Let's get personal. A lot of people ask me when I decided to "become a writer." The truth is, nobody decides to "become" one. They either are or they aren't. For me, I chose to pursue the craft of writing professionally when I was 13. I was a young writer already, but professional? Hardly. I was a child! Yet that's when it started. To put it plainly, it was the best opportunity afforded me at that point in my life, and I chose to go after it with extreme aggression. I dedicated my entire being to reading and learning, to sharpening my skills. Let me note here that part of the learning process was feeling the blunt and necessary sting of rejection from magazines and publishers over and over again.
|First PR photo, barely 19 years-old. Original cover for debut novel.|
|My passion project of 2015.|
While I was working during this time, I had a small online magazine called Writing Belle, where I played around with book reviews for fun. When I was done with High School, I sharpened it a little and began featuring and interviewing other authors as a sort of internship for myself: a way to grow my journalism skills and circle of author friends at the same time. By 2012, I had a substantial group of writing peers and a relatively loyal reader base - both of whom were curiously awaiting my debut novel (I had always planned to release a novel, but I wasn't sure when).
|The Sequel. June 2013.|
After the second installment (State of Chaos), my audience had grown by a few thousand. I was gaining traction - not losing it! The stories were popular, and suddenly, I was dropping other writing jobs simply so I keep up with the demand of readers who wanted the next installment. With the third book, State of Rebellion, my life changed: I was a full-time novelist and a #1 bestselling author. I began publishing other stories (The Zero Trilogy, The Bravo Saga, etc.) that I had always wanted to write, and now I had an audience to read them. After I sold my first 100,000 copies, I remember thinking, "I can't believe I'm here. I can't believe I've come this far!" It was a sort of dreamy haze, a funnel of disbelief. Was I really doing this? Yes, I was!
I would by lying if I said that my own life experiences haven't heavily shaped my novels. Collapse itself is a showcase of loss and pain, and the spirit of human perseverance, the ability to fight back, and to conquer evil with love. I write about this because I've seen it...and to an extent, we all have. When Cassidy has felt pain, I've felt pain. When she's wanted vengeance, I've wanted vengeance. When she's wanted love, I've wanted love. In some ways, she and I are parallels - in other ways, she's so different than me, the person I want to be, the imaginary version of myself, the one who is strong and afraid of nothing. I think that's the appeal of Cassidy Hart, to be honest: she's just like us. All of us.
Cassidy Hart is my hero, because she has been my undying friend and companion through some pretty rough patches in life. Cassidy herself has been an idea for many years, long before I ever published Collapse. She simply didn't develop properly until then. Much of her journey has been my own. When I published State of Emergency, I also met my future husband, and my love and affection for him helped me to better understand Cassidy's love and affection for Chris Young, the kind of love that you would die for. There's also the saying that you should never annoy the writer, or they will put you into a book and kill you! Funny, yes. True? In some instances, yes. Writers channel pieces of their own life and frustrations into their books - it's often so disguised that you can't see it, but we know.
So here I am. The final installment of the Collapse Series will be releasing in just a few months. Since 2013, I have released 16 publications in the Collapse universe, and State of Hope will be the 17th. After this, I will have more authorial journeys to take, but the original series - the story of Collapse and the long, uphill journey it took to get here in life - will always reign supreme in my heart. If you're a writer (or anything else!), I encourage you to really give it your best shot. Don't be discouraged. If you have a good story, and you have talent, you will find success...you just have to be willing to sacrifice for it.