Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Debut author MJ Fredrick comes out of the (writing) closet

One of my absolute best friends in the world is author MJ Fredrick. Like the Romance Bandits, she's a former RWA Golden Heart finalist. And she's another study in perseverance, never giving up on her publishing dream, even in the face of the rejection and self-doubt we all have faced at some point. Her first two novels are out in e-format and will debut in paperback this fall. Today she's talking about something else we writers bump into from time to time -- coming out of the writing closet to co-workers at the day job.

In my everyday life, I’m a schoolteacher. I’ve never REALLY been in the closet about my writing, but I learned a long ago not to talk about it because, well, success is a lonnnnng time coming (13 years from my first finished book to my first published book). The more people who know, the more people who ask and the more you have to say that no one’s bought you yet.

So when I came to my new school four years ago, I didn’t advertise the writing thing.

And then I sold. Two books in two months to two publishers. I HAD to tell.

The reaction still surprises me. One of the teachers in my unit, who loves to read romance, has just enjoyed every step of this with me. When I get my cover or get an article written about me, she just lights up and hugs me and tells me how proud she is. My whole grade level has been awesome. The newest teacher keeps reminding me that she urged me to take the e-publishing step, another teacher bought me an M&M fire truck because both my books are about firefighters. ;)


The sped teacher and library aide want shirts with my book cover.

The librarian and reading specialist cheer each success.

The day my first book came out, my principal (my PRINCIPAL) made a banner for the teachers' lounge that said, “Congratulations! We are ALL so proud of you!” She included hearts on both ends with flames in them, AND she bought me a chocolate cake that said "Congratulations" AND she called the district PR guy, who has since become my personal publicist.

The coach asked for more information about how to get the book and took one of my postcards with the Web site on it.


Then, last Friday at about 10:30 a.m., my principal called me on my cell. “One of the news stations is coming to interview you at 2. I just found out, but I wanted to give you heads up.”

Okay, if you’ve ever met me…this is exactly the kind of thing I NEVER thought I’d do. I looked down at myself. It was Friday, so I was wearing my school T-shirt and jeans. I’d been writing in the morning and managed to remember to put on base, and I THINK mascara, but nothing else, not even earrings. I figured I’d go to Walgreen’s at lunch to get make-up, but what about the shirt? I looked at all the women who were my size, all were wearing t-shirts, too. So I went to the office, thinking they might have an extra collared shirt.

I hit pay dirt. The counselor let me borrow her hot pink school shirt with a collar but it said “Counselor.” I figured I’d find a way to fix that. I like pink. She also had make-up (Hallelujah!) The teacher next door gave me a silk flower from the end of her pen and made a pin to cover up “Counselor,” and the sped teacher loaned me her earrings. And the principal came in to the interview with me so I wouldn’t be so nervous!

You can see the result here:
The Interview

I’m still astounded at the support and awe I receive at school. Maybe it’s because I’ve only talked writing and publishing with writers all these years that I don’t see how special writing a book and getting it published really is.

And yes, I know my school is a special blessing.

Thanks for hanging with us today, MJ.

You can find MJ's newest releases here:

Where There's Smoke at The Wild Rose Press
Hot Shot at Samhain Publishing (releases April 1, so if you visit this blog post on the evening of March 31, you might not see it)

Be sure to visit MJ at her fun blog, The Bandwagon, and her Web site.


Helen said...

Is he visiting me in Australia

Have Fun

Anna Campbell said...

Way to go, Helen. Amy had him and then she lost him but at least he's still down with us!

Eva S said...

Congrats Helen,
he really likes Australia!

Christine Wells said...

Hi MJ! Welcome to the lair;) and thanks Trish for inviting MJ on. Congratulations on your sales and I'm so happy for you that your school has been so supportive. It's amazing what a difference the support of those around you makes.

Ooh, congrats, Helen, on nabbing the GR!! I think he must have heard the weather fined up down here:)

Tawny said...

Yay Helen - have fun partying with the GR :-)

MJ - I love your 'makeover' story for the interview! It's so fabulous that you have that level of support... it must make your well-deserved successes all the sweeter :-)

Helen said...

I am back now I just got thru posting first and the Grandkids arrived can't do anything on the computer with my darlings here.

Great post loved it and what wonderful support from your co workers and who doesn't love a hunky fireman these books sound excellent will be looking for them.
I love the way everyone helped you get "dressed" for the interview.

The GR can have an early birthday party with me because its my birthday and anniversary on Wednesday we might have few glasses of bubbly together.

Have Fun

MaryF said...

Thanks, Helen, Tawny and Christine! I am REALLY blessed at this school - I know it. I actually feel pretty blessed all the way around these days!

Kelly Krysten said...

Congrats Helen!

Buffie said...

Hey there MJ!!! Wow, it sure seems like you have a very supportive group at your school. I think it is so wonderful that they all support your efforts and dreams!!

So, please tell us a little bit about those yummy firefighters!

Trish Milburn said...

Helen, congrats on nabbing the GR. So he's going to be partying, huh? Just don't let him drink and cluck. :) Happy anniversary and birthday!

Mary (MJ) writes fantastic heroes, so I believe you all will enjoy them.

And Tawny, thanks for posting this for me last night. I said many unpleasant words directed at my non-working Internet service yesterday. Grrr. Thanks goodness for a bit of time at Panera with its free WiFi or I wouldn't have gotten anything done online yesterday.

Trish Milburn said...

So, have any of the rest of you found it difficult to "come out of the writing closet" to co-workers at your day job? When you did, what was the reaction? My co-workers at my old job are thrilled.

Marie Force said...

I appreciated your story. What a wonderful thing to have so much support around you. I have been equally blessed by the generosity of my coworkers. I work for a membership association a lot like RWA, only geared toward government accountants. Both my coworkers on the staff and the members have been HUGELY supportive and cheering me on the whole way. Once when my spirits were flagging and I honestly thought I would never sell, my boss said, "You have done something other people spend a lifetime saying they're going to do. If nothing else ever comes of it, celebrate that." I will never forget those right words at the right time.

I work full-time from home, 400 miles from my office. No one has ever inferred that I'm not doing the job they pay me to do. I've never gotten anything but 100 percent support. It's a beautiful thing. Now with my oh-so-sexy book coming out in September, written under my real name, I worry about getting drummed out of my job! LOL!

Amy Andrews said...

Huh???? I turn around and that GR was gone, gone, gone!
Is that a record?

Suzanne Welsh said...

Good morning Trish and Mary!! Congratulations on the book release Mary and we're very glad to be celebrating this with you in the Bandit Lair!!

MsHellion said...

Hello, MJ! That is a wonderful story!! Congratulations on your sales--and it's so cool to see your colleagues be so supportive and awesome!

And I'd totally want a t-shirt with your book cover on it too. *LOL*

Kirsten said...

HI MJ and welcome to the Bandit Lair! I just loved your story and that video was priceless! You were so cool and confident and well spoken! :-)

I've told people that I sold a YA fantasy book, but haven't shared that I also write romance. In fact, I've been asked point blank if I write under a pen name (which I do, for romance, but my YA is under my real name) and I generally reply -- if I did, would I tell you? They seem to get the picture.

I think the barrier to telling them is probably more in my mind than in reality. I do have a fairly public job and work a lot with other lawyers and regulators, and the board of directors of the company I work for. All of that makes me a bit nervous about having my steamy romance known and read. But maybe over time I'll get over that. People have been so thrilled to hear about my writing that I've gotten much more comfortable talking about it, both at work and outside work. Hopefully I will get the confidence I need to come clean about the whole thing someday. Stories like yours really help!

Congratulations on your fabulous sales and best of luck for the future!


Trish Milburn said...

Kirsten, I can understand where you're coming from. I think it's sad that our natural instinct is to be hesitant to tell co-workers because of what we write. I doubt thriller or mystery writers deal with this -- at least as much.

Trish Milburn said...

Okay, let's have a little extra fun here. Do the models on MJ's covers remind you all of anyone. On Where There's Smoke, I think the guy looks like Dominic Purcell from Prison Break and the girl like Eliza Dushku from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On Hot Shot, I don't really have an idea for the heroine, but the hero looks like Daniel Day-Lewis to me.

limecello said...

Hi MJ - wow, congratulations on the books! That's such a great story.

jo robertson said...

Nice grab, Helen!

Hi, MJ, thanks for visiting the Lair today. What a super great supportive team you have at your school! Your books sound sexy and delightful (I read the excerpts). We do love us some rescue-type men in the Lair!

jo robertson said...


MJ, I made the mistake of telling my fellow teachers that I also write and I will NEVER make that mistake again, until I'm published. It's hard to see people every day and have them ask, when will we get to see your book LOL.

Most people have no idea of the long and arduous process of getting published.

Congratulations on your two books!

Esri Rose said...

Big congrats again, Mary! You know, I really think you have the whole package. You're a great writer, and you're so sweet, generous and funny, it makes people long to buy your books!

Jo, I remember that phase of everyone asking, "Is your book coming out yet?" Depressing. Eventually they gave up asking, I *did* publish, and now I have to bring it up myself. Things we know now that we didn't know then...

Donna MacMeans said...

Congrats Helen on the GR. He sure likes playing with your grandkids.

Mary - What a wonderful supportive school you have! I envision something like that commercial for Verizon - the whole school standing behind you 100%.

In my day job I'm a CPA. Those that knew that I also wrote romance tended to look at me suspiciously - like an accountant with her books out of balance *g*. When they learned I had sold one of my manuscripts, the mouths dropped in shock (but no lower than my own - I assure you). I still get those strange looks, but there's some awe in them I think. Congrats on your success with WRP and Samhain.

Keira Soleore said...

Mary, welcome to the the Lair. And congratulations on the publication of your books.

Having your school support you to this extent is fabulous!!! Most writers hesitate to tell folks at work about writing romance because people can be so snotty towards the romance industry. However, I'm glad you shared your writing with your colleagues because the joy and excitement of being published was increased ten-fold by their excitement for you.

Helen, you're being really quick in nabbing the GR these days. All that TLC you're providing him plus the better weather makes him a bigger fan of Oz than Us.

Helen, congratulation on your anniversary and happy birthday (it's Wednesday now down under isn't it?)!!

(Trish, I swear I thought, this was going be an April Fool's joke.)

Trish Milburn said...

Donna, do you think the accountants changed their attitudes because you were actually bringing in money after the sale? :)

Mary/MJ e-mailed me from work to say that her system there doesn't allow her to get into the blog comments here, so she'll catch up and respond after she gets home from molding young minds.

Trish Milburn said...

Keira, what did you think was the joke, the coming out the closet part? :) Now that I think about it, it would have been hilarious to have this totally fake post or interview up today for a book/author who doesn't exist. People would have gone nuts looking for the book online. :)

doglady said...

Wow, Helen is quick on the draw! Poor Amy, the GR is such a fickle fellow. Can't blame him for staying in Oz. It is raining cats and dogs here.

Hello, MJ! I LOVED hearing about how supportive your school is. As a former teacher I really appreciate a school where everyone's accomplishments are celebrated. It teaches children that "ordinary" people DO succeed. All of their heroes don't need to be on television.

You are SO right about the complete lack of understanding of the process. People expect you to be published almost as soon as you finish your book. They don't understand that it can take years.

The people with whom work found out about my contest wins from someone who works with me and buys her books at our local little bookstore. The bookstore owner tells everyone she knows (our writing group meets in her store on Tuesdays after closing.)

It is also hard for my brothers to understand WHY my book has not sold yet. It is so hard to explain!

Congrats on your sales and I have to say those books look HAWT!!

Nancy said...

Helen--you got the rooster! Congratulations. How neat that he's there for your double celebration. Happy, happy, by the way.

Sorry, Amy. The bird moves fast.

Mary, congratulations on your perseverance. Your school environment sounds wonderfully supportive, and your books sound terrific. I loved your story about scrounging up wardrobe!

Trish, whether I tell people depends on who they are and the context. I don't tell my students, for example, because I see no reason to go there with them. I don't immediately tell colleagues. I wait until I know how they'll react. I tend to wait longer in guy-dominated arenas.

Marie, congratulations on your sale and upcoming release! Great news.

flchen1 said...

Have a sleeping child draped across one shoulder at the moment, but just wanted to pop in and say hooray, MJ! What a terrific support team you've got at your school! What a blessing! And wow--hot covers! :)

Trish Milburn said...

My lack of Internet service yesterday must have short-circuited my brain because I posted this interview a day early, inadvertently pushing down Aunty Cindy's wonderful preview post of all the fantastic highlights we have coming up in the Lair this month. Be sure to scroll down and read about the coming attractions. You WON'T want to miss a minute!

Helen said...

Sorry Amy at least he didn't have far to go

Yes Keira it is Wednesday here in Australia it is now 7-00am and I have to get ready for work soon and then all the family is coming for dinner.

Trish I will be careful about how much the GR drinks

Thanks for the wishes everyone

MJ I would like to hear more about these hunky Fireman as well

Have Fun

jo robertson said...

LOL, Donna, on an accountant with her books out of balance!

I think most people have a serious respect for anyone who's ever written a book much less published one. If they knew the REAL difficulties involved they'd be in awe, I suspect.

Anna Campbell said...

Amy, he's a fickle beast!

MJ, huge congratulations on your release. I too would love to hear more about the books! And your story the support you received at your school is priceless. How lucky you are! Checked out the interview - you looked so smart and professional!

MaryF said...

Thanks, Buffie! I do have a good group!

Seth, from Where There's Smoke, is a city firefighter who followed his dad and his dad's best friend into the firehouse. His best friend is Lauren and he's never really seen her as lover material, mainly because he knows she deserves better and he knows he can't commit. She works really hard but manages to change his mind.

Gabe, from Hot Shot, is a hot shot firefighter in Montana. He loves his job but doesn't see himself as a hero. When Peyton comes to do a story on him, he holds her off because she's seeing him as something he's not. In her quest to make him see the hero he is, she finds the hero in herself.

MaryF said...

Marie, what a great story - and what a great thing for your boss to say! Congratulations on your upcoming book!

Thanks, Suzanne and Mshellion ;)

Kirsten, I took a pen name but apparently didn't try very hard to keep it secret ;) But I've found like you, the thrilled reaction of people makes me less self-conscious about it.

MaryF said...

Thanks, limecello and Jo!

Esri, that is So Sweet of you to say!!!

Donna, I love the Verizon image ;) And I definitely think your coworkers regard you with awe. Think about it - how many people have dreams and follow them?

Thanks, Keira! Yes, their excitement made the release of my books even MORE exciting!

MaryF said...

Thanks, Pam! I hope your GH final gives your book the boost you need!!! So cool about your bookstore buddy telling people about you!

Thanks, Nancy, flchen1 and Anna! Perserverence is definitely my story (but I can't spell it!!!)

Anna Sugden said...

*spraying Lysol*

Yes, I'm back in the Lair - couldn't let Mary's visit pass without popping in. Hopefully I won't infect anyone with this nasty bronchitis.

So thrilled for your success Mary - you so deserve it! How cool that you had so much support from your school too. I've had so much support from everyone - especially my hubby who proudly tells everyone what I do.

I'm with the others who have yet to be published - I'm proud to say that I write and what I write (and I get very few snide remarks any more!), but it is frustrating to have to keep answering the "is your book coming out yet?" question!

MaryF said...

Thank you so much, Anna!!! Feel better soon! It's a bit easier to explain about the electronic publishing before print, but not much!

Gillian Layne said...

MJ, just read about you in the "second sale" section of the RWA newsletter. Huge congrats on them both! :)

You came off as a seasoned professional; it was a great interview.

MaryF said...

Thanks so much, Gillian! This has been quite a week - my first sale in RWR and second in the eNotes! Weird - after all these years I sold the books less than 6 weeks apart and they came out within 3 weeks of each other!

Deb Marlowe said...

Many congratulations, MJ, for your sales and for being the sort of person to inspire such support! All huge accomplishments!

MaryF said...

Aww, thanks, Deb! How sweet!

Trish Milburn said...

Thanks for hanging out with us today, MJ. And thanks to everyone who came by to comment.