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Tuesday, 18 May 2010
I wonder how many books are released on any given day? I don't know but I'm guessing lots, and most of them pass me by. However, I do know of one which is hitting the shelves today - Aidan Donnelley Rowley's debut novel Life After Yes.
I got to know Aidan through her fantastic blog over at Ivy League Insecurities, where she writes about her life as a writer and as a mother to two adorable girls. She's a witty writer with a unique blogging style, so I'm excited to see how she tackles fiction. And because she's also thoroughly lovely, Aidan has sent me an advance copy of her book - the first time I've had a book in my hands before it's even officially published!
I know that many of my readers are also writers themselves, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to ask Aidan a few questions about her experiences of the writing and publishing process. I wish we'd been able to sit down over coffee and conduct a proper interview, but as she lives in Manhattan and I live in England, it wasn't to be this time. Nevertheless, the marvels of modern technology allow me to introduce you to Aidan as her first novel is released.
Hi Aidan, welcome to my blog. Not everyone will be familiar with the premise of Life After Yes (though I recommend my readers to go and read about it), so can you give us a feel for the book in 10 words?
A modern tale of life, love, and loss in chaos.
You describe this as your first novel, but is it the first book you started to write, or do you have some uncompleted drafts knocking around?
Life After Yes is indeed the first book I set out to write. I started it immediately after leaving my job at the law firm and took my time with it. During the writing and editing process, I enrolled in many online writing courses that proved immensely helpful. I also welcomed my two young daughters and lost my father during this period, so there were many stretches of time when writing couldn’t be my first priority.
I'm impressed - you're so much more focused than I am! At what point whilst writing Life After Yes did you realise that yes, actually, this book was going to get finished and be publishable?
I always knew that I would finish Life After Yes because I believed in the story and wanted to see it to completion – whether it would end up on my own bookshelves or those of bookstores. The question of publication is a different matter entirely. It was not until I got the call from my agent saying that we had an offer from a great editor that I began to believe. Holding my own book in my own hands made me realize that this is happening. Frankly – and I write these words three days before pub day – this is really just now becoming real to me.
Speaking of publication, how did you get your publishing deal? How many rejection slips did you collect along the way?
Once I had a very polished draft of Life After Yes, I began researching agents. I read listings online and in books. I literally told everyone I encountered that I was looking to publish my novel. Just talking to people unearthed helpful advice. I spent time crafting a good query letter. I followed up on each and every lead, however tenuous, sent blind and non-blind queries and received probably ten or so rejections. Ultimately, I found my agent through a recommendation from my father’s college buddy’s law partner’s wife. (Hard to follow, I know!) After I signed with my agent, we worked for a few months to edit my manuscript. My agent started reaching out to publishers in November and I was thrilled to have a publishing deal before Christmas. I feel very lucky that this all happened relatively fast as far as these things go.
It's an utterly cliched question, but I have to ask it: you and your main character are both young lawyers who change direction. Are there elements of autobiography in the novel?
There are certainly bits and pieces of me scattered throughout Life After Yes, but I am not the protagonist and the story isn’t autobiographical. Ultimately, I chose to write about a lawyer because I had spent some time at a law firm and the world of Manhattan corporate law was one I felt I could describe vividly, but the truth is that the main character could have been a banker or consultant or any other type of professional and it wouldn’t have affected the arc or essence of the story. I also felt strongly about exploring how the tragedy of 9/11 forced so many of us to wake up and confront impossible existential questions about life and love, career and commitment.
Your book should be on the shelves by the time I publish this interview, so what comes next? Any works in progress?
Indeed there are many works in progress… The two I’m most proud of are my sweet little girls. Once the publication mayhem subsides, I hope to spend tons of time with them, soaking up the sun and their silly smiles. There is also my blog Ivy League Insecurities, a place through which I’ve had the privilege of connecting with wonderful writers and people like you Rachel. I hope ILI continues to grow and evolve. Finally, I am working on my next two novels. (Out of indecision rather than any belief in simultaneous drafting!) More recently, I have been bombarded with questions about whether or not there will be a sequel to Life After Yes and it certainly has me thinking… Never say never!
Thanks so much, Rachel, for giving me this opportunity to answer your thoughtful questions and talk a bit about my rookie novel Life After Yes. I am a big fan of your blog and your writing, so I am thrilled to be here today.
Thank you, Aidan. And thanks again for the book - I've only just started to read it, but I'm enjoying it so far. I hope you squeeze every ounce of excitement from this super-special day.