As the only child of two PhDs in English literature, I grew up surrounded by walls of books. Growing up, I read and read and read, and started writing short stories at a young age. I always dreamed of writing a book and getting it published, but it seemed like such a lofty dream, and I didn't even really know where to start.
So, instead, I focused on something that was also tough, but that I enjoyed and came more easily, and that was to hone my skills as an investigative reporter and feature writer for newspapers. I continued to write fiction on the side, surprised to find myself pulled along by my characters, and scribbling in a notebook at 2 A.M.
Eventually, I learned how to meld those two worlds into narrative non-fiction, the craft of writing true stories using fiction techniques, which I initially wrote for the newspaper and now teach in San Diego. But as the newshole shrunk, so did the editors' encouragement for in-depth storytelling.
It took me 15 years of rejections to get my first book published, and it wasn't even the first book I wrote. I spent 17 years writing and rewriting my first book, Naked Addiction, a crime novel set in two San Diego beach communities, before it was published. Every time I felt like I wanted to give up, I saw another positive sign that told me to stick with it.
After getting Poisoned Love published, I developed a plan for the future. I took a risk and quit my full-time newspaper job, leaving behind my paid health benefits, holiday and sick pay, and 401-K match, to follow my dream of becoming a full-time author. I proceeded to juggle several book projects at a time over the next six years, producing books at a rate of about one a year (and some in four to six months).
When I finally hit the New York Times bestseller list in 2011 with My Life, Deleted, I knew I couldn't quit. And even though the last few years have been tough with the recession and the publishing world going through a transition, I have hung in there and tried to adapt. I felt my determination (or stubbornness) was rewarded this year with my first invitation to participate in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, where our panel was televised live by C-Span. Still reaching for new heights, I had my first out-of-state signing at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop last week (Thank you, SMB!), and I'm about to have my first international signing at the library on Salt Spring Island tonight.
Today, I've now got nine books under my belt, the latest of which are Lost Girls, and I'll Take Care of You, which will be released in January 2014. And although I live contract to contract and piece together my living with half a dozen side gigs as a teacher, book doctor, speaker and consultant, I'm far happier than I was at the paper and I'm proud to hold the primary job title of "author."
I see other authors who seem to have reached the next level after 18 books or so, others who have reached it much sooner, and many others who have given up before they got there. For now anyway, I am hanging in there and trying to inspire others to stay on the path and follow their dream. Writing and publishing isn't for the meek or those who don't feel they MUST pursue it. It's for those of us who can't think of anything else that they would rather do.