This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
From grocery bagger to published writer. By February of 2013, I was 32 and had been many things before in my life, but never a writer who made a living writing. A grocery bagger, waitress, secretary, insurance claim specialist, instructional designer, and most recently a student and teacher. For the last two years I had stolen time away from my classes and work obligations to write a novel about women who, in 1943, followed their scientist husbands to New Mexico where their husbands built – in secret, even to their wives – the first atomic bombs.
I should say at this point that I hadn't intended to be a fiction writer, either. I was researching the real lives of these women, but found there were so many gaps, and not many women still around. So I took the archival information I did find – how they lived behind barbed wire in a town not on the map, how they formed friendships – and imagined the gaps through fiction.
When I finished a draft of The Wives of Los Alamos, I queried agents. On Valentine’s Day 2012, I spoke with the woman who became my agent, Julie Barer. My impression then, which has withstood since, was that she was a smart reader, a patient editor, and a trustworthy business partner. After working with her to refine the novel, she sent it out to editors. She told me it could happen quickly, or it could take weeks, or not at all. A few days passed.But on this particular day in February, five days after my agent sent the book out, I was talking with students about the Canterbury Tales when my phone rang. I am not one to usually think about the phone in class, let alone dash out of a classroom. I tried my best to seem relaxed when I picked up. We have some editors that would like to speak with you. Editors? With an s?
I was dry-mouthed and pacing in those first phone calls. I realized I was not prepared to talk about this book in detail, or even as a separate being. Because in my mind I was still that writer typing her weekends away, missing friendships, fearing it might be drivel. A week later, when Julie put Wives to auction, offers came.
And after that everything happened both very quickly and very slowly. I talked with my new editors at Bloomsbury (Nancy in the US and Helen in the UK). Edits. I celebrated with champagne and friends. Months later the contracts were signed. More edits. And now the book is out.
The Wives of Los Alamos is out today.