Maria is currently an independent business writer and works mostly with technology and financial services companies. One day she quit her job and ended up in Argentina for a year, where she played semi-pro soccer and also wrote the first draft of what would eventually become Perfect on Paper.
(Doesn’t she look adorable here? She has something mischievous going on in those eyes. And I LOVE that necklace)
Why did you go to Argentina in the first place?
It’s a crazy story, but one day I quit my PR job and literally had no idea what I wanted to do - other than not go to that job anymore. After a couple months of not going anymore, I bought a ticket to fly to Argentina by myself for a couple weeks to practice my Spanish. I didn’t know a single person in the entire country when I got there, but after two weeks I loved it so much that I decided to stay if I could find something to do down there.
So I ended hooking up with the women’s soccer team at River Plate to play for a year (I swear!).
Once I got settled into an apartment and was really living there, I realized that if I was ever going to write a funny book based on my experiences as a single woman in San Francisco, which I’d always dreamed about doing, that was that time. So I just started writing and writing and writing, and eventually I had the first draft of what would eventually become Perfect on Paper.
Did you set out to write a novel or did it just happen?
I sat down and said “I’m going to write a novel.” And I never looked back.
How is market writing different from writing a novel? Do you find that they compliment each other?
Great question, and they’re totally different. Most of the marketing writing I do, whether it’s a whitepaper, case study, press release, etc., is for a business audience, so the writing has to be somewhat formal. Sometimes I’m able to insert a little humor into the whitepapers, but for the most part it’s straightforward and factual, with the objective of presenting information or making a case for a particular issue (e.g. I recently wrote a whitepaper for a client about how the “software as a service” model is a smart option for small businesses in a recession. Fascinating!!). Speeches are much different because they’re in first person and thus can show a little personality, but those aren’t the norm in my workload.
A novel, on the other hand, is anything you want it to be. Every scene, every character, every conversation is all up to you and your imagination. It’s fantastic! Unless, of course, when you can’t think of what to write next. Then it’s time to go take a walk or make a pot of coffee and hope you can come up with something.
How long was the editing process?
Now THAT took a while. I wrote the first draft in a little less than five months, but I think I spent about 10 months editing it after that.
Did you know that you wanted it to be published when you were writing it?
I still want it to be published! Here’s what I mean: After I finished the first draft I came back from Argentina and was lucky enough to sign with an agent pretty quickly. She told me she’d been waiting for a book just like mine for a long time, and she thought a publishing house would offer me a two-book deal. She said my voice was the funniest she’d read in ages, so at that point I really thought it was going to happen for me. I thought maybe I would even be on Oprah!!
So I spent a few months editing the book based on my agent’s feedback, which was really good. And then we were ready to go! But when she shopped it around, the reply was pretty unanimous?no thanks. Then she said there was nothing else she could do for me and fired me, over email, two days before Christmas. From dreaming about Oprah to getting booted over email. Talk about an emotional roller coaster.
I cried for about three days, then spent about six months reworking the book again. Then I went to a writers conference and pitched it myself to four publishing houses and three agents, and they all said it sounded great and wanted to read it. So I was pretty excited ? again! But when I finally heard back from all of them, it was more or less the same story I’d heard the first time around: no thanks.
So once again I was crushed. More tears. It was so brutal! At that point I didn’t know what to do, so for about six months I left the book sitting on my computer and started doing marketing writing to start earning a decent living again.
(My site is www.winksink.com for anyone who needs help!)
Then one day my incredibly sweet dad, who btw is gaining quite a following among book bloggers for his personal touch when he sends out review copies for me, handed me a huge book on self-publishing that he had read, along with a little plan he'd written for what I needed to do to publish on my own - and the associated pages in the book for each action item in the plan. It nearly made me cry. He told me he loved my book and that I couldn't let it go, so he was going to help me publish it. So that’s what we did. And here we are!
Now that the book has been so well-received and has even won a couple awards, I am hoping the publishers might have a change of heart - fingers crossed!
And now taking a page out of Waverly’s book (Maria’s main character) I present you with the question that Maria insisted I include despite my mortification.
You are happily married, how did you get into the voice of a single woman so well?
Happily married? What? What? Honey, I am soooo single!!! What gave you the idea that I am married? That is too funny. (Who is my husband btw? I hope it is Tom Brady.)
Here’s the back story…See above? When Maria mentioned her dad? Well, I read the very sweet letter that came along with my copy of the the book and thought it was from her HUSBAND. Yeah. I know, I feel a little red in the face too. BUT, in my defense, I was not the FIRST blogger to be confused. (I was the second. But nobody wants to be the first one voted off the island.)
Maria, let’s hope you scared them off way before this deep in the post!! Special thanks for the candids you graciously provided.
Look for my review soon, when I no longer feel obligated to endear myself to Ms. Murnane. *wink*