First, the big news… I finally finished my latest novel, Lizzie. It will be available for pre-order soon and will be released at the end of March. For some odd reason, this novel took me a long (LONNNNNGGGGG) time to finish.
Under normal circumstances, I might be able to excuse this. After all, writing a novel is definitely not for the faint of heart. So many times people learn that I am an author and they begin to tell me about how they always wanted to write a book or how they started writing a novel. Just as there are many aspiring actors and actresses, singers and songwriters, there are many aspiring authors, believe you me. However, trust me when I say that between crafting a storyline, developing characters, and writing heart-pounding scenes worthy of being called Amish Christian romance, it’s not an easy task!
As many of you may remember, I used to be able to lock myself in a room for a week or two and have a first draft of a new novel finished. VOILA! And then I’d spend a few weeks editing, rewriting, proofing, re-editing, rinse and repeat.
Not so with my dear Lizzie.
You see, Lizzie was a writing experiment for me. A few years back, I had an idea about re-writing the classic romances written by Jane Austen. This was an exciting adventure for me because it was my first time traditionally publishing with a real publishing house. I tackled Pride and Prejudice first, simply because Mr. Darcy is such a wonderfully romantic character. Over the next few years, I retold all of Jane Austen’s novels. Two them even made the ECPA Best Seller Lists.
Now, on the surface, you’d think that would make me really happy.
Clearly it did not.
I quickly learned that this particular publisher overpriced the eBook versions of First Impressions, my Amish version of Pride and Prejudice. While the paperback copies made it to Walmart and Books a Million, I noticed that my normal readership didn’t seem to pick up a copy. When my second book, Second Chances, the Amish version of Persuasion, was released, the publisher did the same thing: overpriced the eBooks and did scarce distribution of physical books.
When the publish shut down the Amish Christian publishing arm of their company, they refused to release my manuscripts back to me. It was around this time that I decided the delicious romance of these two characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy or, as in my version, Elizabeth and Frederick, was worthy of being retold. So I embarked on what I thought would be a fun journey: retelling MY retelling of Pride and Prejudice.
Believe it or not, it was harder than I thought. Keeping the romance alive was easy enough, of course, but I had to create a whole new story, one that the new characters, Lizzie and Phineas had to own. It couldn’t be too similar to First Impressions—that would be cheating, wouldn’t it? And yet, how does one write a fan fiction of one’s own novel that is already a fan fiction of another romance?
To be perfectly honest, this was the question that forced me to take almost two years to write this novel. For a while, I had major writer’s block. Other times, I was exasperated with my characters. Yes, they can get a bit irritating when they don’t do exactly what I, the author, want them to do. And then, to make matters even worse, I had a dozen new ideas for more books floating around my head. That, my friends, is a writer’s biggest distraction: ideas!
Over the Christmas holiday, my husband and I traveled to Chihuahua, Mexico. Something happened and I began feverishly writing. I had seriously hoped that the manuscript would be finished before I stepped on American soil again. That was not to be the case. For seven weeks, I did not write more than a few hundred words at a time. I was sick, teaching classes, and busy on the farm. Life just got in the way of finishing the novel. Fortunately, however, for my birthday, my family traveled to the Caribbean and–like a literary miracle—the writing bug got ahold of me and the manuscript was finished!
Writing a new version of an existing book was not supposed to be such a difficult task. However, as with all of my novels, I truly focus on crafting a story that draws in my readers. Nothing is ever simply thrown together—it is crafted and that takes time and planning. Sometimes it is easier than others, I admit it. This one, however, was not. Looking back on the entire process, I can see how I might have approached the project differently. Even for me, after forty…fifty novels, I continue to keep learning.
That’s the good news.
The even better news is that Lizzie is a warm and wonderful romance in its own right, practically nothing like Pride and Prejudice and, therefore, very little like First Impressions! And, the best news of all is that I do not have to fight with a publisher about overpricing an eBook for my customers! Thank heavens for miracles and Amazon self-publishing! So stay tuned and get ready to preorder Lizzie, a romance about a young Amish woman who finds herself falling for the most unlikely of men, even though she finds him a bit too prideful…or is that just her own personal prejudice?