A good publishing story is a bit like a good fairy tale. It should have a quest, challenges, and above all, a happy ending. Stephanie McAfee, the author of our latest BlogHer Book Club selection, has all three. She also has the delightfully funny debut novel, Diary of a Mad Fat Girl.
Like so many women I know, Stephanie McAfee wanted to be published. She had developed a story and then let it sit in a drawer for a few years. When she started writing the book in earnest, she was working around her son's schedule and squeezing in writing time whenever she could. As she was writing, she was reaching out to literary agents and -- as so often happens -- being rejected by them.
But Stephanie McAfee has something in common with Graciela "Ace" Jones, the main character in her debut novel -- she doesn't take no as the final answer. She gave herself a deadline and on Christmas Day, 2010, she self-published Diary of a Mad Fat Girl. By March 2011, she was had debuted at #31 on the New York Times combined print and e-books bestsellers list. She stayed there for two weeks. Impressive, but she could, and did, do better. The very same week she also debuted on the New York Times bestsellers list for e-book fiction at #17. She stayed on that list for twelve weeks.
After her appearance on the list, Stephanie got one of those coveted and sometimes thought to be mythical things -- a literary agent. There was still more magic to come! By the end of April, Publishers Marketplace announced that she has signed a three-book deal with New American Library, part of Penguin Group (USA).
And that, my friends, might be my favorite self-publishing story ever. It's also part of the reason I was so happy to get my hands on a copy of Diary of a Mad Fat Girl. I couldn't help but wonder what it was in McAfee's writing that had appealed to publishers, and I can tell you the answer in one word -- voice. McAfee's voice is clear, loud and it makes you sit up and take notice. That's also an excellent way to describe her main character, Ace Jones.
Ace would probably tell everyone that things were just fine until spring break. Well, okay, her love life has some issues, but that will happen when you've been in love with -- and in an on-again/off-again relationship with -- the same guy since you were eleven. And sure, she kind of hated her job as an art teacher at the local high school, but that was only because she had the worst boss ever. Most things, though, were just fine right up until Lilly called to cancel their traditional spring break trip to Panama City Beach the night before they were supposed to leave. The next thing Ace knows, Lilly has been suspended from her teaching job under suspicion of sleeping with a student. Then Ace's other best friend, Chloe, ends up in the hospital after her husband beats her up, though the official story he gave the hospital is that she fell down the stairs.
Ace is faced with trying to prove Lilly is innocent of the charges against her while at the same time gathering evidence that Chloe's husband is a good-for-nothing, cheating, lying jerk. If she does everything right, her friends will get a happy ending, and if she's lucky, she just might get one, too.
Credit Image: nimetimesthree on Flickr
Diary of a Mad Fat Girl is an amusing look at life in a small Southern town where your business is everyone else's business. From chiweenies to a men's drag store to a biker that bears a striking resemblance to Metallica's James Hetfield you just never know what Stephanie McAfee has waiting for you in the next chapter.