Deep Dive: Salt & Pepper
The book that started it all!
This book changed my life. I know that sounds hyperbolic and cliché, but in my case it’s true. Before deciding that I wanted to give romance writing a real shot, I was working for the largest tech company in America — I’ll leave it to you to guess which company, but hint: you’re most likely reading this one of their devices right now! — doing tech support and hating every minute of it.
I was working in a supervisory role at the time, overseeing the so-called “frontlines” of phone support and doing much deeper work behind-the-scenes to resolve problems for customers that basic support wasn’t able to do. If it sounds boring and tedious, that’s because it is! The good news about my job was that there was often time between calls where I didn’t have enough time to step away from my desk, but I did have enough time to daydream.
Yeah, the idea for this first book about men kissing each other came to me while I was on the clock. I’m not ashamed to admit it! LOL
I was desperate to get out of tech support, a career it seemed I was only getting further entrenched into as I quickly moved up the ranks. Though some of my friends in journalism school were joking that I’d pursued the wrong major and should’ve done computer science instead, I had no idea their jokes would become my reality after school. I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, but I’d always also heard that it wasn’t a viable, lucrative career — hence my stint in college pursuing journalism — until I stumbled across a particular online community dedicated to making writing romance novels a full-time, livable job.
I was skeptical about it being possible in general, but especially for me. I’d never even finished reading a romance novel, much less written one. So, I hemmed and hawed around the idea for a few months, wrote several erotic shorts to test the waters and learn the ropes of self-publishing, and made peanuts on my writing in the process. It convinced me it couldn’t work.
But my husband, God bless him, refused to let me walk away from writing without giving it the old college try. He suggested I try writing a novel and publishing it, just to see what might happen because there was no other way to find out. I’d already written a few “novels” for National Novel Writing Month, the annual writing competition, so it was clear I could write a novel — but could I sell one? I had no idea, but I had to believe my background in marketing would help.
The thing was, I had no idea what to write. Thankfully, my husband was there to save me on that one too.
He suggested writing a novel based loosely on my own experiences — write what you know and all that. What if I wrote about our first vacation together from the perspective of people who were single? Wouldn’t it be wild to stay in a bed and breakfast and happenstance meet the love of your life?
If there’s one thing I’ve never lacked for, it’s imagination, so as soon as he planted the seed, my mind began to nourish it. I started writing Salt & Pepper in January of 2017, which honestly feels like a lifetime ago even though it was just a little over a year ago, and finished it in late February. To my amazement, the writing was much more comfortable than I’d convinced myself it would be, due in no small part to the fact I drew almost entirely from my own life. I based the bed and breakfast in the novel on one I stayed in with my husband, and the love story between the characters is taken directly from the story of a friend of mine — and I had a blast writing it because I wrote the kind of book I wanted to read.
At the time, no one was really writing or talking much about May/December relationships in gay romance. Since my every day, real life is made up of a May/December relationship, and since so many of my friends are in similar relationships, I knew there were people out there whose stories weren’t being told — and I wanted to tell them. I was cautioned not to introduce too large of an age gap in the book, but I felt like it would be disingenuous to make the characters closer in age than I’d originally envisioned them being. So, I ran with it.
Still, I was convinced no one would read it, that I’d publish it on Amazon and it would vanish into the vast nothingness that is the Kindle store within a matter of days.
Holy shit was I wrong!
I’d already done pretty extensive networking with other authors in the genre who’d all agreed to help me get the word out about my first book, and I still maintain to this day that if it weren’t for them, Salt & Pepper probably would’ve been a complete flop. But over the course of a few days after they helped me advertise a 4-chapter sample of the book, I watched my author newsletter’s subscriber count skyrocket and for the first time, I allowed myself to think I might have a chance.
The book released the following week, the first week of March, 2017, and I watched in both abject horror and piss-my-pants glee as it rocketed up the charts until it settled at #2 in all of gay romance, selling well over 300 copies per day each day in its first week. I had no idea what I’d done to make the book do so well — and I still don’t — but I’m thankful each and every day for its success because it literally and metaphorically launched my career as a writer.
Since then, I’ve written more than 600,000 words on various books, all of which would never have seen the light of day had it not been for Salt & Pepper. Looking back on it now, it’s clear that I was still finding my groove as a romance writer, but I’m still proud of the story I wrote and what it started for me.
Many of my readers have told me that they’d never read a gay romance novel until they downloaded the sample of Salt & Pepper and that turned them into an absolute addict, both of my work and gay romance in general. That’s wild, but amazing at the same time. I never would’ve guessed at the reach and impact the book has had on me and so many of my readers, but I’m so glad I took the risk to write and publish it and that so many of you have enjoyed it over the last year.