Authors can explode on the scene with best-sellers — think Harper Lee and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” or J.D. Salinger and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
Lauren LeDonne’s journey to publishing took years, but when it arrived, it hit a motherload. First, she went to college, married her sweetheart from Bellarmine Preparatory School and got a job (several jobs) that weren’t fulfilling.
She wanted to write. She had since reading a copy of a Nora Roberts book her mother once brought home from Costco.
“The first time I tried to write, I was 22 and wrote a chapter and gave up,” she said in her Tacoma apartment. “The second time, I was 25 and after a couple false starts I wrote ‘Whatever Happened to Romance?’”
LeDonne sent it to a handful of agents, expecting rejection. She got it, and probably for good reason.
“It was awkward. I still have a copy somewhere, but I can’t bear to read it,” LeDonne said. “I lost confidence. I fell off the writing wagon, sulked for a few months.”
When husband Anthony accepted a job in New York, she asked if she could take three months and make another run at writing. They agreed.
It took six months. The book she produced was “Only With You,” and it got her an agent.
The agent bandied it about, sold it to Grand Central Publishing with an option for a second book, though Random House showed interest in her, too.
What else did she have? Random House asked.
“Nothing,” she said, “but when my agent asked that, I came up with a three-book series set in New York. I had a title and one-page outline for each ready a few days later.”
Random House bought what it called “The Stiletto Series.” A spinoff company bought an unwritten book, “Isn’t She Lovely,” for its “new adult” market.
And there it was. By the time she turned 30 last April, LeDonne — under the pen name Lauren Layne — had contracted to produce six books in eight months.
The first is available as an e-book.
“The way it worked, I had two books due on the same date,” she said. “From the time I came up with the title, ‘After the Kiss,’ the book was finished in one month. I had no idea I could do that.”
Once she had an agent, her husband said he had to read the book.
“I’d be writing and if I felt him come up behind me I’d close the screen,” LeDonne said. “I let him read it, and of course he realized immediately the leading man was the exact opposite of him. Our bolder friends want to know if the sex scenes all come from our marriage.”
Ah yes, those sex scenes.
“My least favorite thing to write. If you’ve read ‘50 Shades of Grey,’ you won’t flinch at my sex scenes,” she said.
“In ‘After the Kiss,’ the publisher wanted to make it steamier and asked me to add a shower scene. I wrote it, and when my agent read it she said, ‘You didn’t mention soap or towels,’ so I had to rewrite it.”
Today, she has a website, a Facebook page and a understanding of how to use social media to pump a book.
“Self-promotion is not easy, you feel like you have to pimp yourself,” LeDonne said. “It’s a full-time career. You don’t write it, send it off, then sit and drink wine.”
LeDonne is explaining, not complaining.
“I’m not a millionaire, but you can be,” she said. “With the advances on all my books, this year I’ll match the salary I had in my first job at age 22. I can make a living off this — if I’m careful.”
Most first-book deals, she said, are between $5,000-$10,000, and a three-book deal might get you $8,000 in advance for each book. If sales numbers are huge, the money quickly improves.
A few film agents are looking over her books with an eye toward television.
“Ultimately, I’d like to write for young adults or teens,” LeDonne said.
For years, her biggest backers were her husband, her muse (a dog named Bailey) and her mother. She worried her first book might not be “mom-appropriate.”
“She loved it, and gave me the best compliment,” LeDonne said. “She said she cried at the end.”
Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638
To get the book
Her second book, “Isn’t She Lovely” will be available as an e-book beginning Oct. 28.