I had spent years writing books on the side (my first was published in 1999) while working full-time in public relations for Kaiser Permanente. I had been working for a variety of someone elses since I was 14 and started babysitting. My past jobs included everything from making pizzas to making change, from translating German to a one-time stint jumping out of a giant faux cake at some guy's 40th birthday party.
I had published six books and was wondering when I was ever going to be able to quit my day job, when I hooked up with a television personality and we got offered a four-book deal for an adult mystery series. While my share of the advance was not a huge sum of money, at the same time I knew I would never see that much in one place ever again. It felt like it was then or never. So I gave notice. My agent called it, "Sailing your boat out into the middle of the ocean and setting it on fire." (She was with a big agency and went out on her own, so she knew what she was talking about).
And on this date six years ago, I packed up my emergency makeup (I occasionally dealt with the media), my snack stash (I was known for having a steady supply of pretzels), my family photos, and the cup where I kept spare change. I said goodbye to a lot of folks and tried not to think too hard about whether I was crazy to quit when the stock market had lost 40 percent of its value and I hadn't actually signed the contract yet.
But you know what? It has worked out. Of course, it hasn't been all sunshine and lollipops. Thank God I've got health benefits from my husband, but everything else I pay for out of pocket (like retirement) or simply don't have.Two years ago was the first year where I made more than I did at my day job. In 2013, I made substantially more. At the same time, I've learned that money doesn't always come in when you expect it, counted on it, planned for it. There have times when I have done the math and wondered exactly how we were going to pay the mortgage. And there have been times when I have gotten money I wasn't expecting at all.
It all tends to work out, although sometimes not before you've curled into a fetal position.
I've had eight books published since I quit, including Girl, Stolen, The Night She Disappeared and The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die. Two more will publish this year, including The Body in the Woods. I've got contracts for more. There have been movie options, foreign sales, and books chosen for the Scholastic Book Club, the Junior Library Guild, and many state reading lists.
And I am so much happier!! All day long I get to kill people (or at least make them worried they might be killed) and it is so much fun. And if some of those people occasionally bear a passing resemblance to an old boss or annoying co-worker, I’m sure that’s a coincidence...