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And now for something (not) completely different
Ope, I wrote another book.
Hello, good readers, it’s been a while. I hope this email finds you… well, I hope it finds you.
I’ve been back in the Book Cave, the term I came up with to describe the state of mind I enter when I’m deep in writing mode. When I’m in the Book Cave, even when I’m not writing — I have a full-time job, and a dog, and a husband, and a life, so I don’t write every day — I’m thinking about my last writing session or my next one. I email myself ideas or corrections when I’m in the middle of a workout, or I scribble them down on the notebook next to my bed, and wake up to try to decipher the hieroglyphs I scrawled to myself in the dark while half asleep.
And here’s what I did in the Book Cave: I wrote another book. And this time, it’s fiction.
Specifically, it is a romance novel. More specifically, it is a ballet romance novel set in two places I call home, Sydney and New York City (but mostly Sydney. That’s a photo of my favourite Sydney beach, Freshwater, where some of the book takes place).
I started reading romance seriously in 2018, when an advance reader’s copy of Alyssa Cole’s A PRINCESS IN THEORY found its way to my desk in the HuffPost newsroom. I’ve now read every romance she’s ever written, plus a couple hundred other romances by various authors (Talia Hibbert! Helen Hoang! Tessa Dare! Olivia Dade! Cat Sebastian! Sarah MacLean! Emma Barry! Kate Clayborn! The list goes on!).
I love this genre, mocked and maligned as it so often is. I love a book that takes as a given that women’s experiences, desires, and needs are important to both readers and characters. I love knowing that no matter what happens, love is going to win at the end. I love that the genre is constantly evolving and responding to culture and politics and social change. I love how hot these books can be. I love how huge and diverse the genre can be, how many different kinds of people are writing romance and how many different kinds of love stories they’re telling, and I truly believe that there’s a romance novel out there for everyone. These days, if my friends ask me for a novel recommendation, they have to specify “NOT a romance novel,” because they know damn well what they’ll get if they don’t.
And after I finished the first draft of TURNING POINTE, in May 2020, having happily subsisted for some time on a reading diet that was almost exclusively romance, I decided it might be a fun challenge to try writing one. I’d already carved out writing time in my schedule, and I figured I might as well keep using it to write. (I told my agent about this plan and described it as a “left turn,” but she pointed out that for someone who wrote a doctoral dissertation about rom coms and a non-fiction book about ballet, it was not so much a left turn as a slight leftward veer).
And so I wrote: About ballet, and friendship, and depression, and workplace harassment prevention policies. About my hometown — which at the time was inaccessible to me, after years of being able to get on a flight and go as often as money and vacation days allowed — and about grown-ass people learning how to love themselves and each other. Many people think of ballet as a youth activity, which it is, but that’s not all it is: There are plenty of grown-ass people in the ballet world trying to have a career and a life and trying to find the love they want, need, and deserve. So I invented two more of them and decided to see if I could get them from Meet Cute to Happily Ever After. After several stints in the Book Cave, a serious re-write, and a few more rounds of revisions, I got them there. It was both fun and a challenge, and 19 months later, when my agent told me a publisher had made an offer on the manuscript, I sobbed down the phone in relief and delight.
This newsletter is going to become a little more frequent again, now that I’m out of the Book Cave and emerging into the world with a new story I hope people will want to read. If romance isn’t your thing and you want to unsubscribe, I totally get it. But if you want to stick around, for a look behind the scenes at a very different book about gender, power, and ballet, you’ll be the first to see the cover, and to hear about pre-ordering and other fun stuff. I hope you’ll stay.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading,