I am pleased to welcome Sere Prince Halverson to Book’d Out today. I reviewed her impressive debut novel, The Underside of Joy, last week giving it four and a half stars. It is an emotionally compelling, poignant and thought provoking family drama (click to read my review in full).
In this guest post, Sere shares her road to publication, if you like, the underside to her own joy at finally being published.
Read on for details of a US only giveaway…
2 Marriages+2 Agents+3.5 Novels+4 Children+20 Years+ a Gazillion Nos=1 Yes and a Debut Novel called “The Underside of Joy”
I earned a degree in Journalism, but soon after graduation, I realized that what I really wanted to do was make stuff up. By then I was newly married and helping put my first husband through school, so I signed up for a creative writing course at the local college and wrote short stories during lunch breaks and after work. Later, I wrote stories while my kids napped, wrote around the edges of napkins at Chuck E. Cheese and on rolls of butcher paper the kids used for finger painting. And I wrote in between freelance copywriting assignments.
Eventually, I started getting up in the wee hours to work on a novel. That novel won professional praise but didn’t win over any agents. I wrote another novel in between getting divorced and carpooling to lacrosse and basketball games, and writing advertisements and brochures. That novel snagged the heart of an agent but not a publisher, although it came close several times. I wrote part of another novel, but the timing wasn’t right, and I set it aside. And I wrote yet another novel in between getting remarried and becoming a stepmom, surviving driver’s training, sending kids off to college and writing websites. That novel became The Underside of Joy.
But work and life took over and The Underside of Joy sat mostly dormant for a couple of years. I came home from a writer’s conference excited and motivated to dive back into the book, but the usual chaos of life with four teenagers greeted me at the front door. I thought, if I were smarter and richer, I would have arranged for a month-long writing retreat to follow the conference. I wrote in my journal, I wish I knew someone who had a cabin they weren’t using, maybe up at the Russian River. A few days later I was walking with a new friend. Out of the mystical blue, she said, “You know, my family has an old cabin at the Russian River. No one’s used it for years.” I hadn’t told her anything about wanting a place to write, hadn’t known anything about the cabin, but I grabbed her arm and said, “Really?”
A few weeks later she and her brother and my husband and I cleaned and scrubbed the old cabin. I worked like a maniac to finish up work projects so I could clear my calendar. Then I stayed at that cabin for an entire month. I walked under the redwoods , took my yellow Lab, Stuart, down to swim in the river. I stoked the woodstove, and I wrote and I wrote. My husband, who was going to cooking school, brought me delicious meals and clean laundry once a week, and kept track of our brood of teenagers (or tried to, at least). Truly, a writer’s dream. The novel came alive to me in a way it hadn’t before, and the town of Elbow was born.
My old agent and I parted ways because he said no one was buying intimate, complex family dramas anymore. I feared that I’d spent almost six years polishing a turd. My new agent, Elisabeth Weed, felt differently. The week my youngest son left to study abroad in Italy, Elisabeth gave the manuscript to the foreign rights agent, Jenny Meyer, who promptly sold it…to a publisher in Italy! While I spoke to editors in the US, offers came in from more countries. As of today, The Underside of Joy will be published in 15 countries and territories, and translated into 13 languages. And my old agent? He was the first to write me an email, graciously congratulating me.
So what is the simple lesson in this long meandering equation that led me here? Never give up. If you have a dream, don’t give up. Or if you’re just trying to make it through a tough time, don’t give up. You never know what might be around the next corner, and it could be the answer you’ve been waiting for. It could be that one simple word that’s been eluding you. It could be YES.
About the Author
I became a writer because I loved to write, and I was blessed with an utter lack of any other talent. (Can’t sing, dance, or hit a softball far enough to make it to first base. Sad, but true.) I read and wrote stories from an early age. Books opened me up and made me feel more connected. Great writing can show you what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes, but can also make you feel less alone in your own, can take you down streets you’ve never been, but can also describe an emotion in a way you’ve never heard before that makes you think, Yes. That is exactly what it is like for me, too. For me, reading a good book is receiving a gift. It’s the gift I’ve always wanted to give, and I felt that if I worked hard enough and long enough, someday I would be able to do just that. I am from a lot of places, but I now live in Northern California and it feels like home. I worked for 20 years as a freelance copywriter while I wrote fiction and raised kids. My husband and I have four grown children. I’m a mom and a stepmom, and I have a mom and a stepmom. The Underside of Joy is my debut novel.
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Courtesy Dutton Adult (Penguin USA}
1 hardcover edition of
The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson
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Entries close February 13th 2012
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