This photo has become a touchstone for me. It never fails to make me smile, and it inspires me to keep working. The first time I saw it, it made me laugh—loudly. It also filled me with an incredible combination of relief and determination.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. My first adult efforts were unsatisfactory. I wanted to get better. I wanted to write the kinds of stories that I want to read. I started looking around for guidance and, as it turned out, there was no shortage of it. There was, in fact, too much! I did manage to find a few bits of advice that made sense to me, but nothing I tried felt natural. I felt like I was doing writing wrong, and I couldn’t figure out how to do it right.
Finally, after a lot of fits and starts, I realized that I was just going to have to do it my way. I would have to be willing to fail. Willing to experiment. Willing to keep trying. And, ultimately, I found a way to write that works for me. Actually, “found” isn’t the best word. I built my process, a process that has helped me to write three novels in two years. And with each novel, I’m learning. I’m refining my process and, I think, becoming stronger in my work.
Nora Roberts is one of my heroes—not just because I love her books, but also because she has achieved incredible success on her own terms. And this photo reminds me that the only right way to be a writer is to write.
Andrew was the son of the Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff. Andrew, along with his brother, turned his father in the FBI following his father’s confession of the scheme. My future father-in-law’s fraud was the largest crime in the history of finance, and it turned our lives upside down. In the terrible aftermath, Andrew’s brother committed suicide. Andrew lost his own life while fighting cancer in 2014.
As much as I wish this story was only a novel of romantic suspense, it’s not. It’s the true story.
Robert DeNiro optioned two books to make a film of this tragedy, including TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES. Mr. DeNiro’s film, which premieres tonight on HBO, contains some of the most emotional and dramatic moments of my life. It is called THE WIZARD OF LIES. In it, I am played by actress Lily Rabe, a star of the FX series, American Horror Story.
While I haven’t answered any requests for interviews before the movie premiere, readers who have supported me like you deserve to know. You’re a part of my story. Despite what the newspapers say, I didn’t inherit a fortune, so I write not just for love but also to sustain myself! Your encouragement over the last year has literally paid my bills. You know I respond to every email, so do write me if there is anything you want to say or ask. I’m may be a private person, but to my readers I am an open book.
I have two other small announcements. The first is that I have commissioned new covers for all the books in the series A SECRET SHE KEEPS. You can see the beautiful new designs in the picture above.
The second announcement is that my next book, AFTER HIM, is up for pre-order and will be available in just a few weeks.
I still remember the terror of sending my first book out in the world, and wondering if anyone would ever read it. Well, you did! Your support has humbled and inspired me. When I wanted to quit writing, I didn’t do it. I kept at it for a very good reason: you need something to read when you can’t sleep, just as I do. I was put on earth to write the kind of books that provide escape and refuge. Thank you for the honor of putting those books in your hands.
I keep a food-and-exercise diary. The Google calendar for my household is carefully color-coded. I had to design my own planner after searching the globe for the kind of granular detail I need to feel good about my day.
This isn’t so much because I loathe spontaneity as it is that I want to be ready when life surprises me—whether it’s with an unforeseeable obstacle or an unanticipated delight. I just find that I’m better able to cope with or luxuriate in the unexpected if I know that my world is organized enough to take care of itself for a little while.
Anyway, I mention this because, since I started writing my first novel, I have tried to bring order to the process of telling a tale. I create notecards and outlines and spreadsheets. I want a plan for my fiction that’s as carefully calibrated as an itinerary that I create before I travel.
But, you know what? Just like life happens, story happens. I have reached the stage with my third novel where it’s all kind of a mess—or, at least, that’s how it feels to me. But, because this is my third novel, I know enough to recognize this as a good sign. It means that the characters I thought I was creating have revealed their true selves. It means that the world I thought I could shape is now a real place running by its own rules. It means that there are notecards I’m going to have to toss, and that’s all right.
I am so close to finishing After Him. I can’t wait to share it with you.
My mother’s bookstore was where I learned to read, where I learned to write, and where I learned to take my coffee black. It’s also where I fell in love with Barbara Cartland—both her novels and her amazingly glamorous author photos. I wanted to be her when I grew up. A successful author and a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
When I discovered that she was Lady Di’s grandmother (well, step-grandmother, but still…), I was delighted. Of course a fairytale princess would have Dame Cartland for a grandmother! Now we all know that Diana’s life as a royal was anything but joyful. The desire to give a princess hounded by the paparazzi a happy ending fueled my first novel, Under the Legend. Aviation also figures prominently in that book, and I just discovered today that Cartland was an aviation pioneer. She also wrote a play that was banned because it was deemed too risqué! My own fiction is a bit darker—and sexier—than the chaste paperbacks I devoured in my mother’s bookstore, but I love thinking that this daring Dame might have approved.
I’m working hard at becoming a successful author. And I haven’t given up hope on a DBE, either.
Here’s a photo of me of the roof of the Palais Garnier,
the opera house which houses the Paris Opera and the Paris Opera Ballet. As a birthday gift two years ago, my friend treated me to a private four-hour tour that ran from the basement to the rooftop. If you ever get the chance to visit this place, go. Few places in the world have this amount of beauty, history, and emotional significance.
It was such a pleasure to find use of this magnificent setting in my next book, After Him. It’s such a short scene, but one that I can’t wait to share with you.
What settings do you love, and want to see used in a book? I’m keeping a list, and you will get full acknowledgement from me when I use your suggestion.
If you’ve read my novels, you already know that I love a tough heroine. This is a love I can trace all the way back to my earliest experiences in my mom’s bookstore. Encountering Ramona Quimby was definitely a formative experience, and Ramona the Pest remains one of my all-time favorite books.
On the occasion of Beverly Cleary’s 101st, I’m reflecting on everything I’ve learned from her. As a child, I appreciated how much she understood—and respected—the thoughts and feelings of kids. As a writer, I recognize her ability to craft characters who are absolutely and indomitably themselves.
Happy Birthday, Ms. Cleary. And many happy returns of the day!
“It was a very dreary wasted period of my life. I had given up all ambition, lived from hand to mouth, and thought the evil of each day sufficient.” – George Henry Lewes
For a long time, I did not write. Once I started writing, I didn’t share my work with anyone. If we think of adult life as starting around twenty-two or so, I didn’t write seriously for about a decade after that. It took about another decade for me to show anyone my writing.
What a stupid waste of time. I was such a mess.
And yet, I was not a mess. I built businesses, traveled the world, and had spectacular love affairs in all that non-writing-non-showing time.
I devoted myself to service through my church. I ate some amazing things, as pictures on my phone remind me. I raised children. I built a community of friends that sustains my soul even today. I served as
a mentor to so many young women just getting started in their own careers. By most measures, I was a success.
But I was not a success by my own standards. To the little girl inside of me, who decided to be an author in the third grade, I was a washed-up failure. Anyone on the outside would have called me a risk-taker, but my own soul knew different. My own soul knew that I was cropping out my greatest ambition and dream from the picture of my life.
And then something happened, which I still can’t understand, that allowed me to show my work to the world.
I don’t make the same money as I once did now. I also have to work a lot harder, go to bed earlier, and miss a lot of fun. I have to grind while others brunch. And when the writing is done, I have to do all the other stuff like exercise and help with homework and fold laundry.
But this new life is far better. The evil of each day is not sufficient.
Creating more challenge and fun for myself by building new stories, and finding new ways to share them with you, nourishes me. Thank you for that, by the way. (You realize I can’t do any of this without you?)
What are you cropping out of your picture? What did you want to be in the third grade? Is that little person proud of the you she sees in the mirror?
Monday I started the outlining for a book that has been on my mind for a long time. I met this character, Rachel Fielding, in 2014. When I tried to write her story in 2015, I would find myself sitting outside of my little writing cubby, on the floor, crying for no reason. I walked away from that book with a firm intention never to pick it up again.
However, Rachel never left me alone.
In considering what to write next, I realized that the time for Rachel’s story had come. Monday and Tuesday offered nothing but frustrating, confusing, angry mornings where I wrestled with her story like twisted sheets in the bed at night.
And then, this morning… breakthrough.
As it turns out, Rachel had been keeping a secret from me. A big one. Why do my characters think they can get away with that? If I sit in one place long enough, and just let them keep talking, eventually they tell me everything. Finally Rachel told me her secret. And now I know at last what part of her secret I am supposed to share with you.
Are you also a writer? What characters are keeping you awake?