K. J. Howe: Canadian superstar Samantha Bailey believes that it takes a village to write a book. In what could be a lonely profession, she instead creates lifelong friendships. Welcome to the Rogues, Samantha!
RIDE OR DIE WRITER FRIENDS
If you’d told me when I was a teenager, scribbling stories in notebooks, that one day I’d get to share confidences with the authors whose words I devour, I wouldn’t have believed you. I also wouldn’t have understood how it could be possible because terms like “Internet” and “Google” and “social media” didn’t exist back in the late eighties/early nineties.
I was twenty-nine when I finally worked up the courage to join the publishing world by writing novels, querying them, being rejected, and trying again. I remember leaving dance clubs early because I was itching to go home and write. At times, it could be lonely because I wasn’t close to anyone who shared my compulsion to create stories. And I’d avoided the online world that was confusing and frightening to me. Putting personal information out there for anyone to see; connecting with strangers—I didn’t understand the appeal.
But after I’d signed with an agent for my first two novels—edgy rom coms—went on submission and was resoundingly rejected for both, amicably parted ways with that agent, and had two babies, I couldn’t give up on my dream of seeing my books on shelves for readers to buy and borrow. I decided to self-publish one of those rom coms—though a traditional publishing deal was my ultimate goal—and I needed writer friends who shared my dreams. Years after everyone else, I finally joined Facebook, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I found two authors with whom I felt an instant connection—Meredith Schorr and Francine LaSala. It was as if I’d discovered long-lost sisters who simultaneously felt like I’d known them forever. Our friendship was entirely online until the three of us decided to organize and host author/reader parties in New York City and Toronto, naming our events BookBuzz, collaborating with other authors so we could support and celebrate each other. Oh, those parties were so fun and exciting, and because of them, I formed a deep, everlasting bond with four other authors: Eileen Goudge, Josie Brown, Julie Valerie, and Jen Tucker.
Until the pandemic, the seven of us gathered every January at a beach house in Santa Cruz, California, for a glorious week of writing, eating, laughing, talking, and yes, a little drinking. We’ve been there for each other through all the ups and downs of publishing, and they screamed louder than I did when WOMAN ON THE EDGE hit number one on the Canadian bestseller lists. I’ve screamed equally as loudly as each of them have completed epic books, signed with agents, got publishing deals. They are my ride or die girls.
Both Meredith and Francine are my critique partners, those essential readers who tell it like it is. As much as I wish I could write a first, or even second draft, that is pure gold, I can’t. I often don’t see what’s missing or not working, though I’ll feel that something isn’t quite there yet. Both these women are remarkably talented authors with eagle eyes and excellent instincts. Their honesty is what I need the most, and I’m not sure I could write and publish a book without them.
Then there is my thriller author community, who even before my debut came out, embraced me with open arms and devious minds, giving me a home unlike anything I’d ever experienced. The warmth, support, genuine love and care keeps me going through those hard days of wading through rewrites and self-doubt, and many of these writers were and are my idols.
And in my home of Canada, we have a group of authors, across genres, and anytime we need help, a share, a shoulder to lean on, we all drop everything to do it because we’re truly invested in each other’s success as much as our own. Competition does not exist; it’s camaraderie and connection.
Now that WATCH OUT FOR HER has hit shelves, I have all the emotions any author does when she needs to let go of her book, her soul, and give it to her readers: excitement, hope, fear, worry, disbelief, gratitude. And much of my comfort and joy comes from my writing community, who I know will be there with me every step of the way.
It can be intimidating to reach out, especially online, and we all fear rejection. But having people in your corner who totally understand those middle-of-the-night bolts awake to write down an idea; the terror of hitting send to your agent or editor; having a passion so forceful you can’t imagine living without it, is the most wonderful feeling in the world. So, take the risk and find your writing people because it will change your life.
What about you? Have you found your tribe?