“I Wrote My 50th Book // Kristen Ashley Knows My Name”
“I Wrote My 50th Book”
No (all caps are necessary here) FIFTY.
I wrote fifty books.
Maybe some of you know me this well, but for those who don’t – I have been a writer for as long as I can remember. I had notebooks hidden under my textbooks in class when I was in school, scribbling stories I hoped my teachers never caught me writing. There was something like a fever in my system that could only be cooled by putting a pen to paper. It was a constant, clawing need to get these ideas, these people out of my head.
It was all I could think about.
It was all I wanted to “do with” my life.
Now, not many parents, when they hear their child wants to be an artist (of any form) jumps for joy. Let’s face it, that is not the world we live in. That is not the generation (my) parents are from. They were the “you need a 9-5 and a house mortgage in your name and a healthy 401k” kind of generation. The “American Dream” generation. Not the dreamer generation, per se. Of course they wanted me to follow my passions. But, you know, maybe as a side gig.
Over and over, that was what I would hear. Not just from family. From teachers. From friends. From my aunt’s boyfriend (who I suddenly want to call up and be like, “Yo, Bobby. Remember when you said I could never make a living writing novels? Well, suck it!” – ‘Cause I’m mature like that.)
It’s understandable, surely.
I got that.
I am, first and foremost, a very practical person.
And, after all, how can you explain to people who just want to see food on your table and a roof over your head that… you just know it is the only way for you? That you are being that illogical about it all?
But it was the only way for me.
So I didn’t go to college and get a degree that I would resent, racking up loans I would have to pay off with jobs I would hate, living a life I knew I wasn’t meant to live.
I worked odd jobs instead.
And I am grateful for them.
They gave me money when I needed it. They let me meet people I otherwise never would have associated with. They made me realize I was unhappy.
Unhappiness is a gift, my dear readers.
A valuable, beautiful gift.
Because it gives you courage. It gives you clarity.
It gives you brass lady-balls, okay?
I quit my job serving greasy hash and pancakes on the graveyard shift.
And I took a risk.
My biggest risk.
With only a small savings in the bank.
But I knew it was then or never.
I had to do it.
Something I had never been able to do.
See, for as many stories as I had started since I was maybe ten years old (thousands of them), I had never finished one. I had never stuck with a book from the first page to the very last.
It was time.
To prove it to myself.
November that year, I gave myself thirty days.
I would write a book from start to finish in thirty days.
If I couldn’t do it, I was done writing for good.
I would be practical all the way through.
Get a 9-to-5 job, a house in my name, the 401k, the dream everyone wanted for me.
And I would give up this dream. My dream.
That was what was at stake here.
And so I sat down to write.
For thirty days.
And, at the end of those thirty days, I had 97,000 words of a book that I would later title “What the Heart Needs.”
It was my first finished book.
And it was proof that I had it. What it took. To make my dream come true.
Then I did what any writer with a newly finished manuscript did.
I queried agents.
Something like twenty-five of them.
The ones who I did hear back from simply weren’t interested.
Didn’t they understand?
I could do this!
But they didn’t.
Or see my potential.
See, on the road to making dreams a reality, you come to realize one simple thing: A lot of people aren’t going to believe in your dream.
And that’s okay.
Because every naysayer, every doubter, every one of those goddamn rejection letters just fueled this urge to prove to myself, to them, to everyone, that I had been right since I was a little girl not paying attention in class.
That I was meant to be a writer.
No, not just a writer.
So I did some research, I found out about self-publishing.
And I did it.
With a terribly edited book.
And even more atrocious cover.
But a fire inside that nobody could bank down.
It was a hard nine months, dolls.
The hardest of my life.
See, I wrote, edited, and published a book every month for those nine months.
And the sales didn’t come.
And the readers didn’t come (except for a few of you. Some are still with me today. Squee!).
And my very small savings went down to almost nothing.
I was literally a week away from having to give up, go back to work, let this dream fall away.
But then something amazing happened.
And people READ “Reign.”
And then “Monster” happened.
And even more people read “Monster.”
And, suddenly, I could do it.
I could make a living doing it!
It wouldn’t be easy, of course.
My pace has never slowed. I have written a book (or more!) a month every month since I started publishing three years ago. I haven’t exactly been an overnight sensation. I have had to claw my way up a mountain of endless names, endless books. I have worked myself to exhaustion, to tears, to breakdowns, to carpal tunnel lol.
It has been hard.
But the best things usually are.
Dreams always are.
They make you work for them, fight for them, give up everything for them.
Because they are worth every sleepless night, every early morning, every bad review, every migraine, sore wrist, every moment of crippling insecurity.
They’re worth it.
This has been worth it.
Ten times over.
A hundred, thousand, million times over.
I get to do what I have always dreamed of doing.
For a living.
And – the most surreal part of this all – I have readers. Fans. People begging for the next books, voracious no matter how many times I sate their appetites.
I have people who are still with me after FIFTY books.
That is insane.
Just as amazing as the fact that me – this person who had started a thousand stories she could never finish – has finished her FIFTIETH book.
I don’t work a 9-to-5.
More like 10-to-10.
But I do have a mortgage in my name.
And that 401k thing, well, I am working on that.
“Kristen Ashley Knows My Name”
So she doesn’t know me, know me.
We don’t go get coffee and gab about our fur and feather babies, about music, about how hard it is to get past that middle point when writing a book.
We aren’t besties like that.
And she probably doesn’t even remember that she knows my name.
But she did, guys, I swear.
For one hot minute.
See, when I went into indie publishing, I did so blindly. I had never read a self-published book before. In fact, I was a paperback snob. If I couldn’t get it at Barnes & Noble, I didn’t read it.
I didn’t know the big players in the game, the Nora Roberts or Julie Garwoods of the indie world.
I just wrote my books and continued to buy my books in stores.
I’d seen these books under my recommended titles on Amazon. These books about Rock Chicks with bright colored covers. But, y’know, “Rock Chicks” didn’t sound like it would be my cuppa, y’know? (Oh, how wrong I was. But I didn’t know that at the time.)
But then Nikki, my beloved beta reader who I got to know because she was the first person EVER to write a review of one of my books on Goodreads with pictures on it. And I had been so excited that I gushed to her about it. And then a friendship formed. Anyway… Nikki told me she had a book I had to read.
It was called “Knight.”
And it was by Kristen Ashley.
So, as any somewhat obsessive new writer (I had just written “Reign” at this point) would do, I checked her out on Goodreads.
And figured something out.
Kristen Ashley was like the fucking Beyonce of the indie author world.
She was the shizz.
The crowned queen.
The one who had been to the mountain top.
See, KA… she had like a MILLION ratings, guys.
For an indie author.
So my fangirl crush began.
I changed my desktop background to a quote I saw from her in an interview.
I imagined that I could maybe someday possibly hopefully get just a smidgen of he success she has had.
I looked up to her as my Indie Boss Bitch Idol.
I read a ton of her books.
I perused – *cough* stalked *cough* – her social media.
And I thought that maybe someday she would know who I was.
Because that would be like a sign, y’know? That I “made” it.
So cue quite a while later.
I accidentally released a book the same day as KA.
I know. I’m an idiot. What was I thinking? You don’t release an album the same day as Beyonce (or a book on the same day as the Indie Boss Bitch). But I wasn’t paying attention. And I released a book the same day she did.
And, as you do as an author on release day, I was obsessively checking all my social media platforms, trying to stay on top of notifications.
I hopped on Twitter, my least active account.
And I was tagged in a tweet.
I was tagged in a tweet with Kristen Ashley about both our books being released the same day. And the writer of said tweet was trying to figure out which book to read first.
Of course, I liked the tweet.
And because KA was tagged in it, she liked it as well.
But but but…
the story doesn’t end there.
See, someone commented on the tweet saying that she had never heard of me before and was going to go check me out.
And guess what?
Kristen Ashley liked that comment.
That comment that had nothing to do with her.
She liked a comment that was just about little ol’ me.
So for just one moment, one day when we just so happened to release books at the same time, Kristen Ashley KNEW MY NAME.
It’s a big deal, dolls.
And because #PicsOrItDidntHappen, I am attaching the tweet of KA liking a comment about me.
Yes, I screenshot it.
And, yes, I saved it in a file to look at when I am having a crummy day.
Because the Bookworld Beyonce knew my name damnit.
And that is something worth screenshooting and saving, framing, hanging on the wall, writing a blog post about.