The Story of "Who is Olivia Green"

I'm going to try and keep this brief, but I wanted to write about how my first published novel came to be.

I had written two other books, both detective novels based in Savannah, and had let family and friends read them. I was lucky enough to have one of my dads friends, who wrote for the Sporting News for several years, read the first one and line edit it. He and I spent countless hours on the phone going over that book, where he pretty much taught me how to write. I wish I still had a copy of that old book somewhere, just so I could compare the writing to the stuff I'm doing now. I owe him so much, I hope he realizes how important all those talks were to me.

Anyway, I would send him my first book after each re-write, and since I didn't have anything to work on, I started another. That's how my second detective novel, which has the same character as the first, finished. (probably even now that Olivia Green is published, my favorite book I've ever written) It was my three Aunts who read both books and all commented on how they liked the female characters in my books, each in their own way.

And that got me thinking.

And slowly a story started forming.

I got home from a vacation and still had some time off before I went back to my real job. With nothing to do I sat down and wrote Part One of Who Is Olivia Green in four nights. Over 25,000 words. That is flying for me, normally I write around 2,500 words a night when I'm writing something new. I'll never forget waking up the next day after writing the first two chapters and thinking to myself, "Oh God, you wrote a sex scene." But I read it that night and decided to keep it in the book knowing I'd have to keep that as a theme of the manuscript.

That was in June of 2013. Then I went back to working on something else, I think my first book with my dads friend, and let it sit in the computer. It wasn't until several months later when I was cleaning up my jump drive that I came across it again. I actually thought about deleting it, to be honest the sex theme kind of scared me I think, but I didn't. I printed out Part One and self-edited, and decided to finish it. That took me less than two months. Even now, I have no idea how I was able to write the original draft so quickly.

As I was finishing it up I contacted four friends, all women since the main character is female, and sent them Part One. I got two really positive responses from the two that read it. I finished the original draft in May of 2014.

Then I went to Brandi, my first cousin and now editor. She had read my first two books and offered unbelievably great insight. She reads so fast, and I have no idea how, but is able to remember all the small details that need fixing. I sent her the book and she read it in a few hours, and said she was going to email me the next day with suggestions. She liked it, and pointed out like thirteen inconsistencies throughout the book. (At one point you refer to Jim as having 9 assets, then seven chapters later you say he has 11) She did this after reading it once. She still amazes me.      

I asked her to edit and work with me on it. She agreed, and re-writing and editing took us through the rest of 2014. In January of 2015 I wrote my goals for the year and one of those was to try and get Who Is Olivia Green published. I bought the 2015 guide to Literary Agents, drafted a query letter and went to work.

I don't know why I've never tried to get my other books published. My dads friend worked so much with me on the first one, I wouldn't feel good without moving forward with him. And the second book, still probably my favorite, is a follow up to the first one. And, I think Who Is Olivia Green has the most commercial appeal.

Back to early 2015. I queried anywhere between 20 and 25 agents who specialize in thriller novels. I got between 20 and 25 rejections. Brandi and I re-worked the query letter, and I tried anywhere between 20 and 25 more literary agents. And I got anywhere between 20 and 25 more rejections. That took about six months.

Brandi had been suggesting to go directly to publishers from the start, so I researched and tried about ten publishing companies that accept submissions without representation. (a literary agent) I got ten rejections.

At that point I was so invested in the book I was investigating self-publishing. It was going to cost me anywhere between two and four thousand dollars. I don't have that kind of money, but I do have excellent credit. I sat down with my dad and we had a long talk about self-publishing. I think I was probably looking for approval to spend that kind of money. (I'm 40, will I ever not need their approval?) We talked a good bit and like usual, he offered advice but was pretty much going to let me make the decision.

I was still thinking about self-publishing when I went to the CSRA Writers Group meeting in late September. I've been going for a couple years, if nothing else than to listen to Drew (I don't know his last name) read some of his short stories, or a chapter from one of his novels, or even his poetry. There are a lot of awesome writers in the group, anyone who has the guts to read to the group is pretty impressive if you ask me, but his writing has always blown me away. (I read the first two chapters of my book in 2015, they all liked it) Anyway, there was a Russian lady at the meeting, and I was wondering if I should ask her about getting a Russian Bride next year, but it turns out she was an independent publisher. And she was looking for submissions.

So I submitted to her that week. And she accepted, the next day. It was that quick. I was thinking about putting four thousand dollars on my credit card to self-publish and trying to justify that cost in my mind when I submitted the manuscript to Anaphora Literary Press. That was in late September and I signed the contract with her on September 30th.

Here we are, three months later. The book went from 132,000 in popularity on Amazon to almost 28,000 in a week. And that's just been from my friends and family. I have some pretty amazing friends and family.

I plan to start pushing the book a bit more in the next few weeks. I hope anyone who buys it enjoys it. Well, like I always say, I hope they enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.