Pounding the Pavement Paid Off for Author
Three years ago Maryann McFadden made the biggest gamble in her life. She didn't buy a lottery ticket, throw a pair of dice, or bet on a horse.
But she did bet on a sure thing. Herself. And it paid off -- big time.
Although dozens of publishers had rejected her debut novel, "The Richest Season," McFadden refused to give up. In May 2006, she decided to self-publish her book, then she began pounding the pavement as publicist, marketer, and distributor.
"Getting a bookseller to read a self-published book isn't easy," she says. "The big stores and chains simply won't. As far as Amazon is concerned, it's a business and they're out to make money. So I focused on the independents. They care about authors and readers."
The process seemed never-ending -- and expensive.
"It was exhausting," she says. "My income plummeted, and I knew that I was going into debt; but I had a goal -- to sell enough books, to garner enough good reviews, to attract a good agent."
In less than eight months, after 25 signings at bookstores, and meeting with nearly 40 book clubs in 10 states, McFadden had sold more than 2,300 books. Then she remembered what one bookseller told her. "You've gotta stop selling books out of the trunk of your car. You're a writer, you need to write."
So in November 2006, McFadden decided to search for an agent again, and this time was successful. Eight weeks later, she had a two book hardcover deal with Hyperion, and had sold the rights in Germany and Italy. An expanded hardcover version of "The Richest Season" was released in June 2008, and was immediately selected as an "Indie Next Pick" by the national association of independent booksellers.
This month McFadden has two books coming out: "The Richest Season" in paperback, and her new novel, "So Happy Together," which she will present on Monday, July 20, at 4 p.m. at The Country Bookshop in downtown Southern Pines.
"'The Richest Season' is a perfect book club selection," says Beth Carpenter, the shop's book club coordinator, "and I just love Maryann's new novel."
It was through Carpenter's efforts that "So Happy Together" was selected as an "Indie Next Pick" for July.
"The Richest Season" is about Joanna, a neglected and lonely corporate wife of 25 years who rebels when her career-obsessed husband, Paul, receives yet another move-necessitating promotion. In the first irresponsible act of her life, she runs away to Pawley's Island where she becomes a live-in companion for Grace, an elderly artist and widow who is dying of pancreatic cancer but chooses to face her imminent death without her family's help or knowledge. After Joanna's departure Paul loses his job, leaving him to realize everything he has lost. In parallel journeys, Joanna, Grace, and Paul walk away from lives they thought they wanted, only to rediscover a part of themselves they'd all but forgotten.
In "So Happy Together," Claire, a single mother in her 40s, who raised a daughter alone and helped her parents as they aged, believes it is finally her time to live for herself. She's met a man, fallen in love, and is about to embark on a wonderful life. But her daughter returns unexpectedly, her father's illness progresses, and Claire finds herself torn between the dream of a new life and the reality of her family's need for her.
"She realizes what is true for most women in life," McFadden says. "When you're a mother, or a daughter, you're never truly free."
The idea for this story took root a few years ago as McFadden found herself suddenly part of the "sandwich generation" -- a growing demographic of women who are caught between the demands of children and aging parents, while still trying to hang onto their own dreams.
Although McFadden had quit her real estate job after 10 years to realize her dream of writing full-time, she encountered a lot of personal upheaval during the time she was working on "So Happy Together."
"I moved after living in my former home for 20 years," she says. "My second granddaughter was born, my sister was diagnosed with cancer, my daughter-in-law was battling thyroid cancer, my mother developed a painful autoimmune illness, and my mother-in-law was afflicted by Parkinson's. Sometimes it was very difficult to switch gears from all that was going on in my personal life and jump back into Claire's head. But for me, writing is also a bit of an escape from the real world."
For women in the "sandwich generation," who wonder when, and if, it will ever be "their turn," McFadden says to remember, "Kids grow up fast, elders pass on. It's a fact of life. There will come a time when you look back, when freedom is yours again, and you realize how precious this time actually was."
McFadden is working on her third novel, "The Book Lover," about an aspiring author and a struggling bookseller, and what happens when their paths intersect in unexpected ways.
"Ultimately, it's about how books can change our lives," she says. "I'm very excited by this novel, as I don't know that there's anything quite like it out there."
Maryann McFadden and her husband, Pat, live in Hackettstown, N.J.
For information about the Meet the Author event, call The Country Bookshop at (910) 692-3211.
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