Frisky Business. Back in 2010 when I signed a three-book contract for romantic comedies with Sourcebooks, we agreed my third book would be a story set at a make-believe Oregon winery with a divorced heroine harboring a longtime crush on her ex-husband's best friend, a recovering alcoholic who's just gotten his life back together. The story wasn't written yet when we signed the contract, but we all agreed on the overall plot and a release date sometime in late 2012.
Then, life happened. I went through a pretty lousy divorce that occupied most of my energy between the spring of 2010 and the spring of 2011. Since that was the same period in which I was writing the aforementioned third book, you can imagine the story took on a slightly darker tone. It was still romantic comedy, of course, but between the plot elements of divorce and alcoholism, and the fact that the author was struggling to feel romantic or comedic, the book was a bit more somber than Making Waves and Believe It Or Not (the first two books in that contract).
But I pressed on, and by January 2012, I'd cycled through a couple rounds of revisions with my editor and felt pretty good about the book. Then I got a call from my agent. She'd spoken at length with my editor, who had begun to feel this was not the right third book. My editor was very clear that she loved the writing and the story, and that they weren't rejecting it for editorial reasons (an important distinction when it comes to book contracts). In fact, I had the option to go ahead with the book and the release date if I wanted to. But my editor cautioned me that books with alcohol-related themes weren't selling well at all, and my agent and I discussed what low sales would mean for my career at the tail end of a three-book deal.
I agreed to go back to the drawing board and write a whole new book with whole new release date somewhere off in the distance.
I began to write again. I came up with two new story ideas, including one with a heroine working as a professional fund-raiser for a museum and wildlife sanctuary in Bend, Oregon. Fed up with wealthy jerks, she vows to date only blue-collar men, which proves inconvenient when she falls for the unlikely millionaire serving as chairman of the board of directors. I wrote the first three chapters and handed them off to my editor.
She loved the story, except for a few small details. The heroine shouldn't be a fund-raiser, the hero shouldn't be a board chairman, and the museum setting would never work. Oh, and I needed to focus on making the story "more mainstream."
In other words, change pretty much everything.
At that point, I will admit it – I kinda lost my shit. There may have been cursing and hurling of objects. I'm pretty sure wine was involved. My agent coaxed me off the ledge. "Just take a break and write something fun," she said, shoving me toward a quirky 12,00-word novella project that ended up becoming Eat, Play, Lust.
After a month or so, we regrouped. I clarified with my editor that the "museum" was more of a quirky wildlife sanctuary resembling the High Desert Museum in Bend, and we all agreed that setting would be fine as long as I steered clear of making it sound like a stuffy art gallery.
Ultimately though, everything came down to this advice from my agent: "Write the book you want to write, the way you need to write it. Just forget everything else."
So I did. I kept the proposed setting, and I kept my characters' professions. Then I added a storyline about antique stone dildos and a subplot about a lesbian relationship.
"Um, this is pretty much the opposite of mainstream," one of my critique partners pointed out when I finished. "And what's with all the weird sex euphemisms?"
I turned the book in to my editor. I was absolutely, positively certain she would hate it. I was ready. Deep down, I think even my agent was bracing herself for the contract to be terminated.
Then, my editor floored us all. "I love it," she said.
Her only change was a request to switch a minor character's name from Mark to something that sounded less like my heroine's name, Marley.
That was it? I was dumbfounded. And I will admit something right now – I thought she was messing with me. I thought she actually hated the book, and this was her way of making the whole thing go away.
So as my publication date approached these last few months, I've been bracing myself. I was prepared for scathing reviews, for readers expressing annoyance in their Amazon comments.
Instead, I got this:
“Up-and-coming romance author Fenske sets up impeccable internal and external conflict and sizzling sexual tension for a poignant love story between two engaging characters, then infuses it with witty dialogue and lively humor. An appealing blend of lighthearted fun and emotional tenderness.”
“Fenske’s fluffy, frothy novel is a confection made of colorful characters, compromising situations and cute dogs…This one’s for readers who prefer a tickled funny bone rather than a tale of woe.”
– RT Book Reviews
“Loaded with outrageous euphemisms for the sex act between any type of couple and repeated near intimate misses, Fenske’s latest is a clever tour de force on finding love despite being your own worst emotional enemy. Sweet and slightly oddball, this title belongs in most romance collections.”
– Library Journal
|Another Frisky Business surprise – discovering|
it's being sold at Fred Meyer and Kroger around the U.S.
So there you have it. My true confession about my latest romantic comedy release. I feel so much better now, don't you? Perhaps we should all do a few hail marys and break out the communion wine.
Since you've read all the way to the end of this story, I feel like I should reward you somehow (or at least one of you, anyway). Share in the comments about one time YOU received praise or compliments you totally weren't expecting. I'll choose one winner next Monday, May 19, to receive a signed copy of Frisky Business. Cheers!