because am I supposed to say that about my own book? Is it okay for me to claim “great writing” about something I’ve written. I confess I’m struggling with that idea because I'm not much of a self-promoter.
As I've told you before and will probably tell you again, my editor, the amazing Lani Diane Rich, who truly is a great writer, has told me that I should say those words out loud regularly: I AM A GREAT WRITER! I’ve done the exercise often—repeating those words during times of writing frenzies and writing droughts, when I needed to boost my confidence, and even when I was feeling particularly good about author Nan. But this one was different. This book was a struggle and the story evolved over a period of a year that was one of the worst years ever. There were days of such difficulty in other parts of my life that I couldn’t begin to sit at the computer and write. I got blocked and even had times where I seriously lost track of my give-a-damn about writing. Even my blog got abandoned as one tragedy after another crushed my creative spirit.
I had moments of relief, days of joy, times when the well was refilled—the April Chicago Spring Fling writers conference with fellow Word Wrangler Liz Flaherty, my kids coming to spend their vacation with us at the lake, ten delicious days with Grandboy, the IRWA Retreat…it wasn’t all sadness and gloom. But yet, it was hard to write about happily-ever-after when happy felt so far away.
When I sent the first draft to Lani, she took it apart, gave me good advice about how to fix it, and patiently waited for me to send it back to her. Revisions came hard, until I realized that I didn’t know my hero. He was coming out way too romance-novel smooth, and that wasn’t at all how I saw him in my head. He isn’t a hot, confident hunk who strides in to sweep my heroine off her feet and save the day. He’s a 51-year-old nerd—a very smart guy who’s licking his wounds after a bad divorce and trying to find a new path. He eats junk food, worries about his thickening middle, and is awkward around women who are his intellectual equals.
This is crazy, but I didn’t know how to make the layers of his personality happen until… I changed his name. Yup, that was it. That was the catalyst that set my creative juices flowing and sent the story revisions into overdrive. I simply changed his name. Once he stopped being Ben and became Henry, he suddenly blossomed in my head. All of his insecurities came to life and I fell in love with him. Fortunately, so did Sophie, the heroine in The Summer of Second Chances. The romance developed, not as a lusty drool-fest over six-pack abs and perky boobs, but rather as the natural evolution of a long friendship turned to love.
The manuscript is in final copyedit with my editor and I’m hoping that she agrees with me and my darling betas, who all have loved the story, especially the ending. I’m proud of how my writing has matured and evolved. I’m anxious to share Sophie and Henry’s story with my readers because, you know, maybe I am a great writer, and if I don't believe that about myself, how can I expect anyone else to believe it?