Haven’t you wondered how a particular author came up with the story they did? We all know about Mary Shelley and her inspiration on a stormy night, coming up with Frankenstein. I woke up one night wondering what the source of a story is in an author’s mind, whether it’s sweet or horror or mystifying, and how long the idea had to germinate before at last that story bloomed into being. So I asked authors to tell me.
There’s always a story about how the story that you like so much got started. Here are glimpses at what fuels the imagination of the authors. I’ll be offering one author’s story or two a week. The Story Behind the Story starts for real in January, but until then, this is sort of what it’ll be:
His 30-Day Guarantee
It was the mid-1980s — so yeah, we’re talking about a long time ago. Ronald Reagan was president, I was living in New York City, and occasionally doing freelance as a break from my regular full-time job as a financial editor. My husband was working at DC Comics at that point, and I met their proofreader and learned she was a copy editor away from comics. One of her freelance gigs was copy editing romances for a Major Publisher, and she suggested I check it out. I did, and ended up copy editing a couple.
It was interesting, and I enjoyed it, despite it being very different from what I was used to. But more than that, it inspired me to write my own romance.
After a couple of fits and starts (you know how that goes), I came up with a fun idea after noticing a very distinctive sales pitch that occurs in so many offers: impulsive tech tycoon type falls for a recently divorced linguistical anthropology professor at the University of Washington and offers her a deal: go out with him for one month. If they don’t mesh well, she can step away, no harm, no foul. But he’s not telling her everything.
After I finished it and submitted it (using paper and everything, because this was an earlier time), I got a revise and resubmit letter. I didn’t know that was good (because I had no experience with such a thing), so I had to think about how to do those revisions. But then life got in the way (it was 1987 and there was a Wall Street crash, causing many people to lose their jobs, including me), and by the time I got back to it, it was 1989 and we had moved across the country. And by the time I actually revised and resubmitted, years had gone by and the publisher wasn’t interested anymore.
So the novel got slipped into an envelope and slipped under the bed (or a box or whatever; it’s been a while). I joined Romance Writers of America, wrote other things, and then, thirty years after I wrote that first book, I was asked by a digital publisher if I were interested in pitching a story for a graphic novella (I wrote some comic stories while I was in college, so I understood the medium). I said sure and adapted that novel into a script. They bought it, it got done, and a few years after that, they asked if I were interested in writing a novella based on the graphic novella based on the original manuscript (whew!). I said sure, I wrote it, and they liked it, but this time, we couldn’t come to terms, so the newly updated story was back in my hands again—and it was time. So at long last, the novel-turned-into-a-novella was published. His 30-Day Guarantee, originally titled 30-Day Guarantee, is available in digital form and in print, and it only took thirty years after I originally wrote it.
What’s the moral of this (long-winded) story? Never throw anything away. You just never know.
Elizabeth Flynn, who writes as Eilis Flynn, has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, fantasies, and contemporary romances. She’s also a professional editor and has been for more than 40 years, working with genre fiction, academia, technology, finance, and comic books. She can be reached at emsflynn.com (if you’re looking for an editor) or at eilisflynn.com (if you’re looking for a good read). Her latest novel is The Unnamed World, a futuristic romance.