Jodi Picoult has a great article in the July issue of Writer's Digest titled "Try, Try, Try Again."
(She's one of my favorite authors, by the way, and if you haven't read any of her novels, you're missing out. I suppose she's termed "general fiction" or perhaps "women's fiction," but she targets controversial topics like teen suicide and organ donation and sexual abuse and school shootings in page-turning stories with rich characters.
While her stories don't always have storybook, happy endings, they always have satisfying ones. ***The exception to this is the ending of My Sister's Keeper.*** Hated it so much I threw the book across the room when I got to the final page. I wouldn't recommend that one. My favorite Picoult novel is The Pact, because it portrays teens of the 21st century in such a realistic light. Every parent and teacher should read it. I also liked Salem Falls and have Nineteen Minutes on my summer reading list. Anyway...)
In this WD article, Picoult talks about long journey to becoming a best-selling author.
"For some reason, reporters often call me an overnight success. But if that's true, it's been a 15-year-long night..."
She retells her experience of writing her creative thesis as a Princeton undergrad, selling it as a novel, but being turned down by an agent and even her own publishing house at one point. She recalls watching her sales dwindle to nothing and wondering how she'd pay the mortgage, only to plug away and eventually find an agent she clicked with. After she made it onto the NYT bestselling list for the first time, she tells this story:
"...my publicist got a call from a very influential agent in NYC. She wanted to fly me to New York for lunch and talk about representation. Well, sure, I'd thought at the time. Who doesn't want to back the winning horse? I declined politely...I'm quite sure that this NYC bigwig doesn't remember that she was the very first agent to reject me, but I never forgot."
Every interview I've read with this author is practical and down-to-earth. She does amazing amounts of research and almost always writes her novels in 9 months after she's finished researching. In this article, especially, she discusses at length how difficult, and disheartening, the publishing business can be.
"One of the saddest truths in publishing is that good books aren't always the ones that sell. You can do everything right and still not get a contract. More often, the writers who succeed are the ones who refuse to buckle under the failures that are heaped upon them..."
Ultimately, though, she stresses the importance of keeping on, of believing in yourself and your talents even in the face of hardship. It's a lesson we could all stand to remember.
Check out this article from last month's issue of WD, also by Picoult. It's a great one about the intricacies, and the payoffs, of researching before you write. And put her on your TBR list for the summer!