Real People, Real Romance… I write total fiction… that could happen.
Want to know what I usually tell people? Here’s my “official” author’s bio:
“I live in the rainy area of Western, Washington, and spend as much time as I can getting away from the rain by traveling to destinations all across the state where my family and I do tons of camping, boating, fishing, and horseback riding. Many of the locations we camp become the basis for my books. Most of my settings are fictional but are based on real places. I earned my business degree from Western Washington University. I worked for several years in the construction management field before turning to writing and being home with my kids.”
Pretty ordinary, huh? Honestly? Writing is about the only surprising thing of interest about me. Most meeting me would never guess it. Nothing about me fits the typical “creative type”… other than I write fiction. I have no other creative tendencies or talents. Drawing? Stick figures. Singing? I could make glass break. Music? I can’t even read it. I am hyper organized and I rarely procrastinate. So the writing thing? Doesn’t really fit, but I have done it as long as I can remember.
I have been writing fiction since I was thirteen years old. I wrote too many short stories and poems to count all through my teen years. I started to write novels in my early twenties and had finished 10 before I published my first novel, Poison through the lovely publisher, The Wild Rose Press. They went on to publish all four books in my Seaclusion Series. I have gotten the rights back to Poison, and so it’s now published by me. Notorious & Secrets went on to be taken under Amazon Encore’s imprint, so they are now the publisher of those two, while Seclusion is still with The Wild Rose Press.
I dreamed of writing as career since I was a teenager. But really? What were the chances? I didn’t hold my breath. I didn’t even know how to attempt to pursue getting the illusive pie-in-the-sky publisher. Growing up there was no e-readers or self-published authors that I knew of. There was New York and agents and big publishers. It all had such an air of mystery to me. Like this secret club, that ordinary people like me couldn’t even sneak a peek into. I never really tried, to be honest. I think I submitted one query letter, one time to Harlequin. It took them 8 months to send back a rejection letter. I had forgotten about it by the time I received it. I remember thinking there must be a more efficient way than this. So I don’t know how I would have measured up with a “traditional” publisher or agent, because I didn’t really try.
My road to publication? Not something that would have happened a decade previous. It was 2011 when I began looking into it. The Wild Rose Press was one of the only publishers I ever submitted to. I had no real lofty goals when I started all this. I had read countless books and articles about the writing industry but I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to ever accomplish it. At that time I wasn’t really into eBooks (which is crazy because it’s all I read now). I had all but ignored the eBook market. And self-publishing? For years it made me want to shake and tremble with repulsion… NO WAY. That was not for me. Not because I didn’t think it was a legitimate path to publication, but because I didn’t think I had the guts to do it.
Therefore, I simply wrote. For about a decade while my kids were young, I wrote all for myself. I started with Diversions, yes, that one standalone was my very first true “novel.” I actually spent about three years on it, and then about six months before I published it (2014) I pretty much re-wrote the entire book because what I created all those years ago, wasn’t very good. But Diversions is where I learned how to write. I used to haul, my then toddler daughter, with me to the public library and check out every single book I could find about writing. When I read everything in that library, I went to the next town’s library and then the next. I devoured everything I could about how to write. I then read and read until my eyes wanted to fall out. After each “how to” book I would then go through Diversions and try to apply it. This is how I first learned the mechanics of how to put together a novel. I always had the ideas and the ability to string together words to create a picture or emotion. But like any job I had a ton to learn about the basics..
But it was a starting point and a huge learning tool. After I finished it, I went on to start Poison. That one took me slightly less time, about two years. It, too, was re-wrote years later, but it was better than my first novel.
After I finished Poison I went on to write Notorious, Secrets, the entire Zenith Trilogy, The Other Sister, back to write Seclusion and then the first River’s End. This is what I had sitting in three ring notebooks under my bed. Ten novels. I had no idea what I was doing with them… or if I ever really would get published. Don’t get me wrong, it was burning desire but one I didn’t know how to make happen.
I just knew I loved to write. So I kept writing. And each time I wrote a novel I got better at putting it together, developing the characters and faster at writing it all. I went from taking years on one novel, to about nine months, to six months, to now? I can write a full length novel (if working full time) in about two months. It’s not because I have to. It’s because once I start a story, I breathe it. I can’t hardly stand to not write it. I have to pace myself and still live the rest of my life. But my desire is to work on it.
So about then, my kids were both going to school. I used writing as a “hobby” all those years. Yet, it’s never been a hobby to me. It’s a passion unlike anything else in my life. I can’t imagine living my life without doing it. Not that I don’t adore being published, but if it had never happened for me, or if I suddenly had no readers, it honestly wouldn’t stop me. I would write no matter what.
I was all set, even signed up to get a Masters in Teaching degree. At the time that is what I felt would be a good fit for me and my family.
But there was this lingering doubt… this strong, burning desire… what about writing? How could I give it up? What if there was even a slim chance I could get published somehow, someway, and even the farther off chance of, what if I could make a living at it?
So I decided I’d give myself one year to see if I could make anything happen. If it didn’t, I would lose nothing because I’d still keep writing and go ahead with the plan to become a teacher.
I chose TWRP because in all my online wanderings, I heard such positives from other authors about working for them. I submitted Poison… and was rejected. They are unique because they actually give you feedback about why they are rejecting you. I spent another six months using their suggestions, which were right on by the way, and again going through all 10 of my manuscript making these fixes. I then happened on a writer’s form that someone had resubmitted to TWRP. Unheard of. Usually once rejected from an agent or publisher, it’s forever. I immediately emailed the editor who had rejected Poison, explaining I had rewritten the book based on her feedback and could I re-submit it? Yes! So I did, and a few months later, I got back an email saying yes! They would like to contract my book. I thought I was going to pass out. ME? Truly published? Legitimately?
Then a few weeks later, I get a cryptic email, saying my editor had a family emergency and could no longer work at TWRP. But disappointing… I hadn’t yet signed a contract. I was back to square one. Poison was reassigned editors, and had to start the process all over again.
I was heartbroken. I was alone when I got the news and had a good cry and felt like, well, that was a fun dream-come-true for a while.
I waited out the next editor. She came back with I had potential, and a good story, but I had some technical items I needed to work on before they could contract me. Then unbelievably, this editor who did not know me, and had no guarantee I would stick with them, or even do what she said, offered to spend some time helping me re-write Poison based on her feedback. I was floored. She did not have to do this. That she did, to this day, amazes me. She literally taught me the last few ingredients I needed to take my stories from “almost” to publishable. She was my mentor and I’ll always remember how she gave me that chance and got me started. Not many people do things like that just because… anyway Ally truly changed my life. I had never trusted anyone with my writing so I had never had ANY outside help or feedback. I had no idea if I was even a decent writer at this point. She spent August, September and half of October hand-holding me through the re-write. It was all on her own time. What I learned in those three months was like taking an intensive writing/editing class. Invaluable.
She then asked for another re-submission of Poison. I knew this was it. They would take it or it would be done. In my head it felt like everything. I know there were dozens of other publishers I could submit to and I could start cold submitting to agents or even self publish. But at the time I would have done none of those things. I felt like this was it: my validation. My one real chance.
And they took it! I still have the email. I still read it once in a while. I got it on November 18th of 2012, which was a Sunday morning, while my family was going about normal weekend laziness. I had just discovered I’d thrown my iPod into the wash machine and ruined it. I was furious with myself… and then there was this email… TWRP was going to contract Poison!
And honestly? It would eventually change the course of my life. Instead of giving up or doing an outside job I went on to self-publish (gasp!) my own books and get the unbelievable honor of writing for a living.
No one outside of my mom and myself had read Poison. I kid you not. The editors at TWRP were the first ones to read it. To even share it with anyone felt a bit like I was trying to run outside naked. It used to feel that dramatic to me to think about anyone reading what I wrote. I used to hoard my books with a crazy obsessiveness. NO ONE was allowed to read them.
So then I realized being published… people were going to read them.
How did I do that?
First, I had to try telling someone. It would take me another year and a half before I’d officially even call myself an “author.” Oh no. Not me. I was a person who wrote. See the distinction? I did. I was manic that I was not an author. I had not earned the right and therefore I did not call myself one.
It was excruciating to picture telling anyone I was doing this. It was kind of my dirty secret, even though it was never dirty. I just didn’t want anyone to know or to comment or criticize or laugh at something I so cherished. I don’t remember why the thought of “people” in my life finding out was so traumatic to me, but it was. Not even my very best friend from the 6th grade had any idea I wrote like I did. My husband, parents, sister, brother-in-law, grandma and kids were the only one’s at this point who knew I wrote.
Oh and now the editors at TWRP.
So imagine the surprise to those in my life when I popped up with I’m publishing a book… and not just one book, I actually had 10 books. I don’t think most believed me or had any idea the scope of what I had in mind. I think many thought it was a cute little lark or hobby I was doing. Some were down right disdainful. No one really realized I intended then, to become the author I always dreamed of. Even if I had NO CLUE how I’d make that happen.
Strangely, I went with my daughter to her friend’s house. The mom and I had become friends over the years but I decided rather spontaneously that she would be the first person I’d tell that I had written a book and was getting it published. To this day I don’t know why I told her.
And incredibly she got wide-eyed and goes, no way! So was she! She had been writing a fictional romance too and all in virtual secret, just like me. It was an incredible start to sharing with others I wrote. So she holds a special place in my writing relationships, and incidentally just released that very book to the world, and I’m going to shamelessly pimp it here: The Midnight Circle.
Jaylene Jacobus thank you for being a fellow closet writer who helped me ease the transition into being a real author!
Meanwhile, Poison came out. What a freaky thrill. There it was on Amazon. I wonder how many times I clicked on the Amazon buy page. I can’t even guess. But it was my name! LEANNE DAVIS. It’s my real name, by the way. I look back and realize I should have probably used a pen name, not because I’m embarrassed of anything I write… but because someday my kids might be. But too late! I honestly didn’t think even a dozen people would read me. So I didn’t much consider it. I could not resist the intoxicating temptation to see MY NAME on a book cover. Oh that first book cover. NOTHING has compared to the thrill of that moment. All those years and all those books… with no real goal or prospect or ambition or audience, and here was validation I was a writer. And what a book cover! It’s still one of my favorites. (I had to get a new one when I published it myself)
I figured out real quick, one book (unless you’re the one in a million insta-success) won’t do much. I decided right then, I needed more books out. I was lucky to have a good run in a promotional with Poison that had about 18,000 free downloads. That gave me some reviews and inquiries about Notorious (which had been contracted by then). Oh my God! The first time I saw that number I about hyperventilated. That was SO many people, which was amazing. But so intimidating. All those doubts were still in me. But it also showed me how the kindle store could work and how having a series could sell. Well, having a series? No problem. I had several already written. I just needed to have them available.
So… I went to my husband and told (not really asked!) him I was taken several thousands of dollars out of our savings and editing my books and buying covers. I was self publishing. It was kind of a do or die time period in my life. I decided I was all in on this thing, or I’d sink. But at least I’d freaking know. If I was a terrible writer who wasn’t destined to sell or interest people, I’d know then. I would give myself this one chance… and that would be it. I’d make this work, for real, or I’d do it as a hobby and go get an outside job.
My goal? To make back our savings. My desire? To make enough to buy my next book cover and pay for editing. My dream? To provide enough income to allow me to keep writing as a career.
So I did it. Looking back, I can’t believe why I thought it would work. I mean my first royalty statement from Poison showed I’d sold 26 copies in 3 months. This is what I based this crazy leap on? Why would this work?
But it did! I not only made back our savings (can’t imagine that relief) but I started to make enough to keep writing as a full time job.
Luckily by mistake it was The Other Sister who I sent to the editor I hired. It was supposed to be the Zenith Trilogy but I was out of town and had the wrong files with me so I had to email her The Other Sister. I honestly had serious doubts of ever publishing it. It’s a pretty brutal story. I could not imagine the reception it would get. But I did it anyway… and it was the best accident that ever happened to me. She took off, started the Sister Series and to this day remains one of my most consistent selling books.
When I first uploaded my first book I remember physically blushing. What was I DOING? What if they hated it? What if I made some mistakes? What if I missed something in the editing? What if… what if… what if…The doubts can be nearly crippling. And honestly? After selling tens of thousands of books and writing over 20 of them, and self-publishing 17 of them, I still feel those doubts. Every single title I release. Every single time someone mentions reading one of my books or a stranger emails me… all these same thoughts go through my head! What if…?
But don’t worry. I made all the mistakes I so feared! I’ve uploaded the wrong draft to Kindle. I’ve made silly editing errors and some large ones. I have researched things incorrectly. I’ve offended people, even when I didn’t mean to. I’ve tried to fix all the stuff I know I’ve done wrong. I’ve made dumb errors in books and released them: one time for example, I had a guy’s pants in a scene change from jeans to Khakis in about five sentences. What can I say? I’m human. I was (and I’m always) learning a multi-faceted business. It was all new to me, and there wasn’t a huge team of editors/copywriters/publicists etc behind me. Just me and my editor.
So I have taken the lumps with all the positives. Because overwhelmingly it has been a mostly positive experience. And I’m grateful for every single book, reader, sale or giveaway. Because all of it means I’m still getting to write. I can finally claim I’m an author without blushing or feeling like I’m a fake, or fraud, or a total charlatan.
I used to think if I sold a hundred, a thousand or even ten thousand books or got a hundred or more reviews, or made it to #1 in a given category, or got fan mail or had blogger reviews… I’d finally be comfortable saying I was a legitimate author. I had all these imaginary benchmarks in my head. I hit most of them over the last few years, and it was then, as it started to become a more stable, ordinary experience to write and sell books, that I realized none of those outward accolades, sales, reviews or even having readers made me feel like a legitimate writer.
Nope, unfortunately, like most things in life, the more I was “out” there with my words the more pressure I felt. The more I worried. The more feedback I got. The more I wanted to live up to the positives and the more the critical one’s undermined my confidence. When I realized I had a few actual “readers” who followed my releases I constantly stressed if I lived up to their expectations.
All this made me realize, I could not do that. I could not obsess about it because it would eventually kill my desire and my ability to write. I have to write simply because I love to. I have to write what comes to me, just as I did those 10 books before I published. So even today, I write what inspires me, interests me, calls to me or simply flows out of my brain and to the screen. Because whatever “voice” I have isn’t a thought out thing. It just kind of is, and I’ve tried to maintain it just as I used to when no one had ever read a word I wrote.
Being a “real author” to me, has been learning not to stress about the outside stuff of what happens to my books. They get pirated. They get ignored. They get on best seller lists. I had three books get translated into a different language and then given away… all without my permission. Sometimes I piss readers off. Sometimes I please them. My books get negative reviews. They get great reviews too. Do you see the never ending list an author can’t control?
But all the good and all the bad can’t distract me from what my job is: to write the best novel I can each and every time, staying true to what I write, releasing it and letting it be what it will be. And then? Moving on. Not obsessing. I was never about writing one book. I want to write dozens and dozens if I get the chance. If someone gave me a million dollars for one book, and then told me I had to be done and never write another book… I swear, I don’t think I could take it.
I need to write. I live to write. I obsess to write. Most don’t know quite the level of presence it has in my life. For me, being published is about the opportunity to get to write as my career, and to do so on a daily basis.
So this is the story of how I became a writer who finally felt I could call myself an “author.”