Up Close and Personal with
Kristy Woodson Harvey
You Never Forget Your First
Debut. It’s such a magical word. The first. The beginning. The start. And there were times when I never believed, couldn’t imagine that the term “debut novelist” could apply to me. Now, with my seventh book about to release, sometimes I still don’t believe it.
I knew that if I ever actually got a book deal, it would feel like winning a contest. But I had no idea that I would get my first book deal by actually winning a contest. The Tampa Area Romance Authors’ TARA contest. Women’s fiction division. I still have the email from the contest coordinator letting me know that an editor at Berkley was my final round judge and had requested the manuscript. Come to think of it, I should probably have that framed…
Life, by and large, is a series of managed expectations. Publishing is to an extreme degree. I spent a considerable amount of time trying not to get my hopes up, but, let me tell you: my hopes were up.
I was lucky enough to already have an agent who was actually shopping another manuscript for me, a bit of a prequel to the one in the contest, so he was guiding me along the process. And I had gotten to the point where I would lie in bed at night and envision what would happen when I finally got that first yes.
After a rewrite (If you’ve ever read my debut, Dear Carolina, fun fact: Jodi’s accent, as it appears on page, wasn’t originally written that way. That’s how I heard her, how she spoke to me in my mind. But, in the first draft, Jodi talked a lot like any other Southern girl.), and weeks and weeks of pushed publisher meetings, I finally, finally got my yes.
It was right around ten in the morning, which I remember because I had just strolled my son to preschool. And, for some unknown reason, my frantic pacing on the phone with my agent had led me to my bathroom window. We lived on a cul-de-sac across from the most beautiful wooded lot. So, when I looked out that window, when I was receiving the news, all I could see was the way the light shone on the magnolia trees.
I remember the way my breath caught, the way I felt a little like that light must be shining on me too. I didn’t rush to my husband’s office, the way I had planned. I didn’t call my parents or text my friends. Instead, with full intention, I walked downstairs to the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of champagne, one of the flutes Will and I had gotten for a wedding present, and walked upstairs.
I popped the cork sitting behind the sleek glass desk in my pretty attic office with the charming little floor-to ceiling windows that let in so much morning light. I poured myself a flute of champagne and I sat, smiling in my swivel chair, looking out that window and, let it sink it: I was going to be an author. I was going to be an author.
It never gets old, that feeling. Truly. I just signed a contract for my eighth novel, which will release in late 2021 and my ninth, which will release in 2022, and, even now, I agonize over whether my editor will like each manuscript, over whether it’s good enough, over whether this dream will continue. And when I find that it is so, I pop the champagne. (Maybe not at ten a.m….)
Mary Kay, Kristin, Patti, Mary Alice and I are so excited to share a bit about our debuts with you this week—and hear from a few special guests about their very special debuts. And I know for certain that none of the other four of the fab five ever take a book contract for granted, that number twenty-something is still almost as thrilling as those early days. But, well, cliches are cliches for a reason, and this one is undoubtedly true: You never forget your first.