Guest post and giveaway: Sere Prince Halverson
I haven’t had a chance to read The Underside of Joy yet, but it’s a book I’m really excited about – the reviews have been great and it sounds like my kind of book – so I’m thrilled to welcome the author, Sere Prince Halverson, here today. I love this guest post and what it says about determination. It should bring hope to all aspiring authors.
My long, winding, steep, slippery road to publication.
I earned a degree in Journalism, but soon after graduation, I realized that what I really wanted to do was make stuff up. By then I was newly married and helping put my first husband through school, so I signed up for a creative writing course at the local college and wrote short stories during lunch breaks and after work. Later, I wrote stories while my kids napped, wrote around the edges of napkins at Chuck E. Cheese and on rolls of butcher paper the kids used for finger painting. And I wrote in between freelance copywriting assignments.
Eventually, I started getting up in the wee hours to work on a novel. That novel won professional praise but didn’t win over any agents. I wrote another novel in between getting divorced and carpooling to lacrosse and basketball games, and writing advertisements and brochures. That novel snagged the heart of an agent but not a publisher, although it came close several times. I wrote part of another novel, but the timing wasn’t right, and I set it aside. And I wrote yet another novel in between getting remarried and becoming a stepmom, surviving driver’s training, sending kids off to college and writing websites. That novel became The Underside of Joy.
But work and life took over and The Underside of Joy sat mostly dormant for a couple of years. I came home from a writer’s conference excited and motivated to dive back into the book, but the usual chaos of life with four teenagers greeted me at the front door. I thought, if I were smarter and richer, I would have arranged for a month-long writing retreat to follow the conference. I wrote in my journal, I wish I knew someone who had a cabin they weren’t using, maybe up at the Russian River. A few days later I was walking with a new friend. Out of the mystical blue, she said, “You know, my family has an old cabin at the Russian River. No one’s used it for years.” I hadn’t told her anything about wanting a place to write, hadn’t known anything about the cabin, but I grabbed her arm and said, “Really?”
A few weeks later she and her brother and my husband and I cleaned and scrubbed the old cabin. I worked like a maniac to finish up work projects so I could clear my calendar. Then I stayed at that cabin for an entire month. I walked under the redwoods, took my yellow Lab, Stuart, down to swim in the river. I stoked the woodstove, and I wrote and I wrote. My husband, who was going to cooking school, brought me delicious meals and clean laundry once a week, and kept track of our brood of teenagers (or tried to, at least). Truly, a writer’s dream. The novel came alive to me in a way it hadn’t before, and the town of Elbow was born.
My old agent and I parted ways because he said no one was buying intimate, complex family dramas anymore. My new agent, Elisabeth Weed, felt differently. The week my youngest son left to study abroad in Italy, Elisabeth gave the manuscript to the foreign rights agent, Jenny Meyer, who promptly sold it…to a publisher in Italy! While I spoke to editors in the US, offers came in from more countries. As of today, The Underside of Joy will be published in 15 countries and territories, and translated into 13 languages. And my old agent? He was the first to write me an email, graciously congratulating me.
So what is the simple lesson learned along the long, winding, steep, slippery road that led me here? Never give up. If you have a dream, don’t give up. Or if you’re just trying to make it through a tough time, don’t give up. You never know what might be around the next corner, and it could be the answer you’ve been waiting for. It could be that one simple word that’s been eluding you. It could be YES.
You can find the Sere:
About The Underside of Joy:
Set against the backdrop of Redwood forests and shimmering vineyards, Seré Prince Halverson’s compelling debut tells the story of two women, bound by an unspeakable loss, who each claims to be the mother of the same two children.
To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the northern California river town of Elbow with her husband, Joe, and his two young children. Yet one summer day Joe breaks his own rule-never turn your back on the ocean-and a sleeper wave strikes him down, drowning not only the man but his many secrets.
For three years, Ella has been the only mother the kids have known and has believed that their biological mother, Paige, abandoned them. But when Paige shows up at the funeral, intent on reclaiming the children, Ella soon realizes there may be more to Paige and Joe’s story. “Ella’s the best thing that’s happened to this family,” say her close-knit Italian-American in-laws, for generations the proprietors of a local market. But their devotion quickly falters when the custody fight between mother and stepmother urgently and powerfully collides with Ella’s quest for truth.
The Underside of Joy is not a fairy-tale version of stepmotherhood pitting good Ella against evil Paige, but an exploration of the complex relationship of two mothers. Their conflict uncovers a map of scars-both physical and emotional-to the families’ deeply buried tragedies, including Italian internment camps during World War II and postpartum psychosis.
Weaving a rich fictional tapestry abundantly alive with the glorious natural beauty of the novel’s setting, Halverson is a captivating guide through the flora and fauna of human emotion-grief and anger, shame and forgiveness, happiness and its shadow complement . . . the underside of joy.
Thanks to KMSPR, I have one copy of Sere’s book to give away. To enter to win THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY, by Sere Prince Halveson, simply fill out the entry form. Contest is open to those with a US address only – one entry per person, please. I will use random.org to determine the winner. Contest ends at midnight EST Tuesday, March 13, 2012. Winner will be announced on Wednesday, March 14, 2012. Comments are welcome (and appreciated) but will not get you an entry in the contest.
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