Behind The Story: Her Cherry
Her Cherry is my newest book at the time of this writing, and you can grab it here if you haven't yet. Every book should have a goal. That's my belief, anyway. It's one thing to know how your hero and heroine will meet, or what obstacle is going to stand in the way of their happily ever after. But there's another layer to storytelling that goes behind story structure and characterization. It might take me several paragraphs to get to Her Cherry here, but I think to understand the story behind Her Cherry, it takes the context of everything that came before it. Before writing a new book, I have to have an objective. Sometimes things are going well, so my objective is to find a way to write a book that hits the same notes as the previous one but is still unique in its own right. Sometimes I feel that I've been treading the same ground for too long, so my objective is to turn a corner and try something new. Every once in a while though, desperation forces me into a very specific kind of goal: "do it better." I've had exactly three points in my two years as a writer where I was on the verge of needing to quit for financial reasons. My debut novel did very well back in 2016, and then I followed it with three books that did increasingly poor. Before writing Punished, I made my goal to take some risks and try some new things. Luckily enough, it worked. Punished was a huge success, and it revived my career, which was hanging on by a thread. Fast forward to the summer of 2017 and I was just coming off four hugely successful books, but I had written three in a row that were complete commercial flops (even though they had great reviews and I loved the stories themselves!). I knew I couldn't keep mentally charged up if my stories were going to fall on their faces, and four months is a long time to spend working your butt off every day when you're losing confidence about what you're working toward. So I told myself I needed to do something drastic again and write the best book I'd written yet, but I also needed to pay closer attention to what readers were looking for at that time. I ended up with Knocked Up by the Dom, which became my new most successful novel ever. Then there was the beginning of 2018. The two follow-ups to Knocked Up by the Dom did great, but then my bundle, and three following books struggled. I was low on motivation, and I told myself "do it better." The result was a hugely emotional and different kind of book that I normally write called "Hate at First Sight." I was incredibly proud of what I'd created, and the initial reviews validated my belief that it was the best book I'd written to date. Unfortunately, I'd written it in a way that reminded fans of another popular author of that author's work. To make a long, dramatic story short: I ended up feeling obligated to pull my book from the store until I could go through and really investigate the claims of similarities. To say I was crushed would be a massive understatement. It was a new kind of low I hadn't ever experienced. I'd experienced writing a book I thought was great and watching as readers didn't really latch on and buy it enough to make it a success. That was easier in a way, because I could tell myself I was off the mark and needed to do better next time. This was harder, because I knew I hadn't done anything intentionally wrong, but I also know how much work authors put into their books, and if someone felt my own story had stepped on the toes of theirs, it was a complaint I needed to take seriously. So I pulled the book, and I honestly decided to give up writing romance, at least for a few months. I spent a few days planning what I would do, and trying to decide if maybe I could write in a different genre for a little while until my finances were too thin to keep it up. But I ended up making a post on my Facebook page letting my readers know what I was planning (taking a break) and I was absolutely blown away by the response. If I remember right, something like 200 commenters chimed in over a couple days to give me encouragement and tell me not to give up. For reference, my posts at the time probably averaged something like ten responses at most, so it was a seriously staggering response and it actually convinced me to keep trying.
So I did what I always do. I made a goal. This time, my goal was to prove that I wasn't the type of person who needed to lean on anyone's creativity like some people had assumed after the controversy with my previous book. I know how easy it is to assume the worst in people. It's natural, and it's the way our minds work. Bad press is more fun than good press, and if it's a person you don't know, it feels more satisfying to take in a controversial story. I'd always held back some of my real voice in my books prior to His Banana, mainly because I had this idea of what kind of story my readers wanted. I pictured a "good" story being one that was gripping, serious, and emotional. I thought the ideal hero was the kind of guy who might know how to joke around, but it was never in a silly way. he was always cool and collected and a hardass. Well, that's not my personal taste in a guy, but I did my best to write the guy I thought readers wanted. For His Banana, I kind of said screw it. I wrote a story closer to my own goofy tastes, and maybe still held back a little bit with the silliness at times. When I read reviews, I saw a lot of feedback where people enjoyed the humor and even said it was the best part about the book. So finally we reach the part where I talk about my goal for Her Cherry (sorry it took so long!) I knew the humor went over well with His Banana, and I could've tried to write the exact same balance, but I instead took a little bit of a risk and said, "Well, if they liked a sample of my personality, what will they think of a full dose?"
Time will tell! Haha. But the early reviews that have come in so far are making me think it went over well, which means I can breathe a big sigh of relief. William is easily the most unique male lead I've ever written in a story, which made him the scariest to write. I knew I liked him, but I'm always cautious about assuming just because I like to write about something or I enjoy the way it sounds, it doesn't mean my readers will. So that's that! Now I'm just moving to the point where I try to decide what my goal is for the next book. As usual, I have no idea what it is yet, and I'll probably mentally flail around for a few days before I have a real clear purpose and direction for the next one. I hope my rambling story to get to the point wasn't too much! Side note: Amazon really hates me, apparently, because they refused to run AMS ads for His Banana because the cover was too sexually suggestive. I thought that was funny, but still kinda saw where they were coming from at least with the whole phallic thing being pretty obvious. But with my new cover I thought, surely, I was safe. Apparently not! "Thank you for submitting your ad campaign "Her Cherry" for review. We are unable to serve your ad campaign because it does not comply with our Book Ads Creative Acceptance Policy. Specifically,- Your ad contains sexually suggestive content such as images showing people in poses emulating a sexual position, or that draw undue attention to intimate body parts in a sexual manner. To ensure a good customer experience, please remove this type of content from your ad."