One of the questions I get asked a lot is: when did you start writing? That’s a tricky one because I can’t ever remember starting. I’ve just always written. It’s been a hobby and a passion of mine since before I can remember. Even as I write this, there are boxes in my garage filled with notebooks, most of them handwritten from when I was a kid. I have stories scribbled in crayon, stories about dogs and cats with magic powers or girls who collect little monsters on mysterious adventures. I graduated up from those when I entered high school, typing out urban fantasy novels on my computer.
The real story begins when I moved to Oregon from California when I was twenty. I took with me a manuscript that I had written for a creative writing class at the University of California Santa Cruz (go Banana Slugs!). I didn’t think much of it because everyone always says that writing is not a career option. Go to school, get a job, and then if you have free time, then you can write.
So that’s what I did. I went to UCSC, moved to Eugene, Oregon and then started working for Enterprise Rent a Car at their call center. I took calls for car reservations and eventually worked my way into a work from home position. That was pretty cool, but the job was absolutely not for me. I found myself with a laptop next to my desktop, typing out stories between calls (not that there was a lot of time between them, but I ended catching a lucky break and working the graveyard shift for a while). I wrote The Seven Wicked: First as well as finished up that manuscript I had brought with me (which eventually became Hell Inc.).
Eventually, I decided that I wanted to become a writer. Nothing else was working for me. I tried my hand at becoming a paramedic, considered going to school to become a teacher, even considered hitting the police academy. But none of it was right for me, so I started sending out query letters to agents and publishers. Like most authors, I got my fair share of rejections, but I didn’t let that stop me. My cover designer (Amanda Carroll), who was also working at Enterprise at the time, suggested I self-publish. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but eventually warmed up to the idea.
In the summer of 2012, I published The Seven Wicked: First, Second, and Third (young adult fantasy novels) as well as Hell Inc (a paranormal romance), She Lies Twisted (young adult fantasy), and The Feed (a dark mermaid YA fantasy). They didn’t sell. I mean, like, at all. LOL. I sold maybe 3-5 total books a month. But still, I couldn’t stop. I wanted this so badly that I couldn’t imagine anything else. I kept trucking along at Enterprise until I was surprisingly laid off in July 2012. I’d been poor before (call center jobs pay just above minimum wage), but this was crazy. I couldn’t find another job and my unemployment check was just barely enough to make rent.
This was my chance, and I knew it. Without the 40+ hours of drudging call center work a week, I could focus solely on my writing. I went all out and wrote, wrote, wrote. I published several more books, all fantasy and young adult, before I realized that the market for that genre isn’t very big—especially not in eBook format.
I decided to try a different tactic. I took all of the pain and heartache I was feeling at the time, and I channeled it into Tasting Never (a new adult romance). I published it two days before Christmas that year and borrowed gas money from my mom to travel to Eureka, California for the holidays. I had no tree or decorations at my house, no gifts because I couldn’t afford them. But none of that mattered. I was finally doing what I loved, had someone in my life that loved me, and I was reaching for a dream.
Days later, everything changed. Tasting Never started selling like crazy. I remember sitting there in complete awe, staring at my computer and wondering if this was really happening. By the end of January 2013, I had made enough money to pay rent and buy food and gas. I was actually making as much money as I had at Enterprise.
That was one of the most beautiful moments in my life.
After that, I continued to work on my books, writing the rest of the Tasting Never Trilogy (it’s since been extended into a series, but it started off as a three book set), a motorcycle club romance called Losing Me, Finding You and my rock star series, Hard Rock Roots, beginning with Real Ugly and Get Bent. This was my dream come true, and I didn’t know how to handle it.
I definitely underestimated the job. The amount of work that goes into being an indie author is intense. Marketing, advertising, social connections, travel, cover work, copyediting, website work, administrative work, and then there’s the writing. I’d spend 80+ hours a week on this stuff, working myself until I was burned-out and exhausted. I’m not complaining or trying to say that my job is any harder than someone else’s (there are certainly way harder jobs in life!), but it was still draining. I’m also a very sensitive person, so I let any negative comment or review get me down to the point where I’d cry and let myself get depressed.
Rallying myself was hard, but I did it. I kept working, kept fighting, but every once in a while, I’d let it all get to me. Maybe I’d work my butt off on a book for months and sell almost nothing? Maybe I’d get a threatening email because I missed a release date? Maybe I saw a one star review that ripped my personal character apart as much as it did the book? That was hard, but I knew it was all a part of the process. It still is. In fact, sometimes I disappear. I do. I won’t lie about that. I’ll keep off of Facebook for months, no warning. It’s not because I hate anyone or because I’m lazy or disrespectful, it just happens. I get hate mail sometimes and mean comments on my pages, and I let those get to me. I shouldn’t—this sort of thing happens to all of us.
But my writing is my heart. I put everything I have into every book. I lay out a piece of my soul, watch it flutter away like a butterfly and sometimes … I think I’m too sensitive. But I can’t stop. I have to write because it’s my everything, because even if it wasn’t my job, I’d do it anyway. Still, it feels a heck of a lot better knowing there are wonderful, gorgeous, amazing people out there reading my work. I want my stories to be read, to be seen, shared, loved. I know it’s a dream I share with a lot of others, but it’s still mine. And I want it. And I’m willing to fight forever to make it happen.
So here I am. Me. Just a person laid bare in front of you. I’m not a goddess or a queen or a celebrity, just a human who makes mistakes—sometimes really bad ones—but a human who loves, who wants to put as much positive energy into the world as she can, a human who cares what you think, cares so much that sometimes she cries. But that’s okay. That’s okay because I’m here, and this time, I’m doing this right. No more disappearing. No more sadness. No more pain.
I’m going to fight with everything I have, write stories with everything I believe, and I’m going to ask you to join me while I do it.