If you’ve been around awhile, you know I went Indie with my sweet adult Rom Coms over 2 years ago. I’d known I wanted to understand the self-publishing world since I believed we were moving more and more toward a publishing paradigm. And, I loved it. I loved the whole darn thing…even when it stressed me out.
During this time, I was also following the path to Traditional publication with my agent for my YA books. That year I was up for an RWA Golden Heart in the YA category with Secret Life. I had an agent tell me there was already “buzz” around my book. We were thrilled.
When I finalled in the Golden Heart, we had just started submitting the first RVHS Secrets book, Secret Girlfriend, to editors. It wasn’t getting that much love. We heard stuff like, “The writing is fresh but no one wants a character who doesn’t start off strong.”
I’m not going to lie. I never understood that. I always got annoyed with characters who faced struggles where it was done deal because she was strong or kick-ass or feisty or whatever. That wasn’t how I was as a teen. I had a lot of crap going on and I very often wondered how I’d manage to balance it all with school and expectations and get to the other side.
I was not kick-ass.
BUT, I was a smartass…totally different superpower.
To me (and to my beta readers) Amy was all of us. Almost every woman I know has been blind about a guy at some point in her life. And, the worst part about that blindness is that you hold onto it much longer than you should. Once you put something on your I Want list, sometimes you need to run into the brick wall a few times to realize what you wanted isn’t what you need… or even what you Really Wanted.
Editors HATED Amy. They said absolutely no one would like her. One went as far to say than there wasn’t a woman alive who would connect with her and that she was a bad role model (this same editor gave a scathing twitter rampage about YA writers who had a “message” or “agenda” and that books should just be books a few weeks later. ME: No comment.)
I felt over and over again like people were missing the point. The entire point was you don’t have to be strong or kick-ass or super-smart or any superlative to travel a journey. In the end, Amy is probably one of the strongest heroines I’ve written because she rose to the occasion to overcome the challenges. To turn a weakness around, overcome it, and make it a strength is a far bigger challenge than to have the skills and support in place.
To me, if anything, Amy is an amazing role model. She tells me that the journey is hard, but the outcome is worth it. That you can overcome even your own flaws. She realizes she’s making poor choices, changes those choices, then has to become pretty darn strong to fix the damage she’s done. She steps out of her comfort zone and steps up.
And you know what, that’s what the emails I’m seeing are telling me too. Girls and women of different ages emailing me to tell me about the guy they were wrong about or stayed with too long or misjudged or pined for even when looking back they realized they were better than that.
We’ve all been Amy to a point at some time in our lives. The question isn’t, Are you strong enough right now to overcome something. The question is, Are you willing to fight to get what you need…to figure out who you are… to become the person you want to be.
I’m excited by the emails I’m getting because they tell me readers want that for themselves. They cut themselves a break when they make a mistake or misjudge someone — and that the experience makes them STRONGER. It doesn’t define them forever as weak or blind or stupid (all words we have thrown at us when we’re young (or not so young) women and finding our way.)
So, this is the message from me and Amy: YOU ARE STRONG ENOUGH. We all make mistakes, but learn from them and overcome them. There isn’t anything you can’t come back from.
But really, the whole is YOU ARE STRONG ENOUGH.
And I believe in all of you no matter the things you feel were poor judgement calls.