Sometimes, a writer needs to tear a book down to the studs. Such is the case with Deborah Schneider’s Confessions of a Domestic Goddess. Her new novel was first put together many years ago, but didn’t find a publisher. However, as the market changed again, Deborah thought with a little bit of reno, she could flip her original manuscript into something perfect for today’s audience. Yes, her characters, their motivation, and their conflict needed a coat of paint and a bit of teardown, but the story’s bones — its setting, story, and the romance at its heart — provided the perfect frame for the book’s remodel. Here’s how she did it.
Years ago, more years than I’d like to remember, I wrote a contemporary romance. It was, in fact, chick-lit. Those were breezy, funny books in the tradition of Bridget Jones’ Diary. They were about young professional women trying to manage their careers, their love life, and various life problems.
I shopped the book around a bit (these were the days when you actually sent out queries through the mail) and didn’t get much interest. I put the book away and wrote other books.
That book sat in the computer files on my desktop. I thought about it once in a while, and then moved on to write historical romance, some fantasy, steampunk, and gothic romance.
Then there was suddenly a wave of new books about young professional women trying to manage their careers, their love life, and various life problems. These were funny books and called “rom-coms” after the same type of popular films.
A lot had changed in the time that book was stored, and it needed work to update it. The characters, motivation, and conflict needed to be changed, but the setting, the story, and most important, the romance were strong enough to stand the test of time.
The theme didn’t need to change, because a career woman who has created a persona that she might not be able to live up to in real life has universal appeal. In fact, now with social media so prevalent in our society, giving friends and acquaintances a highly edited version of our life, the story seems even more relevant.
The main character, Bailey Holmes, is on the cusp of national fame. Her Pacific Northwest local TV show is going big time with a major new network deal (think something like HGTV), a lucrative sponsorship, and with the new shows centered on her hand-crafted dream wedding, the future looks bright.
That future is shattered when she catches her fiancé cheating on her with a member of her staff. To make things worse, the entire breakup is witnessed and recorded by a woman with the most popular wedding podcast in the country. It doesn’t take long for Bailey to become a nasty meme that goes viral instead of a media darling.
At this point, Bailey Holmes fits the book’s logline: What do you do if your life is a fixer-upper?
At this point our heroine is at a low point in her life, and she decides to take a break and go home for a while. She leaves the big city to visit her family in the San Juan Islands. This is the “point of no return” for her. She’ll have to decide to change her life, to move forward, or lose everything she’s worked so hard to accomplish.
The San Juan Islands, and especially Orcas Island, have always been some of my favorite places in the Northwest. Spread across the Salish Sea north of Seattle, the islands are filled with nature and wildlife that attract people to the beautiful landscape and slower pace of life. The setting is a huge part of this story, and now is the location for the “Bachelor Bay” series that will include at least three more books.
Because I already had all of the characters, the plot, and the setting, the main things I needed to change were the inciting incident and the motivation for the main characters. Bailey — if I were casting a TV movie of this book, it would star Kat Dennings of 2 Broke Girls as the heroine — has a lot of baggage to deal with, and she has to rebuild her show and her life and tear down the false image she’s created for her fans.
When her family offers her the opportunity to renovate the rustic family camp on the island, she’s eager to accept the challenge. But she has to deal with a gorgeous, opinionated, take-charge man who aggravates, frustrates, and entices her all at the same time. Max Cumberland is a perfectionist who takes pride in his restoration business. If you’d like to see my inspiration for Max, search online for Cole Monahan, who is a model.
When these two type-A personalities clash, there’s trouble in paradise. Their sexy sizzle of attraction goes from simmer to steamy, and often boils over on the set of the show. The couple is forced to compromise and work out solutions so they both can succeed.
The rewrite of Confessions of a Domestic Goddess required me to take apart an already finished book and strip it down to the basic storyline, then build it back with more details, expert help from a talented editor (take a bow, Elizabeth Flynn), and the courage to admit when something in the book just wasn’t working.
The phrase that writers use to describe the elimination of story elements they love but that just don’t work is “Killing your darlings.” It’s been suggested that the more painful the process is, the better the book. For me, being forced to consider the reader’s point of view is important. We don’t write books to keep them in the files, we write books to share the stories.
More important, we can rewrite books to make them better, more relevant, and fun. That’s the most important thing I hope readers take away from Confessions of a Domestic Goddess. This book is sexy, sassy fun!
Deborah Schneider’s Bio:
Award-winning romance author Deborah Schneider writes western historical and contemporary rom-com romance. Under her pseudonym Sibelle Stone, she writes steampunk and paranormal stories, filled with magic, strange machines, and fantastical creatures. She’s published seven books and a novella. Deborah worked for one of the busiest library systems in the country for over twenty years and was named “Librarian of the Year” by Romance Writers of America. She lives in the Pacific Northwest town known as “Twin Peaks” in the movies and television show.