This blog was featured on 08/27/2016
[SWP:Behind the Book] Writing Start with the Backbeat

You probably have a novel inside of you somewhere.



The story in my debut novel, Start with the Backbeat, was like that. It lurked inside me for decades and finally came to paper a couple of years ago.

I've been a writer since I was six when got my first pink plastic journal book with the easily breakable brass lock. I scribbled all through my adolescence, wrote for the school newspapers, studied communications in college, and worked as a marketing writer. I wrote songs and poems, articles and essays, blog posts and ad copy. I wrote on napkins and bathroom stall walls. The need to express in writing has always been what kept me afloat - mentally, emotionally, even physically sometimes.  

Like every person who has ever taken pen to paper, I dreamed of writing a novel. And truly, like everyone else, the main emotion connected to that possibility was straight-out fear. How could I possibly write a full-blown book? That was crazy talk! Did I think I could write my version of the great American novel? I didn’t earn an MFA.  I didn’t come from a long line of famous novelists. Who did I think I was? I was not worthy to try that!    . . . until I decided that I was.  

While I was busy living my life, the idea of a novel haunted the back of my mind. It began simply as my personal memories. I'd been in a few rock bands and spend quite a bit of time in nightclubs. I’d worked in a racially diverse office at a New York record label, during a time when most businesses were definitely not diverse. Years later, I came down with a case of the 'What Ifs.'

What if I sang for that one executive?

What if I stayed at that record label job?

What if we were supposed find a gangsta rapper when none of the roster was even vaguely close to that?

Abstract vignettes answering those questions drifted through my mind all the time.

Finally, a few years ago, several things happened to create motivation. First, I began reading more non-bestseller novels. I used to be a Top Ten novel reader, but there are thousands of published authors in the world who write great books every year, who don’t become household names. I began to be more involved and supportive of those authors. You don’t have to be an icon to have success. I thought to myself, “These are normal people. I can write as well as these authors!”

Then, I took a few workshops and classes. One class was mostly women and in each meeting, we’d write from a prompt for a 20-minute ‘power writing’ session. Afterward each student would read it out to the group, gathering feedback. During one of those sessions, a scene spilled out of me that became a chunk of my first chapter. It was not because I was particularly enthralled by what I’d written. It was because of the reaction of the other students in the class.

They all smiled and nodded. They all could relate to it because the passage was about a teenage crush on a rock star. There were women in that room who were teenagers in 1952, and others who were teenagers in 2004, but they all had the same expression on their faces – a wistful view to the middle distance, where they heard the music and envisioned that musician who had made their heart flutter.  I knew at that moment that my lurking novel had to be written and I really, truly was a person qualified to write it.  

The final push came at the end of 2011 when I had unfortunately joined the ranks of the underemployed. My New Year’s Resolution for 2012 was to write this novel in the following 12 months.  

And I did.

Now, after several years of editing, submitting, agent hunting, a lot of rejection, more editing, and hand wringing, I took the leap with She Writes Press. The book is coming out in April 2016.

I thought the hardest work was getting up the nerve to write the thing, but it turns out publishing is even more scary! Once my baby leaves the nest, I’ll have no control over it. It will belong to the reader. Being part of the She Writes community makes a difference.

The ever-changing landscape of the publishing business allows us to pioneer a new path for authors where it isn’t based on how famous you already are, but on if you have a well written book. It’s a challenge to be involved in partner publishing, just like it was to be part of a new music scene trying to break out. There are a lot of naysayers out there. All of the self-doubt about creating the book gets thrown back in your face. Who DO you think you are? The way I feel about it now, after banging my head against the publishing walls of Manhattan, is exactly as Elizabeth Gilbert states in her most recent book: "The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong and the they are also annoying."

If an opportunity is brewing somewhere, it takes one brave group of people to buck the system and put their art out there. She Writes Press is doing it. I am doing it. And you are doing it just by reading this post.  

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  • Irene Allison

    Inspiring post, thank you! I love the way you describe how the story seeded itself and grew and how stepping slightly off the beaten-path got you and (very soon) your book out into the world. Wishing you well!

  • GillianAlex

    This book sounds very interesting. Can’t wait to read it. Congratulations. I’m a fellow writer and have book coming out  Summer 2016.

    p.s. What really caught my attention was the cover.. Love it!!

  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    You go girl.  Congratulations on getting your novel out there! Thank you for sharing your journey. 

  • Michelle Cox

    I enjoyed reading about your journey to She Writes, Garine.  And you're right, being part of the She Writes community really has made the difference.  We're getting not just a published book, but a whole community of "sisters" for support, advice and even friendship.  Amazing.  Your book sounds wonderful.  Can't wait to read it!