Aspen Hadley- Author
“This summer I'm going to write a novel.”
“I’m not for sure yet, but my heroine is going to be named Tara and she will fall madly in love with Mark. It’s a romance.”
That 8th grader handwriting out her first novel during summer break with her cousin was Aspen Hadley. Storytelling was something she always loved. But it would be a few more years before she would finish her first novel. First came alot of life. She took creative writing classes whenever she could fit them in as she continued through high school and a few years later, at age 21, married her sweetheart.
But even while starting a family with young kids storytelling was never far from her life. She wrote stories about her life and sent them to her family through letters or emails. After a while, she began to publish the stories on a blog, and her family and friends encouraged her to write a novel. It took a while to percolate, but she finally decided she would do it. She wanted to see her name on a book. It took six months to write the story of two bickering neighbors who over time begin to understand and learn to live with one another. Once she had written her great American novel, she decided she better get some feedback, so she found some people she didn’t know who loved to read and reached out. She didn’t want them to be biased. All four said the same thing:“You’re a good writer but don’t care for the story.”
Not one of them liked it. She was devastated. Clearly, this book writing thing was not for her. She decided that story would never see the light of day and debated if her writing ever would either. While writing took a back seat, life continued to do what life does. She had a surprise number 4 child and her brother passed away from cancer. Shortly after these events, she thought she might be brave enough to try writing again, and put down on paper the beginnings of a story she titled, Simply Kate, about a young widow with her son and next door to her aunt in the mountains of Colorado. Kate is making that awkward step of reentering the dating scene. The story goes through the struggles that would be unique to anyone finding themselves single later in life and being a mother.
It felt good to be writing again, but life continued to happen, so writing took a back seat to living and raising her children. But five years later and the youngest was off to kindergarten. She wanted a creative outlet, now that some free time had found her. One day, while reading through old files on her computer she ran into Simply Kate. She had almost forgotten it existed. She read through and surprised herself with how much she enjoyed it. She decided to finish it. She spent the next several months getting the book drafted and then sent it to three beta readers. This time she chose people she knew but also knew would be brutally honest with her. Doing both those she knew and those she does not, she was surprised to find that those who knew her actually gave her more feedback. All three loved the book. When it came to writing, she instinctively knew, even back in eighth grade, what she was meant to write: romance. They suggested some edits and she went through the book again, but clearly this novel had potential. So what next?
Aspen often feels like the least educated person in the world, having not gone to college, but she loves to read and from that has learned how to learn. So, she hit the books, or rather the internet. She studied how to do a query and synopsis. She read that you had to put together a marketing plan. Something she didn’t know existed, let alone how to do. But she found examples and learned. Then she went for it, submitting her work to three publishers, Shadow Mountain, Covenant, and Cedar Fort.
Then the waiting. She wasn’t naive, after doing her research, she knew that the world of fiction is a sea of authors, and that most get rejection after rejection before they land a book contract. “I was standing at my kitchen table folding laundry, I was waiting for an email on something else, so I checked my phone and there it was. An email from Cedar Fort Publishing, accepting my book,” she recalls. She danced, she sang and ran around the table. She quickly called her husband, but he was in a meeting. “Get out of the meeting I have big news.” She wanted to scream, but ultimately it was her 16-year-old daughter getting home from school who got to be the first to hear.
“They sent me a contract, and I was like I don’t know if this is good or not, but I’ll take it.” The process to go from an accepted manuscript to an actual book took longer than she had envisioned. First, they reviewed and did a developmental edit. “They sent me back the file and I could accept or reject their edits. Or as was often the case I understood their point and edited into my voice.” Then came the copy edit with the commas and capitalization. “On that one, I was like accept, accept, accept.” They asked her to go through similar books on Amazon and pick covers she liked and covers she hated. Then they sent her three to pick from. And then the title. They went through lots of options and eventually settled on “Simply Starstruck.” “Now when I write, I don’t worry about the title because I know that will get worked out later,” she says.
A year later the book was done. “I remember getting my box with 20 author copies and just crying. I don’t cry much so my kids wondered what was wrong with me. I assured them they were happy tears.” Shortly thereafter the book started appearing on shelves in Deseret Book, Barnes and Noble, and even Target. “I made my kids pose at the store with my books. It was so exciting.”
From there she just kept on writing. Gathering ideas for her second book she decided to write on a Facebook group asking for weird and bad blind dates people had been on. “I got like 700 comments. They were so funny and great.” From those she selected 12 and got more details, ultimately six ended up in her second book, “Blind Dates, Bridesmaids and Other Disasters.” People regularly comment that the unbelievable blind dates in the book can’t be true stories but as she states in the book, they are 100% real.
She stayed with Cedar Fort as she has been very satisfied with their work. Her third book comes out this fall but the title hasn’t been released yet. People always wonder about how much an author makes. Has her writing allowed her to start paying cash for beach homes? “Writing is only what you put into it. I love doing it and seeing my books on the shelf. I'm blessed in that it doesn’t have to cover my living. If it did, I would have to put out much more than a book a year and I would have to do way more marketing and events. But I get some extra money and every year I do a trip with some of my friends and I can pay for it myself now and that is nice.”
It was great to learn more about Aspen’s journey as an author. I have read both her books and if you like romantic comedies, I recommend you pick them up. As noted the third book will be out this fall and she is almost done with the manuscript on the fourth, so look forward to seeing that the following year. If you liked this I hope you will take the time to subscribe to my blog. As I plan to do more author interviews and journeys.
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