by AJ Llewellyn
I love each every book I write, they are pieces of me. But Beyond the Reef is the biggest piece of all because it is my most personal story.
And I wrote it 15 years ago.
As I drove up the California coast yesterday to take my wonderful editor Heather and her sister Colleen to lunch to thank them for all their hard work at my Phantom Lover book signing last week, I thought about how far my book and my work has come. Beyond the Reef was a book that actually saved my life.
I was deeply depressed when I wrote it and Frank Truelove, the hero of the tale, a man born of rainbows kept me so focused on being happy that I forgot about being depressed. I wrote the book and found a lot of interest in it at the time, but I could not sell it.
The premise was simple: a lonely, chubby woman has a fantasy man so real to her and so obviously fictional to her friends and family, she's as shocked as they are when he materializes in her shower one day. He is her perfect man. He knows everything about her...and he just won't go away.
I had a kick-ass agent, a hot premise and people told me, a good book but although I almost sold it several times, even had an early draft optioned as a screenplay - it languished. And then the book withered on the vine.
Earlier this year, I took out my old manuscript and I realized the genesis of the tale was still workable. Then I "ate a piece of crazy pie" as my wonderful friend, author Stephani Hecht would say and completely changed it.
I turned what had been a straight romance into gay erotic romance and that is honestly when the book came to life.
When I originally wrote it, nobody in Hollywood was writing gay stories. Not for public consumption, anyway. Like everybody else, I was trying to write mainstream. I was going for "high concept" as the marketing people like to say.
I wrote it from a woman's point of view and Frank was still Frank but once I dropped the veil and wrote it from my own perspective, it changed.
My publisher Tina Haveman of eXtasy Books snapped it up. Martine Jardin's cover art for the book was gorgeous.
And now, I am stunned to find myself in the company of five amazing authors in the GLBT category. The divine Cat Grant, Angela Benedetti, Kimberley Gardner, Tory Temple and Rick R. Reed. I fully expect Rick to win, but I don't care. Beyond the Reef was not only published, it was a best selling novel, it has received some of the sweetest reviews of my writing career. And now it's up for an Eppie.
I received a beautiful email from Rick yesterday and it touched me when he said how happy he was to be going head to head with me in this race.
I wrote back, "I'll take you any way I can get you, Rick!" I'm sure he rolled his eyes. We often exchange emails and he remains one of my very favorite authors to interview for Dark Diva Reviews. I enjoy his humor and his brilliance, though how such a nice man writes such scary, creepy, twisted thrillers constantly amazes me.
No...today, I will not think about the sheer genius of his book Orientation which is in a class all by itself. I will just think about how far Beyond the Reef has come and I wonder if somewhere out there beyond a different reef...Goddess Pele is chuckling because sometimes, just sometimes, the last piece of fruit left on the tree is a juicy piece of fruit indeed.