I’ve been writing professionally in some form for about 17 years now—that’s right, after several bumps in the road and wrong turns, my career is finally old enough to get a driver’s license! I’ve been a journalist, a TV drama writer, a technical writer, a report writer at a private investigation firm, a communications writer and, come August 8, a novelist. I always joke that the only thing I haven’t attempted to write is poetry. But that’s not true. I also have never attempted to write a diary. I blame my atrocious handwriting. My third grade teacher even sent a note home to my parents about it.
So when E.A. Aymar suggested I take over for the amazing K.J. Howe, I was equal parts nervous and excited. Anyone who’s read K.J.’s amazing entries knows I have huge shoes to fill. She set the bar extremely high. Hopefully, over the next few months I can share another perspective on being a debut author, one who writes a lightweight traditional mystery series with a mid-sized mystery-focused publishing imprint.
My Publisher’s Marketplace announcement:
The Detective by Day series draws on my experiences working in the entertainment industry. During my eight years in L.A., I encountered the various people chasing fame, be it a sprint, a marathon, or a journey that never quite reaches the finish line. One day I was driving down the street when I saw a billboard offering a reward for information on a murder. My first thought was, “I should try to solve it for the reward money.” My second thought was “Horrible idea for real life but interesting idea for a novel.” The original intention wasn’t even to make it Hollywood-focused but they always say “write what you know.” And I know what it’s like to be semi-successful and mega-broke in Hollywood. Of course, lest someone think I was writing about myself, I made my main character an actress instead of a TV writer.
For this first entry, I want to travel back in time a bit—not Oh-My-God-Diary-Jeff-chased-after-me-at-Melanie’s-house-and-kissed-me early, but definitely pre-book deal. I figure the best way to do that is with some numbers.
32: Number of years I’ve wanted to write a novel. I decided at five-years-old and announced it to my OB-GYN father and my psychologist mother. They were both surprisingly cool with it. In fact, my mom still has my early attempts at stories. I haven’t ever looked at them. I doubt I’ll even be able to read them—see atrocious handwriting note above.
29: Number of years it actually took me to finish a novel. Luckily, I wasn’t working on the same one all that time. Because of an intense fear of failure, it took me a very long time and lots of other jobs—see the long list I posted above—to actually start a book. Once I finally sat my butt in a chair and forced myself to write, it took about a year to finish.
73: Number of Pitch Wars mentees in 2014. Pitch Wars is an annual contest started by the amazing Brenda Drake that pairs most established writers, aka mentors, with mentees, aka those still looking for an agent. If selected, the mentors and mentees spend three months polishing the mentee’s manuscript for the Agent Round, where, after reading a pitch and the first 250 words, agents comment requesting to read more pages. I was entry number 71. My agent, Michelle Richter of Fuse Literary, was one of my few requests and two days later offered me rep at a bar during the Crime Bake mystery conference. It was a good location too because I was so shocked, I needed a drink. Two, in fact.
15: Number of months from when I got my official offer from Midnight Ink in May 2016 to when my book will be published. It seems like a long time but in publishing, it’s actually probably average. I know people who waited two years. Publishing is about selling books but it’s also about patience. You’re always waiting. Waiting to hear back from an agent for a query. Waiting to hear back from editors on sub. Waiting for your book release date. Waiting to see if people actually love your book as much as you do.
1,559: Total amount of time I’ve spent editing the latest draft of my book, according to Microsoft Word. That’s the equivalent of about 26 hours and, again, that’s just the amount of time I spent on making big picture changes from my Midnight Ink editors. And I just received copy and line edits so that number is going to increase. I’ll let you know how long it takes me to look at my page proofs.
3: Number of title changes my book has undergone. First it was IOU, then Pay Day and finally Hollywood Homicide. I’ve wanted to use acronyms in a title for years, and I decided this was my chance to finally make that dream come true! I went all out with everything from having a character who loves speaking in acronyms to having an acronym as a plot point to literally giving all my main characters names that were acronyms. Clearly, when I commit, I commit. All to have my lovely agent tell me she wanted the title to change because she didn’t think it reflected the book’s hook. I didn’t cry. I changed it. She’s worked in publishing way longer than I have, so I trusted her opinion. Plus, when it comes to picking your battles, fighting over a title wasn’t one I wanted to pick.
A friend suggested I use the word Day in my title since my character is named Dayna Olivia Anderson (D.O.A.!). Everyone calls her Day. We eventually came up with Pay Day, which I ended up loving more than any acronym. But then my publisher decided to go with a title that’s a bit more indicative of the setting. Once again, I trusted the professionals and happily went with it. They did keep the Day theme for the series title: Detective by Day. Another friend came up with that series title as well. Book titles are clearly not my forte.
4: Number of initial cover ideas my publisher came up with. I want to delve further into the cover process in a later diary so I won’t write too much here. But the cover you see is actually attempt number five and it’s a complete departure from the first four. I liked the first four covers. I loved this one.
5: Number of Debut Diary posts I’ll be writing. If there’s anything in particular you’d like for me to discuss—like the time Jeff really did kiss me at Melanie’s house—please comment below or hit me up on one of my various social media accounts:
I’m looking forward to sharing my Debut Author journey with you guys! See you next month.
Kellye Garrett spent 8 years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. People were always surprised to learn what she did for a living—probably because she seemed way too happy to be brainstorming ways to murder people. A former magazine editor, Kellye holds a B.S. in magazine writing from Florida A&M and an MFA in screenwriting from USC’s famed film school. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company, while still happily brainstorming ways to commit murder. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, will be released by Midnight Ink in 2017. You can pre-order it by clicking the cover below:
About Hollywood Homicide:
ACTRESS DAYNA ANDERSON TAKES ON THE DEADLIEST ROLE OF HER LIFE: HOMICIDE DETECTIVE
Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semi-famous, mega-broke, black actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. After witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she figures pursuing the fifteen-grand reward isn’t the craziest thing a Hollywood actress has done for some cash.
But what starts as simply trying to remember a speeding car soon blossoms into a full-on investigation. As Dayna digs deeper into the victim’s life, she wants more than just reward money. She’s determined to find the poor woman’s killer too. When she connects the accident to a notorious Hollywood crime spree, Dayna chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes and movie premieres. She loves every second—until someone tries to kill her.
And there are no second takes in real life.