Completing and publishing a novel is the life’s goal of any aspiring writer. However, finding the right project with which to pursue that journey is often the struggle. Six and a half years ago, I began my own road to publication with a novel set against the glamorous background of Chicago society, which has spawned an ongoing series as well as two standalone novels. Over half a decade later, the love story between Nathan Sinclair and Amy Raines reminds me of a simpler time, and telling their tale reminds me of many fine yet hardworking days.
Hell in Heels was a novel several years in the making, though it was also one of the fastest novels to come to fruition, especially now when I find novels take months or years to complete. In this week’s post, I look back on the development and release of my first novel, as the sixth anniversary of its publication is this week.
The origins of Hell in Heels likely go back about seven or eight years before I even put a pen to paper. Truthfully, I cannot even take full credit for the idea. My grandfather, who’d always been a master storyteller and one of the few people in my life to actually encourage my writing, originated the story at some point during one of our countless storytime sessions. Where he derived the idea from, I cannot say, but the arc remained a mainstay, a general dea I often came back to and tried to build on when my grandpa and I would have story sessions where I begged him to continue onward with the story.
For about a decade, I’d tried my hand at multiple genres, none of the storylines intriguing enough to keep me interested. I’d even finished a full-length novel during my junior high years that remains drafted in the deep vestiges of a jump drive somewhere. However, a sequel I made it no more than two chapters into and perhaps a burnout from three years with the same characters proved it was not the story to propel me onward. Here and there, I’d begin another story, but as was always the case, I never had that feeling that it was “the one.”
After a several year battle with cancer, my grandfather passed away in February 2012, and though even at that time our story times had long since faded away, his encouragement toward my writing never faltered. When he passed, I developed a need to preserve his memory, and the only way I knew how was to write and show the incredible creativity he possessed, though I was certain he never really knew it. So, I decided to put the clandestine love story between a high powered CEO caught in a twisted love triangle on paper, beefed up with elements of a heated romance novel, and give romance, my favorite genre to read, a try with me as the author.
I began writing Hell in Heels actively in August of 2012, the beginning of my senior year of high school. My study halls and any free time throughout the day was spent writing, penning anywhere from three to six pages a day. The first draft was entirely handwritten in pencil in two college-ruled Five Star notebooks with a makeshift draft of a cover idea. I wrote the initial draft in about four months, completing it by the end of the year, when I drowned myself in edits with critique partners who assisted me with ensuring the novel was the best it could be.
Hell in Heels follows publishing CEO Nathan Sinclair, a single father caught between two women, one the overzealous Esmerelda Stoker, a cougar with her eyes set on Nathan for decades, and the other Amy Raines, a career woman with a buoyant spirt and killer taste in shoes. Ironically, both women also wish to be the architect for Sinclair Publishing’s expansion, and while an undeniable chemistry between Nathan and Amy sizzles, Esmerelda’s desperation drives her to extremes, and the lengths she will go to for the contract and Nathan soon know no bounds.
2012 was the year of self-published romance, with the Fifty Shades phenomenon blowing open the door for writers unable to attract an agent and dozens of similar novels not backed by a major publishing company placing on bestseller lists. This was my chance, though my novel was much more on the contemporary side than erotic. There was no fear of rejection, and if 2012 was the year of the e-book explosion, 2013 could only be the year it spurred on.
The first several months of 2013 were filled with much work. While I was also preparing for graduation as well as beginning college in the fall, I was also working with my cover designer, scheduling promotion, and planning out my social media platforms, which were not nearly as plentiful at that time. The amount of work that went into self-publishing could not be accurately characterized, and it was easy to see how people could get lost in the shuffle no matter how hard they worked.
April 23, 2013 remains one of the proudest days of my life. The release of Hell in Heels marked the fulfillment of one of my dreams, to know that my work would be available to whoever wanted to read it gave me a feeling of pride. Sales were modest, but that was never the point for me. As long as I could affect even one person with Nathan and Amy’s story, that was enough to consider it a success for me.
The response to the novel was mixed. Some of the people who “knew” me were shocked by the content, as I was only eighteen and writing love scenes between people in their early thirties, a skill I’d simply learned from reading my beloved romance novels. Others shared in my joy, spreading the word about my publication on their own social media pages. The negative reactions were certainly difficult to swallow, but those positives certainly outshined it, allowing that first novel to feel like a true accomplishment.
Hell in Heels was followed by the release of Private Dancer in August 2013. It was the second in the Love, Windy City Style series, which followed Jake Bradley and Natalie Warner, two characters introduced in the first novel. The third novel in the series, Ideal Hero, is still in the editing stages.
I look back on Hell in Heels fondly now, though if I were to write it now I could start a list of all the things I would change. However, it is also proof that writing is an art to hone and that it must be continuously worked at in order to achieve the desired goal. Without that novel, I wold not have created anything that came after it. Nathan and Amy’s forever will be the first love story I told, and their happily ever after has put me well on the way to my own.
If you have not read Hell in Heels, please visit your choice e-book retailer to purchase your copy today!