Why would someone with an MBA in Finance, working as a commercial lender decide to write a paranormal thriller? The answer is…to escape. I started writing The 45th Parallel while on vacation with my family in Northern Michigan in 2009. I was working as a commercial real estate lender, and if you remember what the economy was doing in 2009 (crashing…Great Recession), you could guess that being a banker was not a whole lot of fun. Watching people around you get laid off, wondering if you were next, and working in a high stress, often adversarial environment was taking a toll.
I realized that I needed to find some way to relieve the stress (besides drinking more red wine). As a child and through high school, I loved creative writing. In college, however, I majored in business rather than pursue writing because the thought of living in my parents’ basement when I was thirty was not very appealing. I did some soul searching during this stressful time and decided that I would try to reawaken the creative part of my brain (getting too creative in banking, after all, can sometimes land you in jail). One evening in July of 2009, while visiting my In-Laws at their lake cabin, I started to write the first chapter. I knew I wanted the story to be set in Northern Michigan, be scary, and have a romantic element, but other than that, I had no road map. As the story started to take shape, I found writing allowed me to block out all the stress in my life and become completely absorbed in another world. At first, I actually hid the fact that I was writing a book. I thought my husband, the litigator, would think it was ridiculous. As I began to spend more and more time in the study on the computer at night, I finally had to fess up. Much to my surprise, my husband was extremely supportive and would even find articles on Northern Michigan with ideas for the story. I wrote scenes as they came into my head, not exactly sure how they would fit into the plot. Pulling it all together was like completing a puzzle. Not a very efficient way to write a book but a whole lot of fun.
During the three and a half years it took to write the story, I read books on writing and learned as I went along. My favorite was How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey (would highly recommend his books to anyone interested in writing). I squeezed in writing whenever I had the chance – thinking about the plot on the drive to and from work, writing during the week after the kids went to bed, and giving up weekend nights out with friends to stay home and write. Rusty, our cat, would often keep me company if I stayed up late, unable to pull myself away from the computer. I really grew to love the characters as they developed and came to life as the story evolved.
Once it was finished, I thought, now what? The only thing I knew about the publishing industry was that it was very difficult for a new author to get published and it was going through huge changes with the introduction of eBooks and self-publishing. As I put together a query letter to send out, I had those nagging doubts. What business did I have writing a paranormal thriller? I was a banker, not a writer! Thankfully, I have very supportive family and friends who encouraged me to try to get published.
After sending out queries to 48 different agents and publishers, only two showed interest but eventually ended up passing. I announced to my husband that I was going to self-publish but he encouraged me to keep trying and he found two other publishers on-line. I figured I had nothing to lose so I sent out two more queries. Fortunately, one of those publishers was Hartwood Publishing Group, a fairly new publishing house that prides itself on finding new authors. They wanted to publish the story!
Working with Georgia Woods, CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Lisa Dugan, founding partner and the other creative and editing staff at Hartwood to put the book together was a great experience.
Writing this story reminded me that we all have many layers and should not define ourselves by just a job title or role. The only limitations we have are the ones we give ourselves. I am currently working on a sequel to the first book and I can’t wait to see where the characters will take me this time!