Here you’ll find my infrequent musings on writing and bookish things! 🙂
A few readers have asked why I chose to write under a pen name. After all, MAKE UP BREAK UP is very much in the vein of my YA summer rom-coms, is it not? To which I reply, it is, with one very big exception: There’s a lot of on-page sex in it. And I’m currently writing a second adult book in which there are even MOAR on-page shenanigans. Turns out, I really like writing sexual shenanigans. Who knew?
The reason I’m making sure to differentiate between my sexy rom-coms and my generally chaste YA romances is because I’ve had readers as young as 11 in my signing lines. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for parents, booksellers, and librarians to be able to tell which one of my books was adult and which was suitable for a YA audience. Seeing “Lily Menon” on the cover is an easy-peasy visual!
It’s an open pen name, which means I don’t care if readers who already follow me know I’m writing both things. That’s why I’ve chosen to keep my Instagram and Twitter handles the same–less work for me and less confusing for readers! However, I do have a new FB group for my adult romance readers called The Swoon Squad. An endless cupcake+pajama party for all!
I’m super, super excited for readers to become as familiar with Lily as they are with Sandhya. Can’t wait for all the adult romance fun!! *gets back to writing furiously*
Now that we’re almost to the point where some states–mine included–are beginning to reopen services (ahem, no comment), I feel more equipped to speak about creating while the entire world has gone completely stark raving mad.
Let me preface this, though, by saying three things:
- I was already a full-time writer before all this began,
- My kids are old enough to be able to police themselves while I work, and
- No one in my nuclear family is older or immunocompromised, so I did not feel the added stress of worrying intensely about their health. Also, neither my husband nor I lost our jobs.
Okay, now that those things are out of the way, I have to say, I actually liked having this time to create happily with no thoughts about travel or other disruptions. My creativity blossomed and came alive, knowing that I had only to sit in my little office, day in and day out, and pour out all manner of creative material. That was the only thing required of me (well, not only but you get my drift) and it was better than I feared it would be.
I did a couple of things early on in the quarantine that I think helped:
- I adjusted my expectations for my kids’ schooling, so that I didn’t feel like I was falling behind all the time. I contacted their teachers and told them my kids would be doing the best they could, but that they wouldn’t be able to complete all their assignments as both their dad and I work full-time. Their teachers were all very understanding and supportive.
- I made the decision to turn off the constant stream of news assaulting my eyes and ears. Seriously, no one needs to have that amount of input unless they’re running a country (and some people choose not to have it even then, hahaha, amirite? Anyway.). I would feed myself news in drips and drabs just to keep abreast of the basics and the need-to-knows.
- I made the decision to stop worrying about my book sales after taking a week at the very beginning to fret and worry about things that were definitely not in my control. After that, I told myself that literally every author in the world was in the same position as me and there was nothing to do about it. I could choose to tank my creativity by worrying about it or I could focus on creating new stuff for once the quarantine was over, and I chose the new stuff. (Hint: Always choose the new stuff!)
Now I’m not saying that there weren’t periods of time when I was stressed or worried or felt wrung out. I did because I’m human and it’s very hard not to feel those things when the world seems to be imploding around your head. But I also took the opportunity to relish the idea of being a creative person and an introvert (not needing people as much is the best when you have to isolate), with so much time on my hands and with very few other commitments. And when I needed social interaction, I reached out to friends, who were all happy to hop on the phone or Zoom or what-have-you with me because they were feeling the claustrophobia, too.
Having to stay home and isolate is not ideal for my mental or physical health, but I’ve come to realize it also doesn’t have to be absolutely awful. In fact, every time I stop and take a moment to be grateful for the big and little things in my life (healthy spouse and kids! perfecting my morning smoothie! a fun, new story world to dive into! my dog who looks ECSTATIC to see me every single time I leave the room and return!) I realize how much I truly have. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, Gratitude, always. Always, gratitude.
I am now the published author of FOUR whole novels, to be FIVE later this year. Exclamation points! Happiness! Excitement! Gratitude! Wonder! Those are all the feelings erupting in my brain, in case you were wondering. But “exclamation points” isn’t a feeling, you say? I respectfully disagree.
In any case, I’ve had a lot of time to think and ponder about my publishing adventure thus far and what I’ve learned along the way. Because, sure, sometimes I feel like I’m stagnating and haven’t learned a single thing, but when I truly sit back and take stock, hey-o! Lessons galore. I did a post like this on Instagram lately (are you following me there? Because you totally should), but once more for the blog!
Lesson #1: This is a writing process lesson. I used to get super caught up in whether I was writing for the readers or for me, and if for the readers, which readers, and if for me, which me (because all writers have many “me”s inside them). But recently, I’ve realized something. I like to draft for me (whichever me is most going to enjoy the particular story I’m working on) and I like to edit for my readers (the most enthusiastic readers, the ones who say I’m an autobuy author, the ones who will literally read everything I write and whom I love dearly for their ardent enthusiasm). This way, I get to totally immerse myself in the story and not worry so much about writing to brand or genre conventions or being clever or pithy. I’m simply stepping over the garden wall into another universe and disappearing there for months. And when I emerge, I get to dust off the manuscript and begin reading it with an eye to my readers. It’s really a win-win strategy.
Lesson #2: Compare yourself not to others, but only to your past self. I learned this when I was writing my second book, From Twinkle, with Love, and ever since then, I’ve tried to abide by it. I’m not really a glutton for punishment, so for the most part, I’ve found it relatively easy to follow. And wow, it’s a life-changer. It freed up so much of the time I didn’t even realize I was spending putting unnecessary and unfair pressure on myself to do something someone else’s way, or to compare my own wins to someone else’s. I’m a lot happier just looking back on my own journey going, “Wow! Can you believe how far I’ve come??”
Lesson #3: Approach each major event/project with a grateful and kind heart. I have anxiety. This is probably not news to you, as many authors suffer from it. But I found I’d make my anxiety so much worse before every event or big project I had to tackle. I’d find myself playing the what-if game in my head: What if I’m not talented enough to write this book in the way it deserves to be written? What if readers are disappointed? What if I go to this event and totally bomb on stage? It was madness! Madness, I tell you! I realized I have absolutely no control over the universe (darn). The only thing I can control is myself. I can change how I view things, and I can go to every new experience with a sense of wonder and gratitude that I get to do this at all. And then, every single time, I’m so, so impressed and happy with how things turned out. And being kind to everyone along the way? A surefire way to feel good about yourself at the end of the day.
Lesson #4: There will be ups and downs along the way. Just because I’ve learned these lessons doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t forget them or un-learn them along the way. Some days I’m really, really confident and other days I’m a mess of anxiety and insecurity in spite of my best efforts. That’s okay. I’m a living, breathing, changing organism, and I will live, breathe, and change along the way. I accept all my ways of being and thinking and feeling with no judgment. And when I feel they aren’t conducive to my mental health and happiness, I’ll change them again.
Four lessons for four books! For me, they’ve been mind-bogglingly exciting. I’m really so, so grateful to be here, to be building this wild and wonderful career book by book, page by page, word by word. Onto more adventures!
Welcome to my annual blog post! 🙂
I was reading an article the other day that said writers with three or more books published are considered “mid-career” authors. They’ve established they’re not flash-in-the-pan, one-hit wonders, but rather people with healthy, active careers. And I sat there and stared and stared and stared. How did I get from being a debut, no-idea-what’s-going-on author to a mid-career, been-around-the-block-a-few-times author? How did the thing I dreamed of only when I was running a 104-degree fever come true? It’s absolutely mind-blowing.
There’s Something about Sweetie came out on May 14th, and with it, took me to mid-career status. I can now look at three of my book babies on my shelves and marvel at the fact that the world now contains three different stories by me. That’s roughly just over a quarter million words of fiction in three years. Whew.
I updated my bio because it was getting unwieldy to list all of my books published (plus the ones coming out very soon). Writing “author of several novels” really got me pumped. I’m so, so lucky, you guys. Ahh. I hope I never forget just how lucky I am, just how many millions of tiny coincidences and glimmers of luck happened to bring me to this point. And the nexus of all that luck and coincidence, of course, is reader love and support. Without that, none of this would even be possible. Again, how did I get so lucky??
Relatedly, I think my books page needs an overhaul. With the cover of Of Curses and Kisses hopefully coming soon (!), and then shortly after that, my summer 2020 rom-com (!), I think scrolling will become a pain. I’m psyched to cook something up with my web designer that’s aesthetically pleasing and user friendly. Stay tuned!
Today I’m going to tell you a very interesting story. It is the story about an author who had some success with her first book and was then tasked with writing her second book. And suddenly, this author completely forgot how to word. She looked at her editor and said, “Wat u mean, buk? Wat iz this ‘buk’? Pleaz no”. And then she wept a giant ocean that washed away everyone in the world.
It’s taken me a long time to talk about this because:
#1: I was terrified that I would literally NEVER be done with my second book
#2: I was terrified that no one else in the history of the universe had ever had this happen to them
#3: I was terrified that having to rewrite the g*dd*mn book two thousand and eleven times meant I was an awful writer
See the common thread there? Fear. I was so afraid of so many things I was having trouble keeping them straight in my head. But then I decided, hey, I don’t really want to let fear rule me. I don’t want this to be some kind of shameful secret I never talk about. This is real life, right? It’s hard. Sometimes you sit at the desk and write 2,000 words of total crap. Sometimes you have to scrap the entire book and start over. Sometimes a major plot point just doesn’t work no matter how much you try to force it to work, like Cinderella’s evil stepsisters jamming their big feet into her glass slipper (I’m a Disney fan, let me have this metaphor). I refused to believe I was the only one this had happened to.
So I reached out to other writers. These are all very successful, talented people, women I truly admire and respect. And you know what they told me?
SECOND BOOKS SUCK, YO. JUST KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON.
It was such a relief to hear it. I still had to do all the work to make that second book work, of course, but knowing I had these sister writers out there who’d been through the same thing (or were currently going through the same thing) helped so much. It was like we were in this giant, beaten-up ship, all frantically trying to plug the holes on the bottom and repair the tattered sail and keep the pirates at bay. I’d thought I was doing it by myself, but when I shone a light in the dark, it turned out I wasn’t alone at all. We were in it together.
And you know what? I did finally cross the finish line, and I have to say, I’m prouder of From Twinkle, With Love than I am of When Dimple Met Rishi, which came so easily to me. I feel like Twinkle and I have been to war together. I want to crack open a bottle of gingerbeer and share it with Twinkle while we talk about the good/bad ol’ days.
Entertainment Weekly revealed the cover and exclusively posted the first chapter of From Twinkle, With Love. Bustle featured an extended excerpt (and details of the preorder campaign!). It feels like a badge of honor, like I’ve really accomplished something when people reach out to tell me they love Twinkle and Sahil. And I’m so glad I went through all those rewrites, that I didn’t settle for what felt good enough, that my editor pushed me and pushed me to make it better. Don’t get me wrong, back then I really wanted to throw my computer out of the window and follow it, but looking back? I wouldn’t have done it any differently.
So if you’re a writer–pre-published, published, hobbyist–I want to tell you something. When you feel a project isn’t working, listen to your inner voice. Even if it means rewriting the entire thing, do what you think will make the project the best thing it can be. You won’t regret it. And as you tackle those mindmelting changes, know that Twinkle and I are toasting you with a bottle of gingerbeer.
A dazzling place I never knew!
Oh, hi. Thanks for stopping by to check out this, MY VERY FIRST BLOG POST. Yippee! Confetti! Balloons!
Here’s a secret: I’m not the super best at keeping up with blogs. But sometimes I like to have a place to put my thoughts. So that place will be here from now on, and I’ll update as and when I can. That way I’m not promising you something I feel I might not be able to hold myself to (I hate that feeling!), and I’m not making myself do something I’m not 100% into (I hate that feeling, too!). Okay? Okay. (John Green reference! Huzzah!)
I decided to begin this blog now because…well, because SO MUCH has happened recently and I felt the need to organize my brain. In case you don’t follow me on social media or my newsletter (which you totally should because hello? We have so much fun!), this is what’s happened recently:
- My first ever YA novel came out on May 30th, 2017 via Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. It’s called When Dimple Met Rishi.
- When Dimple Met Rishi hit the national Indie bestseller list in its very first week! This is an aggregate bestseller list that indie bookstores across the nation compile. YAY!
- When Dimple Met Rishi also hit the New York Times bestseller list in its very first week. I…um, wow. I just didn’t know what to say when my publishing house called me. They all CHEERED, you guys. Then I almost drove off the road and killed my entire family because that’s what happens if you try to talk on the phone when you’re driving. BAD. (I pulled over right away, don’t worry. And then my hands were shaking so badly my husband took over for the rest of the trip.)
So lots going on! I just got back from tour, too, which has been amazeballs and so cool because I’ve never had the chance to meet readers on such a large scale. If I had to pick one favorite thing about writing besides actually getting to tell stories, it’d be meeting readers. Hands down.
Anyway, with all this (totally awesome) mind f*ckery that’s happened, I’m trying to find my footing again. I need to get into a writing schedule and block out the rest of the world because the pressure is so real now. I’m lucky that I’ve already written my second book (oh hey, have you added it on Goodreads? More girl power and brown teens kissing!). But I am working on my third book (more details on that soon!!) and it can be a real trap to wonder if it’s just as good as When Dimple Met Rishi and if people will like it as much and OH GOD WHAT IF I’VE FORGOTTEN HOW TO WRITE I REALLY THINK I HAVE AND I CAN’T RETURN MY ADVANCE BECAUSE I SPENT IT ALL ON CHOCOLATE AND CAT-THEMED STATIONERY
Yeah. I don’t want to fall into that trap. So right now I’m trying to be zen about everything. The way to do that, I think, is write just for me. Write the story that makes me smile and turns my heart into a warm puddle of goo. It seems that when I write the story I want to read, other people end up wanting to read it, too.
So wish me luck! 🙂 And thanks for reading. <3