The real story behind SUGAR

You people. Honestly. You have made this the absolute most fun and wild and raucous book release ever. That’s right: Sugar‘s release has been raucous. As in, Can’t-Stop-The-Feeling raucous. And people-are-stopping-me-in-Target raucous (probably because I’m always there, but let’s not dwell on that). I’m talking party-with-Prince raucous.

OK, fine. That’s an exaggeration. But I FEEL like I’ve been partying with Prince, only sober and a little tired. And wearing athleisure, a fashion statement I’m one hundred percent certain Prince would disdain.

(NOTE: I have not been wearing this outfit, but this is what came up when I Googled images for “athleisure.” This world is messed, kids.)

First, you came to the book release party.

So many people, so many books, so many lovely friends and family coming out to share in the celebration.

Second, this.

So many empty shelves! Party like it’s 1999, people! This is AN ENORMOUS DEAL TO ME. Let me tell you why. Here’s the real story behind Sugar, a novel about a pastry chef named Charlie Garrett and her dream to have it all.

Sugar is actually version 2.0 of Charlie’s story. After eighteen months of not selling version 1.0, I was just getting ready to bury the manuscript under a lovely tree in our backyard, ready to hire professional mourners and a tambourine player, when my agent suggested finding an editor who might be able to help. I did find that editor, who wrote a six-page response to the story, detailing how much she detested it. As in hated. Trashed. Dismissed. She used the word “annoying.”

She did, however, really like my formatting, she said. She liked my margins and my page numbers and the way she could read all the words. THIS WAS HER HIGHEST COMPLIMENT. SHE LIKED MY FORMATTING, WHICH IS AN AUTOMATIC FUNCTION IN MICROSOFT WORD. I DIDN’T EVEN PICK THE FORMATTING. And I paid her for this treatment.

Nevertheless, this was the BEST MONEY I EVER SPENT because this was the beginning of a conversation with this editor, a woman who who initially made me want to give up writing and take up clogging, but who gradually helped me strip away all the junk, all the stuff I was doing in order to impress publishers and readers and book clubs. She helped me realize it was time to write the story I wanted to write.

I wanted to write Sugar.

I wanted to write Sleepless in Seattle meets the Food Network.

I wanted to write something funny and smart and highly readable. I wanted witty banter and snappy dialogue and a peek behind the curtain of high-pressure kitchens in fine restaurants. I wanted romance. Not sex and raunch disguising as romance, but real romance, with all the chemistry and tension and push and pull that comes with a love that’s real.

Remember these?

Remember how you felt when the credits rolled? I wanted readers to feel THAT when they turned the last page.

Turns out, I’m a bit of a weirdo. Turns out, stories like Sugar are outliers these days in publishing. Turns out, Sugar got a healthy round of rejections (39, I believe) from publishers, many of whom cited that I was too late, that a book like Sugar, a romance like Sugar, would never sell. I needed more raunch, more sex, more raunchy sex with more raunchy sex people. I need at least fifty shades, though 75 would make it even more sellable.

Um, I have about one-half of one shade. That’s it.

Early on, a big, fancy publisher offered on the manuscript and said they loved the story, loved the voice, loved the characters, but in order to get a nicer advance and a healthy marketing budget, I’d have to sex it all up, start to finish.

I politely declined, and then I cried for a week. WHERE WERE THOSE CLOGS, ANYWAY?!

Happily, this was not the end of the story. The end of the story hasn’t been written yet.

I do know this:

*Skyhorse Publishing did take a chance. They loved Charlie, loved Sugar, and have enthusiastically made this book better and available everywhere.

*Barnes and Noble and all sorts of independent bookstores nationwide did take a chance. They have been kind to order and stock and sell. These are book people, and I love me some book people.

*And remarkably, miraculously, since I’m small potatoes, Target took a chance too, releasing Sugar into all 1800 Target stores nationwide a couple of weeks ago. I shake my head at the way God can kick down big doors for a girl from Iowa.

I have about four more weeks to prove to these stores that there is a market for this kind of book. B and N and Target look at their first round of numbers then, and they decide whether to let me keep my shelf space or not.

I am POSITIVE that I’m not alone here, that I’m not the only one who wants to fall into a book like Sugar. I’m POSITIVE that I’m not the only one who likes real love, real romance, real chemistry. I know this because I’ve been listening to you all for years. You have been kind enough to share this road with me. Thank you for that. Thanks for being here, for sticking with me, for reading and posting and chatting and accosting people in the book section of Target (thanks, Dad!).

Here’s to dreaming and throwing away the clogs and believing you’re not alone. And here’s to all sorts of stories and all sorts of room on the shelves.



P.S. If you are one the delightful people who has already read Sugar, THANK YOU! Can I be just a little needier? I would be so grateful if you would post a review on Amazon, BN, Target, Goodreads, wherever you do such things. Thank you. I owe you all REALLY nice get-ups in the latest athleisure.

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